5 Fun Free Things to Do In Your City

How is it already mid-July? How have I not blogged for six months? I would apologize to you, but I’m not going to. I’ve had other priorities that have taken up my time! You didn’t miss me that much, did you?

In the summer it’s so important to get outside. Even if when it’s just a 10-minute walk over lunch, it matters so much! I love stepping away from my computer and I love getting a little vitamin D over my lunch break at work. Sometimes it can be tempting to be a “homebody” and stay in, work on a few things, etc. But taking an hour or two to explore your city will be well worth it! I’m not asking you to blow a whole Saturday. The dishes, laundry, windows and so on can wait. Don’t you think? I want to share a few tips for free (or almost free) things to do in your town!

  1. Explore local historical sites. I’m a nerd and like to learn about that kind of stuff. Hey, you might learn something!

Mill City Ruins, Minneapolis, MN

2. Explore a local city park. Go biking, walking, jogging, rollerblading and so on through a local park in your area. I prefer to walk since I’m dangerous on wheels. The leaves, trees and flowers are at their peak this time of year. Why not enjoy it all?

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis, MN

3. Visit an arboretum or flower garden. Take a morning or evening stroll through gorgeous flowers, shrubs and so on. The best part? No weeding or watering required! Leave that up to the pros. By the way, how gorgeous are these hot pink roses?

Lyndale Rose Garden, Minneapolis, MN

4. Hit up a local farmers market. So you don’t have to buy anything, but I would! Even bring $5-10 dollars. It’s way more fun than your usually grocery store route. I like to stock up on the weekends so it forces me to make dinners at-home during the week.

Minneapolis Farmers Market

5. Pack a picnic for the park. So this also isn’t necessarily free, but it’s cheaper than going out to eat! Am I right? If a whole meal overwhelms you, pack lemonade and snack instead. You’ll still enjoy the fresh air while munching on crackers, apple slices or whatever you prefer.

Have I convinced you yet? Are you going to step outside? I sure hope so.

PS – Can you tell that I’m a huge advocate of the Minneapolis Parks? 🙂

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CHICAGO

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Starbucks and city sidewalks.

Earlier this month, I had one of the best weekends of my life. A few of my college friends met in Chicago for my friend’s birthday. What a beautiful and vibrant city. Any ways, the group of us all lived in the same dorm freshman year of college, on same floor, and just four consecutive doors down from each other.  Cool, right??

So in Chicago, we packed everything we could into a three-day weekend. We went shopping, visited coffee shops, ate dinner at TGIF’s, tried a few brews at a beer house, ate brunch a local hot spot, and explored downtown Chicago. We stayed one night downtown (Can I add that I’d love to live in that hotel room forever??) and went to our friend’s improv show (hilarious!), followed by karaoke and then over to a dancing bar.

All dolled up and ready to hit downtown.

All dolled up and ready to hit downtown.

This dancing bar was awesome, unlike any place I’ve ever been to. There were three dance floors and non-stop music. We ended up dancing for four hours to “Wedding Music” or “Dad Music” as I like to call it. All the good stuff from ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and so on from Michael Jackson to classic rock to a bunch of other stuff I’m blanking out on. Believe me, in the four hours we were there, there were only two songs I didn’t recognize. Two! And since we were there for so long, we made friends with other friend groups on the dance floor, which made it feel like our own party. We owned that dance floor. 🙂

As you know, maintaining and keeping long-distance friendships is hard, so getting together is always exciting and much-appreciated. Within the first few hours of being there, my sides already hurt from laughing my head off. We shared stories and talked about things I’ve completely forgotten about. I love when you can pick up right where you left off with friends. I’m already looking forward to seeing these girls again next winter! Until then, I’m happy we have our Bachelor Fantasy League gossip about and keep us connected.

Pumpkins, Beers and Bismarck

wpid-img_20141004_145234_368.jpgMy mom and I took a road trip out to Bismarck to visit my brother last weekend. We had so much fun! We tried out a few local bars, shared apps at a delicious Mexican restaurant with killer margaritas, visited the Heritage Museum and explored a pumpkin patch. The Heritage Museum really went there when it came to history. At first I saw a Native American exhibit which really fascinated me, but then I turned the corner and they had a dinosaur exhibit — see what I mean how they really went there? Then there was a glacier exhibit that explained the Midwest’s geography and Minnesota’s lakes. So what I’m saying is that they really, really covered their bases with North Dakota history and it was great!

We enjoyed walking around Papa’s Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck. There were hundreds of kids running around and doing kid things like screaming and tackling their brothers and sisters. I should have challenged Justin to King of the Hill on the massive pile of tractor tires, but I resisted. Mom and I each took home an acorn squash. I’ll have to bake it this week! We walked through a kid-friendly corn maze so I didn’t get lost because it was right at my eye level. Thank goodness.

Like I said in the beginning, it was a great weekend! My mom and I laughed and laughed in the car — she’s a hoot! Now I’m looking forward to seeing more of my brother this fall with weddings and concerts.

Badlands Beauty

So a few weekends ago I took a short trip out west to Bismarck, ND to visit my brother. He’s working out there and I was dying for a chance to visit and take a little road trip. We explored Bismark and checked out bars, restaurants and parks. He makes a great tour guide!

My favorite part of weekend was driving out even further west to Medora, ND to see the Teddy Roosevelt National Park. I LOVED IT. From badlands to prairie grass to bison to prairie dogs — this park has it all! My brother and I would drive around and stop every so often and climb out of our cars. We loved hiking and walking up hills or through prairie grass just to get a better view. It’s one thing to look at the badlands from your car, but it’s another thing to walk out 10 minutes away from your car and take it all in. 

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It’s places like these that remind me how small we really are in this world. I mean I would stand up on a hill and see nothing but badlands, grass and valleys for miles and miles and miles. There was one point where it was nothing but badlands in every direction when I spun around 360 degrees.

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Don’t we make cute explorers? 

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I took this photo of Justin above “the gorge” where we kept making Lion King jokes and sang to a buffalo. I think the buffalo appreciated the gesture. 

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How beautiful are these wild horses? They were only a few feet away from our car. 

wpid-wp-1409072313514.jpeg(I saved the best for last.) This is my favorite photo from the trip. I took like 20 more photos but they all start to look the same after a while. I highly recommend visiting Teddy Roosevelt National Park! I’m looking forward to going back some day. 

A Weekend Touring Kansas City

You guys! I had so much fun visiting my friend Kala in Kansas City, Missouri last weekend. Even though I only took a 1/2 day off from work, I felt like I lived my weekend to the fullest. Every day we visited coffee shops and restaurants, and walked around the city through different neighborhoods and parks. I’m copying Kala’s post at My Breezy Room a little, but I can’t not give you the gossip on my weekend.

The whole time I was there we used a list “169 Things to Do in Kansas City That are Better Than Netflix” as our guide. We found all sorts of cool places like a homemade soda and espresso-coffee shop called Little Freshie to an antique and gift store called West Side Story (see “I Heart KC” shirts below) to a farm-to-table spot for brunch called Blue Bird Bistro where I happily downed an organic Bloody Mary. Yum.

westside-storey

My first morning we went to First Fridays which was my favorite part! The West Bottoms – an old warehouse area of KC – is taken over the first weekend of the month for an antiques and furniture sale. I was obsessed. There were buildings upon buildings upon buildings of beautiful repainted and modernized furniture and antiques. Food trucks were lined up outside and people were everywhere. This area was buzzing. I loved it! It’s a good thing that I flew down, otherwise I would have come back with a car full of mirrors, chairs, tables… pretty much everything.

We stopped in Union Station, a hundred-year-old train station and walked around a bit. The ceiling and woodwork was absolutely beautiful. There was a random high school kid walking around with his friend, saxophone in-hand, and he scared the crap out of me twice. Don’t blow your sax (unexpectedly) in a public space that echos! It was pretty funny though. 

We watched the fireworks down by the river with thousands of other people. We witnessed so many Americans doing their American thing — aka people drinking and dancing to rock music we didn’t know. I’m pretty good at Classic Rock (my dad’s trained me well), but there were some songs that just came out of the woodwork. Photo: These lovelies taught me a thing or two about country music last night before the fireworks.

We even toured the brewery for Boulevard Brewing Company. I sipped two beer samples at 11 a.m. I felt like a rebel. I learned that their packaging area allows them to bottle 500 beers a minute. 500! That’s wild to me.

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I have a few more pictures to share, but I’m going to save those for a later date. It’s impossible to recap an amazing weekend in a blog post. You have to understand how much I laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

Happy 4th of July!!

Who’s excited for the 4th of July?? THIS GIRL. I’m flying down to Kansas City to visit Kala at My Breezy Room for a long weekend. I’m so pumped! I haven’t left Minnesota since January and it’s about time. Kala and I became friends at Camp Friendship in Annandale, MN three summers ago now — it’s crazy that’s been that long — and have kept in touch ever since! It was definitely the most challenging and difficult summer of my life, but also the most rewarding. This is going to sound super vague but it was so much fun.

I’m looking forward to rehashing hilarious camp stories with Kala this weekend. I also missed her wedding last month so I’m excited to get all the details on that!

So, to celebrate July 4th, I need to pack a few red, white and blue outfits tonight! Wouldn’t any of these be cute?

Navy + red.July 4th outfit. USA!!

Too bad I don’t have red or American flag shorts. I guess I’ll work with what I’ve got. Happy 4th of July, friends and fam!

It’s Always Sunny in San Diego

OK, maybe it’s not always sunny, but I had seven straight days of sunshine when I visited and that’s good enough in my book. I want to share a few family vacation photos with you from last week!

I found San Diego to be very charming. Maybe that’s because I traveled in January when I’m usually feeling a little blue post-holiday season and because of the chilly Midwest. Maybe it’s because I’ve never hit the West coast before. I don’t know, I just loved how the weather was warm–even hot by the end of the week–but not humid or heavy. The salty, sea breeze was real. The powdery sand was real. The coaster bikes with baskets and fat tires were real. For the record: I have one of these but it looks way more natural on the boardwalk.

Not only did I love the California beach scene, I loved the history there. We visited a few different neighborhoods and parts of town that had absolutely stunning and beautiful buildings. We’re talking Spanish-inspired buildings from the 1700 and 1800’s. I’m not going to give you a history lesson here because I don’t know exactly what went on back then, but I will tell you that San Diego is modern and trendy, accented with old buildings that give the city character. Yes, there was a TGIF restaurant, but it was tucked in a strip of established buildings so it didn’t scream “CHAIN RESTAURANT.”

So, I could keep going on and on but I’m not going to because I want to keep your attention.

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This is me in front of the famous Hotel del Coronado. You might recognize this hotel from the popular Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like it Hot. I watched this movie again right before vacation so I was very excited to walk around and take an obnoxious number of photos.

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Here we have Mission Beach (or Pacific Beach??) right on the Pacific Ocean. I’m actually not 100% sure what this beach is called, but it was located right across the street from our hotel. I spent a lot of time walking up and down this boardwalk with my family and checking out shops, restaurants and cafes all along the water. Usually the beach and boardwalk were packed with people, but I snapped this photo in the morning while most people were probably at work.

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Now this photo is from La Jolla (Hoy-yah), California. It’s just north of San Diego. We watched the waves crash along the coast for a good couple hours. I loved walking along the rocky coast and taking in the breath-taking view. My dad was good sport and helped me hunt for starfish and coral but we didn’t have much luck. I could dedicate whole post to La Jolla. I just might.

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This is Balboa Park. This is what I was trying to tell you before about the really, really old Spanish buildings. Look at the detail and the architecture! Maybe I’m a total nerd with this kind of stuff, but isn’t it beautiful? How do people do that centuries ago without fancy cranes and machinery? It blows my mind.

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Here’s another photo from Balboa Park. Here we have the Botanical Garden. Isn’t it wild? I saw everything from ferns to plants to shrubs to flowers to trees to poinsettias–you name it! Lots of the plants had labels so you could see what it was called and what country it was from. My mom and I felt like we were on the set of Jurassic Park. I was waiting for a raptor to take me down.

Anyways, there you have it! A handful of photos I was dying to share. My poor Facebook and Instagram friends are probably sick of them already (sorry guys!) but I had to post them. Bloggers always share vacation photos, right?