Last week, Eddie and I took a couples trip with some friends and we went to visit The Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. I went along because I knew it would be a fun time with Eddie and our friends, but I didn't anticipate enjoying the tours and tastings as much as I did! I don't normally drink Bourbon straight, but I do enjoy an Old Fashioned when I'm having a cocktail and I really enjoy doing fun things with my husband, so I knew we would be in for some fun.
Before I start sharing, I have to preface this by saying I did ZERO planning for this trip. Our friend Carlos planned everything start to finish, and we basically showed up! His biggest suggestion is to plan in advance and book any distilleries you want to visit as far out as you can. We found that we got the most out of tours, rather than just tastings.
We stayed at the historic Seelbach Hotel. It is an older hotel but it is clean and well-maintained, plus it has SO much history (it's also said to be haunted!). It's also well-located in downtown Louisville and you can walk to a lot of places from there. The hotel's concierge is a historian and we saw him while we were there. There are some beautiful rooms you can visit with some very cool stories - think Prohibition and Al Capone.
We also rented a car - there are a few distilleries in Louisville, but we also wanted to visit Frankfurt and Bardstown.
On Thursday we woke up early and made the drive to Frankfort (it was just about an hour from Louisville). We headed straight to our first distillery of the day. You can watch a recap of our day here.
Watch a recap of our day here.
Watch a recap of our day here.
There you have it! All the scoop on our trip to Kentucky! Is this a trip you would take?
Last week we kicked off summer vacation by hopping on a plane with the kids and our friends and taking our first international flight in over a year and a half! The flight was short, but I was just excited to whip out our passports again and visit a country I have come to love over the years. You see, Eddie was born in the Dominican Republic and he and his family came to the US when he was young. Before we had Caleb, we used to visit at least once a year, and I always loved it. Oftentimes we stayed in Santo Domingo visiting family and friends, but we had also gone to a couple of resorts. We had been to visit Casa de Campo but had never stayed there together.
Casa de Campo is a beautiful resort area that has SO much to offer. It is over 7,000 acres large and includes 3 championship golf courses (including the famous Teeth of the Dog course), a marina, restaurants, an equestrian center, a shooting course, shopping, a hotel, villas, and countless other activities. Basically, if you can think about doing on vacation, Casa de Campo likely offers it.
When you visit Casa de Campo, you can stay in the hotel or you can stay in a private villa - which is a house. We stayed in a villa that we found on vrbo. You can also book directly through the Casa de Campo website. Many of the homes come with a cook and a housekeeper as a standard feature. Houses vary in cost depending on the size and what they include, and many are made to fit multiple families. Make sure you read the full description of what your rental includes and what it doesn't, as well as bed/bath setups. Pro tip: ask the cook to make you Dominican breakfast (tres golpes).
There is an airport nearby, La Romana, but as of right now there were no flights from Miami to there, so we flew into the capital, SDQ. From there we took a transfer. The ride was just under 2 hours. We stopped in a nearby town along the way to buy groceries, but the truth is there is a grocery store in the Marina in Casa de Campo. It isn't super expensive, and while it's small, it has all the necessities!
When we went, the entire country was under a curfew (toque de queda). It was 6 pm during the week and 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays(!). The housekeeper and cook had to leave earlier because of this, but we still took advantage for breakfast, lunch, and help around the house. This also means that restaurants had to close at that time. There were no bars/restaurants open after curfew - I'm not sure how long curfew will last so definitely think about this!
There is a beach area called Playa Minitas. It has a Restaurant, some food trucks, a bar, and a pool area (I think there is an adult pool area too but we didn't make it there). Due to COVID-19, they aren't handing out towels at the beach club so make sure you take your own from your Villa or hotel room. The service on the beach was pretty slow - your best bet for getting your drinks is standing up and going to the bar (you also need to wear your mask when you go to the bar area or they won't serve you).
The beach is nice, but I wouldn't say one of the most beautiful beaches I've been to. It is shallow and there's a rock formation that keeps it calm. It's perfect for letting the kids play. If you want gorgeous beaches, there are excursions that will take you to places like Isla Catalina or Isla Saona for the day - and the beaches there are beautiful.
There is a Dude Ranch/Equestrian Center so we took the kids horseback riding. You do need to make reservations for this. We did thirty minutes. We did an early early morning ride and it was perfect because it wasn't too hot yet. Each of the big kid riders had a guide on their own horse and the two little ones rode ponies and were led by guides.
We only got to spend about 30 minutes in Altos de Chavon, a replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village. But it really is a gorgeous area and I wish we had had more time to explore there and maybe have a meal at one of the restaurants there. There is also an amphitheater where they hold concerts, a church, an art gallery, and shopping.
Restaurants we ate at: La Casita (at the Marina), Peperoni (at the Marina), and Minitas Beach Club (at the beach). There are many other restaurants but since everything was closed early we didn't get to try more places. The Marina has a lot of restaurants next to each other in a little plaza. The grocery store is also located in the Marina.
You definitely need a golf cart to get around. Make sure you reserve one for the duration of your stay.
We did not need a COVID test to enter the country, but we did need one to return to the US. Casa de Campo has a testing site near the hotel. You do need to book your test in advance. It's $80 for hotel guests and $110 for villa guests (yes, per person. If you're traveling as a family, definitely factor this into your budget).
There has been a big push to vaccinate employees at Casa de Campo so they can get back to business as usual. Aside from that, nearly everything there is outdoors. Even the common areas in our villa were open to the outside, and the majority of restaurants are outdoors as well. Just do all the common sense things like washing your hands and limiting touching your face.
I think that's everything! I hope I answered your questions about Casa de Campo, and I hope you'll consider it for a vacation!
Additional things to do:
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Eddie and I took an adults-only trip to Minneapolis this past weekend, and we had a great time. When I started posting on social media, I had a few people ask me, "What made you choose Minneapolis?" Truthfully, Minneapolis is not a place that would ever really have been on my radar, but my friend Suzy and her husband were planning a trip to visit her sister and her fiancé, who live in Minneapolis. We figured it would be fun since we would be with friends, and we would explore a city we'd never been to before. Eddie and I were pleasantly surprised with how much we liked the city. It's cute, has a great restaurant scene, and is very clean. Some of the neighborhoods are very suburban, but so walkable and with little cafes and restaurants sprinkled in.
Anyway, here's a recap of what we did.
We stayed at the Moxy Minneapolis Uptown. Moxy is a Marriott-owned brand, but it is NOTHING like other Marriott hotels - and I don't mean that in a bad way! I would describe it as urban chic - the check-in desk is part of the hotel bar, there are neon signs all over the place, and there are games you can play in the lobby including foosball, ping pong, and jenga. I gave a little room tour in my stories (you can watch it here). The rooms were definitely on the small side - it's a boutique-style hotel - but we had a king bed and basically anything we could need. The shower was a great size (this is something that Eddie and I talk about with every hotel stay), and most importantly, everything was super clean. The rooms do not have a coffee maker, but there is free coffee in the lobby, so that's perfect. It's not in downtown, but the location is good for walking around - there are a couple cute street for walking and it's in walking distance of a couple lakes that we had a chance to walk around. There is also a gym located in the hotel.
Eat & Do
We arrived Thursday evening, checked in, and headed to The Butcher's Tale. Obviously this place has a big focus on meat. I started off with the Butter Pecan Old Fashioned and it was very good. We had the Sausage Sampler Platter, Smoked Jalapeños to start off. For the main course we went with the Beef Long Rib and we all shared sides: Wild Mushrooms, Buffalo Steak Fries, Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread, and Sour Cream & Chive Mash. They were all excellent, can't go wrong with any of it, honestly. We had dessert, too. Eddie and I had Pistachio Cream Puffs and they were just the right amount of sweet and light after a very heavy meal.
For breakfast we ate at The Black Walnut Bakery twice. It was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel, but trust me when I say, WORTH IT. The quiche and the Chocolate Pistachio Croissant were too good for words. Browse their breads and pastries because man oh man they are good.
After breakfast one morning, we took a walk to Bde Maka Ska Lake/Park & Lake of the Isles. It was a great way to let breakfast settle and get some steps in. Then we headed to Stillwater.
Stillwater is a city on the west bank of the St. Croix River, across from Houlton, Wisconsin. Stillwater is often called "the birthplace of Minnesota" due to its role in the establishment of the state. It was established as a logging town, so a lot of the town's history is based around that. It is very cute and very picturesque. We walked downtown and popped into a few shops. We walked the Stillwater Bridge and crossed into Wisconsin for a few minutes on foot. We had lunch at Feller - the salads were delicious. Then we did a 45-minute trolley tour and got to see some of the historical aspects of Stillwater, which was fun. We ended our outing with ice cream and malt shakes at Leo's Malt Shop.
For dinner, we headed to another city called Wayzata, located in Hennepin County. It is about 9 miles west of Minneapolis in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area. Situated on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the city is popular among boaters, shoppers, and restaurant goers. There are a lot of waterfront spots here, so if that's your jam, make sure you head to Wayzata. We had dinner at COV, which was beautiful, and the food was so good. Try the chicken wings, cauliflower fries for starters. I went with sushi for my entree, and it was fantastic.
The North Loop is in downtown Minneapolis and is a nice area to walk around. We popped into a few shops, including Allbirds, which had just opened a few weeks prior.
We walked over the Hennepin Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River (built in 1855!) and ended up in St. Anthony Falls. We strolled around there for a little and grabbed some drinks and a quick bite at Aster Cafe.
For dinner, we headed to the iconic Manny’s Steakhouse - a classic steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis. It's actually one of the Top 10 Steakhouses in the US, according to the Zagat Guide. Everything was so good, including the service!
We finished off the night with drinks at The Hewing.
We gave ourselves a slow start on Sunday and then headed to Mall of America. It's a mall, and you might be thinking, "Why would you go to the mall?" Well, this happens to be the largest mall in the US and boasts a theme park right in the middle.
We had brunch at Cedar + Stone Urban Table. It was delicious - don't miss their breakfast potatoes!
The mall is also very close to the airport, so we were able to kill some time while we waited to head to the airport. And a note about their airport - it was one of the most organized and efficient security areas I have ever been through!
We're grateful we were finally able to get away for a little bit, and we're even more grateful for our friends who made this trip wonderful (and also for the grandparents who watched the kids so we could get out of town alone!).
We had an awesome time, and if you're looking for a place to visit that's not super crowded and run by tourists, you can definitely add Minneapolis to your list!
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Since 2020 took a lot from us, we knew that we needed a change of scenery. Back in January, we booked a house in Lake Oconee, Georgia for the end of July. We wavered back and forth for a long time on whether or not we should go, and even the weeks leading up to it. In the end we decided that we were minimizing our risk by driving and we followed everything we would have followed at home. We ended up having such a great time when we went in July and found the drive to be doable, so we decided to do it again for our Christmas vacation.
Because we did follow social distancing precautions, the travel guide is not that extensive. I'll share the few things we did do that we really enjoyed, as well as some of the things that there are in the area.
First of all, why Lake Oconee? We wanted a change of scenery, something we had never done before, and we wanted it to be within driving distance of Miami without having to stop at a hotel for the night. The drive is about 10 hours - while long, it is definitely doable. We packed sandwiches, snacks and electronics, and we stopped only for potty breaks, gas, and coffee. We left early in the morning and we arrived with daylight to spare.
Another requirement was being able to rent a house. We did not want to stay in hotels as we wanted to be able to cook our own meals and be okay with just hanging out at the house. We have had great luck with vacation rentals on vrbo.com. We stayed in two different houses. They were both very nice, but they were different and located in slightly different areas. The first house was more on the outskirts of the lake and part of the town of Eatonton. It was not part of a community therefore we did not have access to amenities and it was just the house. The second house we stayed at was in the Reynolds Plantation area, which is a (HUGE) community with a gated entry. There was a playground, a marina, a pavilion, a golf course, and plenty of walking paths as well. If you are looking to have additional amenities, I highly recommend the Reynolds Plantation area. Aside from that, both houses had docks, 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths, outdoor areas, grills, and fully stocked kitchens (tool-wise).
There is a Publix in the area which is where we bought all of our groceries. I realized this time around that you can do a pickup order there so you don't have to go inside if you don't want to, but we didn't take advantage of that. We also wanted to have a special meal on New Year's Eve, so we ordered stone crabs from a local market called Pounders Meat & Seafood Market. We also had some food from Georgia Butts BBQ and it was absolutely delicious.
There are several restaurants you can dine at or order from, we ordered from Mellow Mushroom pizza once and Marco's Pizza. Both were great. We did have dinner one night at Linger Longer Steakhouse at the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee.
Over the summer, we visited a farmer's market (it was next to The Harbor at Harmony Crossing). They had baked goods, fresh fruit, and local artisans.
Both times we rented a boat. Over the summer, the Lake is full of boaters and people stopping in different spots and jumping in the lake. We did this and had a really great time. We rented the boat from Oconee Wild Watersports for four hours and really took advantage, stopping in multiple places and jumping in the water. This time, we rented from Young Harris Watersports for 2 hours (because it was cold and we didn't think we would be able to be on the water for 4 hours). It was chilly but it was so nice to cruise around the lake for a little bit. Both rentals were smooth and the boats were in good condition, although the one from Oconee Wild Watersports was a little bit newer.
We also visited the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee a few times - once for coffee and to walk around a bit, another time to visit the spa for a couple of treatments (which were absolutely lovely), and finally to dinner at the Linger Longer Steakhouse. They usually have marshmallow roasting and additional activities for the kids in the evenings, but a lot of those activities were not currently available to non-hotel guests. For anything at the hotel, make sure you call ahead and make reservations, as everything is not open due to COVID precautions.
There is The Alice Walker Driving Tour you can complete. This self-guided driving trail takes the visitor to various points of interest applicable to Eatonton native, Alice Walker and her family members. Alice Walker is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novel "The Color Purple."
Aside from that, there are several other outdoor things to do in the area, and plenty of walking/hiking trails. I'm sure there are more things to do, but again, due to the pandemic we wanted to limit how much we interacted with others. We really enjoyed both times we spent in Lake Oconee. We truly felt like we were able to get away and disconnect, and we are already looking forward to when we can go back.
Last week, Eddie and I decided to book a spontaneous overnight trip to the Florida Keys with the kids. We figured a night away would be good recharge for everyone and the Keys are close enough that we wouldn't spend a ton of time in the car. After looking at our available rewards points and which hotels were available, we settled on Bakers Cay Resort in Key Largo.
We arrived on Sunday around 10 am, and to limit guest interaction indoors, check-in is done at the guard gate at the entrance. Our room wasn't ready, but we were allowed to use the premises and all the amenities once we were checked in. After taking a quick walk around the resort, we headed to the kids' pool, complete with a cascading waterfall and a bar with really delicious Pina coladas. The pool is surrounded by trees, so it makes you feel like you are in your own little oasis. After hanging out there for a little bit, we headed to the beach and to grab some lunch at the outdoor restaurant, Dry Rocks. We sat on one of their couches and ordered food and drinks, all of which was delicious.
Sunday night we enjoyed dinner at Calusa, their other restaurant which features Creole-Caribbean flavors. You can dine indoors or al fresco. Because we went pretty early, we decided to eat indoors, and there was nobody else inside the restaurant. They have a great kids' menu and the staff was really kind. The food was SO good (I highly recommend the Rum Chicken). Calusa is also where they serve breakfast, but we didn't eat there in the morning. There is also a Tiki Bar on the beach where you can get drinks and some light bites.
As far as things to do, there are a lot of activities available and they are all included. I really loved how kid-friendly the whole resort is (it's pet-friendly, too!). There is an adult pool and a kids pool, an open court, and there are two separate beach areas with lounge chairs and towels. By the lagoon there are kayaks and paddle boards available, and they're included in your resort fee, so take advantage! The lagoon is perfect for kids because it's nice and shallow - Chloe loved playing in the water. There is also a pier where you can fish, and Eddie and Caleb took part in that activity - they give you bait and fishing rods, also included in your resort fee.
The rooms were updated and SO nice. We had an Oceanview room with two queen beds. The floors were tile, which I loved, and the bathroom was beautifully done. There was no tub, but the shower was big enough for one of us to get in with the kids. We loved standing on the balcony to watch the sunset and the kids loved spotting the boats on the water. The beds were comfy, and there were enough surfaces to put our things in the room. One of my peeves about hotels is that there are never enough hooks to hang things like towels and clothes that you need to air out, but this room had a set of hooks on the wall that held a bunch of items! I was definitely pleased to see that.
Overall, we had a really great experience (and this was not sponsored). We were only there for one night, so we didn't do anything additional in the area, but I know that there are a few other things to do in the Keys if you're spending more days there - particularly in the areas of boating and watersports. We have already talked about going back with the kids because it is such an easy trip - it's a little under an hour away and it really felt like we were somewhere else.
So if you're in South Florida and looking for an easy escape that's kid friendly and really gives you that feeling of getting away, Baker's Cay is a good bet!
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