Weekend Away: Palm Springs, California

I love a good weekend getaway and Palm Springs never disappoints. It used to be a weekend escape for movie stars from LA, now it’s known for its mid-century modern architecture, music festivals and trendy hotels.

A few of my favorite stops on this trip: brunch at Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs, drinks at the Ace Hotel pool, more brunch at Cheeky’s and lots of time hanging by the pool. Check out all my recommendations from past trips in my Palm Springs Travel Guide.

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Where to Stay: The St. Regis Punta Mita, Nayarit, Mexico

Margaritas, fresh guacamole and endless sunshine… I love Mexico, and it’s such an easy trip from the West Coast. If you’re craving a quick escape to Mexico, book a trip to the St. Regis Punta Mita now. There’s not much I love more than stepping off the plane in another country and it has been a few years since my last trip to Mexico. The trip was super easy — about a 3 hour flight from San Francisco, then a 45 minute drive to the property once you land in Puerto Vallarta — plus this incredible hotel made our first international trip with the babe a breeze!

Set on a private beach on Punta Mita, the St. Regis is totally secluded. When you need a break from the beach, the hotel has three pools (one is for adults only) spread across the property. This set up helps any part of the hotel from feeling crowded. We were there the week before Christmas, and it never felt too busy at all.

Once you arrive everything is taken care of for you. Each room has dedicated service that is on call 24 hours a day to and available for the duration of your stay. From the early morning complimentary coffee service in our room (with mini chocolate muffins for me and bananas for the babe) to dinner reservations and arranging transportation, no detail was overlooked. This is the type of service I think is usually overkill, but the St. Regis executes well and our butlers were incredibly helpful without being obnoxious about it. The service here is truly one of the things that sets this hotel apart - starting with the adorable stuffed giraffe waiting for our son in his crib on arrival.

The food is delicious - think fresh seafood and traditional Mexican dishes like tacos and quesadillas. One of the highlights was the daily happy hour in the main lobby where special mezcal margaritas and champagne are served overlooking this view.


The St. Regis is an indulgent but fabulous choice for a relaxing trip. And really an incredible spot if you have kids. This was probably the most relaxing vacation we could have with a young babe. And a reminder that the St. Regis is a Starwood property so if you have points, this would be a good time to redeem them. As we left all of the staff told us they’d see us next year - I hope they are right!

— IF YOU GO —

Details… 120 rooms set on a 22-acre beach front property with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Very kid friendly - hotel staff were so happy to accommodate our little one and there were lots of other kids on the property.

Pack… The vibe was more casual here than I expected. Bring a good book (I was so excited to finally dig into this), and essentials for the beach plus a big beach bag to throw everything in.

Plan ahead… The hotel can arrange airport pick up and drop off which was a nice way to arrive. Email the concierge a week ahead of your trip to arrange.

Day trip… While it’s definitely tempting to never leave the property, we ventured to Sayulita one day and had a yummy lunch overlooking the beach at Don Pedros , then spent some time shopping. There are colorful weavings, baskets, pompoms and skulls aplenty (like the beautiful selection at Evoke the Spirit). I was excited to explore Sayulita, and while our time was rushed, it felt crowded and touristy which I was honestly a bit disappointed about.

Where to Stay: Nick's Cove, Tomales Bay

One of my favorite escapes from San Francisco is heading north to Point Reyes and Tomales Bay. It's a beautiful spot that feels far away from everything but in reality is only about an hour and a half drive from the city. I've shared some favorite spots in the area before in my Tomales Bay Guide. You can do it as a day trip, but it’s worthwhile to invest the time to stay a few nights. It’s a beautiful slice of part of the world it is. 

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Any time we drive up to the Tomales area, we plan our drive to stop at the Marshall General Store for lunch. The oysters are fresh and the sandwiches are filling and delicious.

After lunch, keep driving to reach Nick's Cove, a charming and unassuming inn off the side of Highway 1.  Twelve cottages line the coast and the hillside across the road to make up this spot. Low key but completely luxurious, with wood burning stoves, claw-footed tubs and heated tile floors in the bathroom in most of the cabins. I've stayed here twice, once in a waterfront and and once in a waterview cottage. If you can justify the splurge, the waterfront bungalows are perfection. Waking up to the water is one of life's great pleasures, and it's equally as pleasing to watch the sun set over Tomales Bay from your own private over-water porch. 

Be sure to indulge in your complimentary oysters upon check-in, and enjoy the casual atmosphere at the roadside restaurant for a hearty dinner after working up your appetite on a hike in Pt Reyes National Seashore earlier in the day.

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If You Go

Pack… No matter the season, it gets chilly in the evenings and mornings on the water. You'll want an extra layer for hiking, cozy sweats for lounging by the fire.

Good For… Romantic getaway

Plan Ahead… To maximize your relaxation, you’ll want to book a waterfront room. Al’s is my favorite! If you are just going to eat at the restaurant (which I recommend so you don’t have to drive) you can make dinner reservations when you arrive.

Value… There’s a fairly big range in price depending on which cottage you book, and when you go (also note there’s a 2 night minimum on the weekends). The rooms are cozy, comfortable and outfitted with details like heated floors in the bathroom and in some rooms soaking bathtubs and fireplaces. The value for the price is worth it if you are looking for an off the grid place to recharge.

Just Back From: Oahu

We just returned from an idyllic few days spent on the North Shore of Oahu, the third year in a row that we've made this trip. While I always love traveling somewhere new, returning to the same place again and again has lots of benefits as well. You know what to expect, what to pack and have a good idea of what you want to do, so there's less planning and more time to just relax.

This time we brought our 3 month old baby - his first flight and first vacation (!) - which made returning to a place we know all the more appealing. We fell into an easy routine of early mornings watching the sunrise, lazy days on the beach and afternoons spent reading (or napping) during tropical rainstorms. We indulged in fresh ahi and yummy pad thai from food trucks and slept better than we have in months. 

{For all the scoop on what to eat and where to wander, check out my newly-updated North Shore travel guide}

If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, I highly recommend checking out Oahu for a local feel of the islands.  

Where to Stay: Carneros Resort & Spa, Sonoma

Wine country is obviously an essential Northern California destination, and living in San Francisco means we are usually lucky to make a day trip to enjoy some wine every so often. But there are some amazing hotels up in Napa and Sonoma counties, and I have a long wish list of places I'd love to stay. The Carneros Resort and Spa has been on the top of that list since we moved out here, and we finally made it happen to celebrate my first Mothers Day! 

We booked a Premier Garden Cottage, arrived on Friday after work and basically never left our cozy room again. With a king sized bed, outdoor deck, lounge chairs, large soaking bath tub, an outdoor shower and a fireplace, we had everything we needed and the ingredients for a perfect weekend. 

We traveled with our young son, so the stunning pool that I drooled over on instagram was off-limits to us (but yes I did sneak in for a photo). However, for us hanging out in our cottage was all we needed for a perfect weekend. We ordered room service from their fabulous restaurant Boon Fly Cafe for all of our meals -- didn't have to wait for a table or worry about our baby crying in the restaurant, plus we got to eat every meal alfresco on our deck (except for breakfast in bed!) Win-win-win in my book. And yes, the Boon Fly Donuts are worth it. Definitely dip them in the chocolate sauce. 

The property is large and very family friendly. It would be a great destination for any trip (romantic getaway, a girls trip, etc), but I really loved it for traveling with a baby. There is a family friendly pool that we spent a few hours relaxing at, and there were lots of other young couples with babies cruising around. 

This can obviously be a great home base for wine tasting in the region -- it is very centrally located on Sonoma County's Highway 12, and is a short drive to my favorite vineyard Scribe Winery

 

 

 


If You Go

Pack... bathing suits, easy sandals, wine tasting-chic dress, and a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun out. 

Good for... traveling with small babies, wine country weekend, girls trip

Plan ahead... wine tasting reservations usually need to be made in advance. The hotel staff can assist with that and any reservations for meals. The staff was very friendly, helpful & accommodating throughout our stay. 

Price... It's expensive, and the price has deterred me from staying a few times before. But if you are in need of a relaxing getaway in a beautiful setting, it's worth saving your pennies for a splurge (we put some old AmEx points to good use).  

Where to Stay: The Line, Washington, DC

In a city that has long lacked hip and trendy places to stay, there's a new kid on the block and its the Line Hotel. Recently opened in late December, you can still score a room at the incredibility discounted preview price. Nestled in the heart of Adams Morgan, a buzzing, diverse neighborhood with tons of great restaurants and bars, the location is a great option for visitors to the nation's capital that are not looking for a fancy place to stay on the National Mall or a chain hotel in Pentagon City. You may be tempted not to leave the hotel during your stay. With 3 restaurants, 2 bars and a coffee shop, and a distinct "see or be scene" vibe in the hotel lobby, its a spot you could easily post up for some impressive people watching all afternoon. We arrived at 2pm on a Sunday and it was packed. Laptops open and cocktails being enjoyed. 

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The hotel was built in a former First Church of Christ, Scientist with a strong emphasis on preserving original details, like the organ that is now deconstructed and hangs from the lobby ceiling as a work of art and subtle light fixture. 

The rooms are thoughtfully designed with an eclectic mix of art hung on the walls, textiles throughout and most importantly, a comfortable bed. After checking we inquired about switching rooms to one that had a bathtub (I'm 7.5 months pregnant over here!) The staff was more than happy to accommodate, a bellhop came to our room to move our bags and the manager personally greeted us to escort us to the next room. This turned out to be a suite (room 406 for the record) with a stunning view of the entire city, the Washington Monument and Capitol building peaking out above the buildings. The helpful attitude to make this switch, with only a small increase in the nightly price, was service I've rarely encountered at similar hotels. Our new room provided a spacious area to enjoy the views as we watched the sun set and also take a relaxing bath. It was so comfortable that we debated ordering room service for dinner, but with one of my favorite restaurants, Mintwood Place, just 2 blocks away, I couldn't resist an opportunity to indulge in their Tagliatelle Bolognese. 

The Line call their hotels a place for community, culture and exploration, and I'd say they hit the mark. I lived in DC for years, and am so excited there is finally a place I'm excited to stay when I come back to visit. 

 

 

A Day in the Neighborhood: Outer Sunset, San Francisco

I am slightly biased, but the Outer Sunset might be the best neighborhood in San Francisco. And it's not just because I live here! It's definitely a hidden gem and there is so much to explore. 

Easy access to the beach and lots of good coffee shops are what first sold me, but the addition of new restaurants, bars and shops that have been popping up all over the place is a sure sign that other people are catching on to the secret. Its easy to get to the heart of the city, but when you're out in the Sunset you feel like you're a world away. I like to pretend I live in a small beach town instead of in one of the biggest cities in the country, and most days it feels like that - as long as the weather is cooperating! 

I've put together an itinerary for my perfect day enjoying the neighborhood. Hope it inspires you to come visit! 

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Start your day at Andytown on Taraval & 47th. They have a few locations in the neighborhood but this one is closest to the beach! Window shop at Tunnel Records before heading down to Ocean Beach with your coffee in hand. Watch the surfers from the dunes, then head north on the beach for a leisurely morning walk. 

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Head to Noreiga Street for a breakfast sandwich at Devil's Teeth Baking Company. Their sticky buns are the size of my head and equally delicious. 

Make your way to Judah Street along the ocean-front path. No trip to the Sunset is complete without a stop at the famed General Store. Browse their vintage finds, pick up a candle or get inspired in their back garden. Some of the best outdoor space around. 

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Then, pop in to Black Bird Bookstore next door. They have a well-curated selection of adult books, an amazing kid section in the back and a thoughtful selection of home goods.

While you are probably not hungry after a filling breakfast sandwich, Trouble Coffee will tempt you with some of the best toast around (and that's saying something in San Francisco!), plus their delicious coffee. 

A few blocks up on Irving, you'll grab lunch at Hook Fish Co. Place your order (I usually go with the fish tacos but everything is local and sustainably caught), then snag a seat outside in the sun. 

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Across the street, pop in to chat with local artists Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin 3 Fish Studio and pick up one of their famed "I Love You California" prints. Mollusk Surf Shop is on the corner and is a fun place to browse for beach goods. They can also outfit you with a surf board and gear if you are looking to hit the waves. 

Finish your day with a date-night worthy dinner at Outerlands and enjoy the ambiance, local wines and seasonal menu. This is also a very popular weekend brunch spot if that's more your speed. 

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While you're in the neighborhood, here are some of my other favorite spots worth checking out:

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Go Now: Portugal in the Off Season

There’s a reason it feels like everyone you know traveled to Portugal in 2017. The country has been exploding as a popular destination over the past few years, and shows no signs of slowing down. With the allure of delicious food, gorgeous beaches and charming towns, U.S. travel to Portugal increased 22 percent in 2016. And while June - September is peak tourist season in Portugal, here are 5 reasons why you should consider visiting in the off-season. That means now!

Constantly popping up on travel lists from Travel & Leisure naming it destination of the year for 2017 and the New York Times including in their 52 Places to Travel last year, there is no shortage of arguments for why you should book a flight asap. And while summer is the peak tourist season in Portugal, here are 5 reasons why you should consider visiting in the next few months:

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Weather - Portugal’s weather is consistently mild. With highs in the summer reaching into the 80s (Fahrenheit), the winter low rarely gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with daily averages in the low 60s. These mild temperatures make for especially pleasant sightseeing. Layer with a scarf and light jacket and you’ll you’ll be sufficiently prepared for your days of exploring (but also be prepared for rain, just in case!)

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No crowds - One of the best perks of traveling anywhere in the off-season is enjoying a city without fighting the crowds. The convenience of this alone is a huge selling point for me. Restaurant reservations (or just walking in) are much easier to come by. The more touristy spots, such as museums or the Tower of Belem or the Palace of Pena in Sintra, are so much more enjoyable when you aren’t stuck waiting in long lines. There is even a noticeable difference, allowing for a more pleasant experience, when you are just wandering the streets without fighting crowds.

Money - In that it goes further. Always a main consideration when planning a vacation, budget is super important and Portugal tops of my list of awesome and affordable destinations! There are plenty of flight specials and hotel deals to be found this time of year. We flew on TAP Portugal which offers a flight direct flights from the U.S. as well as the free stopover option that played a role in driving tourism to Iceland. We also found very reasonable pricing for Airbnbs. As a bonus, now is a particularly good time to visit Europe with the dollar strong against the Euro.

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That winter light - Hear me out on this one. Yes, days are shorter this time of year and while some could argue that gives you less time to sightsee, there is something about the light in the winter that is magical. Crisper and sharper, the scenic vistas of Lisbon will be all the more breathtaking in the glowy winter light.

Authentic Portugal - Last but not least, traveling at less popular time for other tourists opens you up to experiences you may likely not be exposed to other times of the year. Sleepy beach towns, quiet restaurants and nearly empty hotels create space for connections with locals that busier seasons wouldn’t allow. One of the most powerful experiences of travel is connecting with people living in a different place and in a different culture than you. It expands your horizons and forces you to get outside of your comfort zone. In seasons when the hospitality industry is focused on catering to tourists they don’t have the time to have a meaningful conversation with you, but in the off-season they aren’t as worried about serving everyone staying at the hotel or working through a mile-long wait list. Space naturally opens up for authentic connections, which has the chance to leave a lasting impression on you as a traveler.