Why Chattanooga with a Toddler is the place you want to be!?!

Early on in Jon and Is marriage he surprised me with a birthday trip to Chattanooga and it’s been a love affair ever since. The walkability, the intimate but enough feeling, the ease of location. It’s become an annual tradition for us to head up there for a few days, but with a toddler it might become more frequent. And here’s why:

  1. Traffic.
    There isn’t much. Unlike Atlanta we felt extremely safe having Elijah follow us along the sidewalks. It gave us some relief from feeling like he was having to be in his stroller constantly, and he got ALL of his energy out.
  2. Walkability.
    From the aquarium, to the pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee River, to the playground along the riverwalk everything is accessible by foot. Taking away the hassle of being in and out of a carseat while you move locations. The only thing we did that we moved our car for was our hike at Lookout Mountain.
  3. Kid Oriented Activities.
    While they aren’t necessarily cheap, if we were to come up more than twice a year it’d be worth an annual pass. Here’s what you have:
    a. The Tennessee Aquarium – maybe an unpopular opinion, but it is way better than the Georgia Aquarium for a toddler. It is a small walkway that guides you through the exhibit, there are multiple floors and buildings but it keeps you from feeling overwhelmed as you are only seeing one or two things at a time. This was truly Elijah’s favorite part. Check out what they have to offer here: Tennessee Aquarium Site
    b. The Creative Discovery Museum – this was partly under renovation when we went, but between the water features, the creative stations, and the giant play/slide structures Elijah could have easily spent all day in here if he wasn’t already exhausted (we spent about 2 hours). Want more info? Click here.
    c. The Riverwalk water feature – this is a true gem. We stumbled upon it walking around one day but is a gently flowing water feature that ends with a shallow pool overlooking the river. You can find it underneath the pedestrian bridge and check out my Instagram Post for a look here.
  4. Ease of travel.
    Getting somewhere that can give us a change of pace and fresh perspective within 2 hours of Atlanta is optimal. Two hours is about Elijah’s limit before he starts getting antsy. The only traffic you regularly is at the I-24 split (I am not sure why on Earth they created it that way especially when there is clearly more space for more lanes but what do I know), but after you get past it you are 10 minutes out from downtown!
  5. Best of both (all three?) worlds.
    You get a little city, mixed with a little outdoor adventure, mixed with a little small town feel. It makes for such a great opportunity for learning and engaging in a variety of sights, sounds, and activities. Plus almost every restaurant has the color sheets for kids which is also key for tired babes who just want to eat and have some quiet time.

One other tad-bit: DoubleTree Downtown Chattanooga has the BEST FREE cookies when you check in and it’s a good bribery piece for a toddler. Alright, so are you convinced enough? Have any questions/thoughts? Let me know!

Until next time Chattanooga,
Jordan

Old Key West, Epcot and Eats

Originally this weekend was supposed to take place at the beginning of January. Time away, solo, enjoying some sunny Florida weather as a way to refresh and refuel. Lately, I’ve learned how to rent DVC points and grab a cheaper option for a nicer resort. Two years ago we were able to experience Saratoga Springs for the first time and this time I decided to grab an Old Key West reservation. I was excited to check out another DVC exclusive resort and eat at my favorite breakfast on property: Olivia’s.

I stayed with some friends on Thursday night in Gainesville and then headed down to Disney after breakfast Friday. The first night I was there I stayed in one of the good neighbor hotels near Disney Springs; I love close proximity to Disney Springs. It’s so nice to have it as an option just to lounge, shop, get some Disney magic, and get incredible eats.

So after a quick nap in my room I headed towards Disney Springs to check out all the new merch, with a few stops at my familiar comforts! I picked up a new pin from Pin Traders (for Disney Visa Holders) and new ring from Pandora, and the regular grub from the Polite Pig, a barbecue joint with some incredible vegetarian options as well! I checked out a few new toys for Elijah and the latest styles and called it a day!

After settling in for a mostly restful night sleep I woke up and hopped out the door for a walk/light jog, definitely humid, but I couldn’t complain about sunny and not freezing. I made it back just in time to shower, checkout and head to my breakfast reservation at Olivia’s Cafe. There isn’t anything crazy special on the menu but if you want a family feel with cozy eats this is your place. Its located near the main lobby of Old Key West and sits on the water. I made sure to grab some mickey waffles, a LOT of coffee and I headed to Epcot for my one park day. The buses are a little crazy at Old Key West, they do not come through often like they do at a resort like the All Stars and the stops before you actually leave are plentiful. That was lesson #1! When we finally made it to Epcot the excitement was contagious. Typically when I’m at Epcot its during a festival so I am after festival food, unique designs and visuals, but this time it was the week in-between Arts and Flower & Garden so I took advantage of rides and character meets that I usually don’t! It was wonderful. Staying on property also has its advantages here since you can get in early – I was on and off Test Track and in the queue for Ratatouille before the park even opened to the general public.

Ratatouille was a one and done for me, but it’s definitely worth doing! By the time I was out of that line I was starting to get hungry so I went over to Regal Eagle Smokehouse. I was going to try the barbecue, we never have and as someone who lives in a place with fantastic barbecue I was skeptical. Rightfully so, if you live in a place that has access to great barbecue this is a no-go, however, if you don’t then you might find this perfectly acceptable. But it was nothing that a good Joffrey’s cold brew and donut couldn’t make up for! So I sipped as I walked the rest of the show case and stopped for photo-ops, all in all a great day.

After several hours taking it all on I took a lap on the monorail as a break. I had no agenda except to enjoy the ride, I stopped at Magic Kingdom to say hi and then hopped on a bus there to get over to All Star Movies where my sister in law was staying. The afternoon was just as relaxing as can be, we chilled at the pool for awhile, got ready in their room and then hopped over to Hollywood Studios for our first time at the Brown Derby. It’s considered signature dining, and the food was good, but I am not sure quite good enough for the price tag, this was lesson #2.

What happened next was extremely unfortunate and continued to paint Old Key West in a less than positive light. While my sister in law and her friend headed off to rides, I was ready to hit the hay. I walked over to catch a bus to the resort and after 30 minutes I was still waiting for a bus to the resort, it continued to paint the picture that the transportation at OKW is less than ideal. An hour later I finally did get back to the resort, moved my car over the room I was staying in (SHOUT OUT TO MOBILE CHECK IN), grabbed my two backpacks and headed up the stairs to my room, EXCEPT my digital key on my phone wouldn’t open my door. So I rustled through my bags to see if I had any of my magic bands with no luck. Thankfully, when you do mobile check in you’ll get an email that gives a number that goes straight to the front desk of your resort, clutch. So after two calls to them I finally was able to get someone to come let me in, but the process was anything but smooth. Lesson #3 : in person is always better. I should’ve just walked to the front desk myself it would have solved all my issues in a matter of minutes instead of the night and next morning ordeal it became. Who knew you could learn so much after so many times at Disney?

I was slightly disappointed in the rooms at OKW, they seemed more bare bones than the rooms at Saratoga Springs, and there is no access to walk to any parks or Disney Springs. I did NOT like the Boardwalk but the ability to walk to Epcot or Hollywood Studios was clutch. Likewise, at Saratoga Springs the ability to walk to Disney Springs puts it above Old Key West for me.

But again, the food at Old Key West is top notch, and that might be reason enough for some people to still stay there, just probably not me. The next morning I went to their quick service place right on the water called Goods to Go. The harvest breakfast sandwich was hands down one of my favorite sandwiches on property. So while some of the logistics weren’t ideal, the eats were 10/10. Pick your poison.

Leaving is always sad for me, other than on major holidays when I can’t wait to get out of there its just such a fun place to dream, relax, try new things, you can really pick your own vacation! And as you saw above, you’ll learn a few things each time you go!

Enjoy the magic!

Jordan

Why San Clemente Quickly Became a Go-To Spot

Kristen is one of the friends you just want to have. She’s the most loyal and thoughtful friend and she also lives in a great spot in California. When I hopped off the plane in LAX Thursday night, we had only roughly talked about our weekend plans. She’s lived out there over seven years and we’ve been able to do all the landmarks during some of those trips (Santa Monica Pier, Beverly Hills, Disneyland) so there was nothing that I was overly drawn to do. 

To my surprise Kristen and Zack had this whole thing planned out. We stopped for a quick bite in Irvine with Zack and headed to San Clemente. She had booked us a cute little Airbnb right on the coast. San Clemente is the southernmost beach town in Orange County. We crashed pretty quickly Thursday night but were excited to enjoy this spot come Friday morning.

Local Coffee Shop

We headed to this cute little coffee shop just a short walk from our place called High Tide Coffee. Incredibly instagrammable except that pretty much every spot in this beach town is in this category. While the coffee was great, I really loved this spot because they let you pick you mug, and they had a nice assortment of pastries including gluten-free, dairy-free donuts. That is the mothership in my opinion! Plus, it was pumpkin flavored and even SoCal was a cool down from Atlanta, so it felt so much more like fall. 

Waterside Brunch

After we chilled for a bit that morning, we decided it was time for a true brunch/lunch. I am always trying to add brunch spots to my 30 before 30 bucket list items, and I was able to add quite a few places to that list this weekend. Our Friday spot was called Pierside, it didn’t sit directly on the water, but it had an ocean view, and was super reasonably priced. We helped ourselves to a shrimp and guac appetizer as well as some incredible avocado bruschetta. Our main dishes looked more like breakfast with a delicious egg scramble and the BEST (no exaggeration) fingerling potatoes. 

Savory American 

After a great beach day, we headed back on their great beach trail (a 2.2-mile one-way route that hugs the beach the whole way) to rest and get cleaned up. For dinner we headed to their downtown strip area, slightly off the water. There is no lack of options but we wanted some simple so we headed to a spot called The Local, I was feeling a little full since my body thought it was closer to 10pm and just grabbed a Thai Salad and some Brussel sprouts to share, who knew these would be the perfect example of a well done Brussel sprout. Blistered to perfection with a balsamic glaze was a fun way to stay simple, but tasty. Kristen got a monster burger which she said was delicious. 

Sweet Treat

If you want to know something about Kristen, she has a hankering for ice cream and as beach towns across the country do have no shortage of ice cream shops. We found this spot on Del Mar called South Swell Hand Dipped that had all natural, no additives selections of gelato. While at that point I was stuffed, we both tried several flavors and were blown away!

Cultural offerings 

Saturday morning, we went for a nice run out and back of the beach trail and had our hearts set on this crepery called La Galette. Located right next to Pierside we loved having a water view while we enjoyed our French breakfast. We split a sweet (berries and cream) and savory (chicken sausage, potatoes, and cheese) and thought both were 8/10. We walked around for a bit and decided it was time to make our way back towards Irvine for a special spa day that Zack had surprised us with. 

If you are a runner you’ll love the North Beach Trail that overlooks the water. It’s a 4.5 mile out and back and flat as a board, the ocean air providing a really nice breeze as the sweat starts to glisten.

10/10 would recommend San Clemente and we would go back again in a heartbeat. 

Have you ever been? Any other spots you love?

Acadia: Eats, Ice Cream, and slightly Expensive.

Let me first start by saying that in Bar Harbor you aren’t going to eat for less than $50 for two for anything other than breakfast (and even that’s iffy) so budget well. HOWEVER, it is all together WORTH IT.

But before we get all the way to Bar Harbor let me first mention a tiny, unsuspecting BBQ joint just slightly west of Portland, ME. Jon’s is a big-time BBQ connoisseur so whenever and wherever we travel I research some of the top spots. So we headed to this spot called Noble Barbecue. It was undeniably both of our absolutely favorite thing we ate on our entire trip, so much so that we stopped on the way there and back. Their menu is small, but the way the have regular and vegan options and added little touches that make it a unique and flavorful experience.

As we got into Bar Harbor on Thursday and had adventured outside for a bit, I was just searching for anything seafood related. So I was super excited to happen upon the Bar Harbor Lobster Co. I went plane and simple fried pickles to start, some lightly battered fish, and roasted brussel sprouts. Jon tried his first EVER lobster roll and had very mixed feelings, but needless to say I was proud of him for venturing out. It’s a very standard seaside spot, but if you just want casual – worth checking out.

Friday was our big day. The next morning, post 5 hour hike, we went to Great Maine Breakfast, right in the heart of Bar Harbor. After hearing so much about the blueberry situation in Maine we tried to go for their popular Blueberry Pancakes. They had regular and Gluten Free/Dairy Free. We both thoroughly enjoyed our own versions and yes we resisted this spot Saturday morning as well – ha!

After hike #2 for the day we decided it was time for lunch. Irish pubs are a thing all over the place in the northeast so we headed to a spot with a coastal view: Paddy’s Irish Pub. We craved something unique, but on the lighter side. So we stuck with earth bowls and the best part: Crab Cake. This was probably the best crab cake I have had to this date, and I am picky. If you ever go here – just say yes!

The one thing that we were missing so far that is something that is a must at any beachside spot was fried calamari. Some people thing eww, but I am all about it. Since we weren’t looking for anything special we found a walk-in spot called Geddy’s that had all the American seafood eats, and perfectly crafted calamari. But we couldn’t be finished without a spot a classic beach town ice cream shop. We picked a random one called CJs Big Dipper, it was really great ice cream. Nothing mind blowing, but the perfect treat!

Truth me told we went straight back to Great Maine Breakfast Saturday morning after our run at Jordan Pond. No shame, it’s that good, and doesn’t break the bank, ha!

If you have any other recs for the next time we head that way let me know, we love to explore everything!

Later this week will be a post on San Clemente, CA and I cannot wait to share this surprise trip beach town with you.

Happy Monday friends!

Jordan

The Awe of Acadia

I’m only assuming here but when you think of National Parks I’m assuming your mind goes to the “biggies”: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion. Acadia wasn’t even on our radar several years ago, but after my family shifted to wanting to do more outdoor adventure trips we quickly made a list of national parks that we wanted to see. So while my family was planning an out west adventure (the only one of those I’ve seen is the Grand Canyon), Jon and I were looking for something a little closer to home for our anniversary.

By now you’ve probably read, or at least seen, the posts about our time in Boston, but Maine was special. Before I dive into Acadia specifically, I’ll give you a little overview. We flew in and out of Boston because it was WAY cheaper than flying into Portland or Bangor, however it’s a near five hour drive north especially if you take regular breaks. If/when we go back I would spend the extra money flying into Bangor so you have extra time to spend in Maine/Acadia.

Because of that drive I routed us a few times to lighthouses and restaurants that allowed us to experience more of Maine as a whole, which was stunning!

Nubble Lighthouse

We stayed in a wonderful little motel a little north of Bar Harbor (the town next to Acadia), called Belle Isle. Although the room was small, it gave us just what we needed, and the grounds were gorgeous and super well maintained. It’s just a couple miles in when you cross onto Mt Desert Island and a little less expensive then staying in the heart of Bar Harbor.

We quickly headed over to Bar Harbor for dinner and our first views of the incredible Maine coastline. It was really stunning. Something I’m so used to being a regular to the Florida Atlantic area is that when you look out into the ocean you just see vastness. It’s just ocean forever. But here, it’s little islands everywhere; some with mountains, some big, some tiny, the sunrises and sunsets hitting them all in a completely different way. It just makes you pause and take all of these mental pictures you never want to lose.

While that first evening we didn’t go into Acadia, Bar Harbor has a great coastline trail that you could literally walk forever with its views and cool breeze.

Friday was definitely the most epic. After researching the best sunrise hikes in Acadia, Cadillac Mountain was on our radar. Then that was 100% confirmed by one of Jon’s co-workers. The catch with Cadillac Mountain is that it’s the first spot in the US to see the sunrise, which also means it’s the earliest. About an hour and change earlier then Atlanta, so if you want to hike it you are out the door by 3:30am in route to park at the base. But it was absolutely worth it in EVERY WAY. Pictures do not do it justice, but hiking it up and down (we took two different paths to get different perspectives) was one of the most incredible experiences, but also one of the most rewarding. Side note: you can drive to the top, you still want to go early to get the entirety of the sunrise, and the parking is limited. Poor Jon looked at me like I was nutty, but when you are married to a an 8, 3, 1 on the enneagram there was NOTHING that was going to make me drive to the top verses having the fulfillment of hiking it. 

I wish I could go ahead and tell you what kind of feast we had to celebrate, but that’s for next blog post. 

After a satisfying breakfast we took time to relax on a bench overlooking the harbor. The boats starting their days and the sun starting to dance higher and higher. Jon took time to nap after such an early wake up call, while I read further into what it means to feel like it’s okay to not be enough because Jesus is enough and we get to be utterly and completely FREE in that. Heavy reading for vacation, but a truth that needs to be hammered in. And then before we knew it, it was TIME. 

Time for what? For only three hours a day the tide lowers to open up a walkway of a sandbar to Bar Harbor Island. Technically part of Acadia national park, roughly between 9am-12pm you walk across onto this island and an easy two mile hike up to the hillside overlooking all of Bar Harbor and the northern side of Acadia National Park. It was a lot after such a hike that morning but 100% worth it, this “trail” is steady with people so stay aware, but not full enough that you risk being trampled.

We got back to Bar Harbor around 11 or so and headed to lunch. Again for next blog post and then back to the motel for a much needed and well deserved nap. 

We took the evening easy, walking the coastline trail again, shopping, and eating great food.

Saturday morning was Jon’s favorite part! I wanted to get in a trail run and Jon had a spot he really wanted to check out that ended up serving as the perfect spot for an easy run. Jordan Pond. It sits in the middle of the park surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and an epic sunrise. It’s right at 3.25 miles around and flat the whole way. While easy for 85% of it, there is a little bit of rock climbing at two points so be careful! 

After we left Jordan Pond we drove around the Southside of the island, taking in the south part of Acadia and its incredible views. We had one last breakfast in Bar Harbor before we packed up to head to Boston. We were sad to have to end this part of our trip, but as I said before when (not if) we are to do it again we will fly into Bangor and spend more time in this beautiful place.

Let me know what you think? Have you been? Anything you loved that I didn’t mention?

Until foodie time,

Jordan


Boston: Foodies on the Hunt

Along with it’s rich cultural history, Boston is rich in food-ism as well. Although we were a little over seafood after Bar Harbor, like I ever thought that was possible, Boston’s seafoods scene is alive and well. But we wanted more than just great seafood, we wanted a little bit of everything. In all the genre’s we never knew were possible.

Boston has so many neighborhoods and the eats inside them all range from healthy to down and dirty fried fish and chips. So here is just a small taste into the food scene.

First and Foremost, at least for Jon is Dunkin Donuts (kidding kind sorta). Birthed in Massachusetts there is a Dunkin on practically every corner, and with Pumpkin Spice flavors bursting on the scene we indulged in the classic you can find just about anywhere.

Now for the real eats:

Rich History : Union Oyster House

Our first night in Boston was a hustle, but we also were excited to arrive to meet up with our friends for a fun first meal in the historic way. And what better spot than America’s oldest restaurant. It’s not a cheap place to eat, but their menu but seafood and American is substantial and it comes with an epic piece of delicious cornbread that tastes more like cake.

Grab and Go : Boston Public Market

After our dinner our friends took us over to Boston Public Market, similar to Atlanta’s Krog Street, Boston Public Market is a large open space with small stalls for individual vendors. Bagels, donuts, ice cream, noodles, floral shops, nuts, and our favorite: the apple cider booth. We grabbed some mini apple cider donuts for a fun after dinner snack!

Healthy Helping : Sweetgreen

A local chain, think Upbeet in Atlanta, that has bowls of any combination you could dream up. Jon and I got a little over our rich meals and settled for a healthier and lighter lunch choice one day for Atlanta. Nothing super special, but you can find them in several spots and they are quick and easy!

Perfect Vibe : Beehive

In the South End neighborhood, nestled into an unsuspecting building, lies Beehive. On this particular Sunday morning brunch there was jazz on a stage we overlooked. It made for a really great experience, and while not substantial options there was something for everyone and it was perfection.

Burger Joints: Boston Burger Co.

I googled this one, being the burger connoisseur’s that Jon and I think we are. And there were several great options that stood out but why not hit for the most local sounding. This spot is near Fenway Park and there is no shortage of burger options. I stuck with a very traditional mushroom and Swiss turkey burger, while Jon far ventured out with something involving peanut butter, bacon, and everything in between. Good experience, good vibe, excellent fried pickles.

All things Italian : Bricco

Something similar to Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood you can find anything and everything Italian right in the middle of the city. From family style Italian, to brick oven pizza, from cannoli’s, to gelato you can literally hit any spot on these couple streets and be completely satisfied.

Brunchin : Tatte Bakery

I am a sucker for brunch so not only did we hit Beehive with its vibe, we hit a local favorite, Tatte. While the coffee wasn’t our favorite, both of our breakfast sandwiches (slightly different) were INCREDIBLE. This is a poppin’ place and the light and open feeling makes you feel completely ready to take on the day.

Sweet Treat : Pressed Juicery

This one is ALL thanks to Courtney, who casually mentioned this place to me. It’s found in the Northeast, and the particular one we went to was in Harvard Square. The have plant based sweet treats, in addition to their pressed juices that you would never suspect weren’t the “real” deal. Their soft serve is made with fruits, nuts, and vegetables and is 100% dairy-free and 110% delicious. PLUS you can mix in whatever you want.

There were several more places we would have LOVED to hit. Including the newer seaport district, but of course there is no way to try everything. We definitely plan to be back when I finally qualify for the Boston Marathon (crossing my fingers for 2021).

Do you have any favorites? Any opinions on the places above? Let me know at jordan@fuelingherforward.com

Until Acadia friends,

Jordan