Comin’ for ya, Charlotte!

The travel bug has bitten me recently. Hard.

Charlotte, NC

Luckily, my best friend Jasmine moved to Charlotte last year, so I have a reason to visit North Carolina for the first time. I plan on visiting in early August, so I’ve already begun adding things to my to-do list for my short stay. Below are a few places/events that have come up in my research:

  • The EpiCentre
    The EpiCentre is a one-stop shop for food, drinks, shopping and entertainment. Day or night, visitors can choose between watching a movie, bowling, enjoying a meal/drinks with friends or splurging during some retail therapy (which is definitely on my to-do list).

  • Food Tours
    I’m always hungry. Always. Luckily, Jasmine shares my love for food (which is why we’re best friends, obviously), so I know we’ll be on the lookout for good eats while I’m there. I stumbled across Feast Food Tours’ website while doing some research, and I think I’m sold on going on a walking food tour.

  • South End
    I love the idea of visiting areas of a city that are lively, entertaining and full of history. North Carolina’s South End seems to have all of that–and more. There’s a gallery crawl in the area on the Friday of my trip, and I think we’d enjoy wandering around a few fine art galleries that night. Food Truck Friday is that same night, so that’s also a plus.

I don’t want to necessarily plan my entire trip (since sometimes no plan is the best plan, right?). So I’m only adding a few things to my to-do list, for now. What are your recommendations for a brief stay in Charlotte?

photo credit: Charlotte Skyline via photopin (license)

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Philly Is Always a Good Idea

This week, I spent a few days in Philly (which was my first time visiting the city). I traveled to NYC during the summer, and I thought that Philly was another city that I had to visit. Overall, I loved Philly. Below are a few of my favorite memories from my trip:

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Taking a trip to the Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was probably my favorite part of the entire trip. The garden consists of artwork created by mosaic mural artist Isaiah Zagar. Tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels and other random objects are combined to make a sight that anyone visiting Philly must see. Simply put, it was beautiful.

Liberty Bell

Artwork at the Liberty Bell Center

I couldn’t leave Philly without stopping by to see the Liberty Bell at the Liberty Bell Center. Before visitors can even reach the bell, they are free to look around at walls covered with information and visuals. This artwork of the bell covered with the word “liberty” in different languages immediately caught my eye.

Board Game Art Park

Board Game Art Park

One of the things that I loved about Philly is that visitors can stumble upon anything from a garden full of mosaic artwork or a park scattered with large game pieces. After taking a walk after dinner, I stumbled upon the Board Game Art Park, which is conveniently located across the street from the LOVE Park.

I visited some other sights, including the Reading Terminal Market (to get my soft pretzel fix), Franklin Square and the President’s House site (where George Washington lived). And, of course, I did try my first Philly cheesesteak from Pat’s.

Overall, Philly was definitely good to me.

No Plan is the Best Plan

I can finally admit it: I have a problem with over-planning. I don’t care if it’s a big vacation or a girls’ night out, I don’t like going into anything without a plan. So, when I decided to go on a trip to New York City, I went into extreme-planning mode (and I have the sticky notes to prove it). But, after making it to the city, I realized that sometimes the best plan for a vacation is, actually, no plan at all.

I thought I did pretty well with my plan for our NYC trip. Everything from a free outdoor Joe concert to stargazing on a rooftop was on my list of things-to-do. In the end, I didn’t do any of that. But, I did end up doing some of the following fun things by just being spontaneous:

  • Central Park Zoo

    Central Park Zoo

    A sea lion putting on a show at Central Park Zoo

    I love animals, but going to the zoo wasn’t on my original to-do-list. I knew that I wanted to visit the American Museum of Natural History, so I decided to visit the nearby zoo, too. It was my favorite part of the entire trip, hands-down. I saw sea lions wave at the large crowds of people watching, colorful birds swoop down in front of me, and swans resting peacefully in small ponds.

  • A trip to the movies

    I love going to the movies so much that I’m embarrassed to count how many times I’ve gone this summer. So, I didn’t initially plan to watch any movies while in NYC (especially since seeing a movie doesn’t seem like a NYC-type thing to do). But, I wanted to see “Let’s Be Cops,” and I found a Regal theater near our hotel.

    After a 20 minute walk, I arrived at the movie theater in Battery Park, which is conveniently located next to one of my new favorite burger spots, Shake Shack (I, unabashedly, went to eat there twice within two days). The movie theater is in the same building as a hotel, so it looked pretty fancy. The ticket prices were also a bit up there at $15 each, but I enjoyed myself and the movie (“THAT’S WHAT YOU GET!”).

  • Battery Park

    Popular tourist attractions in NYC, like museums and Times Square, are always fun to visit, but I wanted to spend my last day in the city someplace closer to our hotel. Since I liked the Battery Park area, I decided to go back again for lunch and last-minute sightseeing.

    I got lunch at Shake Shack and then walked through Battery Park, closer to the water. A lot of people were there, but the area seemed less congested than those uptown. I enjoyed the view (which also included the Statue of Liberty) and enjoyed a peaceful afternoon walking through the park. My favorite part: there were more people simply walking and taking in the view than people glued to their cameras and phones.

  • Lombardi’s Pizza

    If you love pizza, you have to eat at Lombardi’s in Little Italy. After finding the recommendation through a quick Pinterest search, I headed to the pizzeria after checking in my bags at my nearby hotel. The prices immediately took me by surprise since I was only expecting to buy individual slices—not a whole pie. But, I ended up ordering a small margherita pizza, and it was DELICIOUS. Every ingredient from the sauce to the mozzarella and pepperoni toppings tasted fresh and, simply put, amazing.

Of course, I wouldn’t advise going on a vacation without any plan at all, but adding a bit of spontaneity to a trip is never a bad thing—along with a few trips to Shake Shack.