U.S Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Baltimore, Maryland

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

The East Coast has always been one of my favorite places, mainly because I’m a huge history nerd. For this round of cities you should definitely visit, I’m talking about Baltimore, which I last visited when I was about 10 years old. Whew! Do I feel old? Yeah, maybe a little.

I’m really excited to talk about Baltimore because I have a gentleman friend from Maryland who gave me the deets from a native’s perspective. Ready to get knee-deep in pink plastic flamingos? Let’s go!

History

To start off, I think it’s important to mention that the state sport in Maryland is jousting. You read that right: jousting. Baltimore might not seem that old, but it’s been a city since 1729. Here are some of my favorite historical facts about Baltimore:

l A Mixed City: Baltimore used to be right up there with Ellis Island as the second-largest point of immigration in the U.S.

l The U.S. Flag: The original Star-Spangled Banner Flag was designed in Baltimore by Mary Pickersgill. Today, there’s a museum in the home where her family once lived, and I want to visit so badly. This is the flag that inspired our national anthem. Girl power!

l Cool People: Fredrick Douglass, Billie Holiday, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall all lived in this city, leaving amazing legacies in their wake. Babe Ruth was also born in Baltimore. There’s also a pretty cool museum in Baltimore that you can visit if you’re a baseball fanatic.

Cool Things to Do

While obviously having a pretty groovy background, Baltimore also has a pretty awesome scene right now. First off, I must tell y’all about a little friend, “Natty Boh,” who’s a big deal in Maryland. The National Bohemian brewery logo is the head of homie sir. Another logo you’ll see frequently in Baltimore is the “Utz girl,” a doll who represents a brand of chips I’ve never heard about (#westcoast). Anyway, Natty Boh is a big deal in Maryland. If you’re visiting, be sure to stop by the billboard that’s been up since 2007, where you can spot the huge logo in person.

If you want to party like a Baltimore native, you’ll want to head down to Ocean City. If you want to say you’re going to the beach like a native, try something along the lines of, “I’m going downy oshun.” Yep, that’s a thing. Don’t be surprised if you hear it. What is Ocean City? It’s basically miles of beach and a wooden boardwalk with your typical shops and restaurants.

Accommodations

Looking for a place to park your motor? Try staying in either an Airbnb or pop over to HotelPlanner Baltimore to find hotels like the Holiday Inn Express. This one is particularly awesome because it’s built in the Old Town National Bank, and the interior is to die for.

Wherever you stay, I hope you love every minute of your time in Baltimore. The friendly people and unique culture make Baltimore an absolute must stop on your next vacation. See you on the other coast!

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U.S Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Minneapolis, Minnesota

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

Welcome to round FOUR of U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit (or USCYSDV…which sounds ridiculous)! In case you missed my previous posts, you can check them out here:

Richmond, Virginia,
Bernalillo, New Mexico
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This episode we’re gonna jump over to the Midwest (pass the Tater Tot casserole). Don’t freak out if you’re a coastal girl/guy, like me. One of my good friends is from Minnesota AND I happen to have been there — it’s not that bad. In fact, there are a ton of things that make Minneapolis easy to check off your travel bingo card (y’all have one of those, right!?)!

History

(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)

Minneapolis has kind of a quirky history because historically it was known for its grains — flour to be specific. Known as the “Mill City” or “The Flour Milling Capital of the World” back in the 19th century, this city grew from a population of 13,000 to 165,000 from 1870-1890. And we complain about people moving to Seattle, rapidly (#snap).

Anyhoo, the city has grown into a Mecca for gluten since the forerunner to General Mills raised its flag in 1856. Long live Cheerios!

Cool Things To Do

You might not know a whole lot about Minneapolis culture, but once you’ll get there you’ll probably fall in love. Honestly, if it was by an ocean I’d probably be moving there myself. Here are some spots you shouldn’t miss:

Tattersall

Hipsters put yo’ hands up! 
This spot is just about everything you could ask, with an Edison light on top. Tattersall Distillery was recommended to me by some Minnesota natives, and I’m pretty excited to try it out next time I’m in town.

Minnehaha Falls

Okay, so part of the reason I love this is because of the name. How can you NOT smile!? This waterfall park (stretching 170 acres!) is beautiful, and I love that there’s a waterfall just hanging out in the city. Go forth and soak up some green.

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis has established itself as an art central, and a lot of that ties back to the Institute of Art. The museum has exhibits and exhibitions varying from 1700s England, to the Jazz Age. You’re not gonna want to miss out on this classy spot when you’re in town.

The Gutherie Theater

Located right on the Mississippi River The Gutherie Theater is the top recommended location I’ve heard about. The theater is a self-professed, “mix of classic and contemporary plays” this is a go-and-see-anything-and-everything kinda spot. If you’re feeling in the theater mood, don’t miss out!

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Minneapolis, try either an AirBnb or pop over to HotelPlanner Minneapolis to find amazing spots like The Commons Hotel which looks like something straight outta Mad Men.

Wherever you choose to stay during the frigid winters or sweltering summers, you’re sure to get some true Midwest hospitality. AKA people are super nice. Could it be just the thing to break the Seattle Freeze? We shall see.

U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Pittsburgh, PA

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

I’m a West Coast girl through and through. I love the Pacific Ocean, living in a mountain surrounded city, and celebrating random Scandinavian holidays. But I’m also a huge advocate for exploring your own country. I’ve been to 42 U.S. states, and I’ll definitely be visiting all 50. In the meantime, I’ve started this series to explore other cities I think you should know about. You may have caught my last post about Richmond, Virginia. Today, I’m talking about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

History

One of the most interesting parts about Pittsburgh is its history of rebellions. Just reading about them made me want to write 10 historical fiction novels. Here are just a few facts:

Whiskey Rebellion: This ain’t no Boston Tea Party, but it’s a great example of how important alcohol was. In 1791, taxes were raised on whiskey to offset the debt from The Revolutionary War. Needless to say, peeps weren’t so happy to see their whiskey targeted by higher taxes, so they fought back. Ultimately, 500 farmers marched against the government, and George Washington himself headed over to calm them down. This rebellion is a defining factor in establishing U.S. political parties.

City of Steel: Starting in the 19th century, Pittsburgh was known for American manufacturing, including the production of iron, brass, tin, and glass. But what really sets Pittsburgh apart is the steel industry, which began in 1875.

Pittsburgh Railway Riots: Right on the tail of steel production were the Pittsburgh Railway Riots. They were a result of the government once again trying to offset debts from the Civil War. These riots were pretty rough, with burning buildings and dead people, but they started planting ideas for the workers’ unions of the future.

Cool Things to Do

As a pretty sassy city in its own right, there are some pretty cool things to do in Pittsburgh. Some of the coolest include:

Andy Warhol Museum: Ready for a splash of culture? The Andy Warhol Museum hosts the largest collection of the artist’s works, and it’s an absolute must if you’re in the area. The museum has everything from saturated prints to hands-on art creation techniques that you can try. Don’t miss out!

Robot Hall of Fame: If you’re geeky like me, then you’ll definitely want this one to be on your radar. It’s located in the Carnegie Science Center’s Roboworld section and home to all types of robots, including C-3PO, Gort, and WALL-E.

Canton Avenue: Did you know that Pittsburgh is home to the steepest street in America? Honestly, since I’m from Seattle, this looks pretty normal. If you want to get a serious workout, then this just might be the spot for you.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Pittsburgh, try an adorable Airbnb. If you’re in more of a hotel mood, pop over to HotelPlanner Pittsburgh to find amazing spots like the Renaissance Pittsburgh. It was lifted stone by marble stone in 1906, before the invention of the crane. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Tea Talk 5: Johanna Luz | Traveling Environmentalist

It’s been 9 years since I met Johanna at college. We were both assigned to the smallest dorm on campus, and the memories of that year are some that will stick with me the rest of my life. I remember when I first found out that she wore glasses every day not because she had a prescription, but just because she felt like it. How can you not admire someone with that level of dedication?

Johanna and her husband are currently on the trip of a lifetime, driving down from Oregon to South America while providing medical and environmental help/education in exchange for world knowledge about how to live a more sustainable life. They’re driving down in a veggie bus (aka a bus that runs on used kitchen oil), while simultaneously writing a book about their adventures, and it’s kind of the coolest thing ever. Their blog is an absolute inspiration and I would highly recommend hopping over for a read! But first, here’s an introduction to one of the coolest girls I’ve ever met:

What started your passion for traveling?

I think there was never a time when I wasn’t traveling, so for me it became more about figuring out how to continue to travel. My Mom is from Germany, my Dad is from Oregon, USA and I grew up in Venezuela. Since the age of 1, I was on an airplane flying to visit relatives in different places around the world.

What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?

There are many different ways of traveling. Sometimes people have a fixed idea that it requires a lot of money and privilege, and that therefore, it isn’t accessible to everyone. The more I travel, the more I run into people traveling in the most alternative ways. My husband and I recently made our way down Baja California, Mexico. We ran into bikers, hitchhikers, a family living in a school bus, buskers, and artists, all figuring out ways to travel long periods of time on low budgets. We, ourselves, converted our van to work with used vegetable oil fuel. We collect it for free from restaurants in the cities we travel through and in that way minimize our fuel expense on the road.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

My husband. We met as teenagers but we re-connected when I backpacked through Guatemala years later. It was the beginning of a 2.5 year long distance relationship (Guatemala-Venezuela). I have picked up eating beans, eggs & tortillas every day, saying “chilero” (cool) and much more!

What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling?

Do it. Period. I did my first extended solo trip when I was 19 through Spain and Portugal. It felt extremely liberating and powerful to rely 100% on myself in a place where I knew no one and where no one had a prototype of who I was. I felt truly free and that feeling is something I try to hold on to ever since.

What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?

I’m always trying to make sure I don’t fall into a tourist trap or get ripped off in an incredibly stupid way. When I was traveling through Central America in 2012, I crossed into Guatemala from Mexico by land without knowing the exchange rate (not something I recommend). After exchanging some money on the border, I hopped on a tuk tuk (3 wheeled vehicle) to go to the nearest bus terminal. I was charged 150 Quetzales for a 5min ride. Then I rode the bus for about 3 hours and was only charged 15 Quetzales. I realized at that moment the tuk tuk driver had overcharged me. I had paid him$20 instead of $0.50, which was the real price!

What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?

During many points of my life, I struggled with being timid and embarrassed about a lot of things about myself. When you travel, you don’t have a choice. You have to put yourself out there, ask people for directions, get to know strangers and look like a total lost foreigner. You also are constantly getting to know people and explaining who you are to others who have very little context about where you come from. Traveling and meeting people on the road has helped me get to know myself better and feel more confident with who I am in the world.

What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

The road less traveled, whatever that may be. But usually, it’s not by plane. Right now I’m doing an extended trip with my husband called Camino Casamel. We are traveling in our van that we converted to work with used vegetable oil as fuel (Veggie Bus Diaries on Instagram). We began our trip in Oregon and are currently midway through Mexico, collecting used oil from restaurants along the way. We plan on making it to Panama and possibly further South.

Traveling this way has been a lifestyle choice, as we live in our van and have a purpose beyond visiting tourist attractions. We are also learning about natural medicinal practices from the different regions we visit. It’s been very enriching to travel slowly and connect in a deeper way with the people and places we visit.

What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?

I’ve always wanted to travel more extensively through South America. I grew up in Venezuela and have visited Colombia. I would like to see the rest of the continent and make it to Brazil, especially.

Let’s talk about your current trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure? 

Our current trip is a huge project we began dreaming about a few years ago. We started by thinking about ways of connecting our passions and wanting to begin our lives together in a different way. Our project Camino Casamel (or Veggie Bus Diaries), came about after Aidan had graduated from Medical School in Guatemala and after I worked with community environmental projects in Caracas, Venezuela. Ancestral medicinal practices and more natural lifestyles are areas that drew us together. We decided to travel through different countries where we could learn more about this, using waste vegetable oil as a greener fuel option and living in our van so we could cut on traveling expenses.

What has been the best/toughest part of your current trip?

Getting started was very difficult. We originally thought we were going to start our trip in Spring 2016 but we were delayed a year. We had mechanical issues, a difficult conversion to vegetable oil system, and needed a lot more time and money to prepare.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from your current trip?

We both learned a lot the year we had to wait to begin our trip. At times, we didn’t even know if it was still going to be possible. I definitely learned that sometimes things don’t work out the way you anticipate. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. Sometimes you will have to wait, sit back and re-evaluate. Then, do it again but better. And take your time. Rushing things often will set you back more.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve traveled and lived extensively in Latin America and have a few strong opinions about certain things I wanted to mention J Throughout the years, I’ve met a lot of travelers and been one myself. One thing that I think is EXTREMELY important is learning about the local context and history of the places you visit. Often, travelers from “developed countries” will visit Latin America with very little knowledge about how U.S. political intervention and foreign economic interests have shaped, damaged and are currently still harming the region. This is true not only for Latin America, but for most developing countries in the world.

I don’t say this to accuse or create guilt, but as a means to encourage travel a way of educating yourself about what is happing in the world and how your home country may be affecting lives overseas in ways you aren’t aware. I think this type of awareness also creates a deeper travel experience as you hear personal stories from the other side of history and learn things that aren’t included in classic text books.

For example, in Nicaragua there is the Museo de la Revolucion (Revolutionary Museum) in Leon, exhibiting a civil war the U.S. was directly involved in. Ex-guerrilla fighters give the tour. Our guide shared his personal experience of the war, of the friends and family he lost and how the country was destroyed. I remember the guide told us with a depth in his eyes, “There is absolutely nothing worse than war, avoid it by all costs.”

To follow along on Johanna’s adventures, you can check out her blog, purchase the book they’re writing or check out their Facebook page

5 Tips for Traveling With Food Restrictions

I’m the girl who’s allergic to everything.

This isn’t an exaggeration, I often say that if I had been born in any other century I most certainly would be dead. My lungs are made of glass, my stomach can’t process milk protein and I have a combination of animal, seasonal and food allergies.

You may be asking why I would leave the house, if I’m constantly afflicted by such health conditions. But obviously I do. And obviously I go farther than the city I live in. The real key here is management. It’s not easy, but it’s easier once you’ve been coping with them for 26 years.

When I’m traveling, a big question I get is how on earth do I find things to eat?! Especially when I’m in a country where I don’t speak the language, it can be hard to navigate my food allergies, and keep out of hospitals.

Before we start, here’s a list of all the things my sickly self is allergic to.

  • Dairy
  • Soy (technically, but I’m growing out of this one)
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts (I will actually die)
  • Cantaloupe (true story)
  • Spinach (growing out of this one)
  • Cats
  • Horses
  • Dust, hay, mold, mildew
  • Also. I don’t eat pork (unless it’s insensitive not to)

With all of these restrictions things can get pretty tricky. But here are my top rules for traveling without starving.

Bring Snacks from Home

I never ever ever travel somewhere without around 10 granola bars, a package of beef jerky, almonds and some fruit snacks. Why? Because those three things are packaged, pretty small (since I backpack) and can help me get through a part of the trip where either I don’t want to forage for food, or I literally cannot find anything. I’m also a huge fan of bringing fruit and vegetables on flights to a place. I have lots of other healthy eating tips on my blog post: 5 Ways to Eat Healthy When Traveling

Don’t Eat

You’re might be thinking, “Haha Emilee, you’re so funny.” Which I am (duh). But I’m actually not joking about this one. I really limit the number of meals that I have while I’m traveling because food is not the focus of my travels. That being said, I realize that this isn’t the same for everyone. Some people travel just for the food. But if I can score a hefty breakfast at my hostel then I’ll try to make it to an early dinner (with just light snacks), cutting down the number of meals I have to “figure out.”

Go for the Basics

Every country has bread. This might sound like a no-brainer, but every country has their genius in each country that put together some grain, water and yeast (or even without yeast) and baked it. You know what else each country has? Fruit. Vegetables. Meat (although be careful with marinades and seasonings).
The point of this smart-assery is that if you stick to the basics, you can avoid having problems with the food that you’re eating. For me, I know that dairy is a problem, but I also know that I’m not going to find dairy in a banana. Sticking to the basic food groups, with just a little bit of experimentation, can help to cut out the risk of problems.

Research

That being said, nobody wants to live off of bananas and bread for weeks on end, so research the country you’re visiting and see what food they are known for. If you can find an ingredient list (which you probably can #Google), then you’ll be that much closer to knowing it’s something that you can eat. DO NOT assume that people in other countries are going to know, or care, about your allergies. You might find someone, somewhere, but I spent an entire year living in France trying to convince anyone that dairy allergies are real, so good luck.

Be Prepared

I am deathly allergic to peanuts. Like I will die if I eat them. So it’s important for me to bring along medication or my EpiPen, if I’m traveling to somewhere where this might be a problem. Western Europe isn’t really as much of an issue. But let’s say that I wanted to go to Thailand. Or as I like to call it, the land where Emilee will never go because she doesn’t want to die. In that case, I would definitely have Benadryl with me, as well as my EpiPen, in case something went south. It never hurts to be over prepared, but can cost you big if you don’t take these things into consideration.

On the flip side, know what you CAN eat. Coming from the U.S. I have access to a ton of different food options, so when I travel I can have somewhat of an idea of what I can have. For instance, Indian food works great for me because most of it is non-dairy, and they don’t really use peanuts, and rarely use pork. If I can find an Indian restaurant I’m pretty good to go.

What about you? What are your tips for getting around food restrictions? Leave them in the comments, below! 

Tea Talk 4: Claudia Graf | Lifestyle Blogger & Photographer

Claudia and I are both part of this completely awesome Facebook group called Female Travel Bloggers, and I immediately knew I needed to reach out to her when I saw her adventures on her blog. Supporting, encouraging and highlighting other women who travel blog is such a huge priority for me, so collaborating with her for this Tea Talk was amazing.

Claudia started her blog A World Full Of Fairytales after a 6 week adventure in California, and she’s been photographing and writing her way around the world, ever since.

What started your passion for traveling? 

I went on a road trip in 2016 from San Francisco to Los Angeles what is one of the best road trips in the world. On my way from San Francisco to LA, I visited Carmel, Monterrey, Big Sur, Morro Bay and Santa Barbara. The beauty of the California coast hit me like a bolt out of the blue, and I fell in love with the magic of exploration.

What’s one travel tip you think the world should know? 

Be fast when it comes to booking of flights, cars and hotels. It’s always hard for me to decide on times and places. I never know how long I want to stay somewhere. Unfortunately prices can rise after days or weeks of research. If I had been faster now and then, I definitely could have saved some money.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. Food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

It sounds like a cliche but it’s the lifestyle credo ’Don’t worry, be happy’. During a vacation in Argentina and Chile I met and stayed with different local people. All of them were very relaxed and spontaneous. Nobody cared about time, nothing was stressful. That can be annoying (e.g. when you have to catch your flight ;-)), but overall I loved it.

What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about solo traveling? 

Every woman should ask herself a few questions: Would I like to spend a whole day on my own? Would I like to go out for breakfast or dinner on my own? Would I like to go to the movies on my own? If everything is a yes, go for it. If you don’t feel comfortable, travel with a friend and plan a short solo trip for two, three or up to five days during that vacation. That’s a good way to find out, if you would love to be a solo traveler.

What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel? 

Sometimes, I despaired while reading too many hotel or Airbnb reviews. I mean, reviews are great and I appreciate them. However, it can be exhausting. Now, I try to check reviews only for a few requirements like cleanliness, friendly host or hotel staff. In the end, I rely on my gut instinct.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo? 

The best part is that you meet and get to know a lot of new people and friends. I made so many new contacts during my solo trips in the last year and have made new friends in LA, New York, Dubai, Italy, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. For me there is no worse part, I love it 100%.

What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling? 

I have much less fear in general when it comes to areas of a city and crazy people. 

What is your favorite way to travel (ex. Plane, train, automobile?) and why? 

I love flying. It’s calm, you can watch movies or listen to music. You don’t have to do anything else and nobody can call you. However, a road trip is still the best way to explore a country. You can stop wherever and whenever you want to and you see so much more.

What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self? 

I should have started earlier to travel the world. It really changed my life and mind. It gave me the conviction that everything is possible and I started my travel blog and Instagram account.

What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit? 

Oh, that’s hard. I have so many places on my list and almost everyday I add a new destination. I would love to do a trip with the Trans-Sibirian Railway from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. That trip must be an amazing once in a lifetime experience.

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing? 

I want to go to Iceland to visit blue lagoons, do horse riding and visit Reykjavik. A lot of people told me that this is an amazing city.

Looking for more travel inspiration? You can also follow Claudia on her adventures on her blog, or at any of the links below!