Category Archives: City Guides

A Walt Disney World Bachelorette Weekend

My high school friend Ally is the queen of all things Disney World. Not only has she planned several girls getaways to the Orlando theme parks, including most recently her friend Shelly’s bachelorette bash (Shelly Cinderelly! How cute, right?), she even spent her honeymoon on an all-access Disney adventure. So she was the absolute perfect person to share her tips for planning the perfect Walt Disney World bachelorette weekend in Orlando, Florida.

Plan the perfect Walt Disney World bachelorette weekend with these tips and recommendations

Ally’s Tips for the Perfect Disney Experience

1. Stay on property. Logistics can be a nightmare with a big group, but Disney makes it effortless. There are plenty of hotels for all budgets, so take advantage of the free parking and public transportation (buses/trams) offered by on-park resorts. You also have access to other resorts and their amenities.

Plan the perfect Walt Disney World bachelorette weekend with these tips and recommendations

2. Purchase park passes early. Disney offers a complimentary FastPass service once you purchase your tickets or book a room at a Disney resort. FastPasses allow you to reserve an entrance time for top attractions or character greetings and can be a real time saver. Your attraction choices can be selected 90 days out from your trip. By pre-booking rides/attractions that are of interest to your party, you can plan the rest of the day around the “must-do’s.”

Plan the perfect Walt Disney World bachelorette weekend with these tips and recommendations

3. Customize your Magic Bands. These bracelets act as your ticket and room key, and allow for in-park charging to a room account if you stay on property. Plus, they can be customized! There are a few Etsy shops with cute monogramming options (like these glitter ones or these Minnie Mouse ones) or you can find bridal party decals or patterned decals like these Lily Pulitzer-inspired ones. The Disney store also has buttons you can add to make these accessories your own.

4. Make reservations for great dining experiences! The Disney restaurants both in the park and at their on-property hotels are amazing and cannot be passed up for stand-in-line, quick-service fare. Take a breather from the crowds and schedule some down time for your meals. Be quick, though! High-demand restaurants such as Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table often book up 4 to 6 months in advance.
Plan the perfect Walt Disney World bachelorette weekend with these tips and recommendations

5. Meet Characters: These meet ‘n’ greets aren’t just for kids! Take time to look up when your favorite characters will be out and get in line early or FastPass to meet them. It’s worth it and makes the Disney magic come alive! You can also look up rare character appearances, such as Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, Drizella, Gaston and many others. You may even spot a villain or two….or a fairy godmother!

6. Download the Disney app. You will be glad you did. The app allows you to see the wait times of attractions, the location of bathrooms, and much, much more! It’s a lifesaver!

Plan the perfect Walt Disney World bachelorette weekend with these tips and recommendations

7. Let your Disney side show: Embrace everything Disney. Bring out your inner princesses with tu-tus or a matching color scheme. Get ears for your party! Matching shirts? Yes! Do not be afraid to go all out. It’s Disney, after all.

Ally’s Picks for Lodging and Dining

Lodging:

Budget: Rent a camp site and go glamping at Fort Wilderness, or savor the flavor of NOLA at Port Orleans-Riverside/French Quarter.

Spend: The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a treat (hello, animals outside your room!) or try The Beach/Yacht Clubs (they have sand in the pool and water slides for that oceanside feel).

Splurge: The Polynesian will make you feel like you’ve escaped to the Maldives with its waterside villas, or try The Grand Floridian for a Victorian-style trip back in time or The Contemporary for modern upscale luxury.

Dining:

Budget: The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom), Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios), La Hacienda de San Angel (Epcot), The Plaza (Magic Kingdom), Trader Sam’s (Polynesian) and Yak & Yeti (Animal Kingdom).

Spend: Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas), Rainforest Cafe (Disney Springs), Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom), Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge).

Splurge: California Grill (The Contemporary), Le Cellier (Epcot), Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom), Victoria & Albert’s (Grand Floridian).

A New York City Bachelorette Weekend Guide

A New York City Bachelorette Weekend Guide

Where to Stay

Places We Love: The Gramercy Park Hotel is the height of New York luxury. Each room is unique, the design a mix of bold modern colors and fabulous antique furnishings. The location is also ideal, halfway between classic uptown tourist destinations and trendy downtown shopping and restaurants. Bonus: Your room reservation includes exclusive access to Gramercy Park, the only private park in New York. Only residents of the buildings surrounding the park have keys to enter. Residents and you, that is.

A very cool midtown hotel option is the Dream Hotel, a super-modern urban escape. We especially love their indoor/outdoor terrace bar. We also love The Standard and The Maritime Hotel—both hotels have spectacular views and are surrounded by stellar dining options. The Westin Grand Central is a good “budget” option (budget being a relative term in New York hotels).

My Warning To You: The lowest priced hotels are found in Times Square or around Penn Station, but be warned that these areas do not have a lot of character. This is commercial New York at its worst: cheap souvenir shops, TGIFridays and Red Lobster, and sidewalk hawkers trying to sell you tickets for a bus tour. Before booking in these locations, just know you’ll need to hop a cab or on the subway for authentic New York dining and entertainment.

Get Your Shop On

Soho Boutiques: Browse a mixture of boutiques and mega-stores in Soho. A stop into TopShop’s American flagship store is a must, and Bloomingdale’s Off the Rack is a little more manageable than the flagship uptown (though that’s worth a stop too). But Soho is known for its smaller designer boutiques and offbeat specialty stores. We love Alice and Olivia, & Other Stories and American Two Shot. Housingworks Bookstore is a cozy place to browse (I’ve found signed first editions tucked into the shelves) and the MOMA Design Store carries unique home goods and affordable art prints. Brunch at Balthazar is a total treat, though reservations are a must at this popular spot.

Fifth Avenue Spree: Shopping on Fifth Avenue can often entail more browsing than buying, but it’s still a great classic New York experience (and there are affordable purchases to be made). Stop into Tiffany’s and let her try on a few wedding bands while you oogle all the sparklies. Cartier is also pretty fabulous. Bendel’s is a great candy box of a department store that is well worth a trip. Lunch at the 8th floor cafe at Saks Fifth Avenue can be nice (the views are great) and Le Train Bleu at Bloomingdale’s is also pretty cool—it looks like a 19th century French dining car. And since you’re experiencing New York like a local, don’t be afraid to take advantage of personal shoppers or shopping concierges where you can check your coats and leave your bags while you browse.

Check Out a Museum

Sexy Time: Welcome to the Museum of Sex. Yep, you read that right. New York City is home to the one and only Museum of Sex, possibly the most perfect museum ever devised for a bachelorette. You might find items from their permanent collection of sex paraphanelia from over the years on display—including everything from early pornography to the latest sex toys from around the globe—or rotating exhibits, like a bouncy castle of breasts (I am not making this stuff up!).

Classical Art with a Twist: Experience the Metropolitan Museum of Art with fresh eyes on a tour with Museum Hack, a group that tailors tours to a young, modern audience. Our favorite for a bachelorette is their “Butts of the Met” tour, an exploration of the many rear ends on view in the Met’s collection. Make sure to take the elevator up to the roof deck, which hosts a sculpture exhibit in warm months. The view of Central Park and the surrounding skyscrapers is not to be missed, plus you can enjoy it with a cocktail in hand.

Visit a Park

River Views and Beer: The High Line is a park/promenade built on an old elevated train line bordering the Hudson River. Take in views of lower Manhattan and the river while strolling through beautifully designed gardens past public art pieces. There are benches for people watching and lots of food vendors along the way so you can grab an ice cream while you stroll. Hop off at 14th Street and head to The Standard Biergarten for authentic German beer, pretzels and ping-pong.

A New York City Bachelorette Weekend GuideRowboats and Tea Time: Rent rowboats in Central Park. Central Park is vast and beautiful and has so much to explore. Since your time is limited, focus on the southern end of the park, which includes the iconic lake where you can rent rowboats. Stroll down the tree-lined Mall, past the Bandshell to the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. You may catch an opera singer taking advantage of the acoustics in Bethesda arcade or a bluegrass band performing near the bandshell. Conservatory Water, the Alice in Wonderland statue, and Belvedere castle are nearby as well. Skip lunch at the Boathouse—it’s overpriced and the food is not that good. Instead, head slightly outside the park for afternoon tea at Sarabeth’s on Park Avenue South or Alice’s Tea Cup on 64th St.

Take in the view (by leaving Manhattan)

Venture to Brooklyn: Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and the city’s bridges (from the south up just remember BMW, or Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Washington Bridge). The walk along the river will take you through beautifully landscaped parks and past a few yummy food stalls (we love Luke’s Lobster in particular), as well as an antique carousel. The park is also host to outdoor movie nights, free kayaking, a pop-up swimming pool and other events in the summer, so check their website for details.

City Escape: Catch the ferry to Govenor’s Island. Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Govenor’s Island is New York’s summer playground. The ferry ride from lower Manhattan will offer great views of both the city and the Statue of Liberty and once you’re there, you’ll find a pop-up beach, public art exhibits, bike rentals and more. The island also hosts a series of festivals throughout the summer, including the Jazz Age Lawn Party.

See a Show

Broadway for Less: For affordable Broadway tickets, check out Today Tix, an app that sells Broadway tickets at considerably discounted prices. The classic answer for low-cost Broadway tickets used to be the TKTS booths at South Street Seaport or Times Square, which sell day-of half-price tickets. But waiting in line at these booths will take precious time out of your getaway weekend. The prices on the Today Tix app are just as good, if not better, minus all that time standing around.

Comedy + Concerts: If Broadway’s not her thing, try a stand-up comedy show or a concert. Comedy shows are affordable and great for parties. The most renowned comedy club in New York is Upright Citizen’s Brigade, which hosts two to three nightly shows. If you’re here in the summer, make sure to look out for the many free outdoor concerts held around the city, most notably in Central Park. You can also check out who is playing at Bowery Ballroom or Webster Hall, two downtown venues that reliably bring in great bands.

Wine and Dine

I had so much to tell you about New York dining that I wrote two full separate posts on it! You can find my guides to NYC Dining, including dinner, desserts, late-night eats and more, here and here.

A New York City Bachelorette Weekend Guide: Where to Stay, What to See and Do

A Savannah Bachelorette Weekend Guide

Savannah has so much to offer as a bachelorette destination. The city has an almost ethereal charm, from the quaint oak-filled squares and colonial mansions to the scrumptious Southern cuisine and friendly locals. Below you’ll find our recommendations for a bachelorette weekend in Savannah packed with good food, gorgeous strolls and to-go cocktails (yep, you read that right).

A Savannah Bachelorette Weekend Guide: Where to stay, eat and drink and what to do for an epic bachelorette in SavannahA Savannah Bachelorette Weekend Guide: Where to stay, eat and drink and what to do for an epic bachelorette in SavannahA Savannah Bachelorette Weekend Guide: Where to stay, eat and drink and what to do for an epic bachelorette in Savannah

For classic upscale Southern elegance, we love the Gastonian. For the budget-conscious, the Hilton Garden Inn and DoubleTree are well placed near River Street and plenty of shopping and can serve as a good home base to explore the city. For more space and a bit of local character, opt for a home rental, like this modern townhouse apartment near Forsyth Park.

Explore the Downtown Design District for the perfect mix of eclectic boutiques and galleries. As the home of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), it’s no surprise that Savannah’s shops are filled with unique jewelry, art and clothing from local designers.

Take a shopping break and savor a scoop of tutti frutti ice cream at Leopold’s, a Savannah institution. The classic soda counter has been serving up sundaes and cones for almost 100 years.

For a laid-back first night in the city, book a table at Moon River Brewing Company for casual pub food with a Southern twist. You may end up visiting an abandoned section of the brewery later if you happen to take a ghost tour…

Speaking of ghosts, we highly recommend booking a private ghost tour with Tara’s Tours. Savannah is known for being one of the most haunted cities in the country—almost every house has a resident ghoul and every local has a paranormal encounter to share. We recommend Tara’s Boos and Brews tour: Half bar crawl, half ghost tour, this is perfect for a bachelorette party. Take advantage of Savannah’s lack of open container laws by bringing along light-up to-go cups (yep, most bartenders will make you a drink in your own cup to go!).

End your first night at McDonough’s for all-night karaoke. May we suggest “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”?

Refuel after your night out by grabbing a table on the balcony at Huey’s on the River and ordering the crabcakes benedict with one of their famous Bloody Mary’s (plus a plate of pillowy beignets sprinkled in powdered sugar to share, of course).

Take a stroll. Savannah is an incredibly walkable city and the houses are arranged around lovely squares filled with trees and flowers. If you happen to be in the city at the beginning of April, do not miss the Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens.

Host a shower in Forsyth Park. The iconic fountain at the center of the park and romantic oaks dripping with Spanish moss is the perfect setting for a picnic shower.

A night out on River Street, the hub of Savannah nightlife, is a must. Start at the rooftop of the Bohemian Hotel for cocktails and tapas overlooking the river. If you’re feeling a little country line dancing, head to Saddle Bags (mechanical bull riding optional), or get your dance on at Club 309 West.

Photos courtesy of VisitSavannah. com. Images 1, 2, & 4 by Geoff L Johnson, image 3 by Dylan Wilson

A Key West Bachelorette Weekend Guide

Virginia wedding photographer Kim Stockwell is used to being behind the lens rather than at the center of the action. But for her bachelorette bash in Key West, Kim was blown away by the action-packed weekend planned by her closest friends. “Nine very important people in my life made me feel insanely loved and I am beyond grateful,” said Kim. Kim took a few moments to snap pictures of the gorgeous Florida beaches and their cute beach bungalow close to party-central Duval Street, as well as a group shot or two, which made the perfect thank-you gift to remind the girls of their weekend in the sun.

Check out Kim’s Key West bachelorette weekend agenda below to help plan your own trip to the southernmost city in the continental USA. Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography Key West Bachelorette Party Guide | Ultimate Bridesmaid | Kim Stockwell Photography

Check in to your house on Louisa Street, just a block off of Duval Street, the hub of nightlife and general revelry in Key West. This adorable cigar cottage is decorated in the quirky tropical patterns and bright colors typical of the Key West style, but the real draw is the backyard, complete with plunge pool, grill and patio setup perfect for a casual dinner. Serve drinks and dinner in the backyard one night, or for a casual dinner out, try Willie T’s.

No trip to Key West is complete without a Duval Street bar crawl. Sloppy Joe’s has a huge dance floor and Irish Kevin‘s in known for the great live music, friendly bartenders and generally fun and laid-back atmosphere. The rotating roster of performers are top notch, creating a nightly dance party. (Make sure to try the cinnamon toast crunch shooter.)

Sign up for the Fury’s Ultimate Adventure, an all-day boat trip that includes snorkeling, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking and more. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon drinks are included in the price of the tour (and the cute crewmembers are an added bonus). A great deal for everything you get!

After a day on the water, head to dinner at the Conch Republic Key West, a beautiful open-air restaurant overlooking the marina (which happens to be right next to the dock you board for the Fury tour). Be sure to try Key West specialties here, like conch fritters, mahi mahi and key lime pie.

If you’re hoping to model your Key West adventure on that season of The Real World, try Dante’s, a giant pool party complete with floating beer pong and shot skis.

Head to 801 Bourbon Bar for their world-famous drag show (it’s been running for 25 years!). This raunchy, racy show isn’t for everyone, but the right bride will have a blast. Call ahead to book a table in front and to the left of the stage, where there’s plenty of room for a large group. The bride gets in free, but the $10/person cover for the other members of your party is well worth it.

After your night out, you’ll be in need of a restorative brunch at Louie’s Backyard Afterdeck. Enjoy a mimosa and tres leches French toast on the multi-level deck overlooking the ocean.

A New York City Bachelorette Dining Guide: Part 2

NYC Bachelorette Dining Guide: Where to Eat and Drink in New York City

First up, can I just say that writing an New York City bachelorette dining guide is hard! There are so many choices and I want you to love your experience in my city. So take a look through the below, but make sure to also check out my first NYC Dining Guide! It includes many, many more recommendations.

Restaurants have to meet a few very important criteria to make this list. First, they can’t charge you crazy rates for being a large party. Some restaurant require large parties to have a set menu and buy things like “beverage packages” and meet “room minimums.” You just want to go to dinner! So if they have a policy that will end up costing you $75 a head just for the food or will force you to meet a $2500 minimum in three hours (I am not making these numbers up, they are legitimate packages I found while researching this article), they are out! Also, they have to accept reservations. If you have a group of six or more, you are just never going to get into a nice restaurant without a reservation. Not on a Saturday night. No way. Unless you wait, like, two hours. And you don’t want to do that. You have some celebrating to do!

For this list, I let myself go up a little bit on price point for you. My first list focused on restaurants where you could pretty easily get an entree for $15 and still enjoy some ambiance. This time, I’ve upped my price point to places that average around $20-$25 an entree. I’ve made sure that each of my selections still has lower-priced options, but we can look at a whole new group of restaurants if we open the price point a bit. Eating cheaply can definitely be done in New York—what’s difficult is finding cheap eats with atmosphere. Lots of incredible hole-in-the-wall joints are making amazing food in New York, but many only have counter service or have six chairs crammed up against the wall in a railroad-style eatery. They can’t accommodate a big group. Or they won’t have that urban, energetic New York atmosphere you desire. I’ve tried to pick places that deliver on atmosphere, will serve great food and can accommodate a big party with ease (no easy feat).

Also, note: Happy hour is your friend. A lot of these restaurants have considerable deals between the hours of 5 and 7pm.

Dinner Spots

Pagani: A beautiful rustic Italian restaurant with plenty of candlelight and leather banquettes perfect for seating a large group (they also have a private back room that can accommodate 13). The homemade pasta dishes are the star, like the ricciatelle with wild mushrooms and arugula ($19.50) or the gnocchi with gorgonzola and black truffle ($23).

Flex Mussels: This place focuses on doing one thing really really well: mussels. The menu offers over 20 preparations, from the classic white white with garlic and herbs ($21) to thai flavored with a curry coconut broth, lemongrass and kaffir lime ($24) or decadent Maine lobster with bacon and a creamy chowder-like broth ($26). And yes, they do offer a few non-mussel dishes (helpfully listed on their “Not Mussels” menu), and a good happy hour menu. Save room for dessert and try the key lime pie in a glass, a deep fried whoopee pie (sinful but delicious) or a selection from their donut “collection.”

Bacaro: The ambiance of this little Italian spot is pitch-perfect for a bachelorette party. A flight of stairs leads down to a wine cellar–like dining room lit by romantic candlelight. The location is a bit off the beaten path, tucked away in Chinatown, but a quick cab ride will bring you to the heart of nightlife just a few blocks north in the Lower East Side. They’re great with groups and the food is lovely and quite affordable—braised pork shank with polenta will run you $20 or try a whole wheat pasta with duck ragu for $17.

The Mermaid Inn: The perfect spot for the seafood-loving bachelorette, The Mermaid Inn feels like a New England home with a bit of New York City flair. A daily happy hour from 5-7pm offers $1 oysters, $7 specialty cocktails like a Mermaid Mary and a menu of delicious snacks, like shrimp corn dogs ($3) or fish tacos ($3.50). The dinner menu is a bit pricier, with entrees like linguini and clams running $24, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a seafood restaurant with this high quality at a lower price.

Burger and Barrel: The ambiance of this winepub is warm, urban chic, with dark wood booths, brick walls and low lighting. Entrees like duck lasagna or Southern fried chicken will set you back $20, but you can also easily make a meal for the table with their sharing plates, which include things like a kale Caesar salad, chicken lollipops with Asian BBQ sauce or rock shrimp hush puppies for around $14 each.

Momofuku Noodle Bar: OK, I cheated a little on this one. But Momofuku is a New York institution and a dining experience not to be missed. The restaurant is small and incredibly popular (for good reason), but reservations are not offered…unless you order the fried chicken. Yep, the only way to get a reservation is to order the Korean fried chicken dinner ($135, including a few sides, but no drinks or other dishes—those will cost extra). Since the meal will feed up to 8 people, the cost isn’t prohibitive, so I let this one slip onto the list. So sue me. It’s that good.

Unique Drinks

The Frying Pan: Set on a barge floating in the Hudson River (docked next to a historic ship that you can also drink aboard), The Frying Pan is the perfect place to spend a sunny summer afternoon. Order a bucket of cold Coronas and some Old Bay French fries and enjoy the sunshine and the breeze off the river.

The Met Rooftop: Want a rooftop bar without the a hefty price tag or bottle service? Or just a fun way to end your visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Grab a drink on the roof! Open during the summer, the roof features a sculpture installation plus stunning views of Central Park and midtown Manhattan. Sunset is the perfect time to visit.

Tequila Park: You like the name already, am I right? Located in a courtyard of the Hudson Hotel, Tequila Park looks like the coolest little Mexican eatery you’ve encountered. With ivy climbing the brick walls and plenty of inviting seating, this is the perfect place to kick back with a margarita and a few yummy and inventive tacos.

Gallows Green: From the folks behind Sleep No More, an interactive theater experience unlike any other, this bar is a bit of immersive theater in and of itself. Take the elevator to the top floor and suddenly find yourself outside a log cabin surrounded by a pine forest. Inside you’ll find bunk beds that serve as seating, communal tables, plush armchairs, and an outdoor patio under the stars. Truly transporting.

Yummy Treats

Momofuku Milk Bar: Oh man, this place. They do such crazy/wonderful things! Their inventive desserts remind you of childhood favorites but are totally grown up. Best known for their crack pie and compost cookies, which must be tried to be comprehended, they also mix up a mean frozen yogurt and naked cakes in unique flavors like cereal milk (way more yummy than it sounds). Not a sit-down joint, but pick up for a celebration in the hotel.

Dylan’s Candy Bar: Worth a stop for sheer color and sweetness overload. Dylan’s is the ultimate candy store, packed with every sweet treat imaginable, from nostalgic favorites to new creations. You can also hold private events here, making it a great location for a sweet-themed shower. Or stop in at the Candy Bar for a candy-themed cocktail, like a Pop Rocks Explosion made with vodka, melon liquor, lime and orange juices and, yes, Pop Rocks!

Sprinkles: Two words: Cupcake ATM. Worth it for the Instagram alone, am I right?

NYC Bachelorette Dining Guide

Camping in the Catskills

Andrew and I both love camping, so we’ve made it a tradition to go at least once a year. For the past three years, our destination has been New York’s Catskills region, in particular the town of Saugerties. We love the close proximity to New York City—about a two hour drive—which allows us to get away for a long weekend without much fuss. Here I’ve put together a little guide of some of our favorite things to do in the lower Hudson Valley.

Campgrounds

First, Andrew and I are “car campers,” meaning that we don’t hike out to remote campsites with all our worldly goods on our backs. Granted, we do hike (take the train) out of New York City with all our worldly goods to pick up a car in New Jersey, but we can’t say that really counts as “roughing it” no matter how difficult it is to carry that stuff up and down the subway stairs. But despite being car campers, we still like our camping experience to be as close to “alone in the wilderness” as we can get. We like heavily wooded campgrounds where the sites are pretty well spaced. We do not like loud groups of college kids arguing over the rules of beer pong at 3am. (Yes, this makes me sound old. I accept it.)

We’ve stayed at both the KOA and Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds in Saugerties, and Rip Van Winkle is our favorite by far. The grounds are pretty, with a winding gravel road that leads through a fairly heavily wooded forest and past a creek (we like the creekside sites the best). The tent sites are huge. There’s also a pool, a nicely stocked camp store, a lake with paddle boats, trout fishing, laundry facilities and free coffee. The staff is welcoming and really does a great job keeping the bathrooms and showers clean. Also, if your attempts at campfire cooking totally fail, there’s an Italian restaurant in town that will deliver to your site. (For the record, we have never done this. We did once get trapped in a crazy bad storm though and have to eat cold rolls and an entire box of cookies in our car because our tent sprung a substantial leak. Needless to say we have invested in better gear since then.)

Hiking

Hiking Trails in the Catskills RegionGiant Ledge: This intermediate 3.5-mile out-and-back hike starts off with a fairly steep trek up rocky terrain in a beautiful wood. I was surprised how strenuous it was because I’m usually good with ascending, but your payoff comes quick. After only 1.5 miles, you’ll find yourself on level ground with access to a series of open ledges with dazzling views. The view is amazing and you feel like you’re on the edge of the world due to the steep drop-off from the ledges. We visited in the fall and the autumn colors were breathtaking. One nice thing about the hike is that the journey up is just as lovely as the view at the top.

Overlook Mountain, Catskills RegionOverlook Mountain: This 5-mile out-and-back hike has a few very unique features that make it well worth adding to you list. One is an abandoned hotel about 2 miles into the hike. The hotel burned down not once but twice, but a good portion of the stone walls remain. We happened to hike it on a misty day and the ruins were totally eerie in the filtered light. At the top of the mountain you’ll find a fire tower that is open to the public, so the brave can get an even better panoramic view from the top. My one critique of this hike is that the trail up isn’t that scenic or enjoyable. Most of the trek up is on a wide gravel track without much wildlife to enjoy. The hotel and fire tower are so cool though, that it makes the uninspiring first leg worth it.

Sights

Storm King Art Center, Hudson ValleyThis year we spent a half a day at Storm King Art Center. This massive outdoor sculpture park is sited on 500 rolling acres, including open meadows and shaded woods, and you’ll find over 100 modern works of sculpture dotted throughout. It is absolutely a whole new experience to view art like this. You can see some pieces from very far away and really appreciate the forms they create against the landscape, and how they change in different lights. Then, as you get closer, you experience their true scale and start to pick up on the details of the work. We also saw some wildlife around the park: a mother deer with her youngster and a woodchuck (fun fact: also called a groundhog or even a whistle pig, depending on where you live). Highly recommend this as a stop on your itinerary.

Saugerties Lighthouse, Catskills RegionAnother cool attraction in the area is the Saugerties Lighthouse. Now operating as a bed and breakfast, it’s only accessible by boat or a walking trail—but, be warned! The trail can only be accessed at low tide. When the tide rises, access from the mainland is cut off and the lighthouse finds itself on an island. Check the tide timetable on their website to plan your visit and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sunny dock surrounded by the Hudson River.

The area is ripe with orchards and farms, perfect for a quick apple-picking stop or a bit of farmer’s market shopping.

Food
Andrew and I always make it a point to cook out on the fire when we’re camping, so we haven’t eaten out a lot during our stay in the area. That said, we do have a favorite lunch spot: the Dutch Ale House in downtown Saugerties. We stop here every year because I’ve become addicted to one item on their menu: The Pilgrim Sandwich. This decadent sandwich, inspired by Thanksgiving, can really only be eaten once a year, but it is so, so worth it. House roasted turkey, stuffing and provolone cheese are pressed onto marble rye bread and accompanied by two to-die-for condiments: cranberry relish and gravy. It is insane. Insanity in sandwich form. But I love it so much. Basically it is Thanksgiving dinner in one bite. Ugh, now I totally want one.

Bar Harbor Weekend Getaway in Maine

Andrew and I first vacationed in Maine in 2013 and fell in love with this beautiful island. We’ve been back every year since and feel like Mt. Desert Island is our home away from home now. We even got married there. Here are a few of our recommendations for things to do (and for more ideas, check out Our Acadia).

Where to Stay

Cranberry Lodge at the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine

The Asticou Inn

Andrew and I love the Asticou Inn—we got married there, after all. The inn overlooks Northeast Harbor and has an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court. It has forty-eight rooms, and each room is a bit different—some include sitting rooms or claw-foot bathtubs and both water and country views are available. There are many two-room suites with sofa beds that are great for families or groups of friends who want to split lodging costs. We love the upstairs suite in the Blue Spruce house and the downstairs suite in Bird Bank, as well as the rooms with balconies in the main inn. One downside to the Asticou is that it’s not walkable to anything. Expect a 20 minute drive to restaurants and other activities.

Atlantic Oceanside Hotel

Our top choice for those on a budget! You will get a great price and not feel like you skimped at all. The Atlantic Oceanside is an oceanfront hotel with an outdoor and indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi. It’s located a 15 minute walk from Bar Harbor or a 5 minute drive. The rooms in the Atlantic View building are our favorite as each has its own little porch.

Hearthside Inn

This classic B&B is located right in the center of Bar Harbor (with parking!), which is a great benefit for evenings spent in town. The home is spacious and cozy and hosts Brian and Catherine are so warm and friendly. Our favorite feature was the outdoor patio—we ate breakfast out there every day and enjoyed a bottle of wine under the twinkle lights at night. Even though we have been to Bar Harbor many times before, Brian still introduced us to a few new things, like a very helpful app with trail maps and info that can be accessed without cell service (Chimani Acadia, a must download!).

Acadia National Park

The Ocean Path in Acadia National Park, Maine | Bar Harbor Travel Guide

This beautiful national park is what first drew us to this part of Maine. Encompassing over 30,000 acres on Mt. Desert Island, the park has something to offer for everyone. Here’s my recommendation for a quick tour of the park’s highlights, which can be done in a couple hours and is accessible for all young and old.

A drive around the Park Loop Road will let you visit many of the park’s most famous sites, including the Jordan Pond House, Cadillac Mountain and Thunder Hole. The loop was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the man who designed Central Park.

Start your tour at Jordan Pond, a beautiful lake surrounded by the Acadia mountains. Lots of day hikes start near Jordan Pond and there’s also an easy path around the lake perfect for any age (though it’s 3.5 miles long, you can easily do a small portion of it and still get the effect of the lake).

Next stop: Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern seaboard and the first place that the sunrise is visible in the United States. Cadillac Mountain is one of the few peaks accessible by car, so even non-hikers can enjoy the view. There’s a short half-mile loop around the summit that you can take to enjoy the panoramic views, or embark on the complete 3.5-mile ascent if you have a half day to spare.

After your ascent to the top of Cadillac Mountain (by car or on foot), take the road toward Sand Beach to see Thunder Hole and the rocky coastline of Maine. At Thunder Hole, the waves crash against the shore, creating its namesake sound. The Ocean Path runs for 2 miles along the eastern shore of the park and the views are spectacular (the path is level and easy for all ages, but there’s plenty of opportunity to scramble on the cliffs for the more daring). If you follow the Ocean Path around the southern bend of the island, you’ll come to Otter Point, one of my favorite spots on the island and a great place to explore the tide pools or just take in the gorgeous view of the ocean and the Cranberry Islands.

Hiking

Some of my favorite intermediate hikes in Acadia have been Penobscot Mountain, Beech Mountain and Acadia Mountain. With 24 mountains to choose from, selecting a hike can be challenging, but the best website we have found for hiking information in Acadia is Joe’s Guide to Acadia National Park. For brave, experienced hikers, The Precipice and The Beehive are famous for their iron rungs and handrails for exposed scrambling. Beginners and kids can enjoy the Jordan Pond Loop and Ocean Path with ease. Any mountaintop you choose will afford amazing views of the mountains, lakes and sea and islands surrounding Mt. Desert Island.

Other Activities

Canoeing in Long Pond 

Canoe rentals are available at National Park Canoe & Kayak Rental on Long Pond. For reasons unknown, all bodies of water on the island are referred to as “ponds,” but this is definitely a misnomer—we paddled for four hours, surrounded by mountains and trees the vibrant green of spring and barely saw half of the lake. Look out for bald eagles!

Asticou Azalea Gardens

asticou gardens

Located right across the street from the Asticou Inn, these beautiful gardens are definitely worth a stroll.

Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf

Do you like mini golf? We do! I think it’s probably because there really aren’t any mini golf course in New York City, so we are now mildly obsessed with them. This one is especially fun, with lots of caves and waterfalls—one hole is even on a pirate ship.

Whale Watching or Wildlife Cruise

Wildlife and whale watching cruises are available daily from Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor. The Sea Princess has several daily nature cruise out of Northeast Harbor, while Acadia Nature Cruises and the Downeast Windjammer Cruise sail out of Bar Harbor.

Sea Kayaking 

Kayak rentals and guided tours are available through National Park Sea Kayak Tours, Maine Sea Kayaking and Coastal Kayaking Tours.

Restaurants

Beals Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, Maine

Here are some of our favorite spots on the island to grab a bite.

Beal’s Lobster Pier

Hands down our favorite lobster pound (and we’ve sampled many). Beal’s is located in Southwest Harbor on a working lobster pier, so you can watch the lobster boats come in while you eat on the picnic tables or covered porch. If you’re looking for a classic lobster roll or whole lobster dinner (or lunch), this is our recommendation.

Seafood pizza at Quietside Cafe in Southwest Harbor | Bar Harbor Weekend Guide

Quietside Cafe

Known for their pizza, ice cream and blueberry pie that’s absolutely bursting with fruit. Can’t imagine not having lobster at every single meal? No worries—order the lobster pizza! You can check out some of the cute artist shops in Southwest Harbor after your meal.

McKay’s Public House

One of our favorite places for dinner in Bar Harbor. The food is very fresh and the menu is creative, with lots of seasonal specials. Plus, they have a beautiful garden seating area. If the short rib nachos are on the menu that night, do not make the mistake Andrew did of eating the whole pickled habenero pepper. You will regret it.

Side Street Cafe

An all-around great casual dining restaurant with friendly staff and a nice bar. Try the lobster mac and cheese with one of their signature margaritas (daily happy hour from 3–6pm)!

Project Social

This Bar Harbor newcomer has a modern, eclectic vibe and serves a diverse menu of tapas and crepes with specialty cocktails. They have a great bar as well.

Bars

You would like a cold beverage? No problem. Maine is a great beer-brewing state. Some of our favorite local brews come from the Atlantic Brewing Company, Sea Dog, Allagash and Shipyard. Maine is also famous for its blueberries, so don’t be surprised to see blueberry beers, blueberry margaritas and more.

The Thirsty Whale Tavern

Great casual bar and grill in Bar Harbor. There’s a small back garden and the food is good as well.

Lompoc Cafe

This casual bar also regularly books music acts. Plus, there’s an outdoor courtyard with bocce ball (and great pizzas too).

Cottage Street Pub 

Cool ambiance with unique cocktails. Here’s where to try that blueberry mojito or the bar’s signature cocktail, Dirty Water.

One-Off Pub

We never fail to make a new friend when we visit this small pub.

Shops in Bar Harbor

Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium

Delicious ice cream (including, yes, a lobster flavor) plus homemade fudge and nostalgic candies.

Acadia Country Store

This is our favorite store in downtown Bar Harbor for Maine-made goods, like blueberry jam, maple syrup and popover mix.

Albert Meadow Antiques

We are not even sure if this shop has a name. You’ll find it down a side street off the main drag, but the antique selection is excellent. Look for the house with an Antiques and Jewelry sign on the side.

Christmas Vacation Shop

For the ornament lovers out there, this is a must-stop.

In The Woods

Hand carved spoons, bowls, toys, birdhouses, chess sets, canoes, cutting boards—you name it, they have it. Plus, a giant rocking horse.