Nashville Trip

I made my second trip to visit Kayla in Nashville the first week of May! I have to say the weather was definitely much nicer this time than it was in December! Highs were in the 70's and 80's most days. It did rain all day on Saturday but it wasn't too terrible, we still managed to go out and wander around and shop. 

We hit up a few of our favorites and tried some new places on this trip. 

We hit up Urban Cookhouse and Newk's which are both favorites of mine from living in Birmingham. We also went back to Proper Bagel and I tried some new cream cheese flavors including their new Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cream cheese which was really, really good!! It wasn't too overwhelming and I LOVE Reese's. I also tried their blueberry cream cheese and that was really good as well. I tried a black and white cookie for the first time too and there's is really good! Nice and soft, and the white icing side has a hint of lemon flavor which I loved. 

On Thursday night we went to Kayla's favorite Nashville restaurant, Pastaria! Their bread is so amazing and fresh. Plus they make all their pasta by hand on site. It was probably the best pasta I've ever had in my life! I got the plain old Chitarra al Pomodoro but it was fantastic! Be warned though the portions are huge!

In my continuing effort to eat all the amazing doughnuts we stopped by the newish Nashville doughnut place, The Donut & Dog. This place specializes in brioche donuts, plus hot dogs, fries and coffee. We grabbed a side of fries as well as two donuts the first time we were there since we were feeling like a snack. Their fries are so good! Crispy and light without being too hard. We also got the Stairway to Heaven donut which is butter glaze, cinnamon & sugar and raspberry. It was an awesome doughnut!! So many layers and flavors, it was substantial without feeling heavy. The Stairway to Heaven was definitely my favorite. (We headed back in on Sunday morning and I got a Dirty O.G.). 

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We tried out the historic Bobbie's Dairy Dip one night. And I have to say the cones are HUGE and super messy! Or at least they are if it's as busy as it was the night we went. The ice cream inside my dipped cone was barely frozen. Funny experience though as I made a huge mess trying to eat mine. 

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We headed back to Biscuit Love on Friday Saturday morning and I got some more of my beloved bonuts! 

We did a bit of shopping and wandering and we went in my favorite little independent bookstore probably ever. It's called Her Bookshop. Kayla spotted in one day when she was driving around in East Nashville and she thought I'd like it. It is a truly adorable little bookstore and I swear it was like I had curated the collection of books they were selling. So many of them I already wanted to read and then there were new ones that I had to add to my list. There were also some really cute gifts, artwork and kids books. Of course I had to buy a few books! We've gotta support independent bookstores when we can! 

We stopped by the Pharmacy again on Saturday night for dinner and I had another great burger! On Sunday morning we headed out to Radnor Lake State Park and walked the trail around the lake. It was a gorgeous morning with great weather. There were lots of people out on the trails. I would recommend going early if you do go, because the parking lots definitely get full. 

The only picture of us I managed to take. Oops. 

London

I'm back from my trip to London and Paris! I'm starting my write up of all we saw and did. But whew boy is it a lot!! Here's the first part of our trip of three and half days in London.

             I started off my first international trip with six hour flight from Orlando to Reykjavik with Icelandair! I really enjoyed my flight on Icelandair, even though I was in economy class each seat had TVs and a USB port for charging. There was even a pretty awesome selection of free movies including Wonder Woman and Baby Driver. I watched part of Wonder Woman and then tried to sleep for a few hours. My flight was an overnight flight that left around 8pm. I arrived in Reykjavik around 3 am EST and I even got to see the faintest flicker of the Northern Lights on way into Iceland so that was pretty cool!

            I spent about 45 minutes in the Reykjavik airport which was kinda strange cause there were so few seats in and around the gates, but I just hung out on the floor for a little while before taking the shuttle back out to my new plane that would take me to London.

            I arrived at Gatwick around 1245pm local time and made it through customs and passport control with little fuss. I then bought myself a national express bus ticket to Heathrow as I was meeting my friend there after her flight arrived. I was so excited to see some fall leaves on my ride there since it had been about 80 degrees when I left Florida. I met up with my friend and we took the Heathrow Express train into London which was super easy. We then hopped on the Tube towards our hostel, which was fairly easy but a little hard to navigate with our big bags. Not to mention that because it was unseasonably warm for October I was of course sweating buckets. Not a good look.

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             We made it to our hostel mid afternoon and checked in. We ended up staying at the Wombat’s Hostel London. We booked two beds in a 6 bed female dorm. We were pleased with the room; it was on the main floor so no stairs needed. When we first checked in all the beds were occupied but by two days later it was just my friend and I and another girl left which was nice. Our room had a private shower and toilet room as well as separate sink, which was nice. The floor were wood and the room felt clean, the shower seemed to be cleaned daily. I’m sure hostel dorm rooms depend on your roommates but we got very lucky and had quiet, chill roommates.

            After dropping our bags and showering off almost 24 hours of traveling we headed out, walking to the Tower of London which was only about a 7 minute walk away. We walked along the Thames and over the Tower Bridge and then back along a super cute walkway along the river. There were tons of people out and we enjoyed all the sights and cute pubs and restaurants. We eventually ended up at a restaurant that as cute and kitschy inside. The food wasn’t bad but unfortunately our service was sort of terrible, it took over an hour for our food to get to us. We walked back by the Globe Theatre and talked about doing a tour of it. We headed back to the hostel and off to sleep soon after. 

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The Globe Theatre! 

           On Sunday we woke up early to get to the Columbia Road Flower Market because we were curious to see the market and I love anything to do with fresh flowers. We took our first spin on the double decker red buses, which was a bit of a bust because even with my citymapper app I found it pretty confusing of which bus to use and in which direction. It didn’t help that when we got on and I asked our bus driver if our stop was on there he said yes initially the said he actually wasn’t sure and tried to look at it on my app… didn’t inspire much confidence. Regardless we eventually got to the stop we wanted and made our way to the market. One bus experience was definitely enough and we didn’t venture back and instead stuck to the Tube.

            The Columbia Road Flower Market is on Sundays only from 8-3ish in East London. I read lots of things saying to arrive early though as the flowers go quickly. I was worried there wouldn’t be as many flowers in October but there were still tons and some truly gorgeous flowers I’d never seen before. One tip is to be cautious, as some stands don’t allow you to take photos or video of their flowers. I was sad we didn’t have anywhere to display flowers or a vase to put them in or I definitely would have bought some.

         We then walked to Beigel Bake for breakfast and had an amazing bagel and pastry! Careful as I believe they are cash only.

        After our bagels for breakfast we headed by tube to stop by and see Buckingham Palace. I managed to unwittingly get us there just in time for the daily changing of the guards. The crowds were so gigantic I actually thought the royal family might be appearing… but no apparently that was just a normal crowd day at Buckingham Palace. Regardless after pushing our way through way too many people we made our way to the other side and the green area near the park there which was gorgeous. We then walked to Harrod’s to check out the curious things they sell. We managed to get rather incredibly lost inside looking for things and kept walking in huge squares.

Our only glimpse of the actual "changing of the guard", taken in a walkway where you couldn't stop. 

            After a stop at a Café Nero for coffee we headed to the Science Museum, London for a bit. I enjoyed the exhibits a lot and there was a lot to look at for adults, not just children. We stopped in the Natural History Museum briefly then grabbed some Italian for dinner at Rocca. Next we stopped by Hatchards the oldest bookstore in London. I actually managed not to buy any books!

            We walked through St. James’ Park to Parliament Square and saw Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Funny story, we definitely took pictures in front of Westminster and somehow missed that that’s what it was, we thought it was a different smaller church so we went back a day later to see “Westminster Abbey” and discovered we’d actually already seen it! We walked by Big Ben which is under quite a bit of construction and Parliament. We went back out for dessert at Motown in Whitechapel that night and enjoyed some ice cream. 

Hatchard's and it's infamous five story staircase.

The Science Museum London

Inside the Natural History Museum 

             On Monday we headed to Breakfast Club for breakfast on my dad’s recommendation. It was tiny but we only waited probably fifteen minutes. After we headed to the British Museum and wandered there for a few hours. We had a ridiculous amount of fun making up funny snapchats for the different works of art, although I promise we were respectful. After we started to gloss over we walked to Chinatown to get a snack at Bubblewrap London. You should definitely try their egg waffles that you can fill with all sorts of sugar and toppings. Next we headed to Trafalgar Square and looked around the National Portrait Gallery briefly.

            After that we took the Tube to the Florence Nightingale Museum, which I was especially looking forward to as a nurse who learned about Flo in nursing school! We spent about two hours there, which was probably way more than my friend wanted to see. We came outside at 3pm to what appeared to be either a tornado or darkness falling. It was incredibly strange and after I texted my dad (the resident family weather man) to ask if the world was ending, he told me it was Hurricane Ophelia that was hitting Ireland. It had picked up dust and sand from the Sahara and had formed a giant orange cloud over London. It was disturbing and the only way I can describe the strange feeling was the way it looks before tornadoes in the US. I have no recollection of what we ate for dinner nor photo evidence… 

Bubblewrap London!

           On Tuesday we got up early to do laundry and grab Dum Dum Donuts in Bethnel Green. They are in a tiny shop there. The donuts are gorgeous but definitely on the heavy side. We also grabbed bagels again at Beigel Bake for snacks later. We tried to go to the Hunterian Museum but I belatedly realized they are closed until 2020 for and extensive renovation… so that was a bust. We hopped back on the tube, making a stop at King’s Cross Station to see the Harry Potter themed Platform 9 ¾. It was a bit underwhelming honestly, to someone who has visited Harry Potter at Universal. We were glad we didn’t go out of our ways to see it. We then made our way to Portobello Road Market to wander a bit in Notting Hill. We ate at a cute café called Gail’s for lunch.

             After we headed back to see Westminster Abbey although we then realized we’d already seen it. We debated paying to go inside but eventually decided it was a lot of money, we did stop in the gift shop though and picked up some super cute gifts. I have to say I think my favorite places that we bought souvenirs were strange places like museum gift shops and the stationery section at Harrod’s which had some amazing postcards!

         Next we headed to our prebooked time at the Sky Garden to see London from the 34th floor! You do need an advance ticket to visit the Sky Garden and you should arrive during your ticket’s time period. But it's free and you can stay as long as you like. There are also a couple of restaurants in the Sky Garden you can eat at. After a few photos there and a snack we headed to Oxford St to buy me some new sneakers (sidebar London and Paris are no joke, BRING GOOD SHOES) and to Selfridges to get a backpack I’d been eyeing since my carryon seemed in danger of breaking. We then hopped on the tube and headed towards Spitaelfields Market and ate some fish and chips at Poppies. It was a little underwhelming but I really felt like the food just needed better seasoning (how’s that for typical English fare for ya).

         The next morning we were booked on the Eurostar to Paris so we grabbed some breakfast and sprang for an Uber to the train station. The weather had been particularly strange and HOT, in the 60’s and 70’s and sunny every day we’d been there but the day we left it was rainy and much more what I would have imagined as typical London weather. 

            Overall I think my favorite part of London was the London Science Museum and the Florence Nightingale Museum. London is incredibly easy to navigate in my opinion, especially with an app like Citymapper. I found the Tube to be incredibly clean and well organized. We almost never waited more than a minute or two for a train to arrive and there were workers all around if you needed help. I felt very safe on all the trains and platforms. It was a nice change of pace after using the subway in New York the last year and half as the delays get longer and longer.

            London is expensive but we managed to get pretty lucky by eating at places where there were half price menus or other cheaper options like street food or cafes. Almost every museum we went to was free or very low cost which was awesome.

            The biggest downside I see with London is how similar it feels to the US. It feels like a big city anywhere. This is probably comforting to an American not wanting to venture too far outside of their comfort zone. I did enjoy the history of London though and how much older the building are obviously. Plus I love an English accent! I’m looking forward to returning to London but moreso to use it as a base for traveling to see the rest of England like Bath, Darcy’s House and the Harry Potter Studio tour which we didn’t have time to see this time. 

Weeki Wachee and Tarpon Springs!

When my mom, sister and her kids were here this summer we headed over towards Tarpon Springs to stay for a few nights and go to Weeki Wachee. Mainly because my niece (and I) love mermaids. 

Ever since I read a fiction book about Weeki Wachee it's been on my list of places I wanted to see. The main story behind it is they have "real live mermaids" they breathe using hoses and were famous in the 1950's for drinking coke and eating bananas underwater. 

Nowadays the springs are a national park, but they still put on a mermaid show a few times a day. It's a neat day trip and it doesn't cost a ton of money. 

The springs themselves are gorgeous and clear, although we didn't swim, we were told they are pretty chilly year round. 

We also stopped in Tarpon Springs which is famous for their sponge docks where the ships that harvest sponges come in. There are some cute and interesting shops, as well as a bunch of sponges for sale! 

Tampa Bay Area

Next up in our Exploring the Sunshine State Series! I went to the Tampa Bay Area at the end of October!! And I'm just getting around to finishing this post in February!! 

We stayed in a two bedroom condo at Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites on Treasure Island that was right on the Gulf of Mexico which was very nice! It had a pool and hot tub as well as a kids pool, too. 

The view from Bongos on St. Pete Beach

Above was the view from dinner one night when we headed down to St. Pete Beach to eat at Bongos Beach Cafe. We ate beachside and the sky put on a great show! The restaurant is around the back of the hotel, on the beach. 

Downtown St. Pete

One of our first days we wandered around downtown St. Petersburg which is super cute and pretty pedestrian friendly. There are a fair amount of shops and restaurants all within walking distance of each other. 

We ate brunch one morning at Clear Sky Cafe on Clearwater Beach and I got this excellent waffle! We didn't actually spend any time on the beach at Clearwater Beach, but there is a pier there you can walk on and beach access as well as some beach shops and restaurants. 

Downtown St. Pete art murals

Ybor City!! I was not hipster enough...

We took a walk around Ybor City one afternoon and stopped in the most amazing vintage shop called La France. I wanted to buy everything in there and also move in. Oh to have unlimited money. 

Treasure Island beach

University of Tampa

Downtown Tampa

Downtown Clearwater architecture

When I started researching food for our trip to the Tampa Bay area of course I had to include some doughnut places!! Here are our doughnuts and cronuts from St. Pete Bagel Co. I had a really awesome blueberry bagel from them too! I love a good bagel. Almost as much as I love a good doughnut. The cronuts were really lovely as well! This was my first time eating a cronut, so i will definitely have to try again somewhere else to compare!! 

Overall, we spent a lot of our time in Tampa at the beach and laying by the pool which was very lovely and relaxing! The weather was gorgeous in October, in the 80's most days. We also spent a fair amount of time in the car driving around the Tampa Bay area exploring all the different towns and cities like St. Pete, Clearwater, Tampa, Treasure Island, Largo, etc, etc. 

 

Pensacola and Gulf Breeze

Next up in the Exploring the Sunshine State Series:

Pensacola and Gulf Breeze

Ohhhh hometown glory!! I mentioned that we grew up in Florida right?? So of course we can’t leave our hometown out of the sunshine state series! It’s pretty darn awesome, though we might be a little biased.

This will have to be a multi part story because there are a lot of great places to eat and hang out in Pensacola!

I know everyone knows about Destin as the place to go for vacation when you live in the Midwest, but Pensacola Beach is the undiscovered gem of the Gulf Coast (well until that recent article naming it one of the best beaches in Florida…). Anyway the sand is just as white and the water is usually a gorgeous blue/green. Plus there’s less traffic (sometimes) than Destin and quite a bit to do!

Where to Stay

The beach! DUH.

Portofino is a well loved option (although I’ve never stayed there)

There are tons of great places on P’cola Beach. Check out the options on VRBO.

Downtown Pensacola is getting cuter and cuter, but you will be two bridges away from the beach (two traffic filled bridges in the summer).

To Do

The BEACH! I mean c’mon look at this water. There is also live music on the beach during the summer at Band’s on the Beach

Festivals like the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival in November and the Seafood Festival in September are two big ones that come to mind.

The Blue Angels: Pensacola’s Naval Air Station is the home of the Blue Angels and you can catch their huge show on the beach in June.

Fiesta of the Five Flags: Happens in May every year to celebrate the fact that Pensacola was settled by explorers from five different countries before it became part of the US. Fun fact: Pensacola is the oldest city in Florida but it was wiped out by a hurricane, thereby losing it’s historic slot to St. Augustine. There are treasure hunts and parades for the festival.

The Bushwacker Festival happens every year towards the end of the year if milk chocolate alcoholic drinks are your thing. Bushwackers are available year round at many different places on the beach.

Mardi Gras happens in the early spring every year. Obviously not a big as it is in New Orleans, but there are a variety of parades and parties that happen each year downtown and on the beach.

See more at the Visit Pensacola website. 

Downtown Pensacola

-       Seville Square

-       Gallery Night

-       Browsing the many shops and restaurants.

To eat

Fish House/Atlas

            This is two restaurants in one. It’s on the bay in Pensacola and is gorgeous at night, sitting on the deck. If you like sushi you should definitely go on Tuesday nights because Atlas has half price sushi rolls. There is live music many night on the Fish House side and amazing food all around.

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Peg Leg Pete’s

            Peg Leg Pete’s is probably my favorite place to eat on the beach. Great seafood, views of the sound, and really great drinks.

Sidelines

             I don’t really remember when the first time I ever went to Sidelines was, it feels like it has always existed in my childhood memories. It’s one of my favorite places to eat on the beach, even though it’s a sports bar and not a true “beachy” restaurant. They make some killer wings and pretty much all of their other food is awesome as well.

Cactus Flower

             Cactus Flower is a newer favorite place, and they serve some delectable Mexican food! Our absolute favorite place for mexican used to be Cancun’s in Gulf Breeze but they got shut down for selling drugs (whoops.. maybe that’s why their food was so dang good??). So alas, we’re left with Cactus Flower. Their location on Pensacola Beach is on the boardwalk so it’s pretty, but all their locations serve great food.

Santino’s            

           If you are looking for a non chain place for pizza and grinder’s Santino’s is your place! Mmmm. I love their pizza.

Bagelheads

            The only bagel place I truly love, everything else just pales in comparison. Bagelheads has been around for almost 20 years and oh my goodness is it amazing. You can buy a huge variety of bagels, muffins, baked goods, sandwiches and soups. And of course coffee. Pretty much everything there is amazing, but if you love fruity bagels you’ll definitely want to try the Blueberry Cobbler bagel which is coated in a cinnamon sugar glaze.

There's just a few of my favorite parts of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. I'm sure there will be more posts to come, because there's no way to cover these in just one post. 

What's your favorite thing to eat and do in the Pensacola area?

New York, New York!

New York, New York
You’re a helluva town
— On the Town

Rachael and I took a last minute trip to New York and New Jersey last weekend! So why not a post about the Big Apple? (Get ready for a REALLY photo heavy post)

We decided last Wednesday that we were going to fly to NY on Saturday. How’s that for last minute planning? All made possible because of my wonderful friend Liz who lives just over the river in New Jersey. We stayed with her, which is where I stayed when I went to visit her last November as well.

The city from the New Jersey side of the river! 

We got there early Saturday morning and ate some breakfast before heading into the city to see Darren Criss in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. At first we weren’t sure we were going to see a show but then Rachael remembered that Darren Criss was in Hedwig and we decided that we’d see that.

An illegal picture of the Hedwig stage

Hedwig is an hour and forty minute rock show/acid trip. It was delightfully quirky and hilarious though! I’m not sure I’d see it with anyone but Darren Criss because I loved his version of the role. I laughed out loud many times throughout the show and I can’t imagine having to peform that show 8 times a week because it is crazy hard vocally! I also loved Rebecca Naomi Jones in the lead female role. Whew can she sing! 

His eyes are all over New York… 

After the show we met up with Liz and headed over to Mother Burger  for some amazing food. Love their burgers!! Their meat is locally sourced from Long Island and man is it delicious! I’ve had both the turkey burger and regular burger and they are awesome.

With as many photos as I take, you'd think I'd learn to get my finger out of it. 

With our gorgeous host! 

With our gorgeous host! 

After that we wandered up to Columbus Circle and into Central Park. After dog watching in Central Park (Rachael and I exclaiming overy ever single dog) we wandered over to the Hudson Hotel’s two different rooftop bars. We ended up sitting down for some (albeit pricy) drinks at the Sky Terrace. But hey, you’re paying for the atmosphere. 

The Hudson Hotel lobby

Throwing some serious shade at Liz.

Next we headed back to midtown to the piano bar Don’t Tell Mama. Unfortunately we’re old ladies (and had been awake since like 3:45 am) so when we got there at 7ish there wasn’t much singing happening.

After a bit of time there we headed back to Hedwig to try the stage door, since the stars hadn’t come out after the matinee. But a couple hundred teenagers waiting see Darren Criss wasn’t our idea of a great time so after a bit of waiting we decided to leave and head home. 

Some things never change, like me chasing sunsets. 

Don't Tell Mama! 

Don't Tell Mama! 

We spent Sunday sleeping in and then headed down to the river in New Jersey to walk, sit and people watch (DOG WATCH). It was a gorgeous day, windy but sunny. That evening was the Tony Awards so we classed it up with Chinese takeout and watched the Red Carpet and Tony’s! 

Mmmm, chinese food! 

Mmmm, chinese food! 

Monday we headed back into the city to go to the public library at Lincoln Center. There was a Sinatra exhibit we wandered through (only took the rest of the day to get his version of New York, New York out of my head).

I devoured a yummy ham sandwich on a baguette at the Muffins Café on the Upper West Side, Liz headed to work and Rachael and I wandered across the park to the Met for the singular purpose of taking Rachael’s picture on the steps (a la Gossip Girl). Sidenote: I’ve never been to New York when it hasn’t been cold and/or snowing, so being there during the summer is gorgeous! There is green on the trees and everything!! 

Muffins Cafe

Central Park boat pond

After that we headed down to the Strand bookstore but took a quick stop in Grand Central Station because Rachael had never seen it. We met up with one of best friends from childhood, Meagan! We headed down and got a doughnut from Dough. Then walked to The Strand Bookstore. I wanted to move in, I mean four stories of books??? I restrained myself and only bought a couple of books.

Rachael's photo of Grand Central

I promise this doughnut from Dough is not as big as it looks! The plate is just tiny!

Be still my heart

We wandered up to Madison Square Park with the intention to get Shake Shack from the original. Mmmm. But we hung out a bit with Meagan before she left to go home. We stood in the, admittedly quite long line but finally got our food and frozen custard! Liz met us and we headed back to her house because we were tired and sore from all the walking we did that day. 

We ended the night with a misty walk along the river home, gazing at the New York skyline. Ahhh… 

Ft. Myers and Cape Coral

It's travel Tuesday!! So how about the first installment of the Exploring the Sunshine State series??

I have documents full of travel research. Places I’ve been to and place I dream of visiting. Sometimes I’ll read about something on a blog or in a magazine article and add it to the plethora of information I’m saving for someday, just in case.

Sanibel Island

This is one of my favorite parts of traveling, the anticipation and the research. I love research; a trait I definitely inherited from my father who we always joked should be a fact-checker.

At the end of 2013 I was in the final stretch of a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, a 16 month marathon program. I decided that I was definitely rewarding myself for finishing the mother of a program so I started researching warm places for January and February. After trying desperately to find somewhere semi-affordable in the Florida Keys we settled on Cape Coral, which was still far enough south to be warm, but not as expensive. 

Sanibel

My one time victory roll accomplishment for sunday morning

            We rented a 4 bedroom/2 bath house with a private pool and hot tub through VRBO.com. Then I slogged through the end of my degree, managed to pass all of my classes, and actually graduated! We departed Indiana where the wind chill was about -8 and landed in Ft. Myers where it was 82 degrees. Hallelujah! The best part of getting on the plane in Indy was that the demographics of our plane to Ft. Myers was about 95% senior citizens. I joked to my sister that we were definitely on the party plane. (Little did I know that Ft. Myers as a whole would continue to be made up of about 95% people over 60).

            We arrived and got our rental car before heading out to our house, which was in a normal residential neighborhood. Although what the listing forgot to mention was that they were currently in the middle of putting city water and sewer throughout the neighborhood so the roads were all red clay. If we hadn’t had an SUV we might not have made it through some of them. But we persevered and proceeded to stock up on groceries and random stuff from the 5 different Publix grocery stores we visited over the course of two days (I mean I’m a fan of Publix but even for me this was bit much).

            Sunday morning we got up and went to the Arts Fest in downtown Ft. Myers. I’m a big fan of arts festivals, Pensacola has a huge one every year. I usually don’t buy anything but its fun to walk around and look at all the interesting and amazing artwork that’s on display.  

After the arts fest we headed to Ft. Myer’s Beach to do what we came to Florida to do, lay on the beach. We ate dinner at Nemo’s on the Beach and I had the best chicken teriyaki sandwich. Plus we got an appetizer of some of the biggest nachos I have ever seen.

Ft. Myer's Beach

            The next day we headed to Sanibel Island to hang out at the beach. Sanibel is a much different feel than Ft. Myers Beach. Sanibel feels much more deserted and there are multiple little access points up and down the island so you can feel like you have the beach to yourself whereas Ft. Myers Beach you are pretty packed into one small area with lots of people. Sanibel Island also had more wildlife and a less commercial feel.

            After that it’s more of a blur of beaches, shopping, time spent in the pool and searching for good places to eat.   

Places to Shop:

Tanger Outlets

            These outlets are on the way to Ft. Myer’s beach so their a nice stop after you’ve been out in the sun all day.

Bell Tower Shops

            This is an outdoor shopping mall in Ft. Myers. It’s a bit older and doesn’t have a huge variety of stores but there are some unique ones worth checking out.

Coconut Point

            This one is actually in Bonita Springs, south of Ft. Myers. It is a newer outdoor shopping center. It has a ton of variety in stores and lots of food options as well. This one is definitely the winner out of all the shopping we did in the area.

Things to Do:

Manatee Park

           My sister loves marine animals so we definitely made it a point to visit the Manatee Park in Ft. Myers. From the website it’s a “Non-captive warm water refuge for the florida manatee”. The best times to see manatees are December, January and February. There is a fair amount of paved nature trails and you can also rent kayaks. Parking is $2/hr or $5/day. Free admission.

Ford and Edison Estates

            We actually didn’t have time to do this but I wish we had! You can visit their winter homes in Ft. Myers and see the lab where Edison worked on his inventions.

 Places to Eat:

Heavenly Biscuit

            If you go to Ft. Myer’s you MUST GO to Heavenly Biscuit. My cousin had recommended we try this and waxed poetic about the giant cinnamon rolls and biscuits. I’m all about the baked goods, so of course we had to make this a priority. I will tell you, make sure you go early because they do sometimes run out of cinnamon rolls. Also be prepared for a line out the door no matter what time you go. This place is tiny too, so don’t count on getting a table. I had the cinnamon roll and Rachael got the biscuits and gravy which I could hardly photograph she was eating them so fast.

Artsy fartsy photo of Heavenly Biscuit

Ford’s Garage

            Ford’s Garage is another must visit if you’re in the Ft. Myers area. There are a couple of different locations and we went to the Cape Coral one. The theme is a garage during prohibition. It’s super cute and my favorite features were definitely the old Model T’s inside the restaurant and the sinks in the bathroom! I had a turkey burger and it was out of this world!  

Rachael's burger

The sinks in the bathroom at Ford's Garage

Bennet’s Fresh Roast

            We went here one morning to get doughnuts (because of course I couldn’t go to a new city and not try a doughnut!!). I got a peanut butter glazed one that was fantastic! I don’t drink coffee so no idea what theirs tastes like.

Ice Sssscreamin

         Yes I swear that is actually the name of this ice cream place in Cape Coral. I got an amazing dipped cone there! 

Now for some pros and cons of a trip to Ft. Myer’s/Cape Coral 

Pros

-       Warm during the winter (70’s and 80’s while we were there the first week in February)

-       Lots of options for eating and shopping

-       Not a ton of cultural options (though I’m sure there were more than I looked up)

-       Lots of different options for beaches in the area. Some more populated and touristy, others more deserted, lots of good opportunities to get seashells.

-       Lots of vacation rental options if you’re interested in a house with a pool rather than a hotel and cheaper than further south in florida.  

Cons

-       Most of the visitors to Ft. Myers (or at least in the winter time) are older adults. We saw very few families and pretty much nobody in their 20’s. Which is fine because it wasn’t like we were there to party, but if you are Ft. Myers may not be the place for you.

-       If you are staying in Cape Coral know you are at least a 45 minute drive to pretty much any beach that I could find. So, take that into account when picking a place to stay if being close to beach is important to you.

-       Traffic getting on and off some of the beaches is bad as many of the bridges and roads are only two lanes (often par for the course to get to beaches). 

Here's a video of our time in Ft. Myers!