Travel

A day trip to Watkins Glen State Park from Niagara Falls

Known for its world famous motor racetrack, award winning wineries and a state park full of waterfalls Watkins Glen is a great place for a road trip with Instagram worthy scenery for the whole family. I travelled to Niagara Falls with my friends and on our way to Niagara Falls, New York we decided to take a day trip to the beautiful and popular Watkins Glen State Park in Finger Lakes. Located on the southern tip of Seneca Lake in the Finger lakes, Watkins Glen State Park is a gorgeous place for hiking, camping and outdoor recreation.

As we were only doing a day trip to Watkins Glen on our way to the majestic Niagara Falls, we decided to visit Watkins Glen State Park, famous for its stream -carved gorge now preserved as a State Park.

Fun Facts about Watkins Glen State Park

  1. The gorge derived its name from Dr. Samuel Watkins and his brother John who acquired land in the area in the 1850’s.
  2. To increase tourist appeal, in the mid 1920’s the word “Glen” was added to the town name – Watkins.
  3. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs generating 19 waterfalls.
  4. The gorge emerged more than 2.5 million years ago during the Pleistocene Ice Age when the polar ice sheet advanced and receded and making it wider and deeper each time the ice sheet advanced southward.

When to Visit?

Watkins Glen is open all year however the best time to visit the park is anytime other than the winter months. Personally, we visited the state park in May and thought it was the perfect time to enjoy and explore the State Park without it being too hot or too cold. We combined it with our trip to the Niagara Falls.

Where to enter the park ?

There are three entrances to enter the park – Upper, South and Main. We entered the park through the South Entrance as we also made a quick stop at the Hector Falls along the way which are the third tallest falls in the state. Since the South entrance sits between the main and upper entrances its a great place to start as you will be in the middle of the park and you can retrace your steps as you like. There is no fee to visit the park although there is a parking fee of $8 per vehicle. The upper entrance is not as busy as the other entrances and on long holidays or weekends it may be easier to find parking here in case the main and south entrance are full.

The scenic gorge trail is family friendly however not the most accessible for those with mobility issues. It is an easy and incredible hike with gorgeous views but just be careful as the wet leaves and waterfalls make the path a little slippery sometimes.

We explored walking along the spectacular gorge soaking in the lush greens, waterfalls and fresh air. Walking through a spiral staircase we found ourselves at the Suspension bridge crossing over Watkins Glen Gorge. It made me get lost in nature while also connecting with myself on a deeper level and feeling absolutely rejuvenated.

While all the falls are beautiful my absolute favorite was the Rainbow Falls. We spent most of our time at the striking, delicate, dramatic and beautiful Rainbow Falls. The view from here is absolutely marvelous. The water falling from above, the bridge in the background, the lovely stone stairs is something that looks like from a fairytale. Did you know – The falls get its name from the rainbows that appear in the mist of the falls on sunny days.

As we explored the gorge, we were pleasantly surprised by the powerful Cavern Cascade. The spiral tunnel seemed like a dead end but as we walked down, it led us underneath the Cavern Cascade. Try to put your hand underneath the falls and you will be surprised to find out how strong the current is.

Tips for visiting Watkins Glen State Park

  1. Carry water as there is no water fountain along the trail.
  2. Wear waterproof and comfortable shoes.
  3. During the summer months there is a bus shuttle between the three entrances which helps navigates around the park.
  4. Carry a map, it will come in handy to know where you are and what you would like to explore.

If you are looking for the ultimate travel guide to Niagara Falls which is only a 2.5 hours drive check out my blog post here

Hope you enjoyed reading my post! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or email me and I will be happy to answer them. For all other travel guides and to receive my blog posts subscribe to the blog follow me on Instagram.

Food, Travel

A Complete Travel Guide to Niagara Falls

Spanning the border between the province of Ontario in Canada and the state of New York in the United States are the majestic Niagara Falls which has been on my bucket list for a long time. Every time I saw pictures or videos I have been marveled at the miracle of the nature and I was beyond ecstatic to finally visit them over the Memorial Day weekend with my friends and experience it myself. To say, I was left speechless and lost in thoughts would be an understatement.

There are two sides to the Niagara Falls – The US side and the Canadian side. Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls. The spectacular falls can be toured by boat, helicopter or on your own two feet. The largest of the three falls is the Horseshoe Falls and is also known as the Canadian Falls and the smaller two falls – Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls lie on the American side. I haven’t been to the Canadian side yet and would love to go to see the Horseshoe Falls in its entirety however you can see all the three falls from the US side and trust me it is breathtaking either way. 

One of my friend quoted and it stuck with me ” In Canada you see the falls, and in US you feel the falls”.

How to get to Niagara Falls

We drove to Niagara Falls from Boston starting on Friday evening at 5.00 pm EST and took a few stops to do things along the way and stay over the night. Niagara Falls is approximately 460 miles from Boston. You can also fly to Buffalo Niagara International Airport and then drive to the falls which is approximately 30 minutes away.

Where to Stay

We stayed at Ellicottville, New York which was approximately a one hour and fifteen-minute drive to the Niagara Falls. Check out the place here. We really enjoyed our stay here and it was perfect for our group of 10. Ellicottville is known for its ski resorts. We booked only a week before the Memorial Day weekend and most of the places we liked near Niagara Falls were sold out. If you are looking for an upscale hotel and place closer to the falls check out Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino. Some other options closer are Hyatt Place Niagara Falls and Red Coach Inn.

Best Time to Visit Niagara

The best time to visit the falls is mid-May through mid-September. However, the peak season is in summer from June to August. However, having said that there is no right or wrong time to visit in Niagara. The colder winter months offer a chance to see the falls frozen which is something I want to visit as well. If you also wish to explore some of the parks around New York like us, May is great time as it is not too hot or too cold.

Must do things in Niagara Falls

Maid of the Mist – If there is only one thing you can do, I highly recommend this tour. This is an absolute must do! Strolling along the water’s edge and viewing the Niagara Falls from an outlook is one thing but viewing the falls from the vantage point of the water via a boat tour on the Maid of the Mist is a totally different experience. If you are traveling during long weekends or at peak times there is likely going to be two hours wait time or more. The tickets to this tour are $25.25 for adults and I recommend buying them in advance especially if you are visiting during busy times. They provide you ponchos on the tour so that you are do not get wet. Experiencing the roar and the drenching spray of mist of the powerful and hypnotic falls is surreal. We were lucky to see two rainbows formed as a result of the mist in the air You can check the schedule and book you ticket here.

Things to know for the tour:

  1. Carry a waterproof phone or GoPro to capture the mighty falls.
  2. Be ready to wait in long queues. But don’t worry it is worth the wait.
  3. The tour runs every 15 minutes and lasts approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Tour times cannot be reserved in advance.
  • Observation Tower – After the Maid of the Mist tour we headed to the Observation tower to soak in the panoramic views. It is the only place where you can see both the American falls and the Horseshoe Falls together.
  • Illuminated Falls – When the sun goes down the striking Niagara Falls are illuminated every night of the year beginning at dusk all the way up to 2.00 am in the summer and create a stunning vista that can be marveled from near and far. Did you know – the first ever illumination took place in 1860 with 200 Bengal lights to honor the visit of Prince of Whales as a one-night event. You can check the Illumination schedule here. Usually, in the summer every night at 10.00 pm there are fireworks at the falls but due to the COVID-19 restrictions the fireworks are cancelled for 2021.
  • Cave of the Winds – This is one thing we could not do as the tickets were sold out for the day but cannot wait to go back and try this. Highly recommend booking the tickets by going in early as they are not sold online to avoid the tickets being sold out. I have heard that there is no better way to experience the mighty power of the falls safely than standing underneath a torrent of water on the famous Hurricane Deck. They provide yellow ponchos for this experience but you are bound to get drenched so carry a change of clothes and wear footwear accordingly. Did you know – the decking is removed each fall due to potential damage and re-installed each spring by the park officials to enjoy the experience. Cannot wait to go back and try this enthralling experience!!
  • Rainbow Bridge – Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 restrictions the Canadian border was closed and we could not cross the border at the Niagara Falls. You can either walk or drive on the Rainbow bridge to cross the border but remember you need a valid Canadian visa to go if you are going from New York. It takes approximately five minutes to walk this bridge. You can literally have one foot in US and one in Canada on this bridge. 
  • Terrapin Point– The best view of the Horseshoe falls other than from the Maid of the mist is from the Terrapin point to see the falls and mists forming up close.  This is a great place to check out the illuminated falls. 
  • Goat Island – You can also explore and walk around the Goat Island. The best way to explore the goat island is on foot. Goat Island is in the middle of the Niagara River. The island splits the Niagara River in two before it cascades over the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls. It is a great place to enjoy the natural beauty and view of the falls. It is connected to the Luna Island with a pedestrian bridge. 

Where to Eat

  1. Kathi Roll on the Falls – Highly recommend trying this food truck for its lip smacking and delicious kathi rolls. My favorite kathi rolls were the Aloo roll and the Chana roll. I also liked the paneer roll. They offer many options to choose from for vegetarians as well and this place does not disappoint.
  2. Dosa Hut Fine Indian Cuisine – We also tried another food truck and tried the masala dosa, idli sambhar, parathas, channa masala, and samosa chaat here. I personally enjoyed the samosa chaat here the most. 

Day Trips from Niagara Falls

  1. Watkins Glen State Park – 2.5 hours from Niagara Falls. We took a day trip to Watkins Glen State Park. Check out the complete guide on what to do and where to eat here.
  2. Letchworth State Park – This is another great day trip to explore which is only 1.5 hours from Niagara Falls.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions. Hope you enjoyed the post! 

Food, Travel

Islamorada – A day trip from Miami

I recently visited Miami with my friends in April and took a day trip to Islamorada and fell in love with it at first glance. Known for its towering palm trees, sandy beaches, pristine and clear water, laid-back vibe, and breathtaking sunsets, Islamorada is a complete paradise. Did you know? – Islamorada is one of the Florida Keys and is on the way to Key West.

Only a 90 mins drive from Miami, Islamorada is a great place to go for a day trip. Islamorada is known as the sport fishing capital of the world with beautiful local restaurants and quaint shops with a small town island vibe which I absolutely love. Even if fishing is not your thing it is equally appealing for divers, snorkelers and kayaking.

Fun Fact – The name Islamorada came from the early Spanish explorers in the area which means Purple Isle.

Things to do

While there are a lot of things to do in Islamorada our goal was to just enjoy the beaches, relax and sip in some cocktails with delicious food.

  1. Anne’s beach – This is one of the most popular beaches in Islamorada and for good reason. It has very clear blue waters making it picturesque. It has picnic spots to enjoy the stunning views and is a small beach with shallow waters. It does not have much of sandy areas so if you are in a large group like us you may not find enough space to enjoy the sandy areas and just relax. However, it has a great boardwalk and is one of the beaches in Islamorada where you can bring your pets.
  2. Sombrero Beach, Marathon – This beach is approximately 25 miles ahead of Anne’s beach but absolutely amazing if you are looking for a white sandy beach to just relax and soak in the sun this is great. If you enjoy swimming I would recommend heading to this one and a bonus its a great place to catch the sunset!! Also this beach has a great volleyball court and a park area for kids.

Where to Eat

  1. Morada Bay Beach Cafe– A cute cafe with waterfront dining overlooking the Florida Bay. A great place to get drinks and food with stunning views. We went here during Covid times and what I appreciated the most was that the tables were spread out making it very easy to maintain social distancing.
  2. Lorelai’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar – What can I say!! I absolutely loved the place. It has so many amazing food options to pick from even for vegetarians and everything was so fresh. A great place to grab delicious food, tasty drinks, waterfront views overlooking the Florida bay(beautiful sunsets), and live entertainment from local bands. Very well spaced table to maintain social distancing and have some privacy. Highly Recommend!!

Hope you enjoy reading this post. Check out the complete travel guide to Miami here. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Food, Travel

Getaway : A Cabin Experience and Escape from Boston

I know this post has been long due and I apologize for the long break without posts. 2020 had been a difficult year to say the least and my husband and I decided to end the year detaching ourselves from technology and soaking ourselves in nature. I started university back in Fall 2020 to pursue my MBA and at the end of my semester I was exhausted and ready to spend sometime off from the computer and I could not be happier. Personally, we did not want to take a flight and travel unless absolutely necessary due to the pandemic and also wanted to maintain social distancing while enjoying sometime off. We travelled to the Getaway house towards the end of December for three days two nights and picked the Escape from Boston which is located in New Hampshire. This New Hampshire Getaway House fulfilled it all for us!

The Getaway house is located at various locations throughout the country such as NYC, Atlanta, Washington D.C, Dallas, Houston, LA, Portland, etc. Use this link to receive $25 off your stay.

If you are someone who has always wanted to try camping and enjoys the outdoors but cannot go without a hot shower or a bathroom like me then the getaway experience is a perfect balance that offers the best of both worlds. It provides a comfy escape with the most relaxing views.

What is a Getaway House ?

For anyone who does not know what a getaway house is, let me explain it simply. A Getaway house is a container converted into cabin to provide a simplified glamping experience even for people with no camping experience. There are number of such cabins at each getaway location. The various cabins are spread in wooded areas approximately 150 feet apart from each other such that there is privacy and no one can see inside your cabin but also not too scary leaving you completely alone in the many acres of the wooded area.

One thing I really liked was all the cabins are named after the grandparents of the staff to honor their services and care they put in to ensure we enjoy a seamless experience. Our cabin name was Rose as it was beautiful.

What the Getaway is equipped with?

The getaway is equipped with all the essentials we needed for your stay and nothing that we didn’t making it a minimalist but amazing experience. Do not be fooled by the small size of the cabin. It is packed with literally everything you will need to make your stay so much more enjoyable. It is equipped with AC, heat, AM/FM radio, wireless speakers, toilet, hot shower, a private fire pit, grilling area with a picnic table and chairs, stove top, a mini refrigerator, salt, pepper, olive oil, utensils, a comfortable bed, etc. Check out the complete list of what is included in the house here. We also thought that the staff was extremely helpful and only a text or call away.

There is no WIFI at the getaway house and limited cell phone service depending on your provider which forces you to embrace the nature, enjoy the simple things in life and take a real break. They also provide a box to lock your phones away and enjoy yourselves without any devices. We actually thought this was a blessing after the crazy Zoom overdose we had. The Zoom fatigue was real and we could not think of a better way to completely switch off. We even put our phones in the box and locked them away for the weekend to enjoy a quiet time without any distractions. Trust me you will love it even if no WIFI and limited cell phone service sounds daunting at first. They provide some books and games at the cabin and we took our own books to read as well. It is was great way to shrug off the stress of work and detaching ourselves from the internet.

Safety and Security

Every Getaway house has a digital lock on the front door and a unique code which was texted to us on the day of check in with the name of your Cabin. This allowed us to securely lock our cabin while we explore around without worrying about your belongings.

Stay Options

The Getaway house offers two different kinds of cabins. One for two people (where we stayed) and one which can accommodate a maximum of four people(bunk beds) which is a great option for anyone traveling with kids. All the cabins have the bed located right next to the big glass window so we had the perfect view to wake up to. This is a great experience for anyone who wants to unplug and get away from the hustle of the everyday life. I thought it was a great place for even a solo traveler who loves to get inspired by nature and write a book, music, or any fun creative project on their mind.

Waking up in the morning with the perfect backdrop of nature was such a surreal experience. We absolutely loved the seating area created right next to the window and enjoyed sipping hot chocolate and reading a book in the cold. Could not think of a better way to start the day looking at the snow covered trees and enjoying the nature. Cannot wait to go back and try the other Getaway Houses at the other locations!

What to Pack/Bring ?

  1. Carry your favorite games, books or a creative project you would like to work on.
  2. Carry a bug spray if you are visiting during the summer months.
  3. A grill pan is optional not necessary.
  4. Grilling Food – Corn, strawberries, pineapple, ingredients to make kebabs, paneer/tofu, potatoes, bell peppers, onions, marshmallows, marinades, burgers, Maggi, etc.
  5. Snacking or any other Food items.
  6. Wine, champagne or anything you like to drink.
  7. Hot chocolate.
  8. Comfy clothes.

There are grocery stores nearby but I highly recommend planning and carrying what you need to save yourself a trip to the grocery store. The cabin also offers a survival kit if you like which includes food options.

Things to do Nearby

  1. Blasty Bough Brewing Company – If you want to check out some local brewery and try some local beers with beautiful views and live music check out the Blasty Bough Brewing Company. Check the link here for all the details.
  2. Pawtuckaway State Park – Located around 30 minutes from the cabin this state park offers hiking trails and boulders to climb. We did not do this during our stay but would love to check it out another time.

Things to do at the Getaway

  1. Movie/Game Night – We also did a movie and game night with popcorn and wine which we enjoyed a lot. We took some of the DVD’s of movies we wanted to watch and games we enjoyed. This was so much fun and I dont remember the last time I used a DVD before this experience. This was a great way to leave behind the reliance on Netflix and other streaming services.
  2. Grilling outside the cabin – Grilling under the stars, with a firepit was a perfect way for us to enjoy our nights with some music, wine and amazing food. They gave us a kit for grilling marshmallows, making s’mores too which was perfect to enjoy the fire pit outside during the cold month of December. They also provide fire wood, fire starting materials, a lighter and instructions on how to light a fire. They charge you at the end of your stay for the fire wood and the fire starting materials you used. It was our very first time to start a fire and the instructions were easy to follow. We enjoyed grilling kebabs, pineapple, strawberries and marshmallows, corn, paneer (an Indian version of tofu), and toasting s’mores and relished them. We loved it so much that we barely used the stovetop for any cooking even when it was freezing outside.
  3. Walk in the woods – If you are not in the mood to get out, the backyard of the Getaway House has nearby hiking/walking trails you can explore. We enjoyed walking around the trails nearby and collecting pinecones on the trails for the house.

Highly Recommend trying the Getaway House for a unique experience and coming home rejuvenated from the day to day stress of life. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out and leave a comment! Use this link to receive $25 off your stay

Lifestyle

How to Create your own Gallery Wall

A gallery wall lets you tell your story and is a fun way to add to the decor of the house. I have always wanted to add a personal touch to my home with pieces we collected over time but renting does not always make it easy. I have always liked the place to be more inviting and cozy and not be an eyesore. I couldn’t think of a better way than a gallery wall to do all that. Sharing a few tips with you for getting the gallery wall look.

Firstly, I would suggest to get some craft paper from any local arts and crafts store and trace any frame you wish to use on the craft paper and cut it to size. This really comes in handy so that your gallery wall looks like you envisioned, you have even gaps between your pieces and your pieces are not crooked or crammed.

I cannot stress this more but do not be in a hurry to create a gallery wall. Carefully curate pieces of art that matter and appeal to you or tell your story to give it a personal touch. They can be a mix of photos, art prints, mirrors, postcards from your favorite vacations, gifts you have received which matter to you, drawings, wall planters, love letters, license plates, antiques, medallions, writing pads, dates or numbers that have a special meaning, baskets or platters and plates, your first house keys, etc. The opportunities to get creative are endless.

Now lets get started:

  1. Move any furniture to the side for the wall you plan to use to put up the gallery wall so that you have enough space to hang your pieces freely.
  2. If you are moving any furniture make sure that you mark the area using the painters tape so that you are aware about the space you have to work with.
  3. Lay your art work on the floor and play around with the colors and layout till you are happy with it. A tip would be to anchor your favorite or biggest art in the centre and then slowly work the other artwork around it. Do not be afraid to try out different layouts as there are no real guidelines or rules to create a fun gallery wall.
  4. Remember that is it not necessary to have all your artwork in the same color palette however a tip would be to tie it in with the color scheme of your house or room you are doing it in so that they compliment each other.
  5. Once you have the art work you like, using the painters tape apply the craft paper on the wall and step back and view it from various areas in your room. Check that the sizes of the pieces balance each other out well and make any small adjustments that are needed.
  6. Hang your pieces and remove the tape once you are done. If you are living in a rented space like me you can use Command strips to stick your artwork to the wall without damaging the wall. Move your furniture back into its place, and you are done!

Things I Used for My Gallery Wall

1) Writing Paper Clip . I got it from Staples and it cost me around $5 for the A4 size.

2) Our First car and State’s License Plate

3) Our First Anniversary Dinner Menu – I got it framed from a local framer here (Frugal Framers) and it cost me $30.

4) A fun Caricature from our trip – I got it framed from a local framer here (Frugal Framers) and it cost me $45.

5) Life is a Beautiful Ride with LED Lights frame.I purchased this frame from A.C.Moore for less than $20.

6) A Poem my husband wrote and gave me on my first birthday with him – I printed the poem on the special paper of my liking and clipped it on the writing paper clip I purchased from Staples.

7) Love Frame. I purchased this frame from A.C.Moore for less than $20.

8) A Vintage looking mirror with the quote – Every Love Story is beautiful, But ours is my favorite. I purchased this frame from Cost Plus World Market for $30. Here is a link of the same.

9) Pictures of our Personal memories – Pre Wedding Celebrations in Mumbai, India (Where our Journey began), of our Honeymoon in New Zealand and of Snowy Chicago, our first home.

I used bayphoto.com to get these pictures printed and loved the quality and the final pictures. I printed the 3 pictures for around $100 as I got a 25% discount on my first order.

The best part about Gallery walls is you can add pieces or take away pieces as you go on to make them relevant to your life. So get creative and have fun creating your own gallery wall.

Here is a picture of another Gallery Wall I recently created!

TV Unit Gallery Wall
Travel

My Apple Picking Experience – A Fun Fall Day

When I think of Fall I think of Apple Picking. The abundance of apples is the welcome sign of the fall. Whether it’s with family, friends or your significant other, it’s easy to spend a full day at the orchard, and it’s the perfect excuse to spend some time outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather. This weekend my husband and I went apple picking at the Tougas Family Farms in Massachusets and had a fun experience.

We started the experience at 1.30 pm with eating some apple cider donuts and having apple cider both made freshly from the farm picked apples at the Tougas Farms. We then took the private wagon ride to drive around the beautiful orchard gazing at the various apple produce with the wind blowing in the air. We had gone for a private event arranged by my husbands office however you can go there by yourself too.

We then headed to go apple picking which was so much fun. The farm we went to had different types of apples – Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, McIntosh and Mutsu and the staff at the farms made us aware of all the differences between them and how they are best enjoyed.

We went around the various rows trying different types of apples and deciding which ones we liked over the others and ended up picking a mix of the apples we liked. We ate like 4 apples just as we were picking out apples.

Some of the apples we tried and picked were :
1)Honeycrisp – Mostly red skin, crisp, tart and sweet. They hold very well in baked goods but also taste delicious when eaten raw.
2)Cortland – Mostly red-skinned but taste much better when baked rather than eaten raw.
3)Gala – Compared to the Honeycrisp or Cortland apples these are smaller in size, red skin but taste better when eaten raw compared to when baked.
4)McIntosh – These apples are tender, sweet and have a red and green skin. They can be used for both baking as well as eaten raw but taste even better when baked.
5)Mutsu – They have green-yellow skin, not very tart and have a creamy texture. They work great with pies.

Once we finished picking the apples we sat in our tent and ate some apple crisps and apple pie and sipped on apple cider. Ohh yeah it was an Apple day after all.

The farm also has various farm animals around whom you can feed, playground for kids, farm stores where you can buy a lot of fresh goodies made out of the fresh fruits grown on the farms such as jams, jellies, fresh fruits, apple cider donuts, apple pie, apple crisps, apple pie ice cream, taffy apple and so much more.

All in all a great fun activity to do for the whole family.

Food, Travel

Fun Facts and Must Do Things in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands. It is home to various world famous museums and is known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system, narrow houses with gabled facades, hazy coffee shops and Red Light District. I traveled to Amsterdam in April and cannot wait to share my experience with you as well as some interesting facts about the lively city. It has so much to offer and is one of my favorite cities.

Did you know?
1) Amsterdam derived its name from the Amstel River.
2) There are 165 Amsterdam canals that combine for a length of over 100 kilometers. The Canal Ring became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
3) Amsterdam has more bridges than Venice. How difficult is that to believe? But there are only, in fact, 409 bridges connecting Venice’s canals. Amsterdam actually has 1,281 bridges, three times as many as Venice!
4) There are approximately 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam.
5) The tilted houses are called dancing houses. The soil was so swampy that they had to build on stilts and that caused them to wobble and sink into the river.
6) The number of bicycles in Amsterdam is more than the number of people living in the city.
7) Amsterdam has approximately 20 times more tourists throughout the year than the locals.
8) Amsterdam is one of the top 25 safest cities in the world and also one of the top 15 cities known for its high standard of living. Who would have thought, with all the marijuana and prostitution?
9) A study reveals that Dutch men are the tallest people in the world.
10) Amsterdam lies below the sea level and is among the top five coffee consuming cities in the world.
11) Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world.
12) Same-sex marriage is legal in Amsterdam. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

I travelled to Amsterdam with my husband and we rented an AirBnb in Amsterdam and enjoyed our stay at the beautiful bright, colorful bohemian apartment with a rooftop terrace. Everything about this apartment was absolutely inspiring. The host Anna enjoys traveling around the globe and it is evident from the decor of the house. The apartment is located on the 3rd and 4th floor. The 3rd floor has a spacious and beautiful living space with a fireplace to keep you warm when it gets cold, a fully stocked kitchen, a dining area and a balcony. Also the hosts have an entire wardrobe of amazing board games on the 3rd floor to unwind at the end of the day. The 4th floor has a huge bathroom which also has a walk in shower and a modern bath, a bedroom, a bookshelf with a reading nook with books about travel and food from all around the world and a rooftop terrace. The location of the apartment is great ; it is a 2 min walk to the tram and a 10 min bike ride to the city center. Anna, the host is extremely knowledgeable about the area and has some great recommendations and very quick with communication. Attaching the link to the apartment here

Another unique offering of Amsterdam is living on the floating house boats by the canals. There are also some great luxury floating house boats options available which looked amazing. I discovered these while exploring the city and would definitely consider staying there on my next visit for a different experience.

How to travel around Amsterdam

The best way to explore the city is either on a bike or on foot. Even if you only pedal around for a few hours, riding a bike is an essential Amsterdam experience. There are over 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. That’s more bikes than people! The city also has a flat landscape, which makes cycling so much more fun and enjoyable, and is also one the world’s most cycle-friendly cities with separate cycling paths throughout the entire city. You can also use public transport such as buses, trams, and metros, which are very well connected in the entire city. The public transportation covers all the places of interest. The main hub of the trams is Amsterdam Central station.

Best time to go to Amsterdam

The city is always buzzing with tourists year round, particularly being busier from April to September because it is warmer in those months. I traveled in April and it was extremely busy, but I had a great time. It would be ideal to book your stay ahead of time if you are going to travel in the peak tourist season as almost everything gets booked.

Must do things in Amsterdam:

1)Keukenhof — Keukenhof, known as the Garden of Europe is the world’s largest bulb flower park, and if you are traveling to Amsterdam between March to May then a visit to the gardens is a must. The magnificent gardens at Keukenhof are true visual ecstasy. These gardens are redesigned each year so even after many visits it will always look fresh and new with colorful flowers dancing before your eyes! If you love flowers like me, then this place will guarantee you a great experience, showcasing millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, and other spring-flowering bulbs. Here, you can buy bulbs straight from the cultivators and they also have specialists to guide you how bulbs can be grown more successfully at home. To get to Keukenhof Gardens we took bus from Amsterdam City Center to the Schiphol Airport and transferred to Keukenhof Bus 858.

2) Canal cruise — Besides providing a stunning backdrop to the city’s historical center, floating down Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most memorable ways to discover the city’s sights and attractions. Whether you’re a first-time or frequent visitor, everything in Amsterdam seems a bit more magical when viewed from a boat. Most canal cruises take around an hour, which gives you an opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected Canal Ring. There are various tours operating on the water and you could pick up one quite easily as per your location and requirements. I highly recommend taking the canal cruise in the evening or around sunset as the canals are more peaceful because they are less crowded.

3) Explore museums — Amsterdam is home to over 50 museums, exploring the diversity of history, art, culture, and educational fun. There are museums to suit everyone’s interest. Some of the most famous museums are Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank House. I visited the Rikjsmuseum since it was one of the museums that appealed to my interests and I wanted to do only 1 museum. The museum is huge and I spent around 4.5 to 5 hours to explore the museum. If you are short on time I would recommend to google the top 25 list to do at the museum which can be covered in around 2 hours. I highly recommend getting the I am Amsterdam card if you plan to visit many museums as it helps you save money.

4) Go beer tasting — Amsterdam is the home of the Heineken headquarters. The Heineken experience is a must see for all visitors. I had a great experience where they showed the brewing process, innovations, ingredients used, etc., and at the end of the tour also gave two free beers. During the Heineken tour too you have a few beer samplings besides the two free beers at the end. You can also personalize the Heineken beer bottle to carry as a souvenir back home with you. Some other interesting breweries that I would also recommend are Brouwerij de Prael, Brouwerij ‘t IJ (award winning brewery – located in a windmill), and Butcher’s Tears.

5) Visit coffee shops — A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without visiting the coffee shops there. Purchase and consumption of cannabis is legal in Amsterdam which remains a huge tourist attraction making it quite easily the weed capital of Europe. Some of the coffee shops I recommend are The Bulldog The First, Mellow Yellow, Original Dampkrings, Braney’s Coffeeshop and Grey Area.

6) Parks — Parks are at the heart of Amsterdam culture. Every time the sun is out you will see the locals packing up the disposable barbecue and heading down to their nearest garden.If you like visiting parks do not miss to check out Vondelpark, the most famous park in Amsterdam with an open air theater and concerts in the summer. Some other interesting parks are Erasmuspark and Rembrandtpark.

7) Visit a market in Amsterdam — Whether you’re looking to buy or try some local delicacies or just soak up the atmosphere, visiting one of the many markets in Amsterdam is a unique and unforgettable experience. Markets selling everything from antiques to books to artisan food to vintage clothes are held all over the city every day. Some of the most popular Amsterdam markets include the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp (Mon.-Sat.) Lindengrachtmarkt in the Jordaan (Saturdays), Bloemenmarkt (worlds only floating market)and the Waterlooplein Market – Flea Market (Mon.-Sat.).

8) Red Light District – From brothels  to sex museums, the Amsterdam Red Light District has it all. Amsterdam prides itself on its wholly liberal and tolerant attitude, embracing the fact that people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography. And that it is only human. So instead of criminalizing everything, they enjoy the honesty of it all. Needless to say, that come to the district at night when it really comes to life however here are women forever tapping on the windows.

Day Trips from Amsterdam

If you have time then it would be exciting to venture out and take day trips to Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans (working windmills), countryside, Delft, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Each of these places is unique and has something to offer you. I personally took a day trip to Volendam, Marken and Zaanse Schans and enjoyed my time on the Dutch countryside.

Zaanse Schans at one point had over 600 windmills however right now they have around 5 to 6 working windmills each with a different purpose and name. The windmills all have separate admission tickets and prices so come prepared with small bills. I found the windmill attendants happy to share details about the intricate workings of their respective windmills. I visited 2 windmills – one which grinds peanuts for oil, and the other is a sawmill for lumber. You can easily spend 2 – 3 hours exploring the windmills.

After Zaanse Schans, we headed to Volendam which is a nearby fishing village and is known for their colorful wooden houses. We headed to the Volendam Museum and saw a glimpse of fishing vessels, antique uniforms, and lifestyle of the Dutch people. The town’s promenade is lined with souvenir shops and indoor/outdoor eateries where you can grab a bite. I ate lunch and tried the Dutch pancakes from a local vendor here and enjoyed it. We then headed to the Cheese Factory in Volendam where we saw a live demonstration of how cheese is made and also sampled a variety of cheese. We also saw a live demonstration of how they make fresh warm stroopwaffles and tried the same.

The last stop of our day trip was to Marken and we visited the Shoe Factory. We saw the whole process of how the famous Holland shoe is made. They showed us various different types of shoes they make and you can also buy souvenirs or the famous shoes to take back home with you. We then explored the houses and the area by ourselves and then headed back to Amsterdam.

Must Try Dutch Food

Amsterdam is well-known around the world as a city of indulgences. Here is a list of famous Dutch food you have to try:

1)Stroopwafel — It consists of a syrup filling sandwiched between two thin waffles and tastes best when it is hot. Try the one at Banketbakkerij Lanskroon or Albert Cuyp Market.

2) Dutch Cheese — They are absolutely amazing and cannot be missed. Try them at the Cheese Factory or Henri Willig Cheese shops for a guided experience, or at Reypenaer Proeflokaal or the Cheese Museum. You can also buy cheese to take back home and enjoy.

3)Patat or Frites (Dutch Fries) — These are a must-have with the lip-smacking sauces. One of my absolute favorite places for this food is Vleminckx Sausmeesters.

4)Poffertjes — You can buy these little fluffy pancakes from any street market or vendor. Many vendors even have the options to add toppings to these yummy fluffy pancakes. Though my favorite places were the one I tried when I took the day trip to Zaanse Schans, Marken and Volendam and at Albert Cuyp Market.

Food/Bar Recommendations

1) Try a Hipster cafe – I was not aware of this until my friend who lives there took me to one. We went to Café de Ceuvel which is a beautiful bohemian waterside cafe which featured not only yummy food and delicious drinks but also beautiful music. The cafe has been found by people who want to make a difference in the world and this belief goes further than a label that reads organic. They make their own soda’s with the organic syrups, grow their own vegetables, their bitterballs are made of oyster mushrooms that grow on coffee grinds and have a greenhouse on the roof where they grow their own herbs and are also building the world’s first Biogas Boat in which they can transform their organic waste into biogas to cook on! Highly recommend if you are looking for a real Dutch experience. This place is filled with locals and you will not see any tourists here. You can reach here either by taking a ferry or Uber.

2) BAK Restaurant – The chef heroes seasonal Dutch produce in beautiful dishes. This is an organic restaurant with great food. They have a varied wine list and offer a 3 course lunch menu on weekends at a great price. They also offer an 8 course dinner with wine pairings. If you get a table by the window you can enjoy the stunning view overlooking the water. I loved the food here. They have a great menu for vegetarians too.

3) Daalder – Located in Jordaan, Daalder offers amazing modern European food. The food here is not only creative but also delicious. Daalder does not offer a la carte menu. However you can choose how many courses you would like to eat and the chef does not fail to impress.Keep an open mind & let the story unfold. Every course is precisely balanced yet delightfully unique. We had paired our food with wine.

4) Winkel 43 – Located in Jordan, Winkel 43 is famous for its Apple pie. You can see the slices of fresh apples, and they aren’t doused in a heavy syrup like you would find in an American apple pie. Each bite is perfectly sweet and tart apple paired with crumbly and lightly sweetened crust and a dash of luscious whipped cream.

5) Ciel Bleu – If you are looking for a Michelin Star experience head to Ciel Bleu. We could not get a reservation here as by the time we had planned our trip it was already booked. Something on my bucket list the next time I visit Amsterdam.

6) The Pancake Pastry – This bakery in Amsterdam only makes one thing: an ultra decadent chocolate cookie stuffed with gooey white chocolate. There is always a line out the door. A must-try in Amsterdam.

7) Ice Bakery by Nutella – There is a Nutella bakery in Amsterdam. If you love Nutella this place is a must try. You can get Nutella ice cream, Nutella milkshakes, Nutella hot chocolate, Nutella cookie sandwiches, Nutella waffles, Nutella pancakes, Nutella poffertjes and Nutella muffins too.

8) The Lobby (Fizeaustraat 2)- If you are looking for breakfast definitely try The lobby. This was a recommendation provided to us by a local and we absolutely loved it. They also have amazing wines. An insider tip which was given to us by our host of the Airbnb we rented was to ask for “het vies boekje” (dirty book) which has a list of all their special wines.

9) Pazzi (De Clercqstraat 93) – Who doesn’t like Pizza? Pazzi is one of the best pizza places in town.

10) Frits (Jan Evertsenstraat 135) – Burgers, fries and beer! What is not to like? They are well known for their burgers and extra crispy fries and have all the locals favorite beers from local breweries.

11) Floor 17 – Just do it for the view!

12) Other Restaurants – A few local friends had also suggested us – De Struisvogel located in the 9 streets for a 3 course meal and Cafe Modern located in Meidoornweg 2 (fixed menu) however we did not happen to go there. Something to do on our next visit to Amsterdam.

Highly recommend to make a reservation beforehand especially if you are traveling during the peak season as it may get difficult to get a reservation last minute.

Where to Shop

Whether you are searching for a souvenir, a unique vintage dress or the latest designer handbag, Amsterdam has something for everyone.

1) Boutiques – If you are someone like me who likes to shop at local boutiques then head to The Nine Streets. A couple of interesting boutiques I found there were Scotch and Soda, King Louie and Who’s that girl ?.

2) Kalverstraat – If you are looking for international brands such as Pull and Bear, Zara, Urban Outfitters, River Island, etc then head here. There are over 100 brands on this street.

3) Leidsestraat – For beauty products

4) De Bijenkorf and P C Hooftstraat – For high end shopping.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions.

Food, Travel

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Miami

Renowned worldwide for its beautiful beaches, colorful street art, rich Cuban heritage, glamorous nightlife, diverse and vibrant food plates, interesting cultural mix, amazing music, and sunny weather – Miami needs no introduction. The vibe in Miami is amazing with beautiful palm tree-lined beaches and incredible sunrises and sunsets. Yes, I fell in love with Miami! It had me smiling from start to finish.

How to get to Miami

I traveled to Miami with my husband the first time and we took the flight from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Fl and from Fort Lauderdale, you can either take the Brightline rail, uber to Miami or rent a car and drive to Miami. We took the flight to Fort Lauderdale as I was flying on the 4th of July weekend and direct flights to Miami had skyrocketing prices since we were booking last minute. On the other hand, Fort Lauderdale offered better rates and it takes approximately only 30 mins to reach Miami from there. There are also direct flights from Boston to Miami which you can opt for. The second trip I took to Miami was with friends and took a direct flight to Miami.

Where to stay in Miami

We absolutely loved our stay at the Four Seasons which has great views of both the city and the bay, a fun pool deck, hammocks where you can lay and sip your drinks while reading a book or simply relax, a great spa to pamper yourself, a fitness center for every fitness freak and all the other 5 star amenities you look for. My favorite in-room feature was the comfortable cushioned window seat that is perfect for curling up with a book or just relaxing to soak in the views. Bathrooms are large and the bed was super comfortable where I would just sink in at the end of the day. I highly recommend booking the Bay view rooms as the views are extremely peaceful.

Best Time to visit Miami

Florida is hot and sunny for for almost most of the year so there is not really a bad time to visit Miami. However, Spring – from March to May is one of the best times mainly because it is warm but not as humid as it would get during summer and also because it is not the hurricane season. If you are planning a trip in summer – make sure you check the weather as rains in summer is very common in Miami. I travelled to Miami in summer but was lucky to have skipped the rains completely. Summer is also one of the busiest times of the year to visit Miami purely because school break which enables families to take vacations. The winter – December to February is high season time for Miami as everyone wants to escape the dreaded cold and temperatures in Miami are usually in the 70’s making it a great time to visit.

Must-do things in Miami

1) Little Havana Rituals Tour – I cannot recommend this tour more. It was a fun way to learn about traditions and Cuban culture. Yoel makes this tour extremely personable and exciting experience. On his tour he shows the perfect way to make Cuban coffee, explore cigar and rum pairings (Trust me I am not a cigar person or even a smoker – It was my first time trying a cigar well actually second but my first time I could barely get to even lit a cigar and I had a great time) and explains the history and the significance of Little Havana as we explore. He is himself originally from Cuba and is extremely knowledgeable. If you are looking for an authentic Cuban experience in Miami – this is it!! He offers the tour both in English and Spanish and is very accommodating to fit your schedule. He also gives great suggestions to explore in Little Havana. Attaching the link for the tour here

2) Wynwood Walls – The Wynwood Walls was established in 2009 by the visionary Tony Goldman as an outdoor museum of international street art. It is a unique outdoor destination featuring huge, colorful street murals by artists from around the globe and is free. I am an absolute sucker for color and the Wynwood walls had me completely mesmerized. Before going to Miami I had seen some pictures on social media and I could not wait to go and see those walls myself. While the Wynwood walls are the most famous in that area, the street art extends further stretching for a few blocks and all the murals are an absolute treat for the eyes. While I explored Wynwood walls myself there are also tours which you may take to learn more about the walls and artists.

3) Vizcaya Museums and Gardens – While Miami has the reputation of partying, the Vizcaya Musem and Gardens will transport you to an entirely different place. It was the winter estate of millionaire James Deering and a great example of the American Opulence during the early 1900s. To say the estate is gorgeous, impressive, or even magnificent, would be an understatement. The gardens extend up to around 10 acres and are massive and are so beautiful that pictures do it no justice. The museum and gardens have hosted several weddings and special occasions, given the site’s architectural and natural beauty and also screened several movies. It took me approximately 3 hours to explore the magnificent museums and gardens.

4) Miami Design District – If you are looking for a good photography area then Miami design district should be on your list- From casual selfies to professional photoshoots. It has everything from shopping, architecture, restaurants, and even contemporary art.

5)Miami City Lights Night Paddle Boarding or Kayak Tour – My new year resolution this year was to try different things and experiences I have never done before. I booked this tour with Daniel for a Paddleboarding experience I had never done before and what an experience it was! There is no better way to see the lights and sights of Miami than from the water. The skyline looks so scenic from the water and Daniel makes this excursion extremely fun. If you are looking for a unique and unconventional adventure to see the city of Miami I highly recommend this tour more even if you do not know to swim. I myself do now know to swim but Daniel ensures to make you comfortable to enjoy this beautiful experience and provides you with all the safety gear required. Daniel also plays music and brings beer and wine which is complimentary and takes amazing pictures. Attaching the link for the tour here

6) Little Havana Food Tour – One of the things I enjoy to do is to explore a new place by taking a food tour. I think you can learn so much about the culture and history of the place and at the same time enjoy delicious food and drinks along the way at some of the local favorites places. I decided to take the Little Havana food tour with Miami Culinary Tours and cannot recommend it more. They also have another tour of the South Beach food and if you are taking the Little Havana Rituals tour I would advise you to take the South Beach food tour as there is an overlap between the two tours however the food experience is great. We covered 7 places on this tour. When we spoke to JJ who was our tour guide he suggested that the South Beach food tour is also amazing and offers a great experience. Something on my list to try the next time I visit Miami. The best thing about Miami Culinary Tours was that they can adjust the tour to suit everyone’s needs without compromising the experience. While others in the tour enjoyed the meat-based options our guide had tailored the tour as per my request as I am a vegetarian and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We covered around 7 places. Attaching the link for the tour here

7) South Beach – Needless to say you are in Miami so hit the beach. A great point to watch the sunset in Miami is at the South point pier point. I am an absolute beach person so enjoyed spending my time at the beach dipping in the salty seawater, just relaxing on the daybed sipping my Pina Coladas and gaping in the beauty of the mighty sea. Later in the evening, we walked on the ocean drive exploring the area, shops, and bars. The best way to explore Ocean drive is by walking.

Restaurant/Bars Recommendations

1) Barton G. The Restaurant Miami Beach – I simply wanted to try Barton G for the over the top experience that they have the reputation for. They completely awed me by all their inventive presentation and pushed my imagination. Watching people receive their food and drinks is a show in itself as the presentation on each of them is extremely unique. My favorite part of this experience was the fancy drinks – Sabrinatini and Buddhalicious and the extravagant dessert -Dolla Dolla Bills Y’All that I got. The desserts there go all the way up to $250.

2) Kyu – Located in the heart of Wynwood this wood-fired Asian fusion place offers a great array of flavors. Kyu is a believer in green and sustainable methods, The Kyu Team vows to plant trees, and source most of their foods locally. My favorites at Kyu were Roasted Cauliflower( their signature dish), Grilled summer corn, and Thai fried rice. The Pollinator and Koji and Oates were my favorite drinks.

3)Planta South Beach– Planta is such a cute little spot decorated with plants and great to get brunch/lunch. It is a vegan place and I cannot recommend it enough even if you are not vegan or vegetarian. The food is lip-smacking. I highly recommend getting the cauliflower tots, steamed dumplings and spicy tuna from the small plates. For the large plates, I recommend the Planta Burger with a side of truffle fries. I got the Pink Flamingo and Charcoal Bourbon sour cocktails and loved them both. I also got the Strawberry cheesecake with sorbet and charcoal flavoredsoft serve – Both were delicious.

4) The Bazaar by Jose Andres South Beach – James Beard-winning chef blends his Spanish heritage with the local Latin tradition of South Beach. This is a tapas-style place so calling for food for the table is a great option. They have a great and vast selection of wines. My favorites here were Kueh Pai Tai, Cana de Cabra, Creamy Coconut Rice, and Patata Bravas. For dessert, I enjoyed the deconstructed version of the key lime pie.

5) Bodega Miami Beach – Whether you have had a long day on the beach or looking to crave your late-night hunger after all the partying and need some fuel – these tacos are a must! And the best part – they are open until 5.00 am. They also have a speakeasy bar in the back with great music which is so fun. Highly recommend.

6) Sugar – This chic rooftop bar and garden is located on the 40th floor of the East Miami Hotel. It is a great place to take in the panoramic views of downtown Miami skyline surrounded by the water.

7) Ball and Chain – Located in the heart of Little Havana and known for its rich history this bar serves great mojitos and has great live music playing all day and a great place to shake a leg. The vibrancy of the Latin culture shines here. Cardi B, J Balvin and Bad Bunny have filmed the “I like it like that” music video right here. Highly recommend.

8) Cuban Coffee and sandwiches– Las Olas Cafe or Versailles Restaurant Cuban Cuisine are good places to try the Cuban coffee.

9) Bachour – The desserts here are a piece of art and are exquisitely arranged and have the ideal balance of sweetness, flavor, and texture. The desserts are themselves Instagram worthy without any filters. Highly recommend.

10) Mango’s Tropical Cafe South Beach – Mango’s is very tropical and colorful with a great South beach vibe. I went to Mangos’s for drinks. It is a fun and entertaining place with live music and different performances. They are most famous for their mojitos and also have a dance floor to dance to the beats.

11) Clevelander South Beach – We went to Clevelander’s at dusk to get drinks and a quick bite. The music was great- a variety of old, new and different genres. They have an outdoor bar and pool surrounded by palm trees on the ocean drive.

12) Esplonala Way – Definitely explore this small pedestrian street which was built to mimic the Spanish village and as a result has a very Europe meets Miami vibe. With twinkling fairy lights the streets are picturesque and there are several restaurants to choose from with great music. We strolled around the street and then decided to get Italian on the street which was amazing.

13) Call me Gaby – Looking for an Instagram worthy romantic, modern Italian gem with a charming outdoor patio? Check out this restaurant with a great ambience and delicious food. You will not be disappointed!! We loved the cheese platter, drinks, pizzas, and our favorite was the stuffed gnocchi which we ordered several portions of. This place has great vegetarian options.

For all the dining experiences I highly recommend making a reservation beforehand as sometimes it gets difficult to get a reservation.

Shopping Recommendations

  1. Lincoln Road Mall – An open air mall with lots of options to shop including clothing, jewelry and accessories, beauty and shoes. Also, there are many options to grab a bite while you shop.
  2. K-Armas – While I am traveling I like to shop at boutiques or brands that are not available where I live. This was a cute boutique store that I found in Little Havana and fell in love with everything in the store. They have great bikinis, swimming costumes, beach/summer bags, accessories and clothes. They also have another shop just next door.
  3. The Shops at Mary Brickell Village – There are many shops, cafes and restaurants at the Mary Brickell Village. ‘Atiqshop’ was yet another boutique store where I really liked the collection. They had some really trendy and stylish pieces and accessories. The owners are very helpful and really help you to find something you are looking for.
  4. Dolphin Mall, Bayside Marketplace and Aventura Mall – Some other good places to shop in Miami.

Day Trip

We also took a day trip to explore Islamorada which is one of the Florida Keys and on the way to Key West. Check out a detailed post on what we did in Islamorada and where to eat here.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions.