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Grace + Jillian

Cubs. Jillian. Signature Lounge. Beach. Grace. Chicago. Millennium Park. Wendella.

What do these words have in common?

Combined they made for one memorable and amazing way to spend the final weekend of July in Chicago.

I’ve been told I’m a good host. It’s actually something that’s important to me — hosting my visitors in such a way that moving to Chicago crosses their mind at least once. I’m only 50% kidding.

Jillian arrived Thursday night and we spent Friday as rivals: Cubs vs. Cards. Spent the day in Wrigleyville. Let’s not talk about the game…

Saturday morning Grace arrived and we relaxed the day away on Oak Street Beach. I may or may not have also been a tad hung over. We wrapped up the weekend as tourists taking in some of Chi’s hottest sights: Millennium Park, Wendella boat tour, Hancock 96th floor Signature Lounge, riding the el, Wrigley Field (take two, with Jillian’s parents), and beer tasting at Goose Island Brewery.

Grace asked me if I ever get tired of doing the touristy stuff. Awesome question. The answer is: no I don’t. There are so many added benefits — catching up with good friends, laughing about old memories and creating new ones, reminding myself why I love Chi so much, experiencing new things myself, and living life.


Tourist for a DAY!

One of my best friends Jenny was visiting Chi a couple of weeks ago. Girlfriends from Drake, she is loyal, driven, dedicated, and beautiful. You may remember her as our gracious host in Arizona.

She was actually in town for her brother’s wedding so we didn’t get to spend 24/7 with her. In fact, we really only had one full day. Lin and I thought long and hard about how to really show Jenny our amazing city … in ONE day. What did we come up with?!


A tour that took us to 7 spots throughout Chicago, each one awesome and unique in its own way.

[Wendella Boat Cruise]

(1) Willis Tour [Sears Tower] Sky Deck

(2) Garrett Popcorn

(3) Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

(4) Lunch at Park Cafe in Millennium Park

(5) Wendella 90-Minute Combined Lake & River Tour

(6) Walked the Mag Mile

(7) Dinner in Old Town at the Pour House

Topping off her experience, Jenny got to ride both the CTA “El” and buses!

[Sky Deck]

How awesome, huh? Our day definitely reminded me why tourists come to Chicago when I typically just get annoyed with them and their slow walking pace 🙂 And we only hit up 7 places … we missed so much, although we did hit up the Hangge Uppe on that Friday night ha! I highly recommend doing at least one copy cat of our day with visitors, then hit up some of my other Friday Faves with the rest of your time.

[Garrett Popcorn]

Travel Addict: Napa Valley

Wine Country? Yes please.

Located north of San Francisco, California, Napa Valley is most widely known as the hub of the US wine industry – rivaling Italy, France and Spain. Home to over 400 wineries, Napa sees as many as five million visitors a year. Top grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, and other popular varieties.


The weather in Napa makes it a tourist destination year round. With its Mediterranean climate, Napa tends to be warmer than any of its surrounding areas. Speaking from experience, we were bundled up in San Fran then I was comfortable in a dress in Napa.

How to visit Napa: 

There are unlimited ways to see Napa. We did a day trip from San Fran, but I’ve also heard a full-on Napa trip is equally as fulfilling as our San Fran/Yosemite/Napa vacay. You can visit the wineries privately or on an organized tour. You could visit via bus, limo, bike, etc. The options seem endless!

Most popular wineries:

According to this 2012 vote of ‘best of San Fran’ the Frank Family Vineyards were named the top winery and Platypus Tours was named the best wine tour company. I haven’t been, but I’m on board. Here’s another list of the top ten wineries in Napa.

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Helpful Travel Links:

The Napa Valley

Napa Valley – Trip Advisor

Travel Addict: NYC

Blog reading prep: Empire State of Mind

In the same break that I traveled to Charlotte, I went to NYC for our 2nd Aussie reunion.

Yep. Life was good.

I’d been to NYC two other times. The first time as a kid on Petersen Family Vacation. Best memory? Climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty (I don’t think you can do this anymore). The second time I was 18 with one of my best friends Jillian to dance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Best memory? Well … the parade!

My most recent trip was a little different for a few reasons: (1) I was with residents of NYC, not fellow tourists (2) there were no parent chaperones and (3) we were over the age of 21 so I got to experience NYC’s nightlife a little differently.

Beej and Devin hosted Maureen, Jamie, Ariana and I – you may remember them from this post – for an awesome reunion weekend.

NYC is the most populated city in the US. It’s made up of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Weather/When to Go:

I would argue that NYC has similar weather to Chi, maybe a bit less windy. Highs in the 80s generally in the summer, and lows in the 30s in the winter. Beautiful year round although I’d recommend going in the summer – my fave season!!

What to Do:

NYC is not short on things to do: Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Broadway Shows, Chinatown, Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Wall Street, Rockefeller Center, sporting events, Bryant Park … literally the list is endless. The one thing I’d love to do and have not in my 3 visits? Visit the Today Show taping. Considering I wake up to Matt, Ann, and Al every morning, it would be unreal.

Where to Stay: 

All three trips I’ve stayed near or in Times Square. There’s so much going on there and I absolutely love it. Check out Fodor’s recommendations here.




I love NY

NYC – the official guide

 The New York Times travel guide


Travel Addict: Charlotte, North Carolina

I ended up in Charlotte with my parents between jobs. I had left Scripps and had taken a week before starting at Groupon. The purpose of our Charlotte mini-vacation? Mom had a conference, so Dad and I would hang around Charlotte all day then meet up with Mom post-conference.


Charlotte has a humid subtropical climate … in normal words? It has 4 distinct seasons. Average highs range from 50-90 and average lows range from -5-50. Overall more temperate and less precipitation than Chicago.

When to Go: 

You can really visit Charlotte any time of year. I’m not a huge winter fan and there is more precipitation in spring than fall, so I’d recommend summer or fall.

What to Do:

My Dad and I had a blast around Charlotte. Experiencing the NASCAR Hall of Fame which was both informative and interactive. Day 2 was spent on an amazing segway tour of Charlotte. Had I done a bit more research pre-trip, this walking tour looks pretty cool and it would’ve been fun to take in some Charlotte sporting events like the Panthers.


Where to Eat: 

While Charlotte Magazine names their 25 Best Restaurants, we enjoyed dinner at the EpiCentre each night – testing out Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina and Blackfinn. Both delicious and right up our alley. Post-dinner entertainment was also right at our finger tips – bowling, sweets, or a selection of bars and clubs!



We were never really in a hurry so chose foot transportation. It seemed like while pubic transit was available, the best and easiest way to get around would be a car — be it your own or a rental car.


Charlotte’s Got A Lot Tourism Site

Visit NC

Drake Relays

It’s been a while since the Alpha Phi Class of 2008 has graced Drake’s campus.

[Alpha Phi, Class of 2008]

What’s bringing us back?


That’s right. Known to most as one of the largest and most important track meets on a high school, collegiate and professional level. Known to Drake students and Drake alum as the world’s best excuse to head back to Des Moines and have one big reunion.

[Drake Relays 2005]

Relays rock. While the meet itself is quite impressive the best memories ran from Street Painting, continuing all week long with events for Drinking Olympics then the actual Relays weekend.

[Keg Race, Drake Relays 2007]

I cannot believe that I’m headed back for my first Relays since 2009. This time I’m a true alum as I literally know no current students at Drake. In true Relays form, the weekend forecast is 50 and raining — clearly this means I’ll be sporting my ever-sexy Drake Alumni sweatshirt all weekend.

[Drinking Olympics, Drake Relays 2008]

While a recap will be necessary post-reunion with my favorite Drake Girls, I can guarantee that some fun times are on the horizon be it Peggy’s, the Library, Greek Reunion or the Alpha Phi Alumni Brunch.

[Drake Relays 2009]

Here’s to reliving the college life!!

Travel Addict: Scottsdale, Arizona

Coming off my most recent vacation, I could not be more obsessed with Arizona — specifically Scottsdale!



Scottsdale weather is truly unbeatable. An arid climate with mild winters and hot summers, the average lows range from 40-76 degrees and highs range from 68-105 degrees.

When to Go: 

Because the summers can be SO hot, I would recommend vacationing to Scottsdale in the spring or fall. Spring draws extra tourists since 15 MLB teams are based in and around Scottsdale for their Spring Training season.

What to Do:

Between Scottsdale and the surrounding cities (i.e. Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix) there is a ton to do. Hiking, golf, cultural events, sporting events and top-notch spas are the tip of the iceberg. Scottsdale is known for it’s happening nightlife and is also a hop-skip-and-a-jump from destination weekends like Sedona, Vegas, Tucson and the Grand Canyon. Phoenix is also home to ASU.

Where to Eat: 

Stingray Sushi, Blanco, Postino, Yogurtland and Daily Dose. I have yet to be let down by a food establishment in Scottsdale. I love the amount of outdoor seating at restaurants in Scottsdale. And as I mentioned in my last post, I am obsessed with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. You cannot go wrong in this department.


While you can cab to and from the airport, you really do need a car to get around (luckily we had Jenny, Lexi and Amanda)

Get Started with these Links:

Scottsdale CVB

Trip Advisor – Scottsdale

Arizona Guide

10Best Scottsdale