Visiting Yellowstone Country

For as long as I can remember, Yellowstone National Park has been a dream destination. Growing up seeing the world renown park featured in books and movies and even as the fictional setting as Jellystone Park for the cartoon character Yogi Bear, Yellowstone has been on my mind. It’s unfortunate it took me this long to make it there, but thankfully I can say I finally did! And, trust me, it was well worth the wait.

Finally Made It To Yellowstone National Park!

Finally Made It To Yellowstone National Park!

Yogi Bear And Jellystone National Park

Yogi Bear And Jellystone National Park

One of the main reasons I’d never made it to Yellowstone Country (the counties in south-central and southwest Montana surrounding and inclusive of Yellowstone National Park) was because I just didn’t know much about the area. I also didn’t know when to go and how much time I would need for such a trip. And truthfully, being vegetarian, I wasn’t quite sure what the heck there would be available for me to eat (let me just go ahead and debunk the myth that there are only bison burgers available, ha ha).

The good news is I have answers to all those questions and hopefully can help steer you in the right direction to plan your own trip if you have not been, or for your return trip if you have already visited. Because here’s the thing; Yellowstone Country has this sneaky power to touch your heart in a way that will inevitably bring you back again. It’s just not possible to visit Yellowstone Country and not fall in love with it. I’m already planning my return trip there.

In this post, I’m going to share about the areas surrounding Yellowstone Park in Montana (I’ll have a separate post on the Park itself, because it clearly warrants its own highlight). I thought it would be helpful to showcase some of the great things to see and do in the area before and after you make your way into Wyoming to see Yellowstone. Here are just a few of the many options:

Bozeman, Montana– Bozeman is the city most people fly into as they plan their Yellowstone adventure. The great news is that many airlines now fly direct from cities across the US (Chicago Friends; both United and American have direct flights into Bozeman, so you have no excuse). I absolutely adored Bozeman for many reasons; it is a college town home to Montana State University, has a charming downtown area and has many outdoor activity options in nearby communities. IT’s a place with lots of character, an active foodie scene, cute coffee shops and boutique shopping, so there really is something for everyone. Bozeman is also known for its many breweries, so if beer is your thing, you are in luck. We even visited a distillery and I tried huckleberry vodka for the first time, and loved it (huckleberry is a smaller, more tart version of a blueberry). What I loved most about Bozeman was the ability to travel less than half an hour outside the city in several different directions for great hiking trails to summits overlooking the area or breathtaking waterfalls. It’s truly paradise for any outdoor adventurer.

Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana

Loved Charming Downtown Bozeman

Loved Charming Downtown Bozeman

Fall Has Arrived In Bozeman

Fall Has Arrived In Bozeman

Montana State University

Montana State University

Adorable Lobby Of The Hotel LARK In Bozeman

Adorable Lobby Of The Hotel LARK In Bozeman

A Visit To The Museum Of The Rockies

A Visit To The Museum Of The Rockies

Visiting One Of The Many Breweries In Bozeman

Visiting One Of The Many Breweries In Bozeman

Huckleberry Vodka Cocktail At Bozeman Spirits Distillery

Huckleberry Vodka Cocktail At Bozeman Spirits Distillery

Hike To Palisade Falls Outside Bozeman

Hike To Palisade Falls Outside Bozeman

Views From Hike At Drinking Horse Mountain

Views From Hike At Drinking Horse Mountain

Gardiner, Montana– About a two-hour drive from Bozeman through the stunning Paradise Valley, you’ll arrive into Gardiner. This tiny town lies right on the border of Wyoming along the Yellowstone River, literally looking into Yellowstone National Park. The town serves as one of the northern entrances into the Park, and for that, serves as a great home base for exploration into Yellowstone. We stayed two nights in Gardiner at the most unbelievable and unique place I’ve ever stayed; a 5 bedroom lodge that is also an art gallery. The owners built the Elk River Art Studio and Lodging on their own and as artists, use the lodge to showcase their beautiful artwork. Not only that, the property lies right on the Yellowstone River, looking across at the mountains of Yellowstone. It was one of the most unique and enchanting ways to experience the majesty of the Park, while enjoying the laid back vibe of Gardiner.

Gardiner, Montana

Gardiner, Montana

Elk River River Art Studio And Lodge

Elk River Art Studio And Lodge

Inside Elk River Art Studio And Lodge

Inside Elk River Art Studio And Lodge

My Room Right Along The Yellowstone River

My Room Right Along The Yellowstone River

Views From The Back Patio

Views From The Back Patio

A Visitor To The Back Porch

A Visitor To The Back Porch

Enjoying Wine At Sunset Looking Out Into Yellowstone National Park

Enjoying Wine At Sunset Looking Out Into Yellowstone National Park

West Yellowstone, Montana– West Yellowstone is probably the most popularly known spot to enter and exit Yellowstone National Park; it is the closest entrance to the famed Old Faithful geyser after all. You will definitely find more options of places to stay and things to do in West Yellowstone as it does cater to the higher volume of travelers coming through. I loved the ambiance almost mimicking the Wild West and enjoyed strolling through all the souvenir shops and seeing the wide array of restaurants. Another cool thing I did not realize is that West Yellowstone is only about a 10 mile drive from the Idaho border and the “continental divide” where Idaho, Montana and Wyoming all meet. Since I had never been to the area before, I was pretty excited to cross 3 states off my list (I only have 7 left to have visited all 50 states). At any rate, West Yellowstone also has a plethora of outdoor activities in the area like fly fishing, hiking and skiing (just to name a few), which makes it such a great destination to get out and be active.

West Yellowstone, Montana

West Yellowstone, Montana

A Visit To The Grizzly And Wolf Discovery Center

A Visit To The Grizzly And Wolf Discovery Center

The Continental Divide

The Continental Divide

Middle Of The Highway Looking Into Montana And The Mountains Of Yellowstone

Middle Of The Highway Looking Into Montana And The Mountains Of Yellowstone

Awesome New Boutique Hotel The 1872 Inn

Awesome New Boutique Hotel The 1872 Inn

My Room At The 1872 Inn

My Room At The 1872 Inn

To answer my own questions I listed at the beginning of this post for planning a trip to Yellowstone Country and Yellowstone National Park, here are a few of my tips:

When to go: I personally think the best time to visit is the fall. You miss the rush during the summer and will have a better chance to see what you want and stay where you want (but still make sure to plan out as far as you possibly can). Yellowstone Country will have areas with beautiful foliage and the perfect temperature for hikes. I’ll even go as far as recommending the last 3 weeks of September as an ideal time to visit since you’ll miss the Labor Day crowd and hopefully get into the area before the really cold temperatures and snow settle in (you just never know though, so be prepared).

How much time you need: Obviously this varies based on your interests and what you would like to see and do. Ideally, I would say give yourself at least one week to explore the area to not feel rushed. A rough outline (which I used on my trip) could be; fly into Bozeman, spend a day or two exploring that area, drive to Gardiner and stay 2-3 nights while you explore northern Yellowstone National Park (I recommend a minimum of 3 full days for Yellowstone…it’s simply not possible to even touch the surface in 1 or 2 days), stay one or two nights in West Yellowstone and explore western and southern Yellowstone National Park and head back to Bozeman for your return, with a stop in Big Sky, Montana on your way back.

Other tips: Pack layers! I can’t stress enough the unpredictability of the weather in that area. Coming from flat Chicago, I forget that the area of Yellowstone Country has many different elevations and landscapes, bringing with it a wide range of temperatures. You could be in sun and 50 degrees in the morning in one location and in a 20 degree white out blizzard a few hours later in another location. It’s best to be prepared. And the weather apps do very little in helping you prepare even a few days in advance, so just bring lots and lots of layers!

Hope this helps give you an idea of what to see and do in Yellowstone Country. Stay tuned because I have so much more to share, and trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

 

Please Note: This post is in collaboration with Yellowstone Country. All opinions are my own.

I Won The Lottery; No Really, I Did

Living in a great city like Chicago affords you the constant opportunity to see and do so much. I sometimes get FOMO (fear of missing out) because I can only be in one place at one time! I want to do it all, ha ha. I’ve recently had the chance to check out some unbelievable shows and musicals and thought I’d share them with you. Make sure to stay on top of these because as it goes, most shows are only around for a limited time. And, I promise to tell you how I won the lottery….keep reading.

Luzia

Luzia

Luzia by Cirque du Soleil– I’ve been so fortunate to experience many Cirque du Soleil shows, so I’m no newbie to these amazing productions. The latest installment called Luzia has just landed in Chicago until early September and I was lucky enough to attend the premiere show. With the unbelievable acrobatics, beautiful sets and amazing music, this show is staged as a “waking dream through imaginary Mexico.” The vibrant colors and costumes were mesmerizing and I was blown away at it all, so much so, that I am seriously considering going back to see it again. There were so many elements of the show that I have never seen before, so it was truly a feast for the eyes. It is imagination brought to real life. If you have the opportunity to go to the show, make sure you do. I hope you love Luzia as much as I did! Thanks to the Mexico Board of Tourism for the tickets.

Spamilton

Spamilton

Spamilton– I had no idea this show was even a thing! But, it makes sense. As most of you know, the Broadway hit Hamilton has taken the nation by storm. It’s pretty much impossible to score tickets, even when paying hefty sums of money to see the show. Being such a huge success, it was only a matter of time before someone developed the spoof on it. The parody of Hamilton called Spamilton was hilarious and you don’t even have to have seen Hamilton to appreciate it (although it does help). With so many references to other Broadway hits, I found myself laughing and engaged throughout the entire show. It was so much fun and I think it’s great for a night out with some friends or to just get out and do something different. If you are looking for a night of laughs, definitely check out the show at the Royal George Theater in Lincoln Park.

My Parents Excited To See Hamilton

My Parents Excited To See Hamilton

Hamilton Lottery– Speaking of Hamilton, I just had to share this. In case you didn’t already know, you can enter a daily lottery to try to win tickets to see Hamilton (both NYC and Chicago have a lottery for their respective shows). Even though I saw the show back in February, I have been trying for months to win tickets. If you do happen to win, the tickets are only $10 each, which I originally thought was the best part about it. Oh no….I heard from others that not only do you pay only $10 per ticket, you can score front row orchestra seats. WHAT????? Ok, game on. My parents happened to be staying with me for a few days and even though I had been trying to win tickets for a long time for my co-worker Alisa and I to go together, I just played along like I always did expecting the daily rejection email I was so accustomed to receiving. On this one random day, I saw the email from the Hamilton Lottery saying, “YOU WON.” I didn’t even know what to do with myself because I couldn’t believe my own eyes. I quickly paid for the tickets (you have to secure the tickets within one hour of being notified of winning) and knew in my heart what the right thing to do was. I gave the tickets to my parents. They were so touched and I have to say, excited like little kids leading up to the show and after; they absolutely loved it! But seriously, I should get the Daughter of the Year award right?!?! #daughteroftheyear. Moral of the story: keep playing that damn lottery. I’m hoping my luck didn’t run out because I still want to see Hamilton from the front row with my friend Alisa!

 

Please Note: While I was provided tickets to Luzia and Spamilton, all opinions are my own.

Who Is Keeping Track?

If you’ve been following along on my adventures, you know by now that I love my indoor cycling and yoga classes. I’ve finally found forms of exercise that I enjoy and have been sticking to on a weekly basis for the past several years. It’s nice to have found my groove!

I’ve tried various activity trackers in the past, but have found them not so cute on the fashion front. I’m a person who likes to wear jewelry, so those black, rubber-like bands just didn’t cut it for me. I’ve found an awesome new smart tracker called WiseWear that keeps those stats most of us like to keep track of, but is also available as a beautiful bracelet.

WiseWear

WiseWear

WiseWear Bracelet

WiseWear Bracelet

This smart bracelet not only tracks your activity like steps, calories burned, distance, active time, etc., you can also receive mobile notifications from your phone. But, the one thing that truly sets this smart bracelet apart from the others is the distress function. You can alert your emergency contacts with just three taps to the blue-tooth connected bracelet. I have not seen that feature before, and I can truly appreciate it being a female that lives in a large city. I would hope no one ever needs to use that function, but how genius to have that capability built right into this bracelet.

WiseWear Bracelet - Duchess Gold

WiseWear Bracelet – Duchess Gold

I’ve really enjoyed wearing my bracelet and it goes perfectly with my outfits without looking clunky or cheap. I’ve gotten so many compliments on it just as a bracelet. Little do people know all of its awesome capabilities until I tell them about it! I can definitely see wearing WiseWear as I travel to stay fashionable and keep tabs on my activity as I explore a new place. Are you keeping track?

WiseWear Everyday Living

WiseWear Everyday Living

 

Please Note: While I was provided with the WiseWear bracelet, all opinions are my own.

How To Be A Dinner Hero

As a busy professional and/or if you are raising a family, there is always one question that lingers in the back of your mind on a daily basis; what’s for dinner? I’ve recently come across one awesome option that I know will help you out in the dinner department; it’s called Dinner Hero.

Imagine a cooking kit that will feed 4 people in 30 minutes while providing a nutritious, wholesome meal that’s absolutely delicious. The kit comes complete with a grain (think quinoa, brown rice, cous cous, etc.) and a custom spice blend for the sauce where all you need to do is add water. Chose your protein and pair with a veggie and you are looking at one fantastic dinner. The best part is that these kits are non-GMO and have no artificial colors or flavorings.

All Four Dinner Hero Kit Options

All Four Dinner Hero Kit Options

What I find so useful about these kits is that I might have some tofu and broccoli on hand, but have no idea what to do with them to bring it together for a quick, healthy meal. Now I’ll be able to use the coconut curry Dinner Hero kit (my absolute favorite out of all the options) and I’ll be able to whip up dinner and either invite some friends over or have some yummy leftovers for lunch for the week. That’s called winning in my book.

My Favorite Coconut Curry

My Favorite Coconut Curry

I was introduced to Dinner Hero at a lovely event where Chef Katie Simmons prepared each of the four different kits in creative and unique ways. Here are a few pictures from the event just to show you some of the many possibilities:

Sesame Garlic Dinner Hero Kit In Lettuce Cups

Sesame Garlic Dinner Hero Kit In Lettuce Cups

Roasted Corn, Avocado and Radish Side Salad

Roasted Corn, Avocado and Radish Side Salad

Smoky Tomato Dinner Hero Kit With Roasted Asparagus

Smoky Tomato Dinner Hero Kit With Roasted Asparagus

Trust me, you can’t go wrong with these kits. Better yet, they are easy enough to quickly prepare on your own or even have your kids help. You’ll have no excuse now not to be a dinner hero….me either!

 

Please Note: This post is in partnership with Revolution Foods. All opinions are my own.

What A Great Day!

I’d like to say the stars must have aligned on this particular day because it truly turned out to be a special one.

The first exciting thing that happened was getting to experience Arun’s Thai, a fine-dining restaurant here in Chicago that has literally been on my bucket list for over 15 years (crazy, I know). I’ve always wanted to save the experience of Arun’s Thai for a special occasion, but for one reason or another, it just had not happened yet. I was so incredibly lucky to be invited to dine at Arun’s Thai and I no joke read the email like 12 times because I could not believe my eyes. Seriously, a dream come true!

Arun’s Thai is definitely some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had along with some of the coolest and most artistically presented dishes I’ve ever seen. The details and sheer creativity were on a level I have never encountered before, and for that, I am still in awe. What I also absolutely loved about our meal service was how accommodating the chef and staff were to me being vegetarian. All of my dishes were plated exactly the same as the meat-eaters and it was nice to feel inclusive of the meal where my vegetarian dishes didn’t always look different from the rest of the table.

I’m sharing a few pictures of the gorgeous and delicious dinner I had so you can get an idea of what might be in store when you go (the menu changes daily based on seasonality, chef’s choice and obviously accommodating any dietary restrictions):

Even The Non-Alcohoic Drinks Are Stunning

Even The Non-Alcohoic Drinks Are Stunning

Amazing Appetizers

Amazing Appetizers

Arun's Thai Vegetarian Panang Curry

Arun’s Thai Vegetarian Panang Curry

What Looks Like Nemo Is Created From A Carrot

What Looks Like Nemo Is Created From A Carrot

Thai Inspired Sangria

Thai Inspired Sangria

Mango Sticky Rice With Hand Painted Koi Fish

Mango Sticky Rice With Hand Painted Koi Fish

The other cool thing on this day was I officially hit 10,000 followers on my Instagram account. A fun milestone that reminds me to keep enjoying the ride and all the great people and experiences that have come from this social media platform. Thanks for your continued support and following along on my journey.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to dine at Arun’s Thai, all opinions are my own.