Fun Things To Do In Albuquerque In A Weekend

For the last four years that we have lived in the United States, we have made it our mission to visit all 50 states (check out which States are outstanding here). One by one, we have slowly been crossing them off our list and New Mexico is the third to last state for us to visit! There is some debate about what constitutes having "been" to a state, but we believe that to truly say that you have been to a state and experienced it, you should spend a decent amount of time there. At the very least have one meal there, and preferably enjoy exploring it for a weekend. Neither of us had been to New Mexico before, and having heard so much about the incredible scenery and Native American culture, we couldn't wait to experience it ourselves.

 

Red Dress outfit at Fly Away Project in Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, so it was an obvious choice to get the first taste of New Mexico. The city is most famous for its Balloon Fiesta which occurs each October, but there are so many fun things to do in Albuquerque year-round. Since Albuquerque has on average 310 sunny days a year - there is really no bad time to visit! If you're in a hurry, skip to our 5 Top Travel Tips for Albuquerque here or keep reading for the full experience.

 

Bettina at Greetings from Burque Mural in Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

We have worked with Visit Albuquerque to be able to share our weekend getaway with you and were hosted by Hotel Chaco and Nativo Lodge. Our meals and excursions were compensated as part of our Albuquerque experience. We are excited to share our trip with you and all opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support us!

 

Where to Stay in Albuquerque

 

Hotel Chaco

 

We spent our first night in Albuquerque at Hotel Chaco, a brand new luxury hotel, inspired by Chaco Canyon. Located less than a block from the Albuquerque museum and within walking distance of Old Town, it is a great place to stay to explore the city.

 

Hotel Chaco Street View - The Next Trip

 

Hotel Chaco Garden - The Next Trip

 

After a busy day exploring, you can cool down at the pool area and ring in the evening with an in-house wine tasting, or dinner and a drink on the rooftop, which offers expansive views of Albuquerque.

 

Hotel Chaco Rooftop - The Next Trip

 

Rooftop Restaurant and Bar at Hotel Chaco - The Next Trip

 

View of Albuquerque from Hotel Chaco Rooftop - The Next Trip

 

The rooms are very spacious and thoughtfully designed - perfect for a great night's sleep before taking on the next day.

 

Hotelroom at Hotel Chaco - The Next Trip

 

Bathroom at Hotel Chaco - The Next Trip

 

 

Nativo Lodge

 

For our second night, we got to experience true New Mexican Native American artwork at Nativo Lodge. Their uniquely decorated artist rooms feature art work by contemporary Native American artists, and no two artist rooms are the same. We stayed in the Essence of Life room which was created by Garrett Etsitty and featured two gorgeous wall paintings of a humming bird.

 

Essence of Life Room at Nativo Lodge - The Next Trip

 

Half way between Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains, Nativo Lodge is a great pet friendly hotel in Albuquerque for those who want to explore the areas around Albuquerque and enjoy local art work.

 

Driveway Native American Art Work at Nativo Lodge - The Next Trip

 

 

Where to Eat in Albuquerque

 

Largest Restaurant in New Mexico - El Pinto

 

Being in Albuquerque, I really wanted to try some New Mexican-inspired cuisine. Saturday evening, Kyle and I went for a romantic dinner at El Pinto - a Mexican restaurant outside the city with beautiful patios surrounded by lush gardens and a very Instagrammable entrance walkway.

 

Walkway to El Pinto Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

El Pinto is the largest restaurant in New Mexico and I was completely overwhelmed by the never ending dining tables and patios! Each of their five patios has a slightly different vibe to them, depending on the atmosphere you are looking for.

 

Margarita at El Pinto - The Next Trip

 

We toasted to our weekend in New Mexico and enjoyed what felt like three baskets of tortilla chips with delicious house-made salsa. As mains, we tried the stuffed sopapillas - a traditional dish in Spanish heritage regions, and the New Mexican Red Chile Ribs. I couldn't decide whether I wanted my sopapillas with their home-made green or red chile. Thei waitress suggested I try both which is what the New Mexicans call "Christmas style."

 

Sopapillas with Christmas Style Chile and Red Chile Ribs at El Pinto Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Red Chile Ribs at El Pinto Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Both were delicious and we were way too full from the tortilla chips to finish it all.

 

Fine Dining in Albuquerque at Ten 3

 

If you're looking for the perfect place to have dinner with an incredible view - Ten 3 is your spot! They opened their doors for the first time on August 17th and we were super excited to be dining with them on their opening weekend! Ten 3 is located at an altitude of 10,300 feet, at the top of Sandia Peak, which provides for the most amazing dining views. To reach the restaurant you need to take the Sandia Peak Tramway, which you can read more about below.

 

View at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

We started our dining experience with delicious cocktails, a bread basket full of home-made creations, and a goat cheese flan. Fun fact: because there is less oxygen in the air at higher altitudes, it is said that you feel the effects of alcohol quicker. Ten 3 takes this into consideration and serves their drinks with slightly less alcohol content than you might typically find.

 

Goat Cheese Flan at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

Red Chile Buffalo Short Rib at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

Kyle and I tried the crispy skin chicken and the red chile buffalo short rib which were both outstanding! If you have never tried buffalo I can highly recommend trying the Ten 3 variation which was so delicious that I was about to steal Kyle's plate!

 

Red Chile Buffalo Short Rib at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

While you're at Sandia Peak - make sure you walk around the top and enjoy the views outside the restaurant as well!

 

What To Do in Albuquerque

 

Albuquerque has so much to offer, it would be a shame not to explore the city for at least a weekend. Here are our top things to do in Albuquerque that you can’t miss out on.

 

Church Street Cafe in Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

ABQ Trolley Tour

 

There is really no better way to see the city and all its sights than from the comfort of a trolley with the ABQ Trolley Tour. The Best of Albuquerque tour is a narrated 1 hour and 45 minutes tour that takes you to Old Town Plaza, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, along Route 66, down Nob Hill, and more! It is an incredibly informative tour and you will get an appreciation of the many different neighborhoods in Albuquerque.

This was a great activity for us to complete at the beginning of our visit as the tour highlighted the many neighborhoods and sights all around activity so that we could properly plan the rest of our weekend.

 

 

ABQ Trolley Tour The Best of Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

The highlight of the tour by far was exploring the street where Breaking Bad was filmed and admiring all the filming locations. There is something about seeing famous TV locations in real life that fascinates me - especially if they are from Breaking Bad!

 

Chris' House Breaking Bad in Albuquerque ABQ Trolley Tour - The Next Trip

 

Explore Old Town

 

After you get a feeling of the city with the ABQ Trolley Tour, you get dropped off at Hotel Albuquerque which is only a few steps away from Old Town. Walking through the streets of Old Town felt somewhat surreal as the pueblo style houses are something you don't get to see every day.

 

San Felipe de Neri Church Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Hacienda Del Rio Indian Gift Shop Old Town Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Old Town Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

The unique architecture together with the colorful decorations and the blue doors gave me the feeling of being in a totally different country. This is the place to shop the various artisan shops filled with jewelry, rugs, pottery, and other souvenirs.

 

Old Town Emporium Gift Shop Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

Admire Local Street Art

 

Albuquerque has a rich art scene and the city actively promotes murals and street art.  This became very evident as we completed our trolley tour, but also as we walked around the street of Albuquerque as you could find colorful murals at almost every corner. What is unique about these murals compared to other cities is that many of them represent some portion of Albuquerque's rich history.

 

Street Art Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Street Art Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Street Art Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Some of my favorite murals were obviously the one’s full of turquoise!

 

Visit the Turquoise Museum

 

One of the best-kept secrets of Albuquerque is the fact that they have their very own Turquoise Museum - all owned and operated by the Zachary family. Now, if you follow us on Instagram, you will quickly understand how spending time at the Turquoise Museum is an absolute must for me. In addition to my love for everything and all things turquoise - seeing turquoise jewelry on display around the Albuquerque Old Town shops peaked my interest in the gem stone even more.

 

Turquoise Museum at Turquoise Castle - The Next Trip

 

If you're not familiar with the gem stone turquoise, you will have to believe me when I say that it comes in many more shapes and forms than you could imagine. The museum presents the Zachary family's own collection which includes everything from the raw stones, furniture, weapons, lighters, chandeliers, and all kinds of jewelry.

 

Turquoise Chandelier at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

Turquoise Nuggets at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

Turquoise Jewelry at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

They also have several interactive stations which teach how to differentiate the different grades, cuts and polishes of turquoise as well as how to tell the difference between real and fake turquoise!

 

Turquoise Stones at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

I learned so much at this museum, that turquoise is part of so many cultures around the world, but is one of the lesser known gem stones. Needless to say that I would have liked to spend all day at the museum - gazing at the beautiful pieces - and splurging on something for myself.

 

Turquoise Exhibit at Turquoise Museum Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

Sandia Peak Tramway

 

You will get the best view of New Mexico from the top of Sandia Peak, which is 10,678 feet high and overlooks 10% of the state (which is twice the size of Connecticut!). Getting up there is super easy with the longest aerial tramway in the United States, the Sandia Peak Tramway. It's a short 15 minute ride and the views get better by the minute.

 

View of Sandia Peak Tramway - The Next Trip

 

Sandia Peak Tramway Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

View from Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

On the way up, our guide told us all about the Sandia Mountains, the steepest drops, the best rock walls to climb for anyone who dares, and about the diverse wildlife. He also highly recommended we watch the sunset from the peak, which did not disappoint.

 

View from Sandia Mountains - The Next Trip

 

As everyone is trying to catch the last rays of the day at the peak, the trams after sunset have the tendency to be very full. As such, we decided to take an earlier ride back and enjoyed stunning views on our way downhill.

 

Sunset from Sandia Peak Tramway - The Next Trip

 

If you end up exploring Sandia Peak, you can buy your tickets at Sandia Peak Tramway online in order to skip the line when you're at the base station. Don't forget to bring an extra layer of clothing, as the peak is easily a few degrees cooler than the city.

 

If you're planning a weekend getaway in Albuquerque, make sure you read our 5 top travel tips below and let us know how you liked the city!

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a Weekend in Albuquerque

 

1) Water and sunscreen. As Albuquerque gets 310 days of sun a year and is located in the desert, their days can get very hot. Make sure you always carry enough water and sunscreen with you. We know this may seem a bit boring, and there are signs saying so everywhere, but we really mean it! It reached 100F (38C) while we were there!

2) Try the local chiles - yes both red and green! The New Mexico chile, or Hatch chile, is a big deal in New Mexico. You won’t be able to go anywhere in New Mexico without finding something on the menu with either red or green chile in it. If you can’t decide your favorite, you can always combine them in the same dish which is called "Christmas style."

 

Drying Chiles in Albuquerque Old Town - The Next Trip

 

3) Start your days early.  As we mentioned above, it can get really hot in Albuquerque. To avoid the heat and still get the most out of the city you should start your day with the sun! The heat of the afternoon really takes a lot out of you and is not as pleasant to explore the city, if you can bear the heat at all.  Explore in the morning, refresh yourself indoors in the afternoon, and get back out there in the evening for some amazing New Mexico sunsets.

4) Sunsets. Speaking of sunsets, visit Sandia Peak 1-2 hours before sunset so that you will get to wander around the peak in full daylight and also get to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the desert before heading back down. The sunset from Sandia Peak was incredible and evolved through many different colors and shades as the sun continued to set over the desert horizon.

5) You’ll need a car. While Albuquerque does have public transportation, if you plan to explore all the neighborhoods, it makes the most sense to get a rental car. It will make it so much easier to get around the city to the various neighborhoods and up to Sandia Peak. Plus, you will have your own personal sanctuary of air conditioning wherever you go!

 

Pin this blog post to your U.S. city destinations boards to save all your ideas about Albuquerque!

 

Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!

 

Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!

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San Antonio for the Weekend

Did you know that San Antonio is the seventh most populous city in the United States? We had no idea before we visited, and also had no idea how much you can do in San Antonio for the weekend. The city is a fantastic size for a weekend getaway, and invites you with warm weather, delicious food, and their beautiful river walk.

 

San Antonio in a Weekend - River Walk

 

To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to make the best of San Antonio for the weekend, click here.

 

How to Get There

 

San Antonio is easily accessible by plane with all major US airlines flying there; for us it was less than 3 hours on a direct flight on Friday evening from Chicago.  A huge bonus is that the airport is close to the city, so in less than 20 minutes you should be at your hotel and ready to get your weekend started.

 

Where to Stay

 

We spent our weekend at Stay Alfred San Antonio. If you haven’t heard of Stay Alfred before, they offer travel apartments in almost all major US cities and allow you to have “your own place” but with the amenities and consistent experience of staying at a hotel.

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

As our flight was arriving quite late into San Antonio on Friday night, we utilized Stay Alfred’s grocery shopping service and pre-ordered some breakfast items prior to our arrival.  When we arrived the fridge was already stocked with our order!

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio Breakfast - The Next Trip

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Our apartment was just the right amount of space for us to relax in for our weekend in San Antonio, and included free pool views.

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - Pool - The Next Trip

 

With water this inviting we had to take advantage, and spent our Sunday morning suntanning and swimming in the pool.

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - Pool - The Next Trip

 

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio is located just off of the San Antonio River, between the downtown core and The Pearl. We rented bicycles for our stay, and were a short bike ride along the beautiful River Walk into downtown or an even shorter bike ride up to the Pearl. It was a great base for our weekend adventures.

Check out Stay Alfred for your next getaway and get 10% off any stay using our code YOURPLACE.

Stay Alfred provided us with a free hotel stay for our weekend getaway to San Antonio, however, all opinions and content are our own. 

 

What to Eat

 

San Antonio is basically the birthplace of Tex-Mex cuisine, so you will definitely be eating as much chili con carne, nachos, tacos, and fajitas you can find. There is absolutely no shortage of places to eat at, spread all across the city.

 

Pete's Tako House San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

We had a delicious meal at Pete’s Tako House complete with more chips and salsa than we could eat, fresh fajitas, and savoury enchiladas, all washed down by a margarita or two.

 

Pete's Tako House San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Pete's Tako House San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Other great options are La Fonda on Main (slightly more upscale, for Tex-Mex) and Rosario’s.

 

What To See in San Antonio in a Weekend

 

San Antonio in a weekend does not seem to be long enough to explore the entire city but we compiled a list of our favorite places so that you can get a good feeling of the city in 48 short hours.

 

The River Walk

 

The San Antonio River Walk is specially designed network of pedestrian pathways and bridges surrounding the San Antonio River, running throughout the downtown area. The main area in the downtown core is full of restaurants and bars and is definitely the place to be in San Antonio.  You won’t be mistaking yourself thinking you are in Venice, but the River Walk is very impressive and you can easily spend a half day walking the pathways and stopping at a restaurant or two.

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

We were surprised by how clean and well maintained everything was, it was refreshing coming from Chicago, where most of the city is quite literally crumbling! Extending North and South of the main area, the River Walk pathways total 15 miles of continuous trails to explore. Once outside of the main tourist area, the riverwalk widens and is safe and great for bikes.

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

 
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The Alamo

 

The Alamo Mission is located just a few blocks away from the River Walk and is easily accessible. It sits on a historic location where in 1836 Texans fought for their independence from Mexico and is probably what San Antonio is most famous for.

 

San Antonio The Alamo - The Next Trip

 

Conveniently, the Alamo Mission is free to enter, with the only cost of admission for us being a 5 minute wait and the requirement to have our picture taken prior to entry, should we feel the need to purchase an overpriced souvenir at the end.

 

San Antonio The Alamo - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio The Alamo - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Purse by Nikki Williams / Top by Chicwish / Skirt by Chicwish

 

The interior is quite sparse, but has a lot of information on this historic site. The best views of the Alamo are without a doubt, facing the front of it’s famous façade.  While the Alamo may be the most famous, there are a number of other beautiful old historic Spanish missions around San Antonio to see if you have time.

 

The Pearl

 

We had briefly read about The Pearl prior to arriving in San Antonio, and knew that it was something that we wanted to check out, but we had no idea how cool it would be!

 

San Antonio The Pearl - The Next Trip

 

The Pearl is centered around the site of a former brewery that operated here for over 100 years, but has since been converted into a (what I can only assume to be) a wildly successfully culinary and cultural hot spot.  Basically, The Pearl has a large assortment of dining and shopping all centered around the fascinating old brewery location, with a culinary school, apartments, a hotel, and some office space sprinkled in for good measure.

 

San Antonio The Pearl - The Next Trip

 

We first went to The Pearl on Saturday night to indulge in some Lick ice cream and devoured our delicious ice cream; Bettina was particularly impressed by the variety of vegan and non-dairy options, of which she sampled almost all of them!

 

San Antonio The Pearl - The Next Trip

 

We returned back to The Pearl on Sunday and spend part of the day wandering through the Farmer’s Market, going for brunch at The Granary, and hanging out at Sternewirth in the Hotel Emma lobby, for a drink.

 

San Antonio The Granary - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio The Granary - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio The Granary - The Next Trip

 

If you haven’t had beef brisket eggs benedict before, you might just be missing out!

 

Explore

 

If you are willing to venture all around the city neighborhoods, you will be rewarded with great sites! The King William District is just south of downtown and has a huge collection of majestic 19th century mansions. This area is full of quiet residential streets that are nice to bike through.

On the West side of the San Antonio River, the Historic Market Square is the largest Mexican market in the United States.

 

San Antonio Historical Market Square - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio Historical Market Square - The Next Trip

 

On your way there, don’t forget to stop and check out the San Fernando Cathedral.

 

San Antonio Historical Market Square - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Bodysuit by Shein (get 15% off with thenexttrip315) / Skirt by Chicwish / Shoes by Mi.iM / Earrings by H&M

 

Still not sure whether you could conquer San Antonio in a weekend? Check our top tips below to help plan your visit.

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a Weekend in San Antonio

 

1) Stay somewhere with a pool. We visited San Antonio in early June and it was already over 100F (38C).  That means it is likely going to be hot when you visit San Antonio, and there is no better way to cool down than with a dip in a pool. The Stay Alfred pool was our respite from the heat. (Use the code YOURPLACE to get 10% off any Stay Alfred stay!)

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio Pool View - The Next Trip

 

2) Rent a bike. The main tourist sites of San Antonio are located quite close together and can be easily reached mostly by foot, but if you want to explore the full River Walk, the King William District, or up to The Pearl we highly recommend renting a bike. We used SWell Cycle, but there were multiple companies available, as well as scooters.

 

San Antonio SWell Cylce Bike Share - The Next Trip

 

3) Spend a half day at The Pearl. It may be slightly commercialized and a “tourist trap” in some minds, but there is a lot to like about The Pearl. The architecture of the converted brewery is amazing, and the food options are all top notch. A must visit!

4) Skip the rental car. Not only should you rent a bike to see the sites (see tip #2) but you really don’t need a car at all. The airport is close to downtown and there is just really no need. Save yourself the money for more Tex-Mex!

5) Eat as much as you can. The great thing about Tex-Mex food in San Antonio is that it is plentiful, very affordable, and located all over the city. And if you are looking for some variety, there’s also no shortage of Texas Barbecue and other restaurants to keep you happy during your visit.

 

Pin this blog post to your U.S. city destinations boards to save all your ideas about San Antonio!

San Antonio for the Weekend - Your guide for what to see, where to stay, what to eat, and The Next Trip's Top 5 Tips

 

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Top 5 Things to See in Chicago

We have been lucky to be able to call Chicago our home for the past 4 years. During this time, we have been able to explore the city and all its beauty and we truly love everything it has to offer. Our favorite thing to do is to show our out of town guests around the city and share the top things to see in Chicago while they are here.

Kyle and I have been getting a lot of questions about what to see and do while visiting Chicago and thought we would round up our 5 top things to see in Chicago in a blog post for you!

We hope this helps you plan your next trip to Chicago and explore some places that may not have been on your list yet. If you're looking for the most Instagrammable indoor spots in Chicago, check out this post.

 

1. Top Things to See in Chicago: Architecture Tour with Shoreline Sightseeing

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

We have taken all of our out of town guests on the Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Tour and it has easily been everyone's top thing to see in Chicago! It's a 75 minutes boat tour on the Chicago River where you learn all about the history of the windy city, and get some of the most beautiful views of the skyline.

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

Outift: Two Piece Set from Chicwish / Earrings from H&M

 

The boat tour has two different starting points: Navy Pier or Michigan Avenue. Both are really easy to get to and close to downtown Chicago. Shoreline Sightseeing will take you along the river through downtown,  underneath the iconic bridges, all the way to the North Branch of the Chicago River and will then turn around to share one of the most recognized buildings from the opening scene of The Dark Night: the post office!

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

In addition to getting incredible views of the city and great photo opportunities, Shoreline Sightseeing shares some interesting facts about the city and I learn something new every time I join my guests on the cruise - probably also because I'm always so focused on taking pictures, I forget to listen!

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

You can get your tickets online here or buy them at the booth on Navy Pier or Michigan Avenue before the tour. If you're visiting in summer, I would recommend you get your ticket a few days in advance as their tours will sell out.

 

Chicago Skyline from Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruise

 

Thank you Shoreline Sightseeing for treating my friend Vivian and me to your Architecture River Cruise!

 

2. Top Things to See in Chicago: Have A Drink at the Signature Lounge

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

If you are looking for incredible views of the city from above, without standing in line or paying admission fees for the Willis Tower, I can highly recommend going for a drink or two (or three!) at the Signature Lounge. The lounge is located on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower in River North. While their cocktail prices might be a bit higher than what you're used to, you don't pay admission to get to the 96th floor. And the views certainly make up for the prices. A tip for all the female readers, by far the best view of downtown is from the ladies room in the Signature Lounge! You read that correctly, plan some extended time to powder your nose! 🙂

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

If you're in town for a few days, try to visit the Hancock tower on a clear day right before sunset so that you get the best of the daytime views and nighttime city lights. You might have to wait in line to access the elevators on a busy weekend night, but I personally never waited longer than 15 minutes.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - View from Signature Lounge

 

If you're looking for a unique place to eat, check out Machine Engineered Dining and Drinks and 3 Arts Cafe.

 

3. Top Things to See in Chicago: Take a Selfie at the Bean

 

The Cloud Gate, also known as the bean, is one of my favorite landmarks and probably one of the most well-known things to see in Chicago. You haven't truly seen Chicago without taking a selfie at the bean. The Cloud Gate is beautiful in its simplicity and I love the way it reflects the city and blue skies on a clear day. It is so iconic, it's easy to see why it's surrounded by tourists on any given day. You can find it in Millenium Park, off Michigan Avenue, between Washington and Madison Street and it is easily accessible if you take the "EL" (Elevated Train) to Washington and Wabash.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Selfie at the Bean or Cloud Gate

Outfit: Top from Zara / Jeans from Mint Julep Boutique / Shoes from Aldo / Purse from Nordstrom

 

The best time of day to visit the bean if you want to avoid the crowds is early in the mornings around 7am. Kyle and I managed to get it all to ourselves on one Friday at 7am. During the cold and harsh Chicago winters, getting a reflection selfie in the bean without interruption is easier but you will still have the odd tourist suffering through the cold as well.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Selfie at the Bean or Cloud Gate

 

Outfit: Top from Zara / Skirt from Chicwish / Shoes from Aldo / Purse from Nordstrom

 

 

While you're already there, you might also stop by the corner of Michigan and Adams, which marks the beginning of the historic Route 66. Route 66 technically started on Jackson Boulevard but because Jackson Boulevard is now a one-way street East, the landmark sign was moved one block north to Adams Street.

 

4. Top Things to See in Chicago: Enjoy the Skyline from the Adler Planetarium

 

The first time I visited Chicago in 2013, I was determined to find the best place to take pictures of the Chicago skyline and I stumbled upon a forum which talked about the view from the Adler Planetarium. Little did I know that a few years later, I would move to the city and live in the South Loop, biking past the Planetarium on my way to work almost every day.

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Chicago Skyline from Adler Planetarium

 

If you love skylines and observing the city from a distance as much as I do, you may not want to pass up this opportunity. On a warm sunny day, bring a picnic basket and enjoy the sunshine, the skyline, and the ocean-like Michigan lake.

Getting to the Adler Planetarium using public transport will involve a fair bit of walking. We recommend renting a Divvy bike and take the lakefront trail to get there (more on the trail below).

 

 

5. Top Things to See in Chicago: Bike Along the Lake Front Trail

 

Most people are surprised by the fact that Chicago has sand beaches and bike and pedestrian dedicated lake front trails. On a warm sunny day, rent a Divvy bike and bike along the lake front trail, and spend a few hours exploring the city starting at the Adler Planetarium, biking north past Navy Pier, North Avenue Beach, all the way to Lincoln Park. You'll get a completely different feel of the city - being away from the hustle and bustle and able to absorb its beauty from a distance. And to cool off after a lengthy ride, join the many Chicagoans on the beach dipping their toes in the lake.

Have you been to Chicago? What was your favorite thing to see? If you end up taking my advice and share your trip on social media, please tag me (@thenexttrip) in your picture! I would love to see how you enjoy the city and maybe share that drink or two!

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago - Chicago Skyline from Signature Lounge Hancock Tower

 

Pin this blog post to your Pinterest board to save all your ideas about the top things to see in Chicago!

 

Top 5 Things to See in Chicago

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink

If you’re looking to get an incredible and unique Chicago restaurant experience and a bouquet of flowers at the same time, I have the perfect place for you. Yes, you read that correctly, Machine Engineered: Dining & Drink is an experience, not just a place where you get great food. 

 

Machine Engineered: Overview 

 

The restaurant is brand new to Chicago and combines the two concepts of a flower shop and a restaurant in one. It was one of the 10 most anticipated restaurants to open in Chicago and I can see why. It is easily one of the best-designed places in Chicago and I featured it in my post on the 10 Best indoor Instagram Spots in Chicago.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Immediately as you step in, you are greeted by the most welcoming host Mikey and a gorgeous display of flowers.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

 

In addition to including a flower shop within the establishment, it features flowers throughout the entire space. As much as I love flowers,  the highlight of Machine Engineered: Dining & Drink are their uniquely designed drinks.

 

 

Machine Engineered: Space

 

Three uniquely decorated dining rooms make up the space of the restaurant. You can choose between dining in a small European town right next to a flower shop,

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

in a modern American restaurant,

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

or in a luxurious dining hall with blue suede chairs, chandeliers, and walls covered in white roses.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

 

Machine Engineered: Bars

 

The heart of Machine Engineered: Dining and Drink are the two bars – I call them the ballerina bar and the library bar.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

The ballerina bar is the light marble counter bar decorated with a beautiful tulle skirt and floating leaves. In stark contrast is the second bar which reminds me of a library with its green lamps and leather chairs.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

 

Machine Engineered: Flower Shop

 

Next to the European-style street cafe corner and the ballerina bar is the flower shop. (If you're anything like me and love flowers, this corner alone will make you very happy!) Their flower selection includes everything you could possibly wish for.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

You can build your own bouquet by selecting your favorite flowers from the cart and have them arranged by the florist. (This is during the Florist hours only.)

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

If you'll be dining there late, you can order a pre-assembled featured bouquet which changes weekly. Last, if you're looking for something to go, the bottle & bouquet might be your choice which combines a bottle of wine with one of the featured bouquets.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

This gorgeous lace dress was gifted to me by Chicwish and makes the perfect spring cocktail party dress or bachelorette party dress for all brides.

Shop My Brunch Look

 


 

Machine Engineered: Drinks

 

The drinks served at Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink are just as beautiful and thoughtful as the décor. After a quick chat with the bartender, we quickly decided that the Aviation is the drink of the hour  - a very unusual drink choice for me, as I'm not a big gin lover. However, Dine Machine takes their Aviations to the next level by infusing gin with blue butterfly pea flower, lemongrass syrup. It is served with a dome made out of spun sugar which you crack with a little hammer.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

The dome does not just serve as an eye-catcher, it is meant to be cracked with this little hammer. Once mixed with the drink, it enriches the flavor of the Aviation. I was ready to order another round!

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

The aviation is not the only spectacular drink on their menu. Machine Engineered: Dining & Drink is just as inventive with their clear Bloody Mary's,  Cage Old Fashioned, and their gin-based Breakfast at Tiffany's which is served in a diamond!

 

Machine Engineered: Experience

 

I met a friend for brunch at this unique restaurant and had a taste of their deliciously fresh and healthy power bowl with avocado dressing. To all my vegan and vegetarian friends, there are a few options on the menu which could also make your heart beat a little higher.

What started as a quick brunch with coffee, ended up being an hours long experience in this incredible space and has me wanting to go back ever since! You can review my experience on my Instagram stories here.

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Next time you're looking for a place for brunch, a drink, or a place to make your own flower bouquet, check out Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink. You will definitely be impressed!

 

Pin this blog post to your Pinterest board to save all your ideas about the Dine Machine experience in Chicago!

 

Experience Machine: Engineered Dining & Drinks | The Next Trip

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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10 Best Indoor Chicago Instagram Spots

Winters in Chicago can be long and cold. Even though it's April, we are still experiencing temperatures only just above freezing. To help you stay warm while you're taking pictures, I rounded up my favorite 10 indoor Chicago Instagram spots for you. These instagrammable coffee shops, stores, and restaurants are all free to access, although I recommend always asking the owners or staff if they are okay with you taking pictures. Also, while you’re there, why not try that new featured coffee or a delicious snack?

I hope this guide helps you pass the time until the temperatures are high enough to roam the streets. Make sure to tag me in your posts if you end up going to any of these places! I would love to see your content and connect with you.

If you’re looking for more beautiful indoor spaces in addition to the below, don’t miss my blog posts of Restoration Hardware and The Peninsula.

 

1. Left Coast

 

Situated in River North, this coffee shop has everything you need for a great picture: cute décor, a pretty stair case, lots of natural light, and let’s not forget, delicious coffee and bites.

717 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654

 

Left Coast - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Shirt / Jeans / Shoes (Similar) / Purse (similar)

 

2. Limitless Coffee

 

Only a block away from Left Coast is Limitless – a coffee shop famous for their glitter coffee. I’m a big fan of the charcoal latte which comes with a colorful swirl and is topped with eatable glitter.

675 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654

 

Limitless - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Limitless - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

While you’re in River North and if you have time, make sure to stop by the Flamingo wall on N Wells and W Ohio to capture the ultimate spring feeling.

 

Flamingo Wall - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress from Tyche / Purse / Shoes (similar)

 

3. Machine: Engineered Dining and Drinks

 

Brand new to Chicago and located in Wicker Park, this restaurant has everything an Instagrammer’s heart could desire. From beautifully decorated bars, to flower walls, Instagram-worthy drinks (which also happen to be delicious), and a flower shop – Machine: Engineered Dining and Drinks has it all. Check out this post to get a full tour of the restaurant.

1846 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622

 

Machine Engineered: Dining and Drinks - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Machine Engineered: Dining and Drinks - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress / Purse / Earrings

 

4. Sweet Mandy B’s

 

Just as sweet as their treats is the interior of this bakery and coffee shop. Step into a world of pastel tones, striped walls, and colorful furniture. You can’t help it but take a few pictures here, and their cupcakes will make your visit even sweeter.

The space at Sweet Mandy B’s is limited and I recommend going early in the morning to ensure that you have time to take pictures before the crowd arrives.

1208 W Webster Ave
Chicago IL, 60614

 

Sweet Mandy B's - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Top / Skirt (Similar) / Shoes (Similar)

 

Sweet Mandy B's - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

5. Le Macaron French Pastries

 

Speaking of sweet, if you’re looking for a hue of pink, you can’t miss Le Macaron. It’s a French bakery owned by Jeanne and Julien, specializing in, you guessed it, macarons. Their macarons are directly imported from France and are the perfect combination of a firm shell with a soft center that make your taste buds melt away. Aside from their treats, the highlight of the bakery is certainly their bright pink wall.

958 West Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

 

Le Macaron French Pastries - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Le Macaron French Pastries - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress / Boots

 

6. Garfield Conservatory

 

Situated a 30 minute drive from the Loop, the Garfield Conservatory is a botanical conservatory and transports you to a tropical mood as soon as you enter those doors. There are a variety of rooms at the Conservatory, each of which are home to different fauna and flora. Make sure you stop by the mosaic fountain which was a present from Chicago's sister city Casablanca, providing the ultimate Moroccan feeling.

Note that professional photography is restricted at the Garfield Conservatory and you need a permit prior to taking pictures there. I was allowed to take pictures for my personal Instagram account, but no outfit changes were allowed. To request a permit, you can give them a call: 312 742-4786.

300 N Central Park Ave
Chicago, IL 60624

 

Garfield Conservatory - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

Garfield Conservatory - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Wrap Top from Tyche / Skirt / Shoes (Similar)

 

7. La Bodega

 

Where La Bodega lacks in space, it sure makes up in instagrammable drinks and décor. Their churro hot chocolate makes every blogger heart melt and is only topped by the churro cone with customizable toppings. Did I mention that they also serve delicious tacos?

355 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

 

La Bodega - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

La Bodega - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

8. Maison Marcel

 

If you’re looking for some shabby chic spring vibes paired with delicious brunch or afternoon tea, Maison Marcel is your place! Originally from Marseille, the owners brought the French je ne sais quoi to Chicago and paired it with a cozy ambiance, wicker furniture, turquoise accents, and a bright space.

Maison Marcel is just as popular as you might think. I suggest you go early in the morning or mid-afternoon on week days to get as much space as possible.

3114 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657

 

Maison Marcel - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Coat / Sweater (Similar) 

 

9. Serena and Lily

 

Easily one of the most beautiful furniture and home décor stores I have ever been to is Serena and Lily. Their new location right on Armitage is exquisitely decorated and transports you into spring even on the coldest or rainiest winter days. I could not help but dream about decorating my future home with their blue and white pillows.

Serena and Lily is a store but they were not opposed to me taking pictures while the store itself wasn’t busy and as long as I did not interfere with any customers. I’d recommend giving them a call before going to ensure that they know you will be there.

853 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

 

Serena & Lily - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Jeans from The Mint Joulep Boutique / Sweater (Similar) / Bralette / Shoes (Similar) / Earrings

 

Serena & Lily - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

 

10. Harold Washington Library

 

Last but certainly not least is the atrium at the Harold Washington Library. The skylights and the large windows provide a lot of natural light and together with the open space and turquoise/light blue are a blogger’s dream come true. The atrium is on the 9th floor of the library building and free to access. Note that Harold Washington Library is exactly that, a library. The atrium is frequently used as a space to study and for events. Make sure to check their event schedule prior to planning your photo shoot there.

400 S State St
Chicago, IL 60605

 

Harold Washington Library - 10 Best Chicago Instagram Spots | The Next Trip

Outfit: Dress from The Mint Joulep Boutique / Clutch (Similar) / Shoes (Similar)

 

Pin this blog post to your Pinterest board to save all your ideas about Chicago Instagram Spots!

These are the 10 Best Indoor Instagram Spots in Chicago! The Next Trip

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Living in a city like Chicago, there are so many great ways to experience the holidays if you need a little help getting into the Christmas spirit, or if you just want to take it all in!

 

Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

I feel like no trip downtown into the Loop is complete without a quick visit to the Bean. It’s my favourite Chicago landmark, and no matter the weather or time of day is always so photogenic.

 

Cloudgate or Bean - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

Cloudgate or Bean - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

One of my newest favourite pastimes (you might already know if you follow me on Instagram) is lobby hunting! There are so many great hotels and office towers in Chicago and it seems that each year they try to out-do each other in Christmas decorations!

My favourite office building decoration was by far the tree at 77 W Wacker Drive and you easily see why! (Hint: their ornaments are my favourite colour!)

 

77 W Wacker Drive - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

77 W Wacker Drive - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

As far as hotel lobbies go, the lobby at the Conrad Chicago Hotel surpassed all my expectations. Located on the 20th floor, it is secluded from the shopping fever on Michigan Avenue and made me feel more relaxed the moment I stepped off the elevator. The lobby is flooded with natural light. Once you make your way to the floor to ceiling windows to catch a glimpse of the fantastic city view, you can't help but admire the colourfully decorated staircase and Christmas tree.

 

Conrad Chicago Hotel - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

Conrad Chicago Hotel - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

Conrad Chicago Hotel - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

Conrad Chicago Hotel - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

Finally, a Christmas tour of the Loop would not be complete without stops at the the Macy’s Christmas windows and the Christkindlmarket. Both attractions are so popular that I suggest going as early in the morning as possible to avoid the crowds if you're visiting on a weekend, or try to stop by on a week day.

 

Christkindlmarket Chicago - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

Every year, I treat myself to a gluhwein, which tastes just like at home in Switzerland, but this time I couldn’t help myself and caved for some hot chocolate.

 

Chirstkindlmarket Chicago - Favourite Christmas Activities in Chicago with Chicwish

 

One thing to keep in mind when exploring the city in December - it can be really cold and windy. Big thanks to Chicwish for keeping me warm as I explored Chicago’s Christmas wonders this year. Their cozy sweaters are the perfect combination of fashionable, cute, and warm! I have been wearing them non-stop since they arrived in the mail. I also love the elegance of the Cape Coat which will easily make any winter outfit look more put together. If you're curious to see how the sweaters and the coat fit, you can check out my try-on Instagram stories which include sizing information.

 

Shop My Chicwish Looks


 

 

These are just a few of my favourite holiday traditions in Chicago, and we didn’t even get a chance to ice skate over to Millenium Park, admire the Zoo Lights, or take a ride on the holiday train! What is your favourite way to celebrate the holidays in Chicago?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. My outfits are courtesy of Chicwish.

 


 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

Thank you RM Champagne Salon for having us. A part of our meal was gifted to us by RM Champagne Salon to allow us to experience their full service and be able to tell you about it. All our opinions are our own.

 

If you ever find yourself in Chicago looking for a great fire-side brunch spot with unforgettable mimosas, I know just the place for you. The RM Champagne Salon is tucked away in the middle of the West Loop and easy to miss if you don't know where you're going.

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

A sign indicates to walk through the cobblestone alley to get to the entrance and start your culinary experience. The RM Champagne Salon is known for romantic dinners and their outstanding seafood, but they recently started serving brunch on weekends starting at 11am.

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

With their antique mirrors, chandeliers, and marble fireplace, RM takes you back in time and provides a relaxed yet luxurious ambience. Their attention to detail is mirrored in the service and food presentation. You don't have to take my word for it - see for yourself!

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

When a few girlfriends and I  were planning to go for brunch, we decided to try the RM Champagne Salon's new brunch menu as none of us had experienced it before. We explored the idea of enjoying a drink or two with breakfast and our waiter highly recommended the mimosa bar. Little did we know, RM Champagne Salon provides a fully customizable mimosa bar allowing you to combine your champagne of choice with mixers and garnishes.

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

Their mixers include a variety of fruit juices, and the garnishes are as pretty as they are tasty!

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

The mimosa bar is served with a tower of nibbles consisting of bite-sized sandwiches, macarons, fresh fruit, truffles, and puff pastry treats - and let me tell you, it was absolutely scrummy (for all the ones who love the Great British Baking show as much as I do, you know what I'm talking about. :-))

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

I'm already a foodie but having everything come in bite-size format, makes me even happier!

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

And the picturesque presentation didn't leave anything to be desired.

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon - Mimosa Bar

 

Brunch at RM Champagne Salon

 

With our eyes bigger than our stomachs, we couldn't help ourselves and also ordered some of our favourite appetizers.

 

 

The avocado toast was a sight for sore foodie eyes. The cheese platter and the salmon dip did not disappoint either.

 

 

 

We left RM Champagne Salon extremely full, slightly tipsy, and in awe of their new brunch. All of us decided that we'd be back and would rave about this place for days to come!

Don't take my word for it but check RM Champagne Salon out yourself! You can make reservations here or give them a call at (312) 243-1199.

 

 

Cheers!

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

Denver is surprisingly close to the Rocky Mountains, which means you’re never short of mountain views while in the city. We only had one day in Denver at the tail end of our Colorado adventure (which you can read about here,  here, and with amazing sand dunes here) before our two days of driving back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

Since we only had one day we wanted to get a bit of an early start, and probably started our self-made walking tour of downtown around 10:00am. Let’s just say that we were definitely not impressed the first few hours in the city. There seemed to be camps of people (quite literally camps, with tents, chairs and everything) around every second corner with many of them giving an all new meaning to the ‘mile high city.’ It overall gave us a bit of an uneasy feeling while walking around. We did, however, find time for a few quick shots around the Colorado State Capitol building and loved the view from one mile above sea level.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

We ventured over to the LoDo neighbourhood and found Urban Farmer, a modern yet rustic steakhouse with delicious brunch options and outdoor seating. Things were starting to turn around.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

Our brunch was excellent, the sun was shining, and my mimosa and Bettina's bloody mary bar were on point.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

We can definitely recommend Urban Farmer if you're looking for a great Sunday brunch spot!

No sooner had we finished eating were we looking for even more food. Bettina had been talking to a few locals on Instagram and received a large list of places to go to. The Milk Market at Dairy Block came highly recommend to us, and we can only pass along the recommendations.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Customizable Disk Necklace by GLDN

Earrings by Coco Loves Rome

 

This bumping market hall was full of modern restaurants and bars all with delicious looking and (smelling!) food. Since we had just eaten brunch, we weren’t that hungry but that has never stopped us in the past from indulging in more food!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

As we strolled around the market, we stumbled upon Morning Jones and just could not resist their decorate your own doughnut station. You basically got six fresh doughnuts on a plate and were free to add as much Oreo crumble, sprinkles, bacon, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, or caramel as you could fit.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

For better or worse, we finished it all and were thoroughly stuffed the rest of the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along 16th Street doing some shopping before heading back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

On our way to leave the city, we drove through the RiNo neighborhood, a trendy and artsy neighborhood too cool for us to be let in. We didn’t have time to stop, but it is definitely at the top of our list when back in Denver. Our drive back to Chicago took us through Nebraska and of course, Bettina had to capture the essence of the state by taking some sunset pictures in corn fields!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

 

Have you been to Denver for the day? If so, have you been to the Milk Market?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

After a restful sleep, we took our time getting packed up, cleaned up, and walking along the river. This was the first time on our trip we put our fancy new camping shower and with pop-up tent to use. Despite pouring a pot of boiling water into mix with the “room temperature” (ie. freezing cold) water we had with us, the water flowing out of the shower head was frighteningly cold, causing fits of giggles to laugh off the pain. It was probably one of the least enjoyable, yet most satisfying showers I have ever had. After camping for a number days it felt great to have a fresh start to the day.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We used this Green Elephant outdoor shower tent, the Nemo Helio outdoor shower, and this cute Nemo Helio green floor mat.

 

                                       

 

All products we link are the actual products we use and we would not recommend them if we didn't truly like them. We are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program which is designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

 


Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Not far from our campsite was Animas Forks, a ghost town and relic of the heydays of mining in the San Juans. The first buildings were constructed in the 1870’s, and by the early 1880’s the town was home to 450 people, complete with a post office, general store, saloon and a telephone.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

The great thing about exploring Animas Forks is that you can walk inside all of the buildings to get a real sense of how it might have been to live here back in the day. Some buildings still had preserved wallpaper or ornate woodwork, but most had substantially succumbed to the elements.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

The crown jewel of the town is the grand, two-storey Duncan Residence, built in 1879 to withstand the long cold winters. Previously, most residents of Animas Forks spent the winters a bit further south in Silverton (which you can read about here). The Duncans were one of the first families to brave the full winter in Animas Forks where the snow would easily bury the first floor of the house!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We enjoyed exploring the town, though didn’t see any ghosts, and were soon headed towards our final, and highest offroad pass of the trip: Engineer Pass. We zig-zagged our way up the shelf roads with plenty of multi-point turns to get around the corners.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop - View of Animas Forks

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We own a Toyota Tacoma and were extremely happy with its performance throughout the trip. This post is not sponsored by Toyota but we can highly recommend them.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We came to a breathtaking viewpoint, “Oh Point”, with an almost 360 degree view of the mountains and valleys around us. We must have taken hundreds of pictures trying to capture the moment and the beauty of our surroundings.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

After what felt like an eternity, we reached the 12,800 ft (3,901 m) summit of Engineer Pass and stopped for a ceremonial picture before quickly jumping back into the car to escape the wind and the cold and head down the other side.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

No sooner had we started our decent and there were a few locals blocking the road and getting in our way!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It took us a couple of days and with a few detours, but we finally completed the famous Alpine Loop. This was something I had on my bucket list for a number of years and I was glad to have successfully completed the loop, taking in all the magnificent views along the way.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It wasn’t the end of our driving day though as we had a few hours of highway driving to reach our next campsite! However, compared to the last days of offroading, highway driving was a welcomed change. We arrived in the dark at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a beautiful warm summer night and we enjoyed sitting in front of the stars and taking it all in.

Not knowing what to expect of the Canyon because we arrived in the dark, we set off the next day and enjoyed our coffee with some prime canyon views.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is famous for its dramatic views, as it is especially deep, narrow and steep compared to some of the more famous canyons around. Why is it called the Black Canyon you wonder? It's because some parts of the canyon are so narrow and deep they receive only 33 minutes of sunlight each day.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

 

As we were having coffee, we made friends with this little guy who was hoping for some breakfast.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Canyon was our last stop before going back to civilization and at this point, we were both looking forward to a real bed. We had camped for five days in a row which was certainly pushing our limits. (Did you read about our nights in the Sand Dunes, in Silverton, and Ouray?) I'm not sure I'll be able to convince Bettina to go on another camping trip anytime soon but the trip was a dream of mine for years and the entire adventure made it all worthwhile.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Have you completed your dream road trip yet? What was your longest camping trip?

 


 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

Ouray is a beautiful mountain town tucked away in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado. We arrived at camp with plenty of time to set up our tent in full daylight which was a nice change.  Once again we were warned of bears in the area, but at least this time it was a proper campground with other people all around, for better or worse. Read about our bear scare during our first night here.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Sometimes our laziness gets the best of us and since we were so close to downtown Ouray we decided to head into town for dinner. The charming town really just has one main street, but it is bursting with places to eat and drink. We chose Ouray Brewing Company for the great rooftop patio views!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

The food and beer also lived up to expectations and were delicious! With full stomachs we settled in for an excellent night’s sleep, but not before some stargazing! The wilderness of Colorado provides an amazing opportunity to see more stars than you have ever seen before! It has been quite some time since Bettina and I have seen the Milky Way, but it was back in force under a clear Colorado night.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

The next day we arose early as we had a full day of driving ahead of us with three main passes on the agenda. Bettina couldn't resist posing next to the 'Switzerland of America' sign!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

First up was Corkscrew Pass, living up to its name by twisting uphill between the creatively named Red Mountain 1 and Red Mountain 2. The road was steep and surprisingly busy as we encountered a number of modified Jeeps and ATV’s, making our stock Toyota Tacoma from Illinois look slightly out of place.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

At 12,257 ft (3,736 m) high, the top offered expansive views of the surrounding alpine area.  We didn’t hang around for long though as the wind negated all the warming effects of the sun. We continued on climbing slightly higher to Hurricane Pass at 12,730 ft (3,880 m) and then climbed further still across the laid-back California Pass at 12,963 ft (3,951 m).

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Hurricane Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - California Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Unfortunately, even though the road was relatively flat, it was very rough with a lot of large rocks, so our progress was slow.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

As we noted in our Silverton post (which you can read about here) this area experienced a mining boom in the late 1800s and you could see remnants of old mines scattered amongst the mountains, even at seemingly impossible locations.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

We came across the impressively preserved Sound Democrat Mill which has been maintained and preserved as good as possible in a remote area like this.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill was built in 1905 to process the mineral-rich ore mined from the surrounding hills.  The ore was transported by a network of aerial trams and then processed through this gravity-fed mill to be crushed, stamped, and stripped of all the valuable minerals.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Shop Bettina's Travel Look

 

 

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill ceased operations in 1914, having never turned a profit. Being able to walk inside the mill and climb to the various levels on rickety ladders was a humbling experience. Even though the massive old machinery has been sitting here for over 100 years, you definitely get a sense of the difficulty and hard-work involved to keep this mill operating.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Soon we were back on the road, or the vague imitation of a road, that was California Pass. It was incredibly rough, and we were driving at less than a walking pace. Luckily we didn’t have much further to go before setting up camp along the Animas River.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

There was a truck parked nearby with an older woman sitting in the cab the whole time we were setting up our tent and preparing dinner. Curious to hear her story, we walked over to talk to her as it was getting dark and she appeared to have no tent or other items with her. Chatting for a few minutes, we learned that she was waiting for her husband to arrive who was hiking to this point and had set off from Ouray that morning. We were confused – we left Ouray that morning as well and had spent over eight hours driving to get his far. Surely we misunderstood?

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Animas River

 

We went back to preparing and then eating our dinner. Another hour passed and there was still no sign of her husband. The sun was long gone, the sky was getting darker, and the air colder by the minute. Then off in the distance, there was a man walking along the road, with a stick in hand, making his way towards our group. Sure enough, it was her husband who she was very happy to see arriving with a smile and all in one piece.  Eager to get the full story, we went back to chat with them and confirmed that he had in fact left Ouray that morning just before sunrise and had hiked over a handful of almost 13,000 ft mountain passes to get to the same point it took us all day to drive to! The man was very cheerful and seemed to have enjoyed every minute of it – so much so that he was going to do it all over again the next day. Oh, and he was well over twice our age – definitely putting us to shame!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

Would you rather hike across a pass or offroad like we did? Let us know in the comments below!