Category Archives: Weekend Getaways

Going to Salem in October? Plan Ahead

When you’re in New England in October, you must go to Salem. It was everything kitschy and stereotypical I expected it would be and a total must. It kinda reminds me of going to the renaissance festival, and it’s a great destination for a day trip.

It’s very accessible, and you can get there by car, train, or ferry.  The drive is about an hour or less depending on traffic. If you drive though, parking can be a sticky situation. Tip # 1: A lot of parking lots will try to charge you $20 for the day, but if you just drive around the town you can find regular street parking. Make sure you read the street signs so you don’t get towed though.

We arrived in Salem around noon, and Ellen and I ate lunch at Tavern in the Square, a new-ish restaurant in Salem from the same owners of Joshua Tree and Cityside Bar and Grill in Boston. It’s just ok. The clam chowder is acceptable but by no means order the crabcake sandwich. The crabcakes are over breaded and you can’t even taste any crab. I would suggest that you find another restaurant. After lunch we set out to see what Salem had to offer. Witches and Pirates and Hawthorne, oh my!

Beautiful homes in Salem

Creepy Statue of Roger Contant, the first settler of Salem.

And, as excited as we were… we found that we couldn’t do anything because all tours and admissions were sold out until 6:30 pm or 7 pm, and we had to return to Boston before then. Sad! So Tip #2: Book in advance or get there early and stand in line for tickets to the attractions you want to visit. So we ended up shopping, sightseeing and making friends with locals.

Salem is full of great attractions, but watch out because for every great museum there are 15 tourist traps. That is why I will give you a list of some recommendations from the great people at Remember Salem Gifts to avoid those dreaded tourist traps.

Tip #3: Things to do in Salem

Side of the Pirate Museum

  1. Witch Dungeon Museum
  2. New England Pirate Museum
  3. Witch History Museum
    You can find info about all three of these here.
  4. Salem Witch House
  5. House of Seven Gables (I’m a huge Hawthorne fan and was so disappointed I couldn’t check this out)
  6. Peabody Essex Museum – This is not witch or pirate themed but the director of marketing spoke in one of my classes and this museum looks gorgeous.

Old time cemetery in Salem.

Salem is tiny and great to travel by foot so forget the trolley tour. It’s totally walkable. There are also tons of haunted houses and nightly ghost tours that look really fun as well.

And, if you really want to get into the spirit you can even dress up.

Ellen and I in 20 years....

Ellen and I in 20 years...

Here’s to hoping you have a spooky good time! (and better luck than Ellen and I did)


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Chicago for the Marathon

Chicago Marathon

The race leaders and pace car at mile 1.

About a month ago, I went to Chicago to go see my sister run the Chicago Marathon (yeah, she’s pretty amazing). I had only been to Chicago once before in high school, and I was really excited to return again and experience more of the city.

Chicago is a great city to visit, and transportation to and from the airport is very convinient. When you fly into O’Hare, you can jump on the blue line El (subway/train) for $2.25 and go downtown. This is ten times easier and cheaper than having to take a cab and great when you’re traveling on a budget.

My first night I stayed with one of my good friends from Mizzou in Lincoln Park. While I love being the ultimate tourist when I travel, I also find it incredibly refreshing to see the city from the perspective of the people who live there. Lincoln Park was definitely one of my new favorite areas of the city. It’s a little north of downtown, and I would describe it as a Midwestern West Village. Storefronts are full of local and well-known boutiques like Francesca’s and Lululemon and restaurants and diners.

The next day I met up with my family downtown. We stayed at Hilton Suites Chicago Magnificent Mile. LOVED IT! The accommodations were amazing. For me, the “make it or break it” factor is always the bed, and the beds at the Hilton were some of the plushest and most comfortable ever. The room was spacious and clean. The hotel restaurant is not very good though. We ate at Club Med for dinner one night, and I was not impressed at all. You’re better off leaving the hotel for meals.

This hotel is definitely all about location, and if this is your first time in the city or you are an avid shopper I highly recommend the Hilton Suites Chicago Magnificent Mile. The hotel is in the heart of downtown steps away from the Museum of Contemporary Art, the John Hancock Center, and shopping shopping shopping (aka Michigan Avenue). Michigan Avenue is the heart of Chicago shopping, and the stores range  from high-end like Escada and Bloomingdale’s (one of the best I’ve been to) to affordable gems like H&M and Forever 21.

If you’ve never been to Chicago, marathon weekend is actually a great time to visit even if you are just a spectator. Not only is it amazing to watch 45,000 people run 26.2 miles, but the race course goes through the best parts of the city. It starts and finishes in Grant Park, which is a spacious green oasis right on the lake with artwork and great views of the city.


View of the city from Grant Park by the "Agora" statues.

Then it takes you through the heart of downtown.



We also watched the race in Chinatown. One of the most fun and liveliest spots to watch the marathon.


Chinatown in Chicago

And, finishes in Grant part again.


Post-race in Grant Park

Another great thing about Chicago is the food and I’m not talking just about hot dogs and deep dish. Try:

1. Bandera (American): Take it from a southern girl and try the Cornbread & Foccacia. Also, the salads are amazing here specially the Macho Salad. The Mac & Cheese is also very good and quite comforting.

2.Quartino (Italian): I absolutely loved this place! Unlike many Italian restaurants that tend to be family-style eating, this Italian restaurant serves all its entrees as small plates tapas-style. I loved this concept because it lets you sample so much of the menu. I recommend the Zola Noci and Pere Pizza ( Gorgonzola, Walnuts and Pears), Veal Meatballs Napoli, Eggplant Parmigiana (one of the best I’ve had), and the Tortellini with Alfredo Sauce, Peas and Prociutto. And, for dessert I recommend the Profiteroles (with ice cream not custard…a childhood favorite of mine) or the Coppa al Banana …YUM. Don’t waste your time with the Nutella Panino. Its too hard and you’re better off making it at home anyways. It’s pretty much just toast with Nutella.

3. Scoozi (Italian): From the geniuses of Lettuce Entertain You, try the Butternut Squash Ravioli, the Tomato & Goat Cheese Pizza, the Mushroom Risotto, or the Penne Arrabiata with Sausage. Basically, everything is delicious.

4. Nookies Too (American, Diner-Style): Went to Nookies in Lincoln Park for brunch. Loved the Dixie Benedict (a southern play on eggs benedict with biscuits and gravy) and the pancakes.

5. Signature Room or Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Center: Amazing views of the city. You’re better off making a reservation.


View from the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Center

As if I didn’t have an amazing weekend in Chicago with my family and friends, Continental also made me smile at the end of Columbus Day weekend. After showing up at the airport at 6 am for my return flight to Boston (via Newark), I found out that my flight to Newark was delayed, and it would make me miss my connection to Boston. Sleepy and already defeated I walked up to the counter expecting the typical airline run-around. But, when I walked up to the counter and gave them my name, they informed me that I had already been re-routed on a direct flight to Boston (on an American Airlines flight). I didn’t have to do anything. It was already done. Nice. So, THANKS CONTINENTAL! I knew there’s a reason why you’re my favorite airline.

Chicago Tip: If traveling there in the fall, take warm clothes or a jacket no matter what. I was fooled by the predicted temperatures of 45-50 degrees which I interpreted as “nice fall weather.” It ended up being significantly colder than that, and I had to go out and buy a scarf and fleece. So, go prepared.

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Packing for a Weekend Getaway

If anybody knows how hard it is to pack for a weekend getaway (or just any trip), it’s me. I seem to have acquired a knack for over packing through the years and then struggling to lug my bags around airports, bus terminals, or train stations. So, for the past year I have been trying to learn how to transport my life in a small carry-on for weekend getaways. I don’t have it down to a science, but I have developed a little list to use that always makes it a little easier to choose what to pack and to make sure I don’t forget necessities. So here it is:

1. Toiletries: If you are traveling with friends try to plan to share certain things like shampoo, conditioner, lotions, toothpaste, and/or  blowdriers/straighteners. Also, if you are staying at a friend’s place, ask to see if there are things that they have that you can use. Moreover, unless you stock up on hotel soaps, shampoos, and conditioners like my mom does, it’s a smart idea to invest in reusable travel size toiletry containers like these from The Container Store.

2. Pajamas and Underwear: I know this seems silly, but trust me forgetting your pajamas or underwear will make you feel like a small failure (been there, done that).

3. Two Pairs of Bottoms: One of these could be worn as part of your travel outfit. Of course, jeans are a must for any trip, and I recommend having a pair of dark-washed jeans that could also double as a nighttime outfit. Make sure whatever you to take (jeans, leggings, khakis, etc.)  is versatile and can be worn more than once.

4. Three tops: I usually pack comfortable cotton tees or some shirts I can easily layer if it gets cold

5. One or Two Going Out Outfits: Depending on any plans you may have it is best to have about one or two outfits ready for nighttime. Bring some dressier tops for your dark jeans or perhaps your go-to little black dress.

6. One Jacket/Sweater/Fleece: Weather is unpredictable so make sure you have something to keep you warm just in case anything happens.

7. Two Pairs of Shoes: For a girl with one too many shoes like me, this is at times the hardest part. However, for short weekend trips it’s best to take a comfortable pair of walking shoes like some Chuck Taylors plus a nice pair of shoes for your going out outfits.

8. Umbrella: Look at number 6.

9. Camera: Remember to charge the battery.

10. MP3 player: Remember to charge the battery.

Remember, versatility for weekend travel outfits is key so try to make sure all the pieces that you pack can be worn interchangeably with each other. Attempting to stick to this formula will also make sure that you don’t overpack and weigh yourself down to much.


Filed under Packing, Weekend Getaways