Suitcase and Heels - Solo female travel and style blog
Suitcase and Heels is a female travel & style blog featuring travel tips, deals, fashion, and photography from around the world. I want to inspire you to get out there and see the world whenever and however you can, push your own limits, and look good while doing it.
The city of Halifax is one of the most entertaining destinations in Canada. It has more clubs and bars per capita than any other Canadian city as it has a longstanding tradition of beer and breweries. This city is also a walker’s paradise because many of its attractions are within walking distance, and everything is neatly organized. From it’s excellent cafes and restaurants, like The Canteen, Obladee Wine Bar, or the Chives Distro, to attractions like the Farmer’s Market, the Public Gardens, or the Citadel, there’s always something to see and do in Halifax.
Hostels and Hotels Near Downtown Halifax
The best part of Halifax to stay in is downtown. It’s a surprisingly affordable part of town, and it houses most of the attractions of the city. Citadel Hill is nearby, as well as the world-famous Waterfront and Boardwalk, as well as hundreds of bars, pubs, restaurants, and cafes. Wander the streets of this centuries-old seaside city to get a taste of life in the Maritimes – at farmers markets, the Maritime museum and the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.
Halifax has plenty of great accommodations for every type of trip. Whether you’re visiting for a romantic getaway, a business trip, or a fun weekend with friends, you’ll be spoiled with options!
So where should you stay in Halifax?
Out of the many accommodation options available in Halifax, this hostel has one of the absolute best locations. It’s a modern hostel, with several types of rooms available, from different sized dorms, to private and family suites. The building is impeccably clean, and it spots all the amenities you could need, like bathrooms, showers, and kitchen. It’s located in the heart of downtown Halifax, while it’s also incredibly close to the waterfront. Due to its great location, there are dozens of excellent pubs, restaurants, and bars located within walking distance. The bus and train stations are just 200 meters away. The Farmer’s Market is also right next door, and there are plenty of specialty shops around. This hostel is also reasonably well equipped as you have a kitchen, a laundromat, and thorough internet access on the hostel premises.
What: HI Halifax Backpacker Hostel
Where: 1253 Barrington St, Halifax, NS
Rooms: 6-bed and 8-bed dorm rooms, 4-bed private room, family ensuite
If you’re visiting Halifax in the spring and summer, you should definitely consider Dalhousie University. From the second half of May through August, its standard student accommodations are open to the general public, and you can very easily and efficiently rent rooms and entire suites. They have special options available for daily, weekly, and monthly rates, and different rates on whether or not you’re using traditional accommodations or suites. The university is very affordable, considering that the apartments are surprisingly sizeable, and modern. With these you’ll be saving a lot on both accommodations and transportation. Many of its attractions are within walking distance, and in many cases, you’ll be mere minutes away from some of the best spots of the city.
Halifax is an old historic city that has had cultural and commercial importance for quite some time. All that is perfectly apparent in the Waverley Inn because it’s an old Victorian building that’s been around for over a century. The entire inn has a very friendly and welcoming ambiance, and it feels like it’s been ripped from old photographs. While most of the inn doesn’t exactly fall into the midrange category, that’s not the case with The Traditional Rooms. These traditional rooms are what used to be the standard. And while they do have modern amenities and equipment, their look and feel has been carefully preserved. The inn in general has excellent service, and you’re sure to feel completely comfortable staying at one of its rooms.
If you prefer modern accommodations that have an urban feel to them, then the Atlantica is the ideal hotel for you. It’s situated in the heart of the city, and because of that, many of the city’s best accommodations are easily within reach. The hotel does feel luxurious while still falling firmly in the midrange category. It features a sauna, whirlpool, and indoor pool. It also has an outdoors deck with excellent views. The Atlantica is also known for its great bar where terrific cocktails are made, especially champagne cocktails. Its lounge has some of the best views in the city. You’ll have the city’s skyline in clear view as well as the city’s downtown region.
Another historic accommodation from the early 19th century, The Halliburton is actually three townhouses that have been carefully converted into one large boutique hotel. It’s located in downtown Halifax, and it’s a very calm and relaxing hotel. Even though it’s situated on a calm and quiet street, it’s still close to the main hubbub of the city. This hotel features a cozy library and calm gardens, both of which are ideal contemplative spots. The rest of the hotel is just as great, as it’s a very high-class place, even if it’s actually in the midrange category.
This is one of the most popular and most visited hotels in Halifax. It’s a real gem when it comes to hotels, and its premier downtown location is one of the best ones in the city. The Prince George is a four-star hotel, and its quality becomes immediately apparent once you step foot inside. It’s also incredibly, visually, and aesthetically pleasing. Its style of architecture is grand and magnificent, but the things it’s known for the most are its award-winning culinary team and general service. The Prince George also has a rooftop pool and a fitness center, both of which are of top-notch quality. On top of that, due to its location, this is a hotel that’s very close to many of the city’s best attractions, like entertainment venues, historic spots, as well as excellent places to eat.
If you want to stay at a very upscale and elegant hotel, then look no further than the Lord Nelson Hotel. Originally built in October 1928, it’s a beloved Maritime landmark overlooking the Halifax Public Gardens. Its legendary elegance is matched by none, and it’s such a great hotel. Its rooms are fully equipped with modern amenities, like AC units, TVs, phones, and deluxe bathrooms. The hotel also features a fitness center, laundry services, parking, and so much more. It also has such an excellent location as it’s quite close to the Public Gardens and the Citadel. Around this hotel, you can find great spots for some high-class dining and shopping, as well as the Neptune Theater, the Art Gallery, and so much more. The service is absolutely top-notch. The hotel is pet-friendly, with one floor dedicated for them.
Experience historic charm artfully enhanced with urbanely elegant touches designed to provide seamless service and a welcoming and comfortable travel experience.
Take it from Miley: Grunge is the way to go while traveling. Her plaid leggings and boyish beanie are comfortable yet still undeniably chic. I mean, if you’re going to wear leggings while flying, you might as well make them plaid. A beanie will also keep you warm if the airplane happens to be chilly. Also perfect for hiding post-plane-nap hair.
Keeping the outfit mostly monochrome allows you to add details like a plaid pant or a studded backpack without it feeling overwhelming. Monochrome outfits are also perfect for mix ‘n matching once you get to your destination.
The roomy, slouchy backpack adds flair but also provides enough room to store all of your in-flight essentials.
I was poking around a travel store the other day, looking for a carry on bag that will fit in the overhead bin of a Q400, when I overheard a woman talking to the store clerk about money belts. The clerk pointed out that they also had Pacsafe bags. I couldn’t help myself. I really couldn’t.
“You carry PacSafe? Oh I’d go with that over a money belt!” I interjected.
And then proceeded to tell the woman how I own two money belts and have never worn either one. Her teenage daughter was getting ready for her group trip abroad and Mom was nervous about keeping her and her stuff safe. I told her about my travel purse and general purse habits along with a couple examples of common scams pickpockets use, but then decided to butt out and let her shop.
I’m not sure if she ended up buying the money belt or not (and trust me, her daughter won’t use it) but it got me thinking about tips I would share with people for keeping their stuff safe during their first trip abroad.
Keep Your Wits About You
I think one of the best tips I can share is to just be aware of your surroundings and your things. I know it’s so easy to get lost in the moment when you’re wandering through a city like Paris, that you’ve only seen in photos and the movies. Or, oppositely, you may have your face in your phone texting your BFF about how amazing the gelato in Rome is. But you need to stay aware of the people around you.
One thing that’s become habit is to keep my bag in front of me and a hand on it when I’m in public spaces like on transit. A pickpocket can’t sneak a zipper open if my hand is covering the zip tab. Also, and this should go without saying, don’t keep your phone in your back pocket unless it’s got a closure like a snap or zipper. You may think it’s safe because you’ll feel it but I had an uncle who had his phone stolen from his unsecured back pocket on the metro in Barcelona and he never even realized until later.
Read Up on Common Scams
There’s not much new under the sun these days and pickpockets like to try the same tricks over and over on tourists. Do an online search of “common scams in [city name]” so that you’re familiar with them before you land. Don’t get too worked up about what you read, instead know that having that prior knowledge will give you more power to protect your possessions.
For instance, in Paris I had three kids approach me to sign a petition, which I knew from my research, was bogus. If I had taken the time to sign just to make them stop pestering me I knew that either they would’ve then demanded money or one of them may have tried to pick my pocket while I was distracted. Instead I kept my hand on my purse and forcefully told them No in English, French, and finally Korean (I think I confused them) before they cursed at me but walked away.
Carry the right kind of purse
You don’t need to have a heavy duty safe of a purse when you travel, but it can certainly give you some peace of mind. At the bare minimum I recommend a crossbody style, preferably leather or another tough fabric, with a zipper.
If you want to go all in there are some stylish options. For the past five years I’ve carried a medium sized PacSafe Citysafe and I highly recommend it. On top of checking my three basic requirements it also features slash proof fabric and strap, a lockable zipper, an RFID blocking pocket, and a security hook that allows me to secure my bag to a table, chair, or other object. It’s given me a lot of peace of mind.
I think every traveller I know has a money belt that they’ve never used. They might seem like a good idea, but honestly, I don’t think you’re going to use that money belt like you think you will.
If you decide to buy one anyway, don’t let anyone see you use it. The whole idea is that you’re concealing your valuables, so if you treat it like a coin purse and pull cash from it at a store, you just look silly and the money belt no longer has any concealment value.
Instead, only carry a day’s worth of cash on you and keep the rest locked up at your accommodations and only consider putting on your money belt those times when you’ll have all of your possessions with you like on inter-city bus rides or ferries.
Stash it Around
Don’t keep your cash in one place. Should your purse get stolen, it’ll be a big relief to know that you still have cash on hand. Keep some in your purse, some locked up in your carry on, some in your checked luggage, etc. Or better yet, if you’re travelling somewhere like London or New York where credit cards and ATMs are common, travel with very little cash at all and, instead, make use of cashless transactions. Bonus: you can score reward points when you use your credit card.
If possible, travel with a backup debit and/or credit card should something happen to yours while you’re travelling. Be sure to keep your back-up cards separate from your regular cards. In case of a missing wallet, you’ll have still have a way to pay for things until you get home.
Theft isn’t always the issue here either. Back in 2014 I had my MasterCard crap out on me with a few days left in my vacation. I called to try to fix it to no avail. Thankfully I had another credit card with me I could use or I would’ve had to keep using ATMs.
Back It Up
If you’re travelling with electronics, be sure to backup all of your data to either a device you’re leaving at home, the cloud, or both before you leave. Also consider automatically storing all of your photos in the cloud, so that if anything happens to it, you won’t lose those precious memories.
Install Anti-Theft Software
If someone does swipe your laptop or you forget your phone on the subway, if you have anti-theft software installed, you still have a chance at getting it back. I have Prey installed on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone. Should my device fall into someone else’s hands, I have several tools available.
Just like Find My Phone, Prey can track the location of your device (as long as the device is on), but it goes beyond simple tracking. I can also remotely lock my phone or laptop, send a message to the screen, or sound a 30 second alarm that can’t be muted (to help you find it).
If it doesn’t look like you’re going to get the device back you can still retrieve files and remotely wipe cookies, email data, documents, local cloud storage files, and custom directories on lost devices. Finally, you can run reports that will capture images from the device cameras and record information like location and IP address to help law enforcement recover your stolen property.
If your accommodations don’t have a safe, bring your own locks. You should also know that hostels almost never provide locks for their lockers so it’s good practice to travel with your own anyway. And pack a couple.
If your suitcase doesn’t have a built in lock, use one of your new locks to keep the zipper tabs secured. I also have one lock that came with a long cable that I can use to secure my bag to something fixed like a bed frame or some other large item, that makes taking off with my bag super inconvenient, and thus, not very attractive.
Don’t Forget the Travel Insurance
Finally, if you followed the tips above but still encountered some misfortune on your travels, you’ll be glad to have travel insurance. Travel insurance typically doesn’t cover stolen cash (though it’s an option with some plans) but they can cover your stuff so that you can replace them.
While having to replace a phone or laptop will always be a pain, assuming you backed up your data before you hopped on the plane, and bought a comprehensive insurance package, it at least won’t be a financial burden.
In the end, don’t let the worry of pickpockets or thieves keep you from travelling. Stuff can be replaced but the good memories you’ll make travelling will last a lifetime.
Be smart. Be covered.
Planning a trip now? You can use the widget below to explore some travel insurance plans from World Nomads.
Prince Edward Island…the land of red dirt, potatoes, and of course, Anne of Green Gables. Canada’s smallest province may be small in size but not in fun. It’s Canada’s homegrown island getaway that has a little something for everyone. Spend a night in a rotating circular house. Become a harness racing owner for a day. Race on the longest go-kart course east of Montreal. Get your fill of lobsters and fiddles and bagpipes and theatre. Play some of the finest golf courses around. Complete your lighthouse bucket list. The birthplace of Canada has amazing beaches and quality breweries, and if all you really want to do is put on some fake red braids and visit Green Gables, PEI is here for that too.
I want to help you get a little red dirt between your toes this summer, so I’ve pulled together this fun (and completely unordered) list of things to do in PEI. What will you start with?
Visit GREEN GABLES
Get a scoop of Cowie Wowie at COWS CREAMERY
Build a sand castle on CAVENDISH BEACH
Stroll on the CAVENDISH BOARDWALK
Cross CONFEDERATION BRIDGE
Go for a ride at SANDSPIT
See a show at CONFEDERATION CENTRE OF THE ARTS
Plan a day trip to PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND NATIONAL PARK
Cycle ROBINSONS ISLAND TRAIL
oTENTik on the North Shore
Shop VICTORIA ROW in Charlottetown
Listen to the “SINGING SAND” of Basin Head Provincial Park
Spend a night at WEST POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Play 18 holes at the Links at CROWBUSH COVE
Experience farm to table culture at the INN AT BAY FORTUNE
Tour the PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND BREWING CO. and sample some brews
Go SEAL WATCHING in a zodiac
Perfect your shot on a rainy day with some INDOOR GOLF
Take in ANNE & GILBERT – the Musical
Shop for fresh produce at the CHARLOTTETOWN FARMERS MARKET
Throw some axes at CHUCK HATCHETS
Screen an independent film at CITY CINEMA
See history come alive with the CONFEDERATION PLAYERS walking tour
Get cookin’ at a Holland College CULINARY BOOTCAMP
Soar high FLYBOARDING
Pick yourself up a silver ring at GARNISH JEWELLERY
Date with Lady Luck at REDSHORES Racetrack and Casino
See PEI from the air in a HELICOPTER TOUR
Visit the HAPPY POTTER
Cycle the CONFEDERATION TRAIL
Enjoy dinner at TERRE ROUGE
Cheer on the ISLAND STORM at a basketball game
See Charlottetown by land and sea on the HARBOUR HIPPO
Paddle along the HILLSBOROUGH RIVER
PROVINCE HOUSE National Historic Site of Canada
Tackle the ropes at RISE & CLIMB Adventure Course
SECRETS OF CHARLOTTETOWN walking tour
Wake your competitive side at SMALL PRINT BOARD GAME CAFE
Bowling and beer at THE ALLEY
Sing along with the band at the OLDE DUBLIN PUB
SHINING WATERS Family Fun Park
Visit AVONLEA VILLAGE
Fish for giant BLUEFIN TUNE in Rusticoville
Play with a giant Lite-Brite at RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT
JURASSIC BART’S Dinosaur Museum and Petting Zoo
Fill up on lobster rolls at PEI INTERNATIONAL SHELLFISH FESTIVAL
Get a celeb selfie at WAX WORLD OF THE STARS
Experience the music in an intimate setting at the PEI FESTIVAL OF SMALL HALLS
Great food. Amazing craft beer. Endless watering holes. A thriving arts scene. Sun almost every day. Good Music. What’s not to love about the capital of Texas? And everyone from the tech-savvy SXSW crowds to hipster music crowds to Tex-Mex loving foodies wants in.
Austinites are a diverse mix of government employees, college students, musicians, high-tech workers, blue-collar workers, and a vibrant LGBT community. The mix really gives the city a unique feel. Big city and small community, all at once. It’s been called one of the Best Cities and Neighborhoods for Millennials and one of the best places to live in the US. I can see why. And it only has a little to do with the abundance of delicious tacos….or the fact that they play chicken shit bingo on Sundays.
Long renowned for its live music scene, Austin exudes cool from every neighbourhood and now regularly tops lists for best cities for weekend mini-breaks, bachelor parties, girls trips, and romantic getaways. It can be daunting to pick the right area to stay in Austin for your vacation, so I want to give you my opinion.
Hostels and Hotels Near Downtown Austin
There’s a lot to consider when trying to find the best area to stay in Austin. How close are you to the best restaurants? Live music? Trendy cocktail bars? And most importantly, how close are you to tacos? Though the capital is relatively small, each neighbourhood has its own vibe and personality.
Personally, I think the best area to stay in Austin is anywhere within a 25min walk of the Congress Avenue bridge. It’s where I stayed when I was in the city and it’s what I’d recommend for anyone planning the perfect trip to Austin. And there are plenty of great hostels and hotels near downtown Austin to choose from.
Downtown is where you’ll find the majority of the best restaurants, tourist attractions, and nightlife like Rainey Street and the notorious Dirty 6th. It’s the epicentre of your Austin vacation.
So where should you stay in Austin?
If you love boutique hotels but also like saving money, Native Hostel is your spot. While the rooms are shared, each bunk has its own reading light, power outlet, storage locker, and heavy curtain. The ceilings are high so both top and bottom bunks are large enough to sit up straight without worrying about hitting your head.
Each room has one toilet and two shower rooms, with the nicest fixtures and decor that I’ve ever seen in a hostel. This isn’t a party hostel. The common area is more likely to be filled with digital nomads banging out work on their laptops at 8am than hungover 20-somethings.
And if you don’t feel like venturing far in the evening for food and atmosphere, Native has a great kitchen and is a popular hang out spot with locals.
If all hostels were like Native Hostel, I might never stay in a hotel again. I’m a serious fan.
Built in 1885, Firehouse Hostel is located in the city’s oldest standing fire station. It’s filled with ambiance and charm and since opening in 2013, have become the largest hostel in Texas. They have four styles of rooms to choose from whether you’re on a tight budget or travelling with a couple friends and want some privacy. And some of the nicest hostel bathrooms you’ve seen.
You couldn’t ask for a better location, right in the heart of downtown just steps from 6th Street and the Texas State Capitol Building.
Tip: open the bookcase in the lobby to discover a hidden speakeasy.
If you want to stay in an apartment but would rather avoid AirBnB, then you want the Guild. You’ll have access to a full kitchen, washery & dryer, fitness centre, outdoor pool, with food and entertainment only steps away. The apartments are spacious and decorated with an artistic, modern flair that I really loved.
I stayed there in the fall and was thrilled to find, not only a handful of restaurants (including a Shake Shack), but the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema where my friends and I could order dinner and pints while watching our movie. The Highball next door also hosts one of the most notoriously weird Austin events: BS Bingo.
If you really want a memorable design experience with your hotel, then check out the Austin Motel. The Austin Motel opened its doors in 1938, and its landmark neon sign has been brightening South Congress Avenue ever since.
The motel was recently remodeled with a kitschy retro design that fits neatly into the Keep Austin Weird mindset. It’s centrally located in the heart of SoCo, Austin’s most interesting cultural district, and is close to downtown, the Congress bat bridge and other area attractions. The iconic motel’s amenities include a swimming pool with pool bar, communal hangout spaces, free WiFi, flat-screen TVs, and complimentary parking.
If you want to live the high life in Austin, you stay at the Driskill, the oldest operating hotel in the city. For more than a century, this iconic hotel has hosted restful nights, inspired gatherings, momentous occasions and then some. Completed in 1886, The Driskill was conceived and built by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who spent his fortune constructing “the finest hotel south of St. Louis”. It remains a place of elegance and luxury in the heart of Austin.
It’s had a bit of a boom and bust history, much like the city of Austin. It closed in 1887, less than a year after opening, and then proceeded to change hands a few times. In 1969, it came dangerously close to being demolished before a last minute fundraising effort for renovations saved it. As of 2013, it’s part of the Hyatt family of hotels.
It is also well known as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States, featuring a variety of alleged supernatural activity throughout the building, including the spirit of Colonel Driskill himself. Visit the nearby Museum of the Weird and learn all about the Driskill’s hauntings.
“So you, like, wait for the chicken to walk across your card and poop?” my friend asked, obviously grossed out.
“No, there’s actually only one card and the chicken’s in a cage. You know what,” I mused, “it’s actually more like chicken shit roulette when you think about it.”
Ah, Austin…land of the weird.
I was trying to convince my best friends that they wanted to spend a couple hours of their short visit to Austin waiting for a chicken to poop in the hopes of winning money. I really do love finding the odd and offbeat things to do when I travel so this was right up my alley but I wasn’t sure if my friends would join in my enthusiasm.
The Little Longhorn Saloon is a classic American dive bar. A tiny orange and white steeple-topped concrete shack on a busy thoroughfare a 15 min Uber ride north of the river. Where they serve up $2 cold beers and have live honky tonk bands like so many other Texan dive bars. But on Sundays, things get weird.
From 4pm-8pm, crowds gather for Chicken Shit Bingo. Musician Dale Watson brought the game idea with him from California as a way to entice people to come down to the bar on Sundays. Despite previous owner Ginny’s decree that “it’ll never last”, it works and continues to work almost 20 years later.
The rules are pretty simple. There are four rounds. For each round, you line up to buy a ticket with a number on it. Once the tickets are all sold the game begins. When the chicken shits, the winning number is called, and the round is over.
Amazingly, my friends agreed to indulge my weird interests so on Sunday afternoon we called a Lyft and got ourselves to Burnet Rd. The bar is pretty nondescript when you’re driving by if you don’t know to look for the steeple, so we missed it on our first pass and had to double back. Our driver had never heard of Chicken Shit Bingo before.
I tumbled out of the Lyft and saw that they’d just called ticket sales for the first round so I rushed to claim a spot in line. I knew they were likely to sell out and since I wasn’t sure how long we’d stay I wanted to make sure I got in on the action. The hot Texan sun beat down on us as the line inched forward in the parking lot behind the saloon. When it was my turn I handed over two dollar bills in exchange for a small yellow paper ticket with 28 written on one side in black marker.
Transaction complete, I tucked my ticket into my back pocket and strolled over to inspect the focal point of the action: the bingo cage. It was a 4’x5’ wooden frame with a small door near one corner, balanced on a plastic picnic table shaded by a yellow pop-up canopy tent advertising Shiner Bock beer. The orange paint of the cage was rubbed away on the edges from years of hands and forearms leaning on it, waiting for a chicken to do its thing. The walls and roof were chicken wire, the floor was plywood with a grid of numbers drawn on, strewn with chicken feed. All it was lacking was a chicken.
Once it was announced that tickets were sold out a crowd started to form around the cage. I jockeyed for a good spot, not wanting to miss anything during my first ever round of Chicken Shit Bingo. I found 28 on the grid and tried to visualize a chicken taking a dump on it. Gotta see it to manifest it, right? Soon, the crowds parted as the Chicken Shit Official brought forth a black and white striped chicken and placed it in the cage.
The game was on!
Some people snapped photos. Some tried to encourage the chicken to peck its way over to their number. “To the right! To the right!” “C’mon 14!” “Bok bok! Over here chicken! Bok bok!” The chicken just continued to gobble up feed hither and yon.
Shiner Bock umbrella. Chickens. I get it now. Bok bok, bitch.
Two minutes in, a woop went up from the crowd. There on number 34 was a fresh dollop of bird poop. Um, ew. But also, d’oh. That was definitely not my number. As the winner came forward to claim their prize, the chicken was removed from its buffet and its prize giving offering wiped up. A bit more feed was sprinkled around and we settled in to wait for round two.
During the break I decided to get myself a souvenir beer coozie and a cold brew to commemorate the occasion. Little did I know that I’d end up coming home with half a dozen coozies from different events during my week in Austin. Texans love their beer coozies.
There was a bbq fired up and people were milling around with hot dogs and plastic cups of cheap beer. Speakers had been set up to pipe the honky tonk band playing on the indoor stage to the back lot. It had a vague neighbourhood block party feel.
I decided to check out the inside of The Little Longhorn Saloon. It was like another world. It took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dim light in the low ceilinged room after being outside in the bright afternoon sun. Four ceiling fans and one lone AC unit whirred away in an effort to keep the sweltering heat at bay. The walls were covered in beer advertisements and a soccer game played on the flatscreen tv mounted to one wall while the band was stationed on a low stage in the far corner. Tables were full with people snacking from bags of popcorn, no doubt stuck to the padded vinyl chairs they were sitting on. The feel here was more Newfoundland legion or bay wedding and I wasn’t hating it.
It’s hard to say the ratio exactly but there was definitely a good mix of regulars and tourists at the Little Longhorn Saloon that Sunday afternoon.
Round two was called and it was time to line up again. This time the crowd was bigger. I parted with two more dollar bills and this time was handed a red paper ticket. This time the chicken was shades of brown. This chicken took its time. It was a full 5 minutes before she did her business…but again, not on my number.
We decided to call it quits after that and head off in search of supper. I’d got what I’d came for: an offbeat experience where I paid to watch chickens poop.
Just doing my part to keep Austin weird.
Where: The Little Longhorn Saloon, 5434 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX
Emma Stone’s classic chambray shirt, oversized jacket, and loafers have an easy, borrowed-from-the-boys charm. It’s a comfortable but pulled together look that’s perfect for picking up a Starbucks and waiting for your Uber airport pick-up.
A chambray button-up is a super versatile piece that is great for travel. You can wear it buttoned up, over a tank top, or even as a beach cover-up. You can even unbutton the bottom button and tie the ends to give it a trendy twist.
My one tip if you’re going to go double denim is to mix up your shades. Light on top, dark on bottom or vice versa.
I’m also a fan of loafers as an alternative to ballet flats. They have a timeless classic feel about them but the studded details give them just enough edge to feel modern.
What do you do when you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language but you’ve decided that you absolutely need to get your hair cut? When this happened to me, it all came down to hand gestures and a driver’s license.
I love long hair. I love how it looks and I love how it gives you so many styling options. I don’t, however, always love long hair on me. Every now and then I attempt to grow my hair out and inevitably when it reaches a certain length it gets flat and tangly. In theory there are countless ways for me to style my long hair, but in reality I’m all thumbs so end up with just two styles: straight and down or up in a plain ponytail.
When I set out on my first trip around the world in 2012 my hair was past my shoulders. I had used a drugstore box dye a few weeks before to go dark brunette and my hair didn’t like it at all, becoming very brittle and tangly. Rookie mistake. Box dyes are evil. Now I mainly trust Aveda for my colour.
The plan was to spend 5 days in Croatia, two weeks in South Korea, then 3 days in Tokyo before circling the globe to come home again. Three different countries, two continents, and more hours spent on dry airplanes than I care to think about.
On top of product damage, dealing with my fine hair in a new climate without my usual shampoo (this was before I discovered GoToobs and decanted my at-home products) or styling tools was driving me to the brink of madness. It was frizzy, but limp. Whenever I tried to brush, I’d end up with so much broken off hair in my brush that I was worried I was going to go bald.
The wind and saltwater during my days in Croatia didn’t help matters. I mainly kept my hair in a ponytail for that part of my trip and tried to minimize the frustration. I travelled on to South Korea, where after a couple of days, I snapped.
I woke up one morning and thought, “I have to get it chopped off today.” I couldn’t go one more day with the tangled, dry mess. A spontaneous haircut would’ve been fine except I was in Korea. Not only that, but I was in a small city in Korea visiting my then-boyfriend.
I didn’t speak Korean.
That didn’t deter me. I tried to Google for local salons but couldn’t really make heads or tails of the map results since the place names were all in Hangul. I did learn that you can spot a salon by the spinning barber shop style pole outside with a picture of a cartoon girl on it.
If you see two striped spinning barber shop poles, keep walking. It’s not what you’re looking for. Trust me.
My plan was to just walk around Gunsan and keep an eye out for the cartoon girl. Surely I’d find one. I suppose I could’ve asked one of my guy’s female co-workers where they went, but that would’ve been too easy.
So a wandering I went.
As I was sitting in Dunkin Donuts in a little outdoor shopping complex having my breakfast I happened to look up through a window and bingo! Salon! Well, that was easy.
After finishing my sweet potato latte, I tentatively walked inside and saw that there were two women working but no customers. Hmm… sketchy? I decided to go for it anyway since I only wanted a simple bob.
I pulled out my friend’s battered Korean phrasebook and awkwardly said “ee-bal? 이발?” The two women seemed confused so I started miming cutting my hair using my fingers as scissors. Oddly enough I had been having a good hair day on the day I renewed my driver’s license so I pulled out the card and pointed to it as the example of the cut I wanted. They looked at the photo and back at me, still miming cutting hair with my finger scissors. Eventually they figured out what I wanted, smiled and said, “Ah! ok! Ok!”
Now I was committed. Maybe I should’ve been committed instead. I just sat still with a small nervous smile plastered on my face while they draped me in a cape and started spritzing water on my head. I really hoped they wouldn’t butcher my hair. I got a bit nervous as more and more hair fell to the floor but it was too late to change my mind.
In the end, it was a good cut, if a little shorter than I wanted and a bit blunt. A slightly angled bob that fell above my shoulders. No more tangles! My head felt so light.
I had neglected to find out how much they charged before I sat down so I was really pleased when one girl rang me up and the total was 10,000W (about $9.30 CAD). This cut lacked some of the finesse and layering that my guy back home does but it was also about $50 cheaper. I bounced out of there, swinging my hair with a big grin on my face. I felt sassy.
It was a small thing but I was so proud of myself for managing such a pedestrian task despite the language barrier. Sometimes it’s the small victories that matter when you’re traveling abroad. If I can get a haircut in a Korean salon with no English, I can do anything!
I think the best advice I could give for someone else in the same situation is to have a photo of you with the style and length that you want. Next time you get a haircut that you like, take a few photos from different angles and store them in your phone. That way you’ll have a reference if you’re in need of a trim while overseas.
Have you ever had to take care of something abroad that you don’t think twice about at home? How did it go?
You’ve done Times Square. You’ve done the Empire State Building. You’ve spent countless hours at the Met. You’ve tromped across the Brooklyn Bridge and now you’re looking for something unique to do in New York. I’ve got you covered.I mean, there’s only so many times you can ride the carousel in Central Park. I haven’t hit that limit yet myself but I’ve heard there is one.
After eight visits to the Big Apple I’ve had most of the experiences you expect from New York – Broadway shows, MoMA, the High Line – but I’ve also managed to uncover a few cool experiences that you won’t find on a typical best of New York list.
I love finding off-beat, quirky things to do when I travel and I wanted to make sure this list was extra cool so I also enlisted the help of a few other bloggers to tell me about their own favourite unique thing to do in New York.
What’s the first thing on this list you’re going to do?
Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum
Originally built for the World’s Fair in 1964, the Panorama of the City of New York is the jewel in the crown of the Queens Museum. If a helicopter ride over the city isn’t on your list of things to do in New York, you can get a similar bird’s eye view by visiting this building by building accurate model. In 2009 the museum introduce and Adopt-a-Building program to secure funding for maintenance of the project. For as little as $100 you can get your own deed to a little bit of New York.
The model was built to a scale of 1:1200 where one inch equals 100 feet in the outside world and takes up 9,335 square feet. It was built to be accurate to within 1% of the life-sized city, which is an amazing feat. Each of the city’s 895,000 buildings constructed prior to 1992 and every street, park and some 100 bridges are represented.
The Panorama of the City of New York is certainly worth getting out of Manhattan for.
I love Instagrammable food as much as the next person. Maybe a bit more, in fact. I mean, I did stand in line for 90min a few years ago to get some rainbow bagels in Brooklyn. Well, I promise you won’t have to line up as long for these Instagrammable sweet treats in Little Italy.
At Sweet Moment you’ll find the cutest drinks this side of Seoul. They offer a cold, creamart drink in 5 different flavours/colours: choco, red velvet, taro, thai, and matcha with a choice of black milk tea of cold brew coffee. The baristas are skilled at using coloured cream to draw on top of the cream. Almost too pretty to drink.
Meanwhile, at Taiyaki NYC they’re serving up soft serve ice cream that will have you eagerly looking for that perfect Instagram background before your treat starts to melt. I got myself a unicorn (complete with marshmallow horn and ears) in a fish-shaped, red bean paste filled cone. The concept is inspired by Japanese fish-shaped cakes called Taiyaki which are sold by street vendors in Japan. If you order the unicorn shake, it comes complete with a mini unicorn pool floatie.
If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, take a ferry over to Governors Island for a little hammock time. Governors Island is a 172 acre island in the heart of New York Harbor. It’s only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and even closer to Brooklyn. It’s easily accessible by ferry and open to the public from May 1-October 31. Hammock Grove is just one of the features of the car-free island and is home to 50 iconic red hammocks for you to chill out and relax in.
You probably know all about the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Centre, but have you heard of the Woolworth Building? For 17 years, it was the tallest building in the world. Designed by the renowned architect Cass Gilbert in 1913 to be Frank W. Woolworth’s NYC headquarters, the Woolworth Building has long been closed to the public; however, architectural tours of its beautiful vintage lobby are now available so you too can marvel at the stained glass ceiling, marble, and Tiffany elevator.
Museum of the Moving Image
If you like movies, television, and digital media then you should take yourself to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Not only do they have 47 Muppets on display in the permanent Jim Henson exhibit, but the museum’s “Behind the Screen” exhibit examines every step of the filmmaking process, with artifacts from more than 1,000 different productions, and 14 classic (playable!) video games, including Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man and Space Invaders. The museum also has a 200+ seat theatre where you can catch screenings and live events.
I just love miniature things it seems. First the Panorama, now Gulliver’s Gate. It’s the most technologically advanced & interactive museum of miniatures on the planet. From functioning airport and naval locks, to hundreds of hidden scenes and interactive elements, you can travel the world without stepping on a plane. You’ll feel like Gulliver himself looking at the world in miniature, from the Taj Mahal to the Eiffel Tower to the Giant Gherkin in London. While you’re there, see if you can find one of the 47 pizzas located in their miniatures!
Discover your own personal spy profile and what role you’d play in the world of secret intelligence at Spyscape. Profiling was developed by top psychologists and a former Head of Training at British Intelligence so you know they know a thing or two. If you’ve ever wanted to be dropped into Mission: Impossible, dodging lasers and playing with spy gadgets, this is the museum for you. Channel your inner Bond with immersive experiences and challenges in the heart of Manhattan.
Museum of Food and Drink
All that spy work can build up an appetite though. So why not head over to Brooklyn for a visit to the Museum of Food and Drink. It’s the world’s first large-scale food museum with exhibits you can eat. MOFAD wants to educate you on the culture, history, science, production, and commerce of food and drink. If Anthony Bourdain taught us anything, it’s that food is something special that can bridge cultures and help us understand each other. MOFAD will inspire your curiosity about food, what it means, and how it connects with the world around us.
New York has some of the best shopping in the world, without a doubt. Just about every Western brand you can think of has a store in New York, but what if you want something just a bit more unique? Then Brooklyn Flea might be right up your alley. It’s Brooklyn’s largest flea market for vintage, design, antiques, collectibles, and food. You can shop from hundreds of vendors every Saturday and Sunday all year ‘round. It’s been called one of the best markets in the United States as well as one of the great urban experiences to have in New York.
I once called this the best thing you could do in Brooklyn on a Saturday and I still stand by that. Smorgasburg is a food truck lover’s dream come true, minus the actual trucks. Unique vendors sling everything from ramen burgers to fruit juices blended right in the fruit to ice cream blasted with a blowtorch. Whether you’re into Ethiopian, Thai, bbq, or vegan, you’ll find something to get your taste buds going at Smorgasburg. Plus, you can hang out on an honest-to-God sandy beach while you munch on your Honduran baleada or deep-fried cookie dough balls.
When I lived in New York, I was constantly on the hunt for out-of-the-way, non-touristy gems—and I found just that at The Met Cloisters. A satellite of the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, this northern Manhattan retreat borrows architecture from medieval Europe to display art from the same time period. In fact, architects brought in parts of buildings from religious sites in Europe and incorporated them into this one-of-a-kind museum.
The Cloisters are a peaceful place to look at religious icons or simply sit on a sunny bench in the open-air gardens at the center of the complex. Definitely seek out the Unicorn Tapestries, a stunning series of woven scenes you’ll want to stare at forever. But don’t miss the other art here, from stained glass to religious portraits.
One of the best things about visiting The Met Cloisters is the peace and quiet you’ll find here. It takes a long subway ride (the A train to 190th, then a 10-minute walk), which means it’s off the tourist’s beaten path. That way, you can take a breather from New York’s hustle and simply enjoy yourself.
Catherine Ryan Gregory shares tips, recommendations and hacks to make family travel easier at To & Fro Fam.
The Museum of the American Indian
The Museum of the American Indian is housed in the old NYC customs house in downtown Manhattan. It is part of the Smithsonian and so it is absolutely free! And things in NYC are rarely free.
I like this museum because it celebrates a part of the American experience that is often overlooked. On display are cultural relics, handicrafts, and costumes of the Native American. I especially enjoy the tribals masks. The permanent collection also focuses on the history of the Natives and their impact on our modern world.
There is an interactive kids section focused on the inventions and achievements of Native Americans. My kids really enjoyed learning about the foods that we eat because of the Native Americans.
I highly recommend a guided tour. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and make the museum experience that much more informative.
Tip: The museum is close to Battery Park, so it’s a great stop after a Statue of Liberty tour.
Step right into the history of New York at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This is my favorite place to learn about the layers of immigration that shaped NYC and the US. Book a tour through the apartments for an unforgettable experience. All tours are small group with an expert guide with a informal, discussion style, rather than a boring lecture.
The Tenement Museum is a series of apartments in the Lower East Side where many immigrant families got their start in the United States. Boarded up in the 1930s, it was “discovered” in 1988 and since been incredibly well-researched to share the stories of the families that lived there. Choose the tour that most interests you; Irish Outsiders, Hard Times, Sweatshop Workers, Under One Roof, and Shop Life. Each one tells the stories of a different layer of the new Americans. I’ve done four tours and haven’t been disappointed yet.
Each time I visit, I learn something new; about the daily lives of New Yorkers in the past, our country’s immigration history, or about the fascinating research techniques the curators use. They have walking tours, food tours, and stellar book store. While you’re right nearby, grab lunch at Katz’ delicatessen.
One of the best places I discovered during a whirlwind December weekend in New York was a little Italian sandwich shop called Pisillo Italian Panini.
I discovered Pisillo after an emotionally exhausting visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in Lower Manhattan. The minute we left the museum it started to snow quite heavily. My husband and I were hungry but really wanted a place close by the museum so we wouldn’t have to walk too far in the snow.
Pisillo showed up on our map and the reviews stated they had the best sandwiches outside of..
No visit to Atlantic Canada is complete without a stop in Nova Scotia. There are no end to the fun and unique things to do in the province. Whether you want a trip filled with fiddles, lobsters, and local brews or a vacation jam packed with hiking, donairs, and live music, Nova Scotia has what you’re looking for.
This Atlantic Canadian province is a unique place where Celtic, Acadian, and Indigenous cultures live side by side. Where music is a way of life and you’re never more than 67km from the ocean. A province that birthed hockey legends, artists, and some of the country’s most beloved singers like Anne Murray.
To help you kickstart your exploration of Canada’s ocean playground, I put together a little list of some of the best things to do in Nova Scotia. Where will you start?
Drive the CABOT TRAIL in the fall
Get a selfie with the WORLD’S LARGEST FIDDLE in Sydney