My Favorite Fall Getaway Spots

Fall Getaways

Fall is in the air! Well, for some of us at least. The one downside about living in Florida is that there isn’t really a change in the weather until November or sometimes even December. I don’t know about you, but as soon as fall hits, all I want to do is throw on a cozy sweater, trendy hat and booties, and sip on a warm chai latte while strolling through a scenic park. But in Clearwater, that’s just not going to happen right now.

No matter where you live– even if it’s somewhere with a true autumn climate– taking a little time off for a fall getaway a must! Luckily for you, these destinations are perfect for both short and long trips, and will be sure to cure your travel bug (at least for a little!). Here are some of my favorite places to escape to during the season…

1. Savannah

This is one of my favorite places to road trip to. You can’t go wrong with watching the leaves fall in Forsyth Park or in one of the 22 historic squares throughout the city. Be sure to grab some artisan chocolates from Adam Turoni, and explore the Wormsloe Plantation (where Forest Gump ran) to get into the fall spirit.

Savannah in Fall

2. Charleston

This charming town in South Carolina is simply irresistible. From Rainbow Row to the stunning mansions and horse-drawn carriages that line East Battery Street, there is no better place to enjoy the perfect weather.

For more Charleston inspiration, check out: Top 10 Must-Dos in Charleston.

Charleston in Fall

3. Napa Valley

To be honest, there is no bad time to visit Napa. But if you want to take your experience to the next level, why not visit during or just after harvest? Fall is the ideal time of year to stroll through the vineyards and tour the incredible chateaus… All while sipping some of the world’s best wine, of course.

Want more Napa advice? Check out: Tips for Visiting Napa Valley on a Budget.

Napa Valley in Fall

4. Big Sur

Get ready to roll down the windows. Big Sur is the highlight of the iconic Highway 1 drive through California. With its rugged landscape, beautiful wildflowers, and cool sea breeze, it’s the perfect place to experience fall while remaining close to the water. Be sure to visit McWay Falls and Bixby Bridge!

For more California inspiration, click here.

Big Sur in Fall

5. New York City

I’ve experienced NYC during every season, and fall is the time of year that takes my breath away over and over again. It’s not absurdly cold yet, but you still get to throw on a light coat. Obviously, Central Park is a must! The trees turn a rainbow of colors, making the photo ops even more epic than usual.

Check out:The Ultimate Guide to New York City and Sweets in the City.

New York City in Fall

I know, I know. They’re all a bit too dreamy for words. The good news is, I’m here to help! Feel free to reach out to me in the comments with any questions.

Which one of these destinations would you choose for your next fall getaway?

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Best Destinations for a Fall Getaway

Tips for Visiting Napa Valley on a Budget

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Let’s be honest, Napa Valley isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when we think of budget travel. The good news? It is possible to visit this beautiful region of California without causing a major blow to your wallet. With these simple tips, you can rest assured knowing you’re getting the most bang for your buck in wine country.

1. Choose the right season to visit
Most people flee to Napa during summer, which means huge crowds and high room rates. Harvest season in early fall is also extremely busy; however, if you decide to visit then (who could blame you? It’s stunning!), opt for November as it’s less crowded. Spring is an ideal time to visit, as the valley comes alive with sun and breezy afternoons and the vines are just beginning to sprout. More importantly, the crowds are slim to none so you’ll have a better chance of having an intimate experience at each winery, which could mean more heavy-handed pours.

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Vines in early April

2. Don’t splurge on accommodations
While I’m a huge fan of beautiful hotels, Napa is not the place to splurge on lodging. Besides, the only time you’ll be in your room is to sleep. Look into small hotels and motels for budget-friendly rates, and use resources like Airbnb and the Hotel Tonight app, which sells unsold rooms for heavily discounted rates the day of.

3. Take advantage of discounts
Two-for-one tasting deals are everywhere in Napa! You can get your hands on coupons by asking your hotel concierge, using apps like Winery Finder or Yelp, or visiting the Napa Valley Welcome Center. Overall, try to stick to $10 and $15 tastings, and only splurge on one or two.

4. Have a picnic
While the restaurants in wine country are delicious, you’re probably there for the wine and the scenery, so don’t get sucked into spending all of your money on an expensive meal. Instead, pop into Dean & Deluca (a high end grocery store in St. Helena) for sandwiches and eat them at a winery with beautiful grounds such as Chateau Montelena in Calistoga. They’re pretty huge, so you can even get away with splitting one with a friend! Also, keep in mind that most wineries offer something to nibble on like crackers and cheese with tastings.

5. Skip the tour
If you’ve never been to Napa, I highly suggest taking a full tour. However, limit yourself to one as they can be extremely pricey. During standard tastings, the staff will usually give you a brief history of the property anyway, and most wineries will let you explore the grounds on your own. If you do decide to take a tour to start your day, I recommend Robert Mondavi– the first winery I’ve ever visited. The moderately priced $25 tour includes an in-depth history, a walk through the barrel room and vineyards, instruction on how to properly taste wine (which is helpful to know before you taste wine all day!), and a full tasting paired with cheese and crackers in the tasting room.

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Barrel room at Robert Mondavi

6. Take home a bottle of wine
Most wineries waive tasting fees if you purchase a bottle of wine. Yes, this does mean dishing out some extra cash. But in the end, you’re getting your hands on an expensive bottle of wine for less than half of what it retails for. Score!

7. Take your time
One of the biggest mistakes first-timers make when visiting Napa is trying to squeeze in too many wineries in one day. Sure, they’re all beautiful. But you might as well take your time and enjoy each property, which in turn will save you money.

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Enjoying the grounds at Inglenook

Need some more inspiration for your upcoming Napa Valley trip? Check out my travel photos on Instagram, and connect with me in the comments for winery recommendations!

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The Ultimate San Francisco Checklist

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With so much to do in San Francisco, a visit to this west coast culture hub can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned traveler. From its many neighborhoods, hilltop vistas, foodie spots and beyond, this glorious city is basically the poster child for the United States. Although you can virtually never go wrong with a trip to San Fran, here’s what you’ll definitely want to check off your list.

1. Fisherman’s Wharf
If you’re just getting into San Francisco, the famous wharf is a good place to start. Grab a fresh sourdough bread bowl of clam chowder and an Anchor Steam Beer, shop around and enjoy the views of Alcatraz and the bay.

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2. Ghirardelli Square
Did somebody say chocolate? Located across from Fisherman’s Wharf is the original home to Ghirardelli. This might be a touristy stop, but who can resist a free chocolate sample (or two… or three)? Visit each of the three shops around the property to fully satisfy your sweet tooth.

Ghirardelli Square

3. Golden Gate Bridge
Whether you view it from a distance, or walk the full 1.7 miles across it, no trip to San Fran would be complete without paying this orange beauty a visit. After you cross, spend the afternoon in the quaint town of Sausalito.

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4. Union Square
If you’re looking to pick up some new threads, look no further than one of the world’s most famous shopping districts. Home to massive department stores, upscale boutiques and other unique shops, this area of San Francisco could cause a major blow to your wallet if you aren’t careful. You’ve been warned.

5. Chinatown
A walk in this iconic SF neighborhood is like stepping into a different world. Enter through the Dragon’s Gate and gaze up at the lanterns strung above the street. If you’re hungry, be sure to stop in to a couple restaurants for some unforgettable dim sum.

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6. North Beach
Bring your appetite to this area! It can be compared to NYC’s “Little Italy,” although locals hate when you make that reference. Mouth-watering pizza, pasta, pastry and gelato shops can be found on every block. Grab an afternoon cappuccino and sit at one of the many curbside tables to soak up the atmosphere.

7. Haight-Ashbury District
Feeling groovy? Head down to the land of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. One look at the psychedelic flairs all over this part of town, and it’s abundantly clear why it was the center of the 1960s hippie movement. If your nose doesn’t lead you there already, be sure to stop into Ben & Jerry’s (located right on the corner of Haight and Ashbury) for some peace, love and ice cream.

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8. Cable Car
Although you’ll never find a local using this historic form of transportation, a ride on a cable car is an experience not to be missed! Only three of 23 lines created in the 1890s still exist today— the most famous being Powell-Hyde. My biggest tip is to avoid standing in line for hours at the turnaround. Instead, head up just two blocks to the North Point St. stop for less than half the wait time as space is intentionally left on board to accommodate additional passengers.

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9. Alamo Square
“Whatever happened to predictability?” If you’ve ever watched Full House, you’ll probably recognize the view from this cozy square. Better known as the Painted Ladies, this stretch of six colorful houses is a sight for sore eyes. Stop by for a walk or grab a spot on the grass and enjoy.

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10. Golden Gate Park
Believe it or not, this massive San Francisco landmark is actually larger than Central Park! Among many other attractions, visitors can relax in the Japanese Tea Garden, smell fresh blooms in the Conservatory of Flowers, sprawl out on Hippie Hill and enjoy panorama views of the city on the observation deck in the de Young Museum.

11. Dolores Park
On a warm day, this is the perfect place to soak up the sun in a hip atmosphere. Not to mention, it’s a great place to people watch! Locals adore this spot for its incredible views of the city.

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12. Alcatraz
Located just offshore from San Francisco, you’ll find this small and supposedly haunted island. Hop on the ferry at Pier 33 to take a tour of the abandoned maximum-security prison, which held notorious criminals including Al Capone, and learn about the many escape attempts. I recommend the self-guided audio tour, which features stories from former inmates and guards. Be sure to purchase your ticket early, especially if you’re interested in the night tour!

13. Lombard Street
Take a stroll down the most crooked street in the world. This steep and winding trail is best viewed from the bottom looking up. The Powell-Hyde cable car stops here, in case you want to knock two items off your list at once!

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Have something to add to my Ultimate San Francisco Checklist? Leave a comment with some of your favorite San Fran spots!

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Resort Review: Hotel Bel-Air

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This past December, I was lucky enough to visit Hotel Bel-Air, a Dorchester Collection hotel in Los Angeles. From the charming gardens that weave throughout the entire property to the sophisticated decor, this luxury hotel is truly in a league of its own— which is probably why Marilyn Monroe lived there on and off for over a decade!

The property is full of large bougainvilleas and citrus trees. I couldn’t resist snapping a picture underneath one of them! Amongst the trees lie lush gardens full of colorful flowers, quaint fountains and beautiful bridges.

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The rooms are inspired by old Hollywood glamour and give off a trendy, yet sophisticated vibe. I was obsessed with the crisp patterns and neutral colors. We stayed in a Deluxe Guestroom (standard room) with a view of the garden. It was equipped with a large flat-screen TV that extends from the wall for easy viewing from bed and an iPad that basically controls everything you could possibly imagine. However, the real treat was the wood-burning fireplace, which we took full advantage of since it was a bit chilly during our stay. The best part? All you have to do is call the concierge, and a staff member will promptly arrive at your door to build you a fire.

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Forget slippers. The spacious bathroom features a heated limestone floor to keep your feet warm and toasty in the morning. My favorite amenity was the built-in TV above the bathtub— Yes, you heard me correctly! As if that wasn’t enough, the room also boasts a rainfall shower, large plush towels, marble countertops, double sinks, and some of the most incredible lotion and shower products I’ve ever received from a hotel (from Paris!).

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The Wolfgang Puck restaurant on property attracts guests and local alike. The menu features innovative dishes made of fresh ingredients, sure to satisfy any appetite. For lunch, I opted for the Thai Style Chicken Salad and was not disappointed! In fact, it’s one of the best salads I’ve ever had. The combination of bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, napa cabbage, and ginger lemongrass dressing made for a simplistic yet delicious flavor.

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A must-do during a stay at Hotel Bel-Air is a visit to The Bar & Lounge. This place fills up pretty quickly, so I’d suggest arriving early to grab a table with a view of the piano. Hung from the walls are large black and white portraits of American icons including Steve Jobs, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner. Guests take their seats amongst the luxe grayscale decor to indulge in the impressive cocktail menu while listening to talented live performers.

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One of the most breathtaking sights on property is the swan lake. The lights, bridges and of course the swans make for a romantic, fairy-tale setting. The staff informed us of the swans’ names, which are Athena, Hercules and their daughter Chloe (how cute!).

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After staying at the Hotel Bel-Air, it’s easy to see why it’s acclaimed as one of the best hotels in the country. I hope to return sometime during the warmer months so I can take advantage of the fabulous pool!

Have you stayed at the Hotel Bel-Air or another Dorchester Collection hotel? I’d love to hear about your experience! Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter or in the comments.

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