The closest airport to Pigeon Forge is McGhee Tyson Airport near Knoxville. Luckily, we met our family there who picked us up to drive to our Airbnb. Otherwise, renting a car would be necessary since it’s an hour drive and no public transportation is available.
Our Airbnb was in Pigeon Forge in the mountains which was beautiful, quiet, and about 30 minutes from Gatlinburg, Smoky Mountains National Park, and Sevierville. This Airbnb had a hot tub, pool table, and incredible views. This was the perfect spot to spend a weekend as it was easy to access and allowed us to do all these things in Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas.
Three things to do
When visiting, here’s three top things to do in Pigeon Forge! All three of these things were easy to get to and puts you in a perfect spot to keep the adventure going and see other towns like Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
Here you pass through Gatlinburg which is another fun town. If you’ve been to Nashville, it’s like a mountain version of that. Lots of restaurants, wine tastings, bars, and an amusement park. After you spend time here, you can head back into the car to drive through the Smoky Mountains. The scenery is beautiful and at the end of April in the Spring, the trees are popping with greenery.
I’m not a big shopper when traveling, but this was a must do for me. It was fun to go to and check out what they had to offer. Nike can be pretty expensive, but this has deals going. I got shoes for about $40 which are normally $80+. Close by are other shops like Guy Fieri’s restaurant, other bars, coffee shops, and souvenir shops.
To get the full Tennessee experience, we were surprised with a Moonshine tasting that was super cool! We got a tour of where the Moonshine is made and sent out all across the nation. It was interesting to see the corn meal and hundreds of pounds of sugar heat up due to the chemical reaction itself. Afterwards, we got 12 samples- including peaches, blue flame moonshine to sour watermelon, and finished with two cream like samples of butter pecan and orange shinesicle cream. At the end of the tour, they give you a t-shirt and discounts to purchase the moonshine.
Plenty of options
These three things to do in Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas will have your weekend set up for a great time. Each spot has other activities or shops or things to see to keep the trip flowing. I was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to do. They have a variety of family friendly places like attractions to see and interact with if you want to try something different from what was mentioned above!
Traveling from northern Italy, this was a perfect getaway trip by spending the weekend in Bari. We quickly grabbed a taxi after landing and drove 30 minutes to where we were staying in Mola Di Bari. The Airbnb was perfect for 3 of us as there was a master bedroom and a couch, along with a petite kitchen and rooftop to enjoy dinner and the sunset. The train station was about a 16 minute walk from our Airbnb which was our main mode of transportation. The trainline app could not make it any easier.
Breakfast in Italy
To keep expenses low we went grocery shopping to grab the necessities to make dinner and breakfast. Walking along the water near our Airbnb, we found a café where we ate croissants and coffee. Don’t expect a big breakfast in Italy. Being from America you have these huge breakfast options including, but not limited to eggs, bacon, toast, oatmeal, fruit, pancakes, etc. However, the croissants are always delicious so I do not mind eating those every day.
Places visited in Bari
As mentioned before, we didn’t need to rent a car for the weekend in Bari because the train took us to where we wanted to go. If we didn’t use the train, we walked because that’s the best way to learn a city and stumble upon more hidden, or local places. During our weekend trip here, we visited Castello Svevo Di Bari, Polignano a Mare, hidden cafes, and hung out on the rocks near the water.
Castello Svevo Di Bari included a fee to get in which was about 5 Euro for ages over 18 and it’s free for 0-17 year olds. Here we walked around the Castle as it was self guided and appreciated the architecture and history. It was built in 1132 and is surrounded by a moat except on the northern side.
We stopped for some food and of course grabbed an Aperol Spritz. As we walked through the town, we found some fisherman hanging out on the rocks so that’s what we did! We climbed down the ladder and spent some time on the rocks soaking up the sun.
Later on, we visited Polignano a Mare where we spent the day and enjoyed swimming in the Adriatic Sea.
Travel tip when spending a weekend in Bari
Be ready for lots of people as you can walk throughout the town and find quieter places, but the main viewing point is filled with people. You can swim into the caves and cliff jump. We were lucky enough to find a spot to sit along the rocks where there was just enough room to sit and jump into the water and able to climb back out.
When traveling to Italy, definitely add Bari to your list! There’s so much to do, even if you just spend the day in Polignano a Mare and enjoy the water. This is just one of the perfect places to spend a weekend in Bari.
If you want more ideas of places to visit in Italy, check out Lake Como as it is one of my favorite spots!
One of my favorite travel hacks is how easy and affordable it is to fly within Europe. When my boyfriend came to visit me for a week in Italy, we were looking for places to travel to and of course we had to visit Malta. We were on a time crunch, but we were ready for adventure.
We ended up booking our trip from Milan to Malta for 2 days where we stayed at Plaza Regency Hotel. Our trip was quick as we planned a sunset tour one day and the rest, we were ready to go with the flow.
Arriving in Malta
We booked a taxi from the airport that took us right to the hotel which was about 15 minutes away. Looking back, I would suggest doing the bus because you can get a feel as a local and it is way cheaper. But, we wanted to get right to our destination so we did not do that. Sometimes it’s just easier and more comfortable to grab a quick taxi.
Dinner and a Sunset Tour
Our trip was a quick one as we flew in early evening around 5:30pm, and went out for dinner at L’ Ostricaio Balluta. We ordered a shrimp pasta dish and a lobster pasta with a bottle of wine, of course. If you’re looking for a restaurant by the water, this is the place to go when you visit Malta!
The following day we enjoyed our time by the beach, soaked up the sun, grabbed a snack, and then headed to our sunset tour.
We booked our reservation through Get Your Guide, Camino: Blue Lagoon, Crystal Lagoon, and Sea Caves Tour where we snorkeled, had one too many drinks, and a yummy dinner on the boat. Our dinner was included with the tour tickets, but we did have to put down a security deposit for snorkeling that we got back once equipment was returned. This is one thing you have to do when you visit Malta!
We headed out the following day to the airport, severely hungover, where we thought we would try the buses back. Instead of taking two buses, we took three which honestly isn’t too bad looking back on it now. At the time, we were stressed, and I thought I lost my phone, but it all worked out as we got to the airport on time, and my phone was indeed with me!
Plans to return
I would definitely go back to Malta as it is a small island, but there’s so many more things to see and do. Next time, I would love to see more architecture, visit the capital, Mdina, and maybe even scuba dive! This blog post has great ideas to things to see!
After traveling to 14 countries, I wanted to share the top 4 best places to travel to! Read until the end to find some travel hacks!
There are so many beautiful places out there that have so much to offer and I love every place I’ve been to. But, I’m going to break this down into 4 categories that are specific to my experiences. The categories I came up with are favorite architecture, favorite activities, favorite food, and most unique experience. All of these should be on your bucket list as they are the best places to travel to!
Prague, Czech Republic
Lake Como, Italy
Now can you guess which city/country matches which category?
This was pretty easy to choose because the moment I walked over Charles Bridge, I fell in love with Prague, Czech Republic. Ever since I was a sophomore in college in 2018, I wanted to travel to Prague. And I had that chance when my brother and I backpacked Europe in 2021.
If you need ideas for how to pack for a backpacking trip, check this out!
The architecture was different than anything I’ve ever seen as it was built in the Gothic and Renaissance era. Even though I haven’t seen all of the Harry Potter movies (we’re on number 3), I just felt like I was in a character in the movie. It was so beautiful, so magical, and super easy to navigate!
We took the Lime scooters all around town and saw all the main attractions. Within two days of being there, we did a total of 7+ miles on the lime scooters. For my Beatles fans, John Lennon has a wall that surrounds the seat of Maltese Order and in the 1960s, messages appeared here as he was perceived as a symbol of freedom during the regime.
HACK: Czech people are super friendly and welcoming! Check out Hostel Downtown for the perfect location of being in the heart of the city. Remember, it’s cheaper to book a dorm room than it is to book a private room. Always worth a shot to look at both!
Now, this is hard… So many places have tons of things to do and it really depends on what you’re in the mood for. I decided to choose a place where most of our adventures were spontaneous.
And the place I’m choosing is Chania, Crete, Greece!
Honestly, when I think of Greece, I think of the whitewashed buildings in Santorini. As you probably do to. However, that is not the case in Chania, Crete. We had a girls weekend at this location because it was one of the more affordable places for us to go. We booked the flight and hostel, and found places to go to via this video on YouTube. Thanks to That Greek Guy!
One of my favorite things was take a day trip to visit Balos Beach. Now, this isn’t any old beach. This was an ADVENTURE.
First of all, we had to drive along the coast (not a paved road) and pay to get in. There were goats along the way and we had to drive maybe 15 minutes to get to the parking lot. Once we were at the parking lot, so many more goats showed up!
We didn’t know the extent of the hiking so, if you go to Balos Beach, bring sneakers! Us four girls were walking in flip flops down the mountain to get to the beach. But, the views and water was absolutely worth it.
The next thing we did was visit Kourtaliotis waterfall. Again, more hiking as you had to go down a stairway, but the views and journey to get there was so fun. The water was freezing, but of course we had to go in!
Once you get to the swimming pool area, there’s a cave you can swim through to see the waterfall.
After this, we went to Kalypso beach where you can actually stay in the hotel, but we just went for a few hours.
After these adventurous days, we decided to stay more in the downtown area and got some tattoos, yummy food, and some shopping! It was a quick weekend, but filled with so much adventure. Definitely one of my favorite trips.
HACK: Some people were surprised we chose to travel here because again when people want to visit Greece, they choose the more popular cities like Santorini, Athens, etc. Nothing is wrong with tha, but this is just a great city to try out if you want to get away from the crowds of people, and experience a quieter island.
Okay, I lied. I said my favorite activity spot was hard to choose. Nope, favorite food is hard to pick because I love food and there’s TONS of options.
The winner for this will probably have to be Lake Como, Italy. Traveling here for a quick 2 day trip was nowhere near enough time! One day it was rainy and gloomy, but we still walked around, checked out the churches, and shops.
However, there’s this train called the Como- Brunate Funicular Railway that takes passengers from the bottom of the lake, up the hill to a town that has an amazing restaurant that overlooks the lake. Apparently, you can hike down instead of returning back down the mountain on the railway. This is something I want to try next time I visit!
We went up in the evening for dinner so we didn’t see much of the views of the lake, but the food was delicious. We ate at the Trattoria Dei Bracconieri Brunate and we started with a tasty meat plate and got two pasta dishes. Of course we had a wine, and if I remember correctly it was a fizzy red wine. The whole experience, meal, and service was 10 out of 10.
My advice, go during the day to see the amazing views.
This is an easy one because it’s a place that a lot of people questioned me about. “Are you sureeee you want to go there?” “Why there?”
Let me tell you why…
In the Western world, Islam is not talked about very often so I have had limited exposure to it. And when it is talked about, it’s usually negative.
However, I don’t have any negative experiences after visiting Oman. My perspective grew and I appreciated their culture more than ever.
To dive into it, we visited Muscat, Oman freshman year of college for a week long “preview” trip. This is what my college did to get a taste of study abroad. Quite, genius actually. The week we (my class and I) had spent was definitely a trip of a lifetime and just like anywhere, you have to be aware of what’s happening in your surroundings.
So, to start this week-long trip we flew into Muscat, and then moved to the coast for a couple days, then the sand desert, and finished in the mountains. We had an amazing tour guide and native from Oman, Said, who taught us all about the culture and took us around his beautiful country. We were also led by Jeff Rose, an archaeologist who dedicated most of his career to find human migration out of Africa and Arabia. My eyes have never been wider and ears have never listened more.
Being an outsider in a new country, it is crucial to have respect for the people and culture. We were lucky enough to go inside the Grand Mosque where we had to take off our shoes, cover our hair, and wear long pants and shirts.
Before prayer, there is a purification ritual that includes washing the face, hands, arms and feet. Said also sang the Quran which was so beautiful to listen to even though I didn’t understand what he was saying.
Did I forget to mention we went dune bashing, swam in caves, and rode camels?? When I say this was a trip of a lifetime, it was just that. A TRIP OF A LIFETIME.
Shout out to my professors and classmates who was along with me on this trip. Comment your favorite part about it <3
I think all trips are the trip of a lifetime because it’s all so different and unique in it’s own way. Whether you’re going to a new restaurant, traveling a few hours away, or going to the opposite side of the world.. It’s all so special and should never be taken for granted!
Okay, to summarize… Remember to always look at hostels. The community within hostels is so fun and you meet so many amazing people. Enjoy the journey because traveling can be stressful but enjoy the time as it’s just as important. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere that’s a more quiet street (or city) because there is just as much beauty, probably better food, and better prices. (cough, cough, side streets in Venice.) Continue your search on google flights and skyscanner. I hope you find the best deals.
Talk to the local people, they’re the best ones to meet!
P.S. You didn’t say Australia?!
If you know me, you know I studied abroad in Australia in 2021. And yes, you’re right… that is definitely one of the best places to travel to.
Spending less than 24 hours in Venice is a quick trip. Of course, you can spend a few more days here to enjoy more of it, but if you’re in a time crunch like my boyfriend and I then here is what you can do to see the city in a day.
Heading into Venice
Of course you can drive into Venice and park in a parking structure, but the best way to go about traveling here is by train. Bikes are nowhere to be found in Venice, since there are so many bridges and narrow streets! You can’t beat the price of less than $2 a person from Venezia Mestre to Venezia Santa Lucia. (Tip: download TrainLine for ways to get around Europe.) Going by train is the perfect way to head into the city because once you head out of the train station, below is the view you see and you can walk wherever you would like.
Getting our day started…
It was early morning for us so we had 11 hours to walk through the city. As soon as we got out of the train station, we took a left to the S. Maria di Nazareth church next door.
It’s free to walk through so of course we had to check it out. Afterwards, we walked across the main bridge by S. Maria di Nazareth (pictured above) and enjoyed the view of the Grand Canal.
While we were standing on the bridge, there was a Global Climate Strike that was happening right outside the train station. We watched that, and then went to find breakfast which is really just a pastry and cappuccino from a small cafe. I always get the chocolate croissant, but if that’s not available they have a marmalade pastry that is just as delicious. I can taste it now.
We continued walking towards Saint Mark’s Square where the main shops are located and more beautiful buildings like Saint Mark’s Basilica, Saint Mark’s Bell Tower, etc! Did you know Venice sits on top of 10 million tree trunks?!
It can be confusing to walk through these narrow streets, but there are signs on the edge of buildings if you look closely. (Tip: Use GoogleMaps to get around too.) I have been to Venice before, so I had a rough idea of where things are.
My boyfriend and I enjoy good food- how can you not?! Looking at the picture above, we took a right and went all the way to the water. We found local artists, selling their work and so I bought this beautiful picure.
We wanted yummy Italian food so while we were walking around we ate at this restaurant near the water, down a main street. Sorry- don’t remember the name! It’s been a while.
After lunch, we decided to go up the tower. Saint Mark’s Bell Tower is beautiful to look at from below. However, for about $20/ person you can go up the tower and overlook the beautiful city. We took an elevator up, and spent time looking at every angle the view had to offer. Then, you wait in line to head back down the elevator.
Before heading to the train station to go to Milan, we grabbed dinner at a small restaurant that was hidden in the streets of Venice. Of course we grabbed Carbonara pasta, and wine. Unfortunately, we did not take pictures of this and I don’t remember where we had it, but if you find restaurants that are hidden in the streets- those are the places to go! The places along the water and and near main attractions will be much more expensive.
Book that train to Venice!
Wherever you are in the world, book that plane or train! One thing you will never regret is the things you see and people you meet. The memories I make traveling are my favorite things to think about. There are ways to travel on the cheaper side, so look on google flights or skyscanner and have a great time!
I will be honest with you… It wasn’t even one day in Napa, it was less than ten hours. Coming from Pacifica, it was about an hour and forty five minute drive to the first Winery- Laird Family Estate and then a twelve minute drive to Ackerman Family Vineyard. We had a slow start to our day since we left the house around late afternoon, but we wanted to use our time wisely as we only had one day in Napa. We arrived at the first winery and just did wine by the glass at 3pm. After that glass, we hopped back in the car and did an hour wine tasting at 4pm to 5pm. All the wine was very good, however I still will always prefer red wine to white wine.
At Ackerman Family Vineyard, I was surprised by how much I liked the peachy white wine. Sometimes people mention how fruity they taste and I never taste it, but this time I did. I always enjoy dessert wine, but this white wine did the trick for me.
When you go wine tasting, there is a science to it. The “correct” way to do it is: look, sniff, swirl, sip. I’m not a professional by any means, so check out this article to find out more.
Don’t get me wrong… pour wine in front of me and I’ll drink it, and most likely enjoy it. I always love trying new wines to see how they taste and smell so one day in Napa is never a day wasted. This was a quick day trip, so if you find yourself crunching for time, it is always best to set reservations! Thank you cell phones!
Laird Family Estate
This is the typical winery I picture in my head when I hear “Napa”. There were a variety of tables to pick from with the view of the vineyard and mountains in the background. I did not take a picture, unfortunately, so I guess you have to see it for yourself! The staff was lovely and very helpful. We enjoyed one glass of wine in the comfy couches and soaked up the California sun. If you have more time to spend here, you can sit inside or outside. Along the hallway where you check in, there are cute little gifts you can look at and purchase, if desired. At this winery, we spent about $15 per glass of wine and bought a bottle for $60. After 45 minutes, we had to jump over to the other location.
Ackerman Family Vineyards
Driving through a residential neighborhood, we were surprised to see the Ackerman House on the corner that also offers wine tastings! This location was fixed up by Lauren Ackerman very nicely. It is quiet, as it had trees and fences that kept it secluded although it was close to other houses. They also offer cooking classes, and hold events! I forget the max number, maybe 40? For the wine tasting we tried 4 different wines, and bought two bottles to come home with us. For two tastings we spent $65 per person and for the wine we spent $130 for two bottles.
Porchfest at Ackerman Family Vineyards
Due to many business and events closing down from COVID-19, Porchfest is coming back to Napa where many people from all over the country come to taste wine, listen to music, and hang out like a local. Most houses offer their porches for bands to come play and it sounds like a great time to spend a summer weekend. We visited the second to last weekend in July, but we were told Porchfest happens the last weekend of July. Find out more here!
Dinner at C Casa Restaurant
After wine tasting, we moseyed on over to check out Oxbow Public Market which has tons of food to choose from. We picked C Casa Restaurant which was decent for Latin cuisine. To share, we ordered the nachos with chicken which was packed with veggies and sour cream. I enjoyed the Baja Fish Tacos, and a Mai Tai. My sister got the salad which she was not a fan of since it had anchovies on it. My mom ordered the Vegan Chili Verde Tofu that she also thought was delicious. To end our dinner, we got two Cafe Con Leches that were very yummy, and very rich in flavor. The service was decent, and it didn’t seem too busy for a Saturday evening- although we did sit outside and I’m not sure what the employees thought!
When in Napa
When you come to Napa, be prepared to spend money. I’m sure you find ways to do it cheaper like not buying bottles to take home, but that’s hard when you find ones you like! It is also very warm so dress for the sun and have a good time!
A small city outside of San Francisco, you’ll find Pacifica! This little beach town holds roughly 40,000 people and some coffee spot gems! I do not like spending a ton of money on coffee, as I view it more as a treat. But, if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks on coffee, keep reading to find the best coffee shops in Pacifica! Here I have included three different cafes that have totally different vibes.
Coffee shops in Pacifica
After a few days of research and trying new coffee shops, I enjoyed these three places for different reasons. A quick list of the places I stopped at are: Beach Monkey, Pacific Java, and Soul Grind. Continue to the end to figure out my favorite spot!
This hidden gem is definitely a locals only place. Beach Monkey is tucked inside Linda Mar in a very small plaza. If you are not in a rush, and want to enjoy an Acai Bowl then you can sit either inside or outside. I visited late in the morning and experienced low waiting time. There’s a nice big table that sits about 6-8 people if you want to have a small business meeting, enjoy coffee and food with friends or family, or grab a coffee by yourself, this is the place to do it! The space is limited, but if it’s not busy it is a nice quiet spot to be. I ordered the Rockaway Acai Bowl, which was delicious. In addition, I had the Café Chai which was sweet like whip cream in it and it didn’t have a strong chai taste, so it was pretty perfect. I paid about $15 for the bowl and coffee.
Pacific Java is located in a more busy area. More busy than Beach Monkey, but not as busy as Soul Grind. As it is one of the stores in this plaza, it is less of a local spot than Beach Monkey. There are gift shops, restaurants, and a variety of stores to check out nearby. The great thing about this place is that it is close to the beach. You can sit inside (upstairs or downstairs), outside, or take your coffee to go and walk along the beach! If you want to see what’s going on in Pacifica for the week or month, there are tons of fliers and business cards on the wall next to the pastry display. I went later in the morning again and it wasn’t a long wait. There were a handful of people sitting inside, and outside as well. The coffee menu has a wide variety to choose from, and the food was limited to pastries and small sandwiches. I ordered the Turmeric Chai to bring back home. This cost me about $5.75 and it was nice to quench my thirst.
Soul Grind coffee shop is always busy. This is where all the surfers park, and whether you’re a local or from out of town, this café is the place to go. For good reason too, because the coffee is always good. The food menu is filled with options like salads, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee. It has been an up and coming place, but the amount of people has never changed. I am so happy it survived the Pandemic where small businesses shut down. You’ll find a variety of people who do work on their laptops here, grab brunch with friends or family, or my favorite thing to do- take the coffee and go for a walk on the beach. You have the option to sit inside or outside, as there’s tons of space so I’m sure you can find a spot to sit. Parking is a bit crazy, so if you go here, this is your warning that parking is hit or miss. They have merch like t-shirts that they sell as well which is a great way to support local businesses. I ordered the Cliffside coffee with Almond Milk so it came out to about $7.
Support small coffee shops
The main reason I wanted to highlight these coffee shops in Pacifica is because they are all small businesses. Each place has its perks whether that’s being more secluded or being in the heart of what’s happening in this beach town. With Starbucks also being an option nearby and close to the same price as these other coffee shops, I hope you choose to support a small business café. I bet you’ll find it just as delicious and convenient as Starbucks, but hopefully more! You may also enjoy the things locals enjoy everyday. I understand some of these prices may be a bit much, but of course sizes vary and types of drinks vary. My favorite place is definitely Soul Grind since it’s so close to the beach and their coffee is always yummy.
And for lunch, stop by the most beautiful Taco Bell in the world… located right on the beach!