Archive of ‘Travel’ category

California’s Most Instagrammable Inn

Are you looking for a photo op location in California, or maybe just a very interesting hotel venue? Or, like us, maybe just looking for a place to stop between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. I discovered the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo through a photographer’s website and I knew immediately it would be worth a look. It’s a mid-century hotel decorated in Bavarian-inspired design set on a ranch hillside in central California.

While driving to Disneyland, we stopped there for lunch. Immediately I knew I would like the place, as everything is lavishly decorated and a bit over-the-top. There is so much attention to detail here, even pink sugar packets with the Madonna Inn logo. There was a lot of pink everywhere, in fact. Upstairs are two shops, downstairs is a restaurant and a bar, so the space caters to people who are just passing through as well as hotel guests.

Since I haven’t stayed here I cannot vouch for the accommodations, but the common areas of the hotel seemed nice. It was a nice place to rest on the long drive between the cities of San Francisco and LA. It was kind of a perfect prelude to Disneyland actually, because the inn reminds me of Fantasyland. The architecture and design is straight out of Beauty and the Beast or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Just across the parking lot is a pasture of friendly cows too.

Everything in this place begs to be photographed, from the wood interior of the restaurants to the pink plush chairs of the dining room. Outside, we were able to walk around and check out the beautiful white staircases and terraces that look out over a surprisingly beautiful landscape, for being so close to I-5.

I tried to practice being a carefree California girl. Did I nail it?

This is a little treasure of a hotel destination in San Luis Obispo. It’s also a short drive to the ocean, where we stopped quickly too on the way to LA. I’d definitely recommend Madonna Inn as a place for lunch and to take photos in San Luis Obispo. I’d love to come back here sometime for an event or a hotel stay, but the bottom line is come here if you can, even just to take a look around and get some Instagram photos!

Summer in Pacifica

Pacifica is a pretty, beach town destination just south of San Francisco that’s popular for surfing. When I pictured going to Pacifica, I envisioned the whole Instagrammable scene unfolding like this: me, sitting on the warm, soft sand in a light breeze for hours in the shade of my sun hat.

That didn’t exactly happen. Why? Because it’s not SoCal, that’s why. Pacifica in the summer is windy, chilly and best experienced in a wetsuit. I’m not a Pacific coast newbie by any means, but I’m honestly still a little disappointed by the lack of warm beach weather in NorCal. But I did manage to get some pictures of the coast, the wildflowers and my straw hat (a summer must-have essential).

The views from Pacifica are lovely, as are the sunsets. It’s a great little daytime destination when you want to get away from San Francisco.

Note: the front of this pink tee is so cute–It’s in the last picture so scroll down to see it!

Notice that I’m wearing a fleece in this next picture…in the middle of summer. Ha, you win this round, windy NorCal beach weather. And here’s another hot tip: stick a few bobby pins through that straw hat to keep it on in the wind.

Wildflower season in California

Spring through early summer in California has pretty wildflowers. It’s the dry season, so the pops of purple and yellow really stand out.

When I started traveling to National Parks last year, I began collecting patches to commemorate the parks I’d visited. I thought of affixing them to a bag or jean jacket as I’d seen some other parks patrons do, but I couldn’t find the right piece to put them on. The solution became clear–the dog would have to display them on his jacket. Perfecto.

Summer outfit details

A special shoutout to Parc in Minneapolis, where I bought this lovely Just Female brand tee. It looks like there’s one left in stock so someone should snag it! I’ve long loved shopping there for its ethically sourced brands, and the store will be moving neighborhoods to North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. The new location will be open soon and I can’t wait to visit.

The hat I found at DSW and I’m bummed that I can’t find it online to share with you, so I’ll use my affiliate linker to share a collection of adorable and very affordable summer hats below. I love the Anthropologie one with white flowers and I can’t believe it’s under $30!

A Day in SoMa with Good2Go App

This post is sponsored by Good2Go but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Exploring SoMa, SF

I spent an afternoon getting to know the SoMa neighborhood in San Francisco. I’ve spent some time in San Francisco for work and fun–I love the Palace of Fine Arts and all the shopping. But SoMa was pretty new for me, and as it turns out it’s pretty fun to discover. I also tried out a new app that you have to hear about! Spoiler alert–it’s a totally new, high tech approach to public restrooms and I’ll review it at the end of this post–but you can get skip ahead and peek at the app first.

SoMa gets its name from its location South of Market Street. It’s easy to get to because it’s close to 4th and King where the CALtrain station is. It’s probably best known for AT&T Park where the Giants play, but there is so much more to see and do than most people know. And it’s super colorful!

Things to do in SoMa

I started out by heading to Yerba Buena Gardens by way of the Metreon, which houses a movie theatre and an extensive food court. It reminded me of train stations in Europe, where people could congregate for shopping or a bite to eat. Walk right out the doors of the Metreon and find yourself in the center of Yerba Buena Gardens, a green oasis in the city. The Martin Luther King, Jr. waterfall, tall sequoia trees and flowering gardens create a respite from the city construction and traffic. The park is surrounded by museums–literally. Its neighbors are the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the African Diaspora Museum, the soon-to-be Mexican Museum and a historic church.

The Children’s Creativity Museum has a carousel out front and a lovely courtyard garden and playground. You could spend all day in SoMa, easily, but it’s also a quick walk to the tourist stop of Union Square which I walked to the edge of to do some shopping.

One tricky thing about day trips to metro areas is finding convenient, clean restrooms while out and about. I used the Good2Go App to see how it is solving this problem for travelers in San Francisco–and soon other cities too. So I headed to the CALtrain station on foot with the plan to use the app along the way.

Good2Go App Review

When I first heard about Good2Go I thought it was just for finding public restrooms, but it’s so much more than that. Each restroom is located in a popular business such as a restaurant or cafe, and is clean, functional and high-tech. So what was the actual experience using the app? It was cool and unexpected. I’d already downloaded it and signed up for a trial-it’s free, all you do is enter your phone number. I went to the location I’d selected, a hip little urban cafe called The Creamery, and I used the app to join the queue. The door had a scanner and when I placed the QR code the app gave me on the scanner, the door popped open to admit me. No asking the waitstaff for a grubby key on an oversized keyring that I would awkwardly hand over afterward! Revolutionary. The whole process was very techy and made me feel like I’d had a real Bay Area experience.

Inside was a single-stall bathroom that was clean. It was definitely nicer than the train station bathroom across the street. And now I learned about a new cafe I can try when I need a quick bite before hopping on a train.

Download it on the app store and Google play. 

So after you’ve navigated to your clean, high-tech bathroom, you’re good to go on to the rest of your day sightseeing more museums or riding cable cars around the city. What is your favorite area of the city?

Visit Historic Virginia City, Nevada

A historic city near Reno and Tahoe

While in Reno, some locals told me about the perfect place to satisfy my craving for old cities, ruins and ghost towns. Just a half hour’s drive from Reno, Virginia City is a historic town that welcomes tourists all year long.

Things to Do in Virginia City

Walk down the historic main street, which is full of plenty of shops, restaurants and museums to keep you busy for an afternoon. You’ll learn about the history of mining towns like Virginia City that were built up to mine for silver. In addition to plentiful tourist souvenir shops, there are fine art galleries, jewelers and shops selling locally made goods. As noted in my dog-friendly post, dogs are allowed everywhere, except maybe the churches. Pet-friendly includes more than dogs–I saw someone enjoying Virginia City with their pet pig.

To visit Virginia City, I wore a wool cape that I’d just found at the Goodwill Outlet in Reno for $9! I hadn’t been to a Goodwill since I got this skirt for Tech Fashion Week, but the store provided for me once again–this time to keep me warm in the chilly mountain air.

The Historic Nevada City Cemetery

If you think cemeteries are creepy and scary, maybe the rest of this post isn’t for you…but no trip to Virginia City is complete without stopping by the vast cemetery on the edge of town. It’s totally worth it just for the amazing view.

The walk through the cemetery itself is worthwhile, too. This was once considered the most picturesque cemetery in America, full of carefully tended flower gardens. It’s more ruined now, but still beautiful in a wild west way. You can even rent it for a wedding, if you’d like to be able to tell people you got married in a cemetery!

Some of the old plots are so old they are marked with carved wood, not stone. The interesting thing about this place is that there are grave markers from the 1800s intermixed with recent headstones. History weaves itself into the very fabric of this town. If you’re in Reno/Tahoe, consider a little side trip to Virginia City!

Shop with Your Dog in Reno, Nevada

Shopping with your dog

When I travel, one of my favorite activities is checking out the local stores to find unique things and just experience the flavor of a new city through its commerce, like I did in San Francisco. This is my experience with finding dog friendly Reno Nevada stores over two recent weeklong trips. This post isn’t sponsored in any way, these are just the places I happened to go to. I’m sure there are plenty more I didn’t discover that deserve to be on this list. If you know one, let me know.

Dog friendly Reno Nevada

Since I was traveling with my dog and we were staying in a hotel, I ended up taking him to more stores that I ever have before. I didn’t want to leave him in the hotel room or the car while I shopped, so I tried out various dog-friendly stores around the city. While this list is about our experience shopping in Reno, many of the chain stores on this list are also dog-friendly in other cities.

Patagonia

Yes, you can bring your dog to Patagonia! They even had dog treats and a bowl of water. Sorry Perry, even this tiny jacket isn’t going to fit you.

The Nest

Visiting this vintage shop in Reno is a fun treasure hunt, but even more fun that they were okay with my dog. It’s a well curated display with home goods, books, apparel and tons of little collectibles. I bought a few things that will be appearing on my Instagram feed soon.

The Basement Reno

Located in the basement of a former post office, this collective of stores and restaurants is hip and urban. I’m not sure whose concept it is, but my money is on them being millennials. It’s all dog-friendly. Perry is pictured here in Pantry Goods, an amazing shop for handmade organic soaps and personal care products located in the Basement Reno.

Yarn Refuge

This yarn shop that felt like being in a cozy living room. They had the exact scissors I was looking for, but more importantly they love dogs.

TJMaxx/HomeGoods

Although the sign said “Service Dogs Accepted,” no one questioned whether he was or not. (He’s not, so if I was asked to I would have left the store.) I pushed him around in the shopping cart, and I saw another tiny dog there while we shopped.

Sierra Trading Post

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of these outlet stores, you know how great this place is. It was recently bought by TJMaxx/HomeGoods/Marshalls, so it has same dog-friendly pet policy. Perry was even offered a treat by the staff, who said “We love having dogs visit!” In the photo I’m pretty sure he is expressing his displeasure that those Joules rain boots didn’t come in my size.

Ross Dress for Less

Like all Ross stores that I know of, the store in Reno, NV states on the door “Service animals and leashed pets welcome.” Perry has also taken advantage of the welcoming Ross pet policy and shopped at Ross in Monterey, CA and Eugene, OR with no problems (other than his interest in the jerky near the checkout aisle).

Jimmy Beans Wool

This yarn store in Reno was such a treat to visit. The multiple rooms of yarn are colorful and very well laid out. Be warned that there are two large store dogs there, but the staff put them in the back while we were there. I’m not even much of a knitter and I loved this place.

Every store we came across in Virginia City

This historical town is about 30 minutes outside of Reno. It’s a tourist destination with a main street full of shops to visit! Every single one I went to was dog-friendly. He was even encouraged to go into a vintage candy store.

This is by no means an exhaustive list! In general, we found Reno to be welcome to canine shoppers so the best thing to do is just ask if your dog can come in with you. In fact, it’s always a good idea to ask–even if the store is known to be pet friendly. Rules can change, and some locations have different policies than others.

Where have you gone shopping with your dog?

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