Category Archives: US

A Very Special Mother-Daughter Day

It’s safe to say that Moms deserve to have it be Mother’s Day every single day of the year. They work tirelessly around the clock without one single day off, to selflessly take care of those that they love. This year on Mother’s Day, my Mom was in New Jersey joyously marveling in one of her new titles; Grandmother. She spent about two months in NJ to help out my brother and sister-in-law with their new titles as parents. I was bummed not to get to spend Mother’s Day with my Mom this year, so I decided to do something special for her a few months later.

Mom With Her New Title Of Grandmother

Mom With Her New Title Of Grandmother

I knew my Mom deserved something exceptional and I wanted to plan a day that I knew would be memorable for her. My Mom always thinks of others ahead of herself and she rarely treats herself out. So, I wanted to come up with something that would feel like a real outing and something my Mom would always remember. She is definitely the kind of person that talks about favorite memories for years afterwards.

As I was thinking of what to do, I remembered that my Mom is always asking me where to get great facials. Then the light bulb went off in my head and it was a no-brainer on where to take her; The Peninsula Spa. I had my first facial at The Peninsula back in February and I can’t even tell you how many people told me my skin looked amazing even a few weeks after the facial (my Mom included). I knew this would be the perfect way to allow her to relax while getting an exquisite facial treatment. I also have wanted to take my Mom to afternoon tea for YEARS since she has never been before. So this was finally the perfect plan; facials followed by afternoon tea at The Peninsula Chicago.

We arrived at The Peninsula Spa about an hour and half before our facial time at 3pm, just to relax at the fantastic pool and outdoor spa terrace overlooking the city. It was the perfect way to spend some uninterrupted time together and chill out before our treatments. About half an hour before our facials, we made our way to the serene and cozy waiting area, where we relaxed in our plush robes on the heavenly private beds, while sipping on some hot tea. Even though I knew my facial was coming up, I didn’t want to leave that bed!!

Ready For Our Day At The Peninsula

Ready For Our Day At The Peninsula

Mom's First Visit To The Peninsula Chicago

Mom’s First Visit To The Peninsula Chicago

Arriving At The Wonderful Peninsula Spa

Arriving At The Wonderful Peninsula Spa

Enjoying The View From The Spa Terrace

Enjoying The View From The Spa Terrace

Relaxing Poolside

Relaxing Poolside

Relaxation Area Before Our Facials

Relaxation Area Before Our Facials

Our facials were the Biologique Recherche Facial which is a French luxury skincare line utilizing unique formulas rich in botanical, marine and biotechnical extracts. This facial is considered a cryofacial in that it uses cold therapy instead of heat therapy like most facials. Between that and the top of the line products that are used, you will notice immediate results that make your skin look completely revamped. Definitely the best facial I’ve ever had and my Mom couldn’t stop looking in the mirror at how rejuvenated her skin looked after just one treatment.

The Facial Room- I'm Ready!

The Facial Room- I’m Ready!

That Post-Facial Glow

That Post-Facial Glow

After freshening up, we made our way down to The Lobby for the opulent Afternoon Tea. I’ve been many times before and it is truthfully my favorite Afternoon Tea in the entire city of Chicago. It’s a fun way to cherish this timeless tradition with some of the highest quality tea, tasty food and exceptional service . Another wonderful thing to know is that The Peninsula has specially curated menus for dietary restrictions, like a separate vegetarian and vegan menu. It was so nice to see a menu that we knew we could eat every single item from.

The Beautiful Lobby For Afternoon Tea

The Beautiful Lobby For Afternoon Tea

Vegetarian Afternoon Tea Menu

Vegetarian Afternoon Tea Menu

Because this was my Mom’s first Afternoon Tea, she was just so happy to see the beautiful presentation and indulge in such delicious food. We chatted and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed each moment as we decided which item we were going to try next from the gorgeous silver tower of finger sandwiches and pastries. I could just see the happiness and relaxation on my Mom’s face as she sipped her tea and took in the lovely surroundings and live music.

Love The Rose Tea I Chose

Love The Rose Tea I Chose

The Stunning Silver Tower Of Sandwiches And Pastries

The Stunning Silver Tower Of Sandwiches And Pastries

Mom And I Enjoying Our Afternoon Tea

Mom And I Enjoying Our Afternoon Tea

Doesn't This Look Amazing?

Doesn’t This Look Amazing?

Mom Never Looked More Relaxed And Happy!

Mom Never Looked More Relaxed And Happy!

Luckily I have a bunch of pictures to remember all the moments of the day, but that bright smile on my Mom’s face is something that will forever be etched in my heart. I haven’t seen her that glowing and carefree in a long time. And for that, I’d say that Mother-Daughter Day 2018 was a huge success. I think she’d agree too. Love you Mom!

 

Please Note: This post is in collaboration with The Peninsula Chicago. All opinions are my own.

A New View Of Chicago

Having lived in Chicago for so long now, I was pretty sure I’d seen Chicago from all angles and modes of transportation. Flying over the city many times from both O’hare and Midway airports, from all the trains including the El, Metra and even Amtrak, from boats, buses, cars, taxis, ubers, horse drawn carriages and on foot. I think that exhausts the entire list of options.

Except for one. There was one elusive, bucket-list mode of transportation that I had yet to view the skyline from. And, now I can officially cross this off my list and say I’ve experienced it.

I finally went on my first helicopter ride over Chicago and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a long time! Chicago Helicopter Experience is an awesome way to see the city from a new view and it’s such an exhilarating ride.

Chicago Helicopter Experience

Chicago Helicopter Experience

Gotta Take A Selfie

Gotta Take A Selfie

I thought it would be similar to flying over the city in a plane, but it’s such a different experience. You are so much closer to the city and buildings and almost feel like you are a part of them. It’s so much more intimate than you will ever feel in a commercial airplane and I can’t recommend it enough if you are looking for something different and unique to do. A helicopter ride is great for a special event like a birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc. or just a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list thing to do.

Shortly After Leaving The Heliport

Shortly After Leaving The Heliport

Views Over Northerly Island

Views Over Northerly Island

Sitting Right Behind The Pilot

Sitting Right Behind The Pilot

Love The Shadows!

Love The Shadows!

Many friends asked me if I was scared and what it felt like to be in a helicopter. I wasn’t even the least bit worried about it and it was such a smooth ride. The helicopter may sway a little during takeoff and landing, but nothing that made me worried in the least. I actually felt the whole process was smoother than an airplane and because of that, now I wish I could travel everywhere by helicopter…ha ha. I mean, the up close and personal views alone are worth every second of it.

One Of My Favorite Views From The Helicopter

One Of My Favorite Views From The Helicopter

Gorgeous Day Chicago!

Gorgeous Day Chicago!

Up Close And Personal

Up Close And Personal

Flying Over Navy Pier With Cool Shadows Of Lake Point Tower

Flying Over Navy Pier With Cool Shadows Of Lake Point Tower

If you are in Chicago or plan to visit, definitely check out Chicago Helicopter Experience for what will be a memorable and fun way to see the city, while getting the best aerial views. I promise you will love it.

 

Please Note: While I experienced the helicopter ride at a media event, all opinions are my own.

A Visit To Yellowstone National Park

Having finally visited one of my dream destinations, Yellowstone National Park, I won’t claim to be any sort of expert. But, I will say that I have a better grasp of the geography and the sheer vastness of this remarkable gift from Mother Nature.

Visiting Yellowstone National Park

Visiting Yellowstone National Park

If I can give you just one piece of advice, it would be to hire a private tour guide for at least the first day of your trip through the park. We were so incredibly lucky to have the absolutely brilliant and knowledgeable MacNeil from Yellowstone Insight as our guide. I can’t even begin to describe what a difference it made to have an expert drive us through the park, educate us on the wildlife and geothermal features all while showing us firsthand things I would have NEVER seen or found on my own.

MacNeil of Yellowstone Insight

MacNeil of Yellowstone Insight

It seems pointless to say, but Yellowstone is a very large park and as a newbie, there’s just too much to navigate on your own. MacNeil asked us pretty much first thing after he picked us up from Elk River Art Lodge at 6am, what our individual goals and interests were for our one day tour together. Can you guess what my answer was? “I want to see everything…ALL the animals and ALL the geothermal features.” #typical…ha ha. I mean, not so helpful to MacNeil, but he did a fantastic job showing us both the wildlife and some amazing landscapes and geology among many other things.

MacNeil will tailor each tour as the patrons want, which is great if you really want to just go on a wildlife safari for the day and learn about the migration patterns of the wolves. Or, if you’d rather learn about how geysers form and what temperature the mud pots are at, he can do that too. That’s what is so great about MacNeil; he’s so incredibly linked in to what seems like everything about the park, he will make your time and money beyond worth it.

Touring With MacNeil From Yellowstone Insight

Touring With MacNeil From Yellowstone Insight

Here are just a few of the many, many pictures I took on our tour with Yellowstone Insight. I promise that these pictures do no justice to the absolutely stunning scenery that is forever etched in my mind. You really must go visit Yellowstone for yourself.

Out By 6am For Our Tour With Yellowstone Insight

Out By 6am For Our Tour With Yellowstone Insight

Stunning Sunrise Over Yellowstone National Park

Stunning Sunrise Over Yellowstone National Park

Our First Sighting, An Elk!!!

Our First Sighting, An Elk!!!

One Hour Later, Snow In The Mountains

One Hour Later, Snow In The Mountains

Then Sun And A Bison Sighting

Then Sun And A Bison Sighting

A Pitstop With Snacks Provided By MacNeil

A Pitstop With Snacks Provided By MacNeil

Beautiful Views Of The Yellowstone River

Beautiful Views Of The Yellowstone River

Mud Volcano At Yellowstone National Park

Mud Volcano At Yellowstone National Park

Beautiful Hot Springs

Beautiful Hot Springs

More From Yellowstone

More From Yellowstone

More Elk Sightings!

More Elk Sightings!

I can’t still can’t stress enough how beneficial it is have an expert take you through Yellowstone National Park. Also, you are just missing out if you don’t go on MacNeil’s tour with Yellowstone Insight. Just do it already! Oh, and make sure you book well in advance, because just like everything else in Yellowstone, things book up quickly. Enjoy 🙂

 

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

Being Vegetarian In Yellowstone Country

Yeah, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect either. I mean, when I think of Montana and Wyoming, fresh vegetables aren’t the first thing that pop to my mind. So, as a vegetarian, what could there possibly be for me to eat when I finally head to Yellowstone Country? The answer is A LOT!!!

Honestly, I was blown away by not only all the options available, but the blossoming culinary scene in places like Bozeman. I had so much great food on my entire trip and if you are considering traveling to this area and have a dietary restriction, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. With full disclosure, it is definitely easier to find more options in bigger cities like Bozeman, but it’s not to say that you won’t be able to find anything in smaller towns. Hopefully I can help steer you in the right direction if you happen to stop in the same places I visited. Here’s just a highlight of some of the awesome things I ate and drank while visiting Yellowstone Country:

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tostadas at Starky's in Bozeman

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tostadas at Starky’s in Bozeman

Huckleberry Vodka Cocktail At Bozeman Spirits Distillery

Huckleberry Vodka Cocktail At Bozeman Spirits Distillery

Breakfast Hash at Jam in Bozeman

Breakfast Hash at Jam in Bozeman

Hot Cinnamon Pecan Rolls at Jam in Bozeman

Hot Cinnamon Pecan Rolls at Jam in Bozeman

Pizza at Yellowstone Pizza Company in Gardiner, MT

Pizza at Yellowstone Pizza Company in Gardiner, MT

Greek Salad at Euro Cafe in West Yellowstone

Greek Salad at Euro Cafe in West Yellowstone

Homemade Vegetarian Burger at Backcountry Burger Bar in Bozeman

Homemade Vegetarian Burger at Backcountry Burger Bar in Bozeman

Visiting One Of The Many Breweries In Bozeman

Visiting One Of The Many Breweries In Bozeman

Best Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros at Lot G in Bozeman

Best Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros at Lot G in Bozeman

Cafe Latte at Lot G in Bozeman

Cafe Latte at Lot G in Bozeman

As you can see, you will not leave Yellowstone Country hungry, no matter what your dietary restriction. Now go on, plan your trip!

 

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

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.