9 Tips to Make the Most of Oahu

It's hard to believe it's already been a year since we visited Hawaii for a friend's wedding. He's since moved to San Diego, but I think all our hearts stayed in Honolulu. Here are nine standouts from our four days in Oahu. 

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1. Stay at the Modern Honolulu, or at least visit the pool bar after sunset for sleek cocktails.

Source:  Modern Honolulu

2. Get your morning caffeine fix at Gorilla in the Cafe, right along Kalakaua Avenue.

3. And grab a healthy and fresh brunch at Heavenly.

Source:  Brownie Bites

4. Ignore the signs and make the Shire-like hike to Lulumahu Falls

5. Rent a Jeep (or scooter if you're nuts) for a trip around the island -- my favorite scenery is just a 20-minute drive past Diamond Head. 

6. Take the Island Magic sunset booze cruise (and be on time!). 

7. Spend an evening wandering the Royal Hawaiian (Mai Tai Bar is adorable!). 

8. Think twice about fancy SPAM appetizers. I just can't get into SPAM.

9. You're in Hawaii -- embrace your inner tourist and make the stop at Duke's. It's famous for a reason!

Source:  Putovanja.info

Best Places to Relax in the Great Outdoors

American summers are synonymous with the outdoors. From baseball games, to farmer's markets, to balmy evening street fests, the best things to do aren't far from patios and parks.

I've recently discovered a love for hiking, biking and enjoying the truly natural side of nature. Outdoor activities are exhilarating, especially in a beautiful backdrop. That said, sometimes you just want to spend an afternoon basking in nature's beauty -- no sweating required. These four spots are great places to do just that.

Watkins Glen, New York

Located in the Finger Lakes region of upper New York, Watkins Glen boasts an impressive state park with beautiful walking trails winding through a network of waterfalls. The region is well known for its wineries, so you can easily pass a few days alternating between easy nature walks in the park and long lunches on winery verandas. Don't miss: Wagner Vineyards.

Ridgedale, Missouri

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Big Cedar Lodge sits on a peaceful lakefront stretch in Ridgedale, just outside of Branson. The conservation-conscious resort blends a perfect balance of outdoor activities with upscale amenities, making it a great place for family gatherings with mass appeal. You can be as active or relaxed as you want, and with such gorgeous views you don't feel guilty spending a whole day just lounging by the pool. 

Shenandoah, Virginia

On a family vacation through Virginia to South Carolina, we stopped for a night in Shenandoah National Park and stayed in a cabin at the popular Big Meadows Lodge. Talk about a perfect outdoor retreat! The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are unmatched, especially when followed by a laid-back evening roasting s'mores around the campfire. 

  • Bonus Tip! Hiking is a must, and it's even better when you plan ahead (read: wear the right shoes). These five hiking tips from Colorful Places are a good checklist to make the most of your exploration. 

Devil's Lake, Wisconsin

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Back in middle school, our brave teaches packed the entire seventh grade class into buses and spent two nights camping in Devils Lake State Park. With easy hiking trails, a large beach and lots of camping sites, this park is a great weekend getaway for outdoor enthusiasts.

Vail: A City Girl's Guide to the Mountains

I visited Vail last year smack dab in the middle of dead season. I planned a last-minute getaway with a girlfriend, right after the summer rush cleared out and still before the snow would fly in November. So, what do two city girls do in a virtually empty tourist mecca for three cool, but not yet cold, late-October nights? Plenty, as it turns out.

Vail circa 1960's. Source:  CN Traveler

Vail circa 1960's. Source: CN Traveler

We spent the bulk of our trip eating, shopping, cocktailing, repeat. Best of all, we had the pleasure of getting to know the fine folks who call Vail home. As two girls who enjoy a mountain view, but not exactly a mountain retreat (spa over slopes any day, my friends), fall in Vail is the perfect time for no wait at the best restaurants, mingling with boutique shop owners and navigating the (easier) hiking trails, albeit quite muddy.

So here are my picks of what to see and do in Vail, whether you're there for a winter wonderland or the middle of mud season. 

Vail for the Thirty Something:

Considering we aren't exactly nature enthusiasts, I was very proud we actually made it on a mountain hike. Vail looks beautiful even in that awkward late-fall, pre-winter stretch, so I can't wait to check it out with snow on the ground next time.

Considering we aren't exactly nature enthusiasts, I was very proud we actually made it on a mountain hike. Vail looks beautiful even in that awkward late-fall, pre-winter stretch, so I can't wait to check it out with snow on the ground next time.

We stayed at a timeshare resort right next to the  Betty Ford Alpine Gardens  and less than a five minute walk into the heart of town. It was perfect for what we needed, but if you're really looking for luxury spring for the  Arrabelle at Vail Square  -- so beautiful with an authentic ski lodge feel. 

We stayed at a timeshare resort right next to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and less than a five minute walk into the heart of town. It was perfect for what we needed, but if you're really looking for luxury spring for the Arrabelle at Vail Square -- so beautiful with an authentic ski lodge feel. 

We started every morning off with a stop at  Yeti's Grind , located right in the heart of the village. It's got quite the reputation amongst the locals we met, and for good reason. I stuck with plain old brewed coffee every day, but they have an extensive menu of specialty brews, including rotating features. 

We started every morning off with a stop at Yeti's Grind, located right in the heart of the village. It's got quite the reputation amongst the locals we met, and for good reason. I stuck with plain old brewed coffee every day, but they have an extensive menu of specialty brews, including rotating features. 

Navigating the hills on  Berrypicker . 

Navigating the hills on Berrypicker

The view from the top... or maybe almost halfway there.

The view from the top... or maybe almost halfway there.

For lunch, check out  Sweet Basil , located in the heart of Vail Village. It's consistently recognized as one of the best restaurants in Vail, and I can taste why. Try the Winter Squash Soup & the Duck Liver Bruschetta.

For lunch, check out Sweet Basil, located in the heart of Vail Village. It's consistently recognized as one of the best restaurants in Vail, and I can taste why. Try the Winter Squash Soup & the Duck Liver Bruschetta.

Babbling brooks, covered bridges, mountain air. Vail exudes a luxurious relaxation -- the perfect blend of rustic and chic. 

Babbling brooks, covered bridges, mountain air. Vail exudes a luxurious relaxation -- the perfect blend of rustic and chic. 

Just a short walk away, Lionshead Village feels one part more causal than Vail Village, another part equally upscale. We found tons of cute shops, but I'll give a nod to the Vail side of the mountain for better food and drink.

Just a short walk away, Lionshead Village feels one part more causal than Vail Village, another part equally upscale. We found tons of cute shops, but I'll give a nod to the Vail side of the mountain for better food and drink.

Mountain Standard  was easily the stand-out dinner of our trip. It's one of the best designed restaurants in Vail Village, and everything from the meat to produce to cocktail ingredients is sourced locally. Talking about cocktails, their  drink program  is outstanding -- for something sweet, go with the Otoño Pina. For smoky, try the Smoke and Mirrors. 

Mountain Standard was easily the stand-out dinner of our trip. It's one of the best designed restaurants in Vail Village, and everything from the meat to produce to cocktail ingredients is sourced locally. Talking about cocktails, their drink program is outstanding -- for something sweet, go with the Otoño Pina. For smoky, try the Smoke and Mirrors. 

No wonder we loved The George so much. For an apres ski evening reminiscent of your college years, start the night off at  The Shakedown  for some lively live music, followed by a nightcap at The George. Apparently it's a favorite of the  Chicago Blackhawks  -- which explains Kane's signed jersey in the lounge!

No wonder we loved The George so much. For an apres ski evening reminiscent of your college years, start the night off at The Shakedown for some lively live music, followed by a nightcap at The George. Apparently it's a favorite of the Chicago Blackhawks -- which explains Kane's signed jersey in the lounge!