Beginner’s Guide to Austin, TX and Oklahoma City, OK

Beginner’s Guide to Austin, TX and Oklahoma City, OK

When I started looking at all of the places I have left to travel to I realized that I haven’t been to the Southern States, and I decided to ease myself into venturing to this new area of the country by visiting one of my best friends in Oklahoma City (OKC). I had already been to OKC before, but that was two years ago, and a lot can change in two years. We figured out that neither of us had been to Austin, TX (ATX), so we decided that I would fly to OKC and then we would road trip down to ATX. I’ve always liked road trips, and then it allows you to hang out with a friend and see new parts of the country.

Day 1
When we first arrived in Austin, we checked into our Airbnb- I think that Airbnb’s are a great way to see a city and interact with local residents. After we settled in we headed over to Uchi, for a delicious sushi dinner. We started off the meal with drinks and for our main course we decided to get the signature tasting option- it is five courses which is a good amount split between two people. This allowed us to try a lot of different things. To start off we tried was the Hirame Usuzukuri, which is flounder with candied quinoa, and olive oil. The second course was the Machi Cure, which is smoked yellowtail, yucca crisp, marcona almond, and Asian pear. For the next course, we had the Maguro & Goat Cheese, which is one of the most unique sushi dishes that I have ever had. Then we had the Hamachi Nabe, which is yellowtail, koshihikari rice, soy broth, and an egg yolk. To conclude our dining experience, we had the Walu Walu which is oak-grilled escolar, yuzupon, candied citrus, and myoga. The food was delicious, well prepared, and truly unique. I think that Uchi has some of the best sushi I have ever had, and the unique dishes makes it worth the price.

After dinner, we went back to our Airbnb to relax and plan for the next day.

Day 2
To start off the day we had a relaxing morning and a quick breakfast and then headed downtown to the Austin Visitors Center. We walked around the center and got to learn more about the city, and then we boarded a bus for the Austin in 90 minutes tour. Some things that you see on the guided bus tour are the 360 Scenic Overlook, Graffiti Park at Castle Hills, Bullock Texas State History Museum, and UT- Austin.

Later on, in the day we had an early dinner and did a Bat Cruise. Fun Fact: The Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. During the Bat cruise you get to experience all of the bats leaving the bridge to go find dinner as the sun sets. It is possibly one of the coolest thing you’ll experience in Austin and I would never have guessed that so many bats could fit under the bridge!

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After the cruise we headed to the “Dirty Sixth” or 6th street to go listen to some live music and enjoy a drink. Eventually we wanted a snack so we decided to head to Voodoo Doughnut Austin, and I got a Maple Bacon donut. It was tasty, and I was excited to try Voodoo because it is originally from Portland, OR and I was going there in a few weeks, so it was like a mini preview of Portland.

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Day 3
After our long day 2, we decided to sleep in a little and then grab breakfast at Whole Foods. Now I know that sounds funny, but considering that Whole Foods was founded in Austin and the original location has a lot of eateries, so we figured it was a good way to see the store and grab breakfast. I went to Taco Alley and got a breakfast burrito and it was divine.

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The next activity for the day was to go on the Deep Eddy Distillery tour. We got the tickets that have the shuttle to and from, so we avoided drinking and driving. The ticket is $25, and it included the round-trip shuttle ride, the tour, a cocktail and 20% off all merchandise. I really enjoyed learning about how they make their vodka and eating and drinking after the tour. They have some food trucks there, so you can get snacks while drinking and I obviously had to get BBQ. It is definitely a fun place to go, and it would be a great place to spend an afternoon with friends.

Once we got back to downtown Austin, we headed to the Roaring Fork for dinner. I got the Cedar Planked Salmon- its oven roasted with Teriyaki BBQ sauce and a Chilled Green Bean Salad. It was the perfect meal after spending a lot of time outside in the heat.

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After dinner we headed back to the Airbnb to hang out and go to bed early. Since we were heading back to OKC early in the morning to beat traffic.

Day 4
After a 4-hour drive, we arrived back in OKC and it felt great to get out of the car. We relaxed, ate dinner, and then we went to the OKCLA game (OKCLA is the minor league team for the Los Angeles Dodgers). I love baseball, so it was fun to get to see a good minor league team play.

Day 5
After a good night’s sleep, we woke up and went to breakfast at The Red Cup. I got a Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich and a Chai tea to drink. It was the perfect breakfast for a hot day. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant and all of the art.

After breakfast we took a water taxi ride around downtown and we got to see some murals and sculptures.

For lunch we went to Big Truck Tacos, and it was amazing! I got the Okie-Wahoo and Rita’s Chicken Tacos. It’s an affordable and delicious place- highly recommend if you’re ever in OKC!

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Once we were done eating, then it was time for me to head to the airport and go back to LA. It was a great trip to Austin and OKC, and I definitely want to return to both cities.

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17 Things I Learned in 2017

17 Things I Learned in 2017

This year I worked really hard to work on myself and I set goals that I thought would be achievable. Here’s what I’ve learned from setting my 2017 Goals:

  1. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals actually work. S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. I learned this acronym in college and I applied it more to academics, but never to life. When I made my goals for 2017, I applied the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals to them because I wanted to make sure I could achieve them.
  2. Accountability is key. I don’t think I would have maintained my exercise routine without having it in my calendar, receiving reminders, and being charged if I cancelled a class too late. Also, sharing your goals with people is a good way to be held accountable.
  3. Traveling is a great way to learn more about yourself. Whether you want to learn more about yourself or other cultures, you will learn something new about yourself on each trip you take.
  4. One of my big goals was to learn how to budget more and actually stick to that budget. I found that apps really didn’t help me achieve this goal, so at the beginning of the month I’ve started writing out my expenses for the month, the days I get paid, and the amount I get paid to figure out how to manage my spending for the month.
  5. It is important to keep learning. Taking classes through UCLA Extension has been one of the best things I decided to do this year. I’ve loved what I’m learning and it’s been one of the more enjoyable things I’ve done this year.
  6. Setting goals related to exercise should be focused on seeing what your body can do and not just weight loss. When I initially set my goal of getting better at cardio, the real goal was to lose weight. A few months into the year, I made the mental shift to focus on pushing my body more vs. focusing on weight loss, and I accomplished more than I ever thought I would. I ran a mile faster than I’d ever run before- 12 minutes! Which to some is a bad time, but for me that broke a 13-year record! Due to my mental shift, I was able to accomplish my cardio goal and achieve my secondary goal of losing weight.
  7. Your body can do more than you think. I know this is related to #6, but it’s definitely a lesson I learned. Up until this past year, I had never really lifted weights. I had used little weights in PT or a gym class, but never truly lifted weights. This year I have learned how to lift weights and I’ve increased the amount of weight I can lift throughout the year. It’s been nice to see that I’m able to do this because I’ve had shoulder and neck issues.
  8. Cooking is a lot easier than you think. I usually get overwhelmed by cooking a meal, but recently I’ve started being creative in the kitchen and created my own recipes. I’ve actually found this process to be fun, and I’d never had that experience before. An example of this is my obsession with making a DELICIOUS egg sandwich.The-Cross-Country-Millennial-How-to-Make-an-Egg-Sandwich
  9. Eating out or ordering in usually isn’t as good as you think it’ll be. The more I ate out this year, the less I enjoyed it. I would go to some of my favorite places and I just didn’t like it or I felt sick afterwards; which is obviously not a reaction you want to have. I definitely think there needs to be a balance between eating out/ordering in and cooking at home.
  10. Find things that you love outside of work. This for me has been key- without this blog I wouldn’t have a creative outlet and work would be my life.
  11. Be open to exploring new places. Whether you’re exploring a brand-new country or city or walking around where you live and you stumble upon a new place, you should be open to trying new things. This is how I created my Ktown Hidden Gems series- it simply happened because I started walking around where I live.
  12. Stand up for what you believe in. This applies to politics, issues at work, with your friends- you get the point. This is an important skill to have and it applies to any aspect of life.
  13. Take care of yourself. This is easier said than done, but it’s important to learn. I’ve tried really hard to take care of issues before they become bigger problems, and I think this approach is making me more aware about how my body works and reacts to things.
  14. Go to interesting events. In 2017, I was really lucky to have the opportunity to see a lot of performers and speakers that I never thought I would see. This includes seeing Hamilton the Musical, movie screenings, the Backstreet Boys, and Dan Rather. Attending different types of interesting events makes you think differently about different aspects of life and you appreciate them. Every time an opportunity would arise, I would just ask myself, “when will I be able to do this again?” If the answer was probably never again, then I would decide to go. Taking advantage of opportunities is key.
  15. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I’ve always had the rule that I am willing to try anything once, but sometimes fear can make that hard to follow. This year I tried to actually force myself to try things that scared me or were completely new. The major thing I tried was skiing. I had never skied before, but I had always wanted to try. So, when the opportunity arose, I said yes. Was I great at it? No. Am I willing to try it again? Yes.
  16. Friends and family are everything. Going on all of my adventures in 2017 wouldn’t have been as memorable or enjoyable without everyone who participated in them. From Nashville, to trying new restaurants, to Hawaii, to going to concerts and speakers- these memories wouldn’t be half of what they were without the people who attended them with me. For this, I am eternally grateful.
  17. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is just a key thing to be able to do in life. Things are going to happen in life and you need to be able to be okay with it.

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Beginner’s Guide to Boston

Beginner’s Guide to Boston

One of my favorite regions of the United States is New England. I love the history, seasons (Yes, I said seasons. Growing up with them and then living in LA is weird!), and the food! I ventured across the U.S. to visit various friends from college and my friend Sarah aka the 207 Foodie came down from Maine.

Day One

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Well I landed in the afternoon, so the first task on hand was to find food! My friend and I went to Shabu Zen in Chinatown, and the food was delicious. It was the right balance of meat, veggies, and soup. Then we ventured over to Boston Common and got to see the Massachusetts State House all lit up. Then we decided to head over to Fenway Park- this was a bucket list item for me. Even though it wasn’t baseball season, I just wanted to see the historic park (if you can’t tell, baseball is my favorite sport). From the outside Fenway looked magical, and sometime I need to head back so I can go to an actual game.

The next stop on our evening tour of the city was Mike’s Pastry in Cambridge, which is phenomenal! I am not a huge dessert person, and even I could appreciate a delicious cannoli. We explored Cambridge a little, and I got to see some of Harvard’s campus.

Day Two

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The best way to start your day is with a good cup of coffee and an East Coast bagel. To me, there is nothing better. But the real adventure of the day was leaving Boston, and heading to Salem, MA. While psychics and witches are not really something I’m interested in, I can appreciate the history of the town. One of my favorite books in school was the Scarlet Letter, so I thought it was really cool to see where Nathaniel Hawthorne was born and grew up.

There are a lot of really interesting sculptures and art pieces around the town, and they reflect the history of the city. We also went to the Salem Witch Museum– a must go when in Salem. After exploring the town all day, it was time for a snack, and we choose macaroons at Caramel. We got a variety of flavors and they were all delicious. We made a detour up to New Hampshire so we could do some exploring, and so I could mark it off my list of states to visit. Next stop was dinner at Legal on the Mystic, where I tried Clam Chowder for the first time (another must do when in New England). We also got Oysters to share and I loved the Mignonette Sauce- seriously amazing!

Day Three

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There’s nothing better than being in Boston for St. Patrick’s Day, so we headed to The Bell in Hand Tavern to celebrate. The Bell in Hand Tavern is the oldest tavern in the United States- it opened in 1795. We spent the day here just hanging out and enjoying ourselves.

Day Four

We started the day off by walking around Boston, and we stumbled upon the memorial for Paul Revere and where he’s buried. Since Boston is filled with American history, it’s easy to stumble upon it everywhere you go. The next stop on our walk was the Boston Public Garden, so I could see the Make Way for Ducklings statues. I thought this was the coolest thing ever, because I was obsessed with the books growing up.

This was absolutely one of the best trips out East that I’ve ever had. It was a perfect balance of history, relaxation, and hanging out with good friends. Everyone needs a trip like this.

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An Eggsellent Meal at Eggslut

An Eggsellent Meal at Eggslut

One of my favorite things to do is explore parts of Los Angeles with my friends, and of course, try new restaurants. I think that one of the most underrated places to eat in Los Angeles, is Grand Central Market; however, within Grand Central Market there are a lot of amazing and diverse eateries. I love the produce shops, coffee shops, bread stores, and all the eateries and stores in this iconic location; one of my favorites is Eggslut.

I’m currently trying to make the best egg sandwich when I cook at home, so I’m trying different egg sandwiches around Los Angeles for inspiration. The menu is fairly limited to just egg sandwiches, but they do have an option that’s gluten free and comes with a salad. A friend and I both got the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese sandwich (mine with avocado, because it was national avocado day) and my other friend got a Slut with a side salad. They honestly know how to make the best egg sandwich at Eggslut and I need to know how they do it! I loved the crunchiness of the bacon, and how the cheese melted on the egg. The avocado topped off the sandwich.

One downside of Eggslut is that it is a small restaurant, so there usually is a crazy long line. However, this gives you the opportunity to take turns waiting in line with your friends while letting one explore Grand Central Market. It also allows you to socialize before ordering, so that way you can enjoy your amazing sandwich.  🙂

Eggslut is a great breakfast option, and being in Grand Central Market makes it even more enjoyable. Look out for a future post about my adventures trying to make the best egg sandwich at home. Happy Eating!

Food Guide: Portland, ME

Food Guide: Portland, ME

One of my favorite things to do is visit my friends in the cities they now reside in. My very best friend, 207 Foodie, resides in Portland, ME and I thought that the winter time was the perfect time to escape Los Angeles. To start off my trip, she had an ugly sweater party, so obviously, I had to scour Amazon for the perfect ugly sweater.

Day Two

The next day, we decided to walk to brunch in downtown Portland. We went to brunch at Sur Lie, and it was delicious. We had mimosas, the Golden Potato Hash Brown, Croquettes, the Fat Boy Breakfast, and Apple Cider Donuts- all were heavenly. The next time I’m in Portland, I must eat at Sur Lie again*.

One of my bucket list Portland destinations was L.L. Bean. I mean as someone that loves outdoor gear, L.L. Bean is like heaven. While at L.L. Bean you must take an obligatory picture with the boot outside the store- if you didn’t’ take a picture, did you really go?

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Another bucket list item was getting an authentic lobster roll. I know that winter isn’t the best season for lobster, but the lobster roll I had at Linda Beans was still delicious. I decided to get a cold lobster roll because I’ve only ever had a hot lobster roll; so, in Portland, I decided to try something new!

After spending the day at L.L. Bean and eating lobster rolls, we went on to have a quintessential New England evening at an outdoor ice skating rink, called The Rink at Thompson’s Point. It was a nice rink with a bar inside. They also had a food truck called PB&ME, that served fried cookies, so I got the fried chocolate chip cookies. They were the perfect addition to outdoor ice skating, beer, and good friends.

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Day Three

The next day we wandered down to the Old Port downtown to try an amazing sushi restaurant called Miyake. I got the pork belly, chef’s pick bento box, and chocolate cake with miso caramel sauce and it was great. Some of the items in the bento box I definitely wouldn’t have ordered on my own, but that’s the joy of the chef picking your menu- you get to try new things. The food was super fresh, and I loved the sushi. My friend and I also split the chocolate cake, and it was heavenly. After this delectable lunch, we walked to a different part of the city and went to Shipyard Brewing Co. We learned about the different beers and got to try a few. To finish a great day, we ended up at happy hour at Bar of Chocolate, and we got the Chocolate Martini and Hot Chocolate.

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Day Four

One of the things I hoped would happen while I was in Portland was that it would snow, and I got exactly that. There was enough snow that I was nervous that I might not be able to leave the next day, but luckily it stopped. Once it stopped snowing, we went to lunch at Pai Men Miyake, which is owned by the same people who own Miyake.  We split the pork buns and tuna and salmon rolls, and I got the Ramen as my main course. To finish off the day, we went to trivia at a local restaurant, and I got Beer BBQ wings.

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Day Five

To round off the trip, we went to lunch at a great place called Little Tap House, and I got the Beer for Breakfast Sandwich; the sandwich is comprised of two fried eggs, bacon, beer cheese fondue, grilled bun, and house chips. Then I was on my way back to Chicago. One thing that I’ve learned since graduating college is that visiting your friends is one of the best ways to relax and just allow yourself to be carefree. Being Bicoastal Besties can be hard, but trips together make it seem like time has never passed. Also, I definitely want to visit Portland during the Fall or Summer, so I can try different foods in the correct season!

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Comment below with your favorite trip you’ve taken with friends!

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*Unfortunately, they no longer do brunch 🙁

Ktown Hidden Gems #3: Bia Coffee

Ktown Hidden Gems #3: Bia Coffee

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My newest edition of Koreatown (Ktown) Hidden Gems is Bia Coffee. Bia in Korean means flower, so the name of the shop translates to Flower Coffee. This is one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever been to. On the outside, it just looks very simple and maybe like any other coffee shop, but once you enter you are in a comfortable and friendly shop that mixes coffee and the art of flowers. I love the simple décor in Bia Coffee- the succulents around the shop give it a pop of color in addition to the flowers.

What I love about drinking coffee is the strong coffee flavor, and the instant feeling you get when the rich flavor hits your tongue when I take that first sip. However, at Bia Coffee the coffee flavor feels airier and calming because of the flowers that they put in the coffee. I’ve tried both the Lavender and Rose lattes, and I could taste the hint of Rose or Lavender mixed into the coffee; I love both lattes. The flowers make the coffee feel lighter while you drink it, because Rose and Lavender are light scents and have calming effects. While I do love the strong flavor of coffee, I also appreciate this lighter version of coffee. I like the lavender or rose hint when I take that initial sip- I feel calmer compared to drinking regular coffee. The food at Bia Coffee also looks amazing, and they use natural ingredients that uses flower flavors and which pair nicely with the coffees.

One tip about a Bia Coffee is you should go early, so they have all the ingredients or pastries that you want. Also, parking can be tricky, so make sure to research places to park. If you’re ever on 6th street between Oxford and Western, then you must stop by Bia Coffee!

Los Angeles Brunch Time: The Church Key

Los Angeles Brunch Time: The Church Key

Recently for a friend’s birthday brunch, I ended up in West Hollywood at The Church Key; this restaurant is a bit outside of my normal geographical stomping ground. I had never heard of the Church Key before, and I was excited to try a new restaurant for brunch; it’s always good to a have a few different restaurants in your arsenal to pick from. To start off, we got the Brioche Donuts. They have a Brown Butter Glaze with a dribbling of Cinnamon Caramel. They were amazing, and something I definitely will get again. Then on the more savory side, we got the Toad in the Hole “Croque Madame.” It comes with two eggs, gruyere fondue, and smoked bacon. It honestly hit the spot to balance out the sweetness from the donuts.

For my entrée, I got the “Another” Avocado Toast. It comes on sourdough with house citrus cured salmon, fennel, oranges, and chives. I added the fried egg added to the dish for extra protein. I loved how all of the different flavors mixed together to make this avocado toast 100% not another basic avocado toast. The combination of flavors in this entrée make it more for someone who’s willing to be adventurous in their food choices, because not everyone loves fennel, but it was truly delicious and worth trying. For the amount of food, you get, I would say that $15 for this delectable entrée is perfectly fine.

 

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Another perk of going to the Church Key, is that they have a great mimosa deal and are very attentive. You get unlimited mimosas for $15.95 vs. $10 for one mimosa- definitely a deal.  They make sure that you always have a full mimosa and if they run out, then they give you other options. For drink service, they have some of the best service I’ve ever experienced. I highly recommend the food and drinks at The Church Key. Bon Appetit!

Beginner’s Guide to Nashville

Beginner’s Guide to Nashville

This past weekend, I escaped Los Angeles and headed to Nashville for the long weekend to celebrate my birthday with 207foodie. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we had a great time the five days we were there.

Here are the must- dos for visiting Nashville:

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Pork Sandwich and Fries
  • Try BBQ! Seriously, how can you go to the land of BBQ and not have some?! We went to Edley’s Bar-B-Que, and I got the Pork Sandwich, basket of fries with the most amazing seasoning ever, and to drink I had the Oh Honey. All of them were amazing, and the pork sandwich might be the best pulled pork sandwich that I have ever had.

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  • YOU MUST BRUNCH! We had no idea that brunch was such a big deal in Nashville before our trip, and by the time that we left we were brunched out. On Saturday, we went to Biscuit Love, and it was AMAZING! We split the Bonuts, East Nasty, and Egg Plate…all of which are to die for and will make you have the highest brunch standards for future brunches…nothing will live up to your brunch expectations once you go to Biscuit Love. I also ordered an Iced coffee which rounded off the most perfect meal ever. There typically is a long line on the weekend, but it really does move fast, so don’t get discouraged.

On Sunday, we went to Urban Cookhouse for brunch. This time our goal was a filling brunch, but not as intense as Biscuit Love. We both ordered the pancakes, a cup of fruit, and the Strawberry Lemonade Mimosa. It was simple, but delicious. They have a nice porch to eat on, and it was relaxing to be able to eat outside and just enjoy the Sunday morning weather.

  • Go out! Nashville night life is like no other city I have ever been to. The first bar we went to was McCabe’s Pub, and they have a great late night happy hour and beers are super cheap! Another bar we went to was The Gold Rush, I got a cider and chicken tenders and fries. The food was good, the bartender was really nice, and the kitchen is open late! This is a huge plus because we skipped dinner and sometimes you just need a late-night meal.fullsizeoutput_9b9
  • Go to the Grand Ole Opry! Even though I’m not a huge fan of country music, and I definitely don’t know older country music; I appreciate experiencing historical places and learning new things. The Grand Ole Opry is the longest running radio show- the live show is played over the air and the host really makes it sound like you’re listening to the radio even if you’re in the audience. Hearing the different types of music was cool, and I’m glad I went and learned more about the history of country music.

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  • Take pictures at the murals around the city! There are TONS of murals around the city, and you can find the addresses for the more famous ones online, but you definitely stumble upon cool ones while you’re walking around. The Gulch and 12 South have some unique ones, and it makes walking around more fun because you’re taking in everything the city has to offer.

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  • Do a Nashville Peddle Tavern tour! I think that doing peddle tavern tours is a fun way to explore a city, and experience the night life. Peddle tavern tours usually take you to three or four bars, and you have to peddle from one location to another. This way you get exercise and experience the city! They usually take you to historic or off the beaten path bars, and you get to experience places that locals usually go to and not tourists.

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  • Finally, hit up the restaurant scene! Nashville has a diverse restaurant scene, and you can find basically anything you want. We went to Fin and Pearl for seafood, and it was amazing! We loved the Dip appetizer and salmon entrée, both had amazing flavors. Another restaurant we ventured to was, Marsh House. I loved the three types of oysters I got for an appetizer, the Sweet Jesus, Wellfleet Petite, and Bama Beauty, and the Squid Ink Garganelli was an amazing entrée too.

We stayed in an Airbnb and I think that they are great way to experience a city, you get a feel for that specific neighborhood and what’s around it. I suggest trying to walk around the city as much as possible, because it allows you to notice things you wouldn’t see in a car (like hidden murals!). There are tons of Uber and Lyft cars in Nashville, and the drivers are super friendly and the rides are cheap (compared to Portland, ME and Los Angeles, CA). If you’re looking for a great weekend getaway, then Nashville is a great city for you to visit!

Bon voyage!

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