Nashville

Nashville, TN is known for two major things: music and food. During my short time there, I got my fill of both!

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My mom and I having our first beers in Nashville, 2016. c. Leah Putz

If you’ve got music in your soul- especially country music- you’ve got to make your way to Tennessee’s biggest city. When strolling along Broadway whether it be day or night you’ll hear live music blasting from nearly every bar. There’s also a lot of talented musicians playing on the sidewalks, so you can enjoy the music as you walk!

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Tootsies, 2016. c. Leah Putz

On Broadway sits Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge. As the most well-known honkey tonk bar in Nashville, Tootsies has hosted a variety of famous acts on its three stages. The likes of Taylor Swift, Willie Nelson, and Patsy Cline have all performed here. Though the drinks are a bit expensive, it’s worth stopping by Tootsies to appreciate it’s hall of fame if nothing else.

History and/or art buffs should head to the Parthenon- a full scale reconstruction of the ancient temple in Athens, Greece. The building, located in the center of Centennial Park, functions as art museum. For those of us who may not get to go to Greece, it’s exciting to be able to see a complete replica of one of the world’s most iconic structure.

Parthenon in Centennial Park, 2016. c. Leah Putz

When in the south you can’t miss an opportunity to enjoy the amazing food. A big southern breakfast is a special treat, and there are many diners in Nashville that have menus stock full of delicious southern options such as chicken and waffles and, my personal favorite, biscuits and gravy. We went to 417 Union, a diner whose main floor pay homage to the WWII era and whose upper deck is styled in the Civil War era. As soon as we entered the diner it felt like we had stepped back in time!

 

Summer in Winnipeg

A few summers ago, my friend Joe and I visited Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, and came to the conclusion that Canada is like the hybrid child between America and Europe. When driving into Canada, we didn’t notice a change geographically, but suddenly there was French on all the signs and British flags everywhere. There were differences culturally as well. Everyone we met was incredibly helpful and friendly- giving us loads of advice of what to see and do in Winnipeg as soon as they heard we were Americans on our first trip to Canada.

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Me with Canadian money right after arriving in Winnipeg, 2013. c. Leah Putz

One of our Winnipeg favorites was the Manitoba museum, which is part historical museum and part science museum. Within the historical museum is the opportunity to walk alongside time and see how Manitoba has changed throughout the years, taking the viewer from Jurassic times right up to today. Alongside the exhibits are numerous plaques and videos to help you understand the gravity of what you’re looking at. The science portion of the museum is full of countless interactive activities for all ages. Although this area is geared more towards children, we also had a great time experimenting with the different activities as adults.

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Joe and a giant sloth skeleton at the Manitoba Museum, 2013. c. Leah Putz

If you cross the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge from downtown, you will find yourself in the French Quarter, which is a very interesting part of Winnipeg. Foodies should definitely make a stop here. We had some amazing crepes and, of course, the Canadian delicacy poutine. This combination of cheese curds, gravy, and french fries is one of the greatest, most artery-clogging dishes created by mankind.

 

Me before the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge, 2013. c. Leah Putz

Poutine in the French Quarter, 2013. c. Leah Putz

The French Quarter is also home to Fort Gibraltar, Winnipeg’s reconstructed fur trade fort, which gives people a chance to step back in time to a key location for the Canadian fur trade in the 18th century. The fort is full of people wearing authentic clothing from the time the fort was active as well as completing authentic tasks so visitors can get a true sense of what life was like for fur traders. For instance, we got to see a woman making a mug out of leather and a blacksmith making tools. The experience in the fort was very interactive; the employees engaged us in conversation and had answers for every question we could come up with.

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Fort Gibraltar, 2013. c. Leah Putz

Consider Winnipeg as a vacation destination this summer. We certainly had a blast taking in the history and the culture, and we loved how many friendly people we met.

 

An Art-Lovers Guide to Minneapolis

When you think of artistic cities, Minnesota doesn’t usually come to mine. But maybe it should. Minnesota has a history of producing brilliant artistic minds such as Prince and Bob Dylan, and there are many places in the city of Minneapolis to see beautiful and famous works of art. Here are the Twin Cities’ top five places to see works of art and architecture!

 

  1. Basilica of Saint Mary

 

Reminiscent of the catholic cathedrals it’s modeled after, the Basilica of Saint Mary can’t be missed amongst the modern buildings of downtown Minneapolis. Built in the early 1900s, the building belongs to the National Register of Historic Places as it was the first basilica in the United States! Since the 1990s, an annual weekend music festival called the Basilica Block Party has been held at the Basilica.

 

  1. Cathedral of Saint Paul

 

Overlooking downtown St. Paul stands the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Paul. This Cathedral is one of the largest in the United States, and it is a signature of the St. Paul skyline. Though the current cathedral wasn’t open until 1915, a chapel has been at that location since the early 1800s when St. Paul was a small community known as ‘Pig’s Eye.’ The Cathedral itself is a beautiful work of art, complete with rose windows and a bronze baldachin over a statue of Saint Paul. There is also an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta in the Cathedral, so if you’re unable to make it to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it may be easier to get to St. Paul to see the replica of one of the most famous and moving sculptures of all time.

 

  1. Walker Art Center

 

This modern art museum is home to many well known works of art, such as Andy Warhol’s 16 Jackies and one of my favorite paintings, Chuck Close’s Big Self-Portrait. It’s location near the Basilica of Saint Mary and the Sculpture Garden make it an ideal place to visit as you can see many different things in this one block area.

 

  1. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

 

Right next door to the Walker Art Center and the Basilica of Saint Mary sits the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Functioning as a sort of outdoor museum, the Sculpture Garden is home to countless famous works of art, the most well known being Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg, which located at the center of the garden.

 

  1. Minneapolis Institute of Art

 

My personal favorite on this list is the Minneapolis Institute of Art, locally known affectionately as the M.I.A.. One of the largest art museums in the country, I still have yet to see all it has to offer despite having been there countless times. The museum has a large collection of paintings, prints, and sculptures from all over the world and often features temporary special exhibits. Right now it is housing the Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters exhibit until the end of May, which allows viewers to catch a glimpse into the brilliant director’s mind.

Seattle: My Favorites

What immediately struck me about Washington is how green it is. I could even notice the difference from the plane before we landed; I spent the last 20 minutes or so of the flight admiring the evergreens from the window.  It was my first time on the west coast and I instantly had a good impression.

The lush landscape isn’t the only thing that struck me about the natural beauty of the Seattle area. Only about a half hour from the city sits the Snoqualmie Falls. The Falls, which are giant and surrounded by gardens and walking paths, are simply breathtaking. If you have some extra time and are staying in Seattle, I highly recommend taking a field trip out to Snoqualmie to enjoy seeing the Falls.

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Snoqualmie Falls, 2017. c. Leah Putz

However, there is plenty to see in the city as well! Obviously, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the Space Needle, which I saw from the highway as I was coming in to downtown Seattle. It was a particularly cloudy day, and apparently the view isn’t really worth the cost when you can’t see the mountains due to the clouds, so I was content to admire the Seattle staple from afar.

Rather than seeing the city from above in the Seattle, I decided to see it from below, and did a tour of the Seattle Underground. The thing I loved most about the Underground tour was how much history I learned. Going in, I didn’t really know anything at all about Seattle’s history, but the tour taught me all about it’s origins, the fire, it’s time as the ‘gateway to the Eukon’ and much more. The origins of the Underground begin with the Great Seattle Fire that destroyed much of downtown Seattle in 1889. The city was going to have to be rebuilt, and the citizens decided to rebuild the city higher than before to avoid many of the flooding problems they had been having. During the rebuilding process, the Underground was created at the level of the original streets and left open as a sort of underground shopping district before it was condemned in the 1920s, only to reopen in 1965 as a tourist attraction.

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View of a skylight from the Seattle Underground, 2017. c. Leah Putz

After coming up from Underground, my aunt, my cousin, and I began heading towards the famed Pike’s Place Market. The walk was only a few blocks, but we passed the Harbor Steps, the Seattle Art Museum, and many other amazing points of interest. The market was just as I’d imagined it- I got to see the workers throw fish, got the enjoy the fresh scent of the sea, and got to admire the beautiful yellow tulips that are planted all along the outside of the marketplace building.

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Pike’s Place Market, 2017. c. Leah Putz

Right across the street from Pike’s Place Market the first ever Starbucks still stands! The door has ‘1912’ painted on it which is a bit surreal, as well as the logo being uncensored. Considering how long the line was, I didn’t purchase a drink at this particular store, but I did grab a coffee at the airport on the way home to enjoy a Starbucks coffee on Starbucks’ home turf.

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My aunt and cousin outside of the first Starbucks, 2017. c. Leah Putz

Hawaiian Travel Tips

While I don’t have a ton of experience in tropical areas (Mexico, the Bahamas, and Florida are pretty much the extent of it), after this weekend I can say with confidence that Oahu, Hawaii is so far my favorite tropical locale. I have a lovely friend who showed me around for the short period of time I was on the island, and we packed a lot into the day and a half I was there. After my experience in Oahu, I compiled some tips on how to make the most out of a short (or long) period of time on this beautiful island.

Be Adventurous with Beach Activities

The beach is usually the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Hawaii, myself included. My favorite thing to do at the beach is relax and admire the view (which is exactly what I did in Kailua at Lanikai Beach). However, there are numerous  more audacious activities at the countless beaches in Oahu. Snorkeling, surfing, kite-surfing, and paddle boarding are just a few exciting beach endeavors you can partake in whilst in Hawaii.

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Lanikai Beach, Kailua, 2017. c. Leah Putz

 

Explore the Waikiki Strip

Waikiki is the main area in Honolulu that tourists tend to gravitate to, and understandably so.  I decided to check out the International Marketplace- which turned out to be more like a mall filled with high-end shops such as Saks Fifth Avenue. What struck me about this ‘mall’ though was that it had pavilions and trees in the middle of it and everything was open air. A lot of the shopping centers and buildings in Hawaii are built like this, winding around nature rather than building right on top of it. Complete with a large beach, copious shops and malls, restaurants, and tourist shops, there isn’t much to be missed in the main strip next to the beach in Waikiki.

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Inside the International Marketplace on the Waikiki Strip, 2017. c. Leah Putz

 

Go Hiking

It’s difficult to choose which hike to go on in Oahu, considering there are a mulitude of them and they all have something unique to offer. If I had had more time in Hawaii, I would have done a different hike every day. Some of the most common hikes on the island are the Lanikai Pillboxes hike, the Diamond Head hike, and the Koko Crater Arch hike. My friend and I did the Waimano Trail hike, which I loved because it felt like I was in ‘Lost’ or something on a trek through the jungle. We didn’t have enough time to complete the hike (I had to start heading to the airport), but what we saw was strikingly beautiful and it made me want to go back to finish that hike and try some of the many others that the island has to offer.

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On the Waimano Trail, 2017. c. Leah Putz

 

Rent a Car

I was lucky enough to have a friend that was able (and willing) to drive me around the island, but I you don’t know anybody who lives in Oahu I would highly recommend renting a car. Simply driving around the island and admiring the scenery is a wonderful experience. We drove from the Leeward (west) side of the island to the Windward (east) side to visit Kailua and the drive through the mountains was nothing short of incredible. From the lowest valley to the highest peak, everything was covered in the riches of green, creating a landscape that felt like it came right out of a movie. Renting a car would allow you to travel through the mountains and see what I’m talking about, as well as making it a lot easier to access the many beaches and hikes I mentioned earlier. Overall, it will allow you to see and experience the most of what Oahu has to offer.

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Entering the Mountains on the Highway, 2017. c. Leah Putz

Top 5 Must-Dos in Chicago

Chicago is a hot spot this winter, especially after the Cubs won the World Series, and many people are scrambling to spend a few days there. I myself spent the weekend there recently visiting a friend and, though it was absolutely freezing cold, I had a wonderful time exploring and seeing bits of Chicago I hadn’t seen on my previous trips there.

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My friend Joe and I trying to stay warm in front of Willis Tower, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Now, after having visited the city three times, I’ve compiled a top 5 must do’s if you’re spending the weekend in Chicago!

  1. Stroll along the Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is a stretch of Michigan Avenue that runs through the heart of downtown Chicago. Running along the mile are numerous historic landmarks (the Chicago water tower, Wrigley Building, and Tribune Tower to name a few) and high-end shops that make the area Chicago’s largest shopping district. Even if you aren’t a big shopper, strolling along the mile simply to take in the scale of the buildings and the architecture is quite an experience.

  1. Visit the Bean

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The Bean and I, 2013. c. Leah Putz

Okay, I know that technically this large sculpture is called Cloud Gate, but who actually says that? Everyone, tourists and natives, refer to it lovingly as ‘the bean’ because that’s what it looks like. A giant, reflecting bean. The bean is the focal point of Millennium Park and it has become a signature part of Chicago in the past 10 years that it has existed. It’s incredibly interesting and a bit surreal to experience, especially if you stand directly underneath it and look up to see your reflection warped by the irregular shape of the sculpture. The bean is definitely a must-see, especially if it’s your first time in the city.

  1. Willis Tower

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Willis Tower, 2016. c. Leah Putz

With 110 floors, Willis Tower, formerly (and more commonly) known as Sears Tower, is America’s tallest building and the staple of Chicago’s skyline. The building has an observation deck with a clear floor that allows you to feel like you’re standing on top of the city with nothing beneath you, but this comes with a price tag. I haven’t journeyed to the top of the tower in any of my trips to Chicago because the $23.00 admission fee seems a bit too steep to me, but I’ve been told it is an incredibly surreal experience!

  1. The River Walk

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View of Chicago from the River walk, 2016. c. Leah Putz

One of my favorite things about Chicago is how beautiful the Chicago River is. In every other major city I’ve been to, the river is brown and looks really dirty. In Chicago, however, the river is alluringly blue. There are paths leading along both sides of the river, littered with cafes and restaurants, that allow an easy stroll taking in the sites of the city.  

  1. Navy Pier

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Navy Pier, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Navy Pier is my favorite part of Chicago for a few reasons. One, it offers an extraordinary view of the Chicago skyline and of Lake Michigan. Two, it takes you out of the concrete jungle atmosphere of the downtown Loop area of the city and surrounds you with beautiful azul waters and a seaside-like atmosphere. There’s a lighthouse in the distance, an anchor sculpture, a ferris wheel, and a beer garden. What more could you want in an area?

 

Honorable mention: Don’t forget to try Chicago-style deep dish pizza and/or a Chicago-style hot dog. If there’s anything Chicago is known for- it’s food!

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Chicago style hot dog, 2013. c. Leah Putz