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THE BEST TRAVEL GUIDE FOR THE STATE OF MINNESOTA

A guide to give you inspiration & ideas for planning your vacation in the state of Minnesota.

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Best Places to Travel in Minnesota Wanderlust in real life.com and four pictures of the beautiful outdoors in Minnesota

About Minnesota

Minnesota became the 32nd state of the United States on May 11, 1858. The state of Minnesota is located in the Midwest of the United States boasting a landscape full of more than 11,000 lakes. Commonly used nicknames for the state of Minnesota include: Land of 10,000 lakes, North Star State, Gopher State & The State of Hockey.

Geography of Minnesota

Minnesota is located in the Midwest of the United States. The state is bordered by North and South Dakota to the West; Iowa to the South; Wisconsin and Lake Superior to the East & Canada to the North. When you look at the shape of the state of Minnesota, the small little “nub” on the very top of its unique shape makes Minnesota the most northern state within the lower 48 states of the USA. So when we say “up north” we really mean it!

Why a Minnesota vacation?

Minnesota is such an underrated state! From all of the lakes and outdoor activities in all seasons to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area Minnesota truly has something to appeal to everyone. Read on to help you start planning to give you Minnesota vacation ideas to explore beyond what you might already know about this Midwestern state.

How to get to Minnesota

Plane

If you’re flying into Minnesota, there are two international airports. Minneapolis/St. Paul & Rochester. Minneapolis/St. Paul services the majority of air traffic for Minnesota having the most passengers. The other airports I list below are small hub and non-hub USA airports. American Eagle, Delta and Allegiant Air are the most common airlines at these smaller airports. When planning your travel to Minnesota, passengers should consider Minneapolis as it’s the main international airport in the state.

MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) International Airport is comprised of two terminals. Terminal one being the main terminal and where most of the International flights leave out of. A majority of the restaurants, shopping & amenities are located in terminal one. If you go through the south security checkpoint in terminal one my favorite restaurant at the airport is located right on the other side. Stone Arch focuses on pub fare and having an extensive MN craft beer draft list. MSP is a huge hub for Delta flights. Metro Transit and Light Rail Transit options offer public transportation from and to the airport. From the airport there are also, taxis, shuttles and there are designated app based transportation pick up spots available.

There are several other smaller regional airports across Minnesota, however, availability and timetables are much more limited. Many of these regional airlines you will fly into MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) and have a connecting flight to your final destination. Regional airports within Minnesota include: Bemidji (BJI), Brainerd (BRD), Duluth (DLH), St. Cloud (STC), International Falls (INL), Chisholm-Hibbing (HIB).

Car

Depending where you hail from and what your thoughts are on road trips, you could definitely drive to Minnesota on vacation. Even in the metro area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, the public transportation options here aren’t as robust compared to other metropolitan cities in other states so keep that in mind when planning. Typically having your own car would be great! If you do fly, I would definitely recommend renting a car if you’re planning to travel to the northern part of Minnesota. As it will be a lot easier for you to get around.

Amtrak

Located in St. Paul, MN, Amtrak trains leave and arrive from the historic Union Depot from many different destinations. There are several Amtrak stations in both central Minnesota as well as in the southern part of the state. You can navigate from MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul airport) to Union Depot via the light rail system.

When to go to Minnesota

Minnesota experiences all four seasons. Don’t let that deter you, there are plenty of vacation ideas in Minnesota year round! While it can be difficult to predict the weather at times, the most mild weather is typically experienced in the spring and fall. Summer can get extremely hot and humid. After enduring long cold winters native Minnesotans welcome the short stint of warmth.

Minnesota summers are enjoyed by long weekends at many lakes, camping, boating & generally enjoying many of the outdoor activities the state has to offer. Typically the best weather in Minnesota is from May-September. September and October are absolutely gorgeous with the fall foilage. Depending on where you are in the state, peak fall colors usually occur between September and October. This largely depends on the weather and the part of the state you’re planning on visiting.

Check out more in depth information on what to pack when visiting Minnesota by season in my Minnesota packing guide. (It even includes a free checklist!)

blue skies lake and some fall foilage a great time for an idea to vacation in Minnesota

Minnesota Activities

Minnesota is so diverse in the activities you can enjoy all year round. It really creates a lot of vacation ideas within the state of Minnesota. Here are some examples of activities for your trip.

In the winter: skiing (cross country and downhill), snowboarding, curling, skating or playing hockey, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.

In the fall: hiking, biking, leaf peeping, stretching out patio season, camping or glamping.

During the summer: long days boating or fishing on many of the lakes and rivers, having a drink or food on one of the many outdoor patios, biking, golfing, barbecues, camping glamping or staying in a cabin, kayaking/canoeing and stand up paddle boarding.

In the spring: hiking, getting outside more as the snow melts. (Spring activities are very dependent on the snow and mud level but many summer activities will start at the end of the spring season.) In 2021, it was 80 degrees Farenheit hiking at Tettegouche State Park the first weekend in May. For the record, that is extremely warm that far north for early May!

sky lift on a sky hill with blue skies and Lake Superior in the distance. Skiing or snowboarding in Minnesota is one of many great vacation ideas
Lutsen, Minnesota Mountains ski resort

Minnesota Weather

Minnesota experiences all seasons. We have what can be a really long winter, a crisp fall with beautiful fall colors as the leaves change, a brisk and vibrant spring and an absolutely unforgettable summer. Summers tend to be short, but absolutely worth braving some of the colder months for.

Average temperatures by month can greatly vary. Typically January is the coldest month of the year with July being the hottest month. Spring and fall in Minnesota are somewhat subjective. We’ve been known to have gorgeous pre-summer weather in April and there have been some years where it snows a foot or more in April! There are many Minnesota vacation ideas that can be amazing during all seasons. (Including winter!)

If you’re planning on spending any time in Minnesota, before you pack definitely check the weather. We’re one of the lucky states where you can experience harsh extremes within the same day.

Minnesota Lakes

Minnesota’s landscape includes over 11,000 lakes that are 10 acres large or more. Another idea to add to your Minnesota vacation ideas is renting a houseboat to actually stay on a lake for an extended period of time. According to Minnesota’s DNR, the ten largest lakes that are within the borders of the Minnesota include:

1) Red Lake (both upper and lower)

2) Mille Lacs

3) Leech Lake

4) Lake Winnie (Winnibigoshish)

5) Vermillion

6) Kabetogama

7) Mud Lake (in Marshall county)

8) Cass Lake

9) Lake Minnetonka

10) Otter Tail Lake

While the largest lakes crossing the Minnesota state border are Lake Superior & Lake of the Woods.

The largest lake located in the city of Minneapolis is Bde Maka Ska (formerly named Lake Calhoun). This lake is a part of the chain of lakes including Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles & Lake Nokomis. This popular chain of lakes have an extensive biking and walking path system around them. This is a very popular part of Minneapolis to enjoy the many parks dotted along their shores to stop and relax.

beautiful pink and colorful light blue sunset over a glass calm lake and trees towering in Northern Minesota in the summer
Calm lake at sunset in Northern Minnesota

MN Vacation Ideas: Minnesota State Parks

There are 66 state parks across Minnesota. The oldest being one of my favorites, Itasca State Park. Itasca State Park is where the Mississippi River starts. Believe it or not, you can actually walk across the river here! I grew up a little over 30 miles from this state park so personally Itasca State Park holds a lot of great memories for me and is my favorite. I remember in elementary school we would come here on field trips and I’ve camped here numerous times with friends over the years. Itasca also has several cabin lodging options as well so definitely check those out!

Other than Itasca State Park, some of my other favorite state parks are mostly on the North Shore. I actually got engaged at Gooseberry Falls State Park in the fall! The state parks located on the North Shore are especially popular during the Spring & Fall. During the spring for waterfall chasing and in the fall, for seeking out the gorgeous fall foilage.

sign stating Mississippi Headwaters located in Minnesota. A great location to add to Minnesota vacation ideas.
Itasca State Park, Minnesota

National Parks & Monuments in Minnesota

Another Minnesota vacation idea includes visiting the National Parks and monuments recognized by the NPS within Minnesota. The most well known National Park in Minnesota is Voyageurs National Park (BWCA) Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

There are several other monuments and areas in Minnesota that are recognized by the National Park Service. My favorites include the Saint Croix River & Mississippi River which are close to the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities.

the gorgeous rocky bluffs and green trees along the st croix river in Minnesota during the summer
St. Croix River in Minnesota

Vacation ideas: Where to go in Minnesota

Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Metro area

The Twin Cities have an abundance of vacation ideas for your time in Minnesota. From sampling some local beer at a Minnesota craft beer brewery, going on a brewery crawl using only public transportation, eating at one of the local burger restaurants to determine who truly has the best juicy lucy, taking in the best view of the Minneapolis skyline to biking around the lakes on Minneapolis/St. Paul’s extensive trails there’s sure to be something for everyone in this metropolitan area.

The skyway system in downtown Minneapolis is the world’s largest continuous indoor pedestrian pathway. It stretches over eight miles and connects 73 blocks. You can sleep, eat, work and shop without ever needing to step foot outside. (Which is a great perk considering how cold MN winters can get!)

Twin Cities suburbs

The state of Minnesota is home to the largest mall in the United States, Mall of America. The mall opened in 1992, which has over 400 stores and attracts nearly 40 million people each year! Mall of America, is located in the southern suburb of Bloomington and isn’t far from MSP airport. In fact, you can even take public transportation to get to the mall from the airport. Prior to living in the metro area, I’ve done this on longer layovers at MSP.

There is so much to do in the large metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. From Minneapolis to St. Paul and all of the sprawling suburbs in between. One of my favorite memories growing up was always going to “The Cities” and doing some fun things such as the Mall of America, sporting events, the MN Zoo or the MN State Fair. It’s just such a fun memory of getting to spend a weekend before school started shopping and spending time with my family. Although now my yearly trips to the Minnesota State fair look a little bit different as I’m scoping out the new and state fair exclusive craft beers. For more detailed information check out this post that has tons of suggestions for Things to do in the Twin Cities. It includes both Minneapolis, St. Paul and beyond into the sprawling suburbs in the surrounding area.

Spoon and cherry sculpture located at Walker art center sculpture garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Day Trips from the Twin Cities

If you’re in Minnesota for more than a week, I suggest at least taking a day trip away from the metro area. There are several great day trips located only a short drive away. Some of the best day trips (or weekend trips) from the Twin Cities include: Stillwater, the Cuyuna/Crosby area or Brainerd area, several state parks such as Afton, Nerstrand Big Woods, William O’Brien, St. Croix & Interstate State Park.

“Up North” Minnesota (Bemidji, Walker)

Beyond the metro area there are many vacation ideas within Minnesota located up north. As an original “Up North” dweller growing up here there are definitely a lot of things to take advantage of that I took for granted growing up. The north woods has a lot of opportunity for time outdoors whether hunting, fishing, hiking, biking or spending time on the lakes. Some of the best places to spend time up north in Minnesota include: Bemidji, Walker & Itasca state Park. More details on things to do in the Bemidji area are located here.

Paul Bunyan and babe statues on Lake Bemidji's waterfront in Minnesota
Bemidji, Minnesota

Way Up North (bordering Canada)

I haven’t personally spent a lot of time in this area of the state. Popular locations include: Lake of the Woods, International Falls & Rainy Lake or Ely, Minnesota.

Along the North Shore, closer to Canada than the United States sits Grand Portage which is a part of the National Park System. Grand Portage State Park is a day use only state park featuring hiking trails and stunning waterfall views. From the parking lot you can actually see just down the road border control for Canada.

The Boundary Waters (BWCA) Canoe Wilderness Area is partially located in Minnesota and in Canada. This is a very remote and outdoor experience but there are also many resorts and less roughing it options available. So it truly is a location for everyone. Especially if you’re looking to really unplug and relax.

Waterfall at Grand Portage State Park in Minnesota
Grand Portage State Park

Duluth, Minnesota

I consider Duluth to be the “gateway” to the North Shore as it’s always a stop for me whether it’s a few hours or a day before heading to the smaller towns and more of a remote experience on the North shore along Lake Superior.

There’s a lot to do in Duluth whether you’re planning on staying there for a weekend or longer or if you’re continuing on along the North Shore. Check out my post that goes more in depth on Things to do in Duluth, and of course, you always have to stop at a few breweries. Here’s the scoop on the best breweries in Duluth to help you to drink local wherever you are!

Duluth lift bridge on Lake Superior in winter with woman sitting on bench looking on to the bridge.
Duluth Lift bridge in winter

North Shore of Lake Superior

Past Duluth, up along Lake Superior to Canada is what makes up the North Shore in Minnesota. This is one of my favorite parts of the state. There are so many gorgeous state parks to hike in with waterfalls abundant and views of Lake Superior for days! Some of the more popular destinations along the North Shore include Grand Marais, Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Portage, Tettegouche State Park, Gooseberry Falls, & Split Rock Lighthouse.

The drive from Duluth up the North Shore has received the national designation of “All American Road”. There is an abundance of things to do along the North Shore. It really is a great destination within Minnesota to slow down and relax.

Bean and Bear Lake on the North Shore of Minnesota during fall/autumn
Bean & Bear Lake hike in the fall

Central Minnesota: Cuyuna/Crosby

Another great Minnesota vacation idea is Cuyuna or Crosby, Minnesota is practically located right smack dab in the middle of the state of Minnesota. It’s an easy day trip from the Minneapolis/ St. Paul metro area but an even better destination to spend a weekend.

Downtown Crosby has several restaurants, bars & even a brewery. But, what they’re the most well known for is their biking. Throughout Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area there are 50 miles of mountain bike trails. Not only that, but the iron ore lakes in this area are absolutely stunning with the most beautiful crystal clear water. So taking a kayak or stand up paddle board out after biking is the perfect end to a great day in Cuyuna.

Central Minnesota: Brainerd & Brainerd Lakes area

Brainerd is a very popular destination from the metropolitan area as well. It’s a short drive and there are many resorts and golf courses making it a great vacation spot within the state of Minnesota. Between mini golf and full courses there are 16 within the Brainerd area! There are also many resorts along the lakes so you could fit in some golfing or just lake and cabin or camping time.

Southern Minnesota: New Ulm

New Ulm is a smaller MN town that’s well known for its German heritage. So, it should come as no surprise that August Schell Brewing Company is a German craft beer brewery located in New Ulm. August Schell’s is America’s second oldest family brewery. Since August Schells acquired Grain Belt, it’s the largest brewery in Minnesota.

Other points of interest in New Ulm include Flandrau State Park & the Glockenspiel that chimes at noon, 1, 3, 5 & 6 PM daily. True to its German heritage many shops downtown carry authentic German goods & food.

Southern Minnesota: Mankato

Mankato is located just about an hour south of Minneapolis/St. Paul. It has a state college Mankate State University and is well known for Minneopa State Park, Mankato brewing & during the holiday season Kiwani’s holiday lights. Prior to 2018, the American NFL football team the Minnesota Vikings held their training camp at Mankato State since 1965.

Southern Minnesota: Rochester

Just a short distance from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, Rochester is most well known as the birthplace of the Mayo Clinic. The city of Rochester boasts over 100 city parks with 85 miles of bike trails so it’s a great location in Minnesota to get outside. After your bike ride, Rochester has some great breweries to enjoy as well. We spent some time at said breweries during a road trip. Read more about the specific breweries here.

The outside of Forager Brewery in Rochester Minnesota
One of the breweries in Rochester, MN

Western Minnesota (Moorhead & Fargo, NoDak)

Moorhead is actually located in Minnesota & Fargo is just over the border into North Dakota. But it’s a great vacation idea, especially if you’re a craft beer fan like me! Honestly, one of the main reasons I travel to Fargo/Moorhead is for beer. Two of my absolute favorite breweries are located in the Fargo/Moorhead area. Luckily, they also distribute to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area but road tripping to visit their taprooms every once in awhile is fun. It’s literally a straight shot from MSP to Fargo/Moorhead north on I-94. On your way there you pass through Alexandria & Fergus Falls which are

“Bluff Country” from Red Wing to Winona

Red Wing is located south east of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and is most well known for being the birthplace of Red Wing shoes. The Cannon Valley Trail is a paved bike trail that connects Cannon Falls, Welch, & Red Wing. It’s 20 miles one way and is available for year round use for biking, hiking/running & cross country skiing.

This southeastern stretch of the state is along the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin which is carved out by the Mississippi River. The dramatic limestone bluffs and views out over the river will be sure to leave a lasting impression. There are many popular hikes to take in these impressive views in this area. One of the most well known in Winona is Sugar Loaf because of the amazing view at the top.

Along the Cannon Valley Bike trail from Cannon Falls to Red Wing Minnesota during the fall.
Biking the Cannon Valley Trail

Most Well Known Minnesota Vacation ideas

Some of the most well known attractions that easily come to mind in Minnesota for vacations include: Voyageurs National Park (Boundary Waters Canoe Area- BWCA), Mall of America, and the North Shore of Minnesota along Lake Superior from Duluth, Minnesota north to the Canadian border and hiking the Superior Hiking Trail.

Minnesota in the fall truly is so colorful and beautiful. Especially in the northern part of the state. It’s always my favorite to make it up to the North Shore or my hometown of Bemidji to hike and take in all of the foilage changing colors.

If you liked this post, be sure to pin it for later!

Beyond Minnesota vacation idea details:

The Ultimate Minnesota Summer Bucket List

The Best Festive Christmas Events in the Twin Cities

Where to see the Best Christmas Lights in Minnesota

WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK FOR THANKSGIVING

New York/NYC Thanksgiving

In the United States, Thanksgiving is a holiday in late November where most full time employees (like myself and my husband) received two vacation days which makes it a perfect time for a long weekend get away! New York City is an iconic place to spend Thanksgiving. Especially since the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade takes place through Manhattan. So, it makes sense to at least spend one Thanksgiving in NYC.

New York is a great destination for Thanksgiving. But, also be aware that it’s busy! For example if you want to see any popular attractions or make sure you do something specific buy tickets or make reservations in advance. We were waiting in line for the World Trade Center Museum & many people had to be turned away because they were sold out and there weren’t any remaining tickets for that day. It works out well for people like me who always tend to plan ahead and buy tickets in advance if at all possible!

Packing for Thanksgiving in New York

Being from Minnesota and seeing the forecast for New York over Thanksgiving I thought wow it will be so temperate and warm! While it stated temps were in the 40’s and 50’s (Farenheit). But it gets so windy! I repeat, it’s windy AF!

A few tips to help you pack for Thanksgiving in New York: pack layers, be sure to pack a few winter hats and at least light winter gloves, water resistant warm and comfortable walking shoes. (I brought some boots, sneakers & sorel booties that worked perfectly!)

Thanksgiving Day in New York

The day of Thanksgiving, some places will have abbreviated hours so if you have specific things you want to do, be sure to research in advance! If possible, buy tickets and definitely make reservations prior. Most of the city at the beginning of the day will be at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The day before the parade, you can view the balloons being inflated. Read more about this here.

Be sure to get in your desired viewing spot early! Definitely be sure to plan ahead though. Here is some great advice for planning. The parade starts at 9 AM EST but you’ll want to stake out your spot around 2 hours in advance. (Yup! That means getting up at 6 AM to be in your spot by 7 which is very unlike rolling out of bed, pouring a cup of coffee while watching the parade in your pj’s and helping your Mom prepare Thanksgiving dinner.) But, I promise it’s worth it! It’s a once in a lifetime experience, unless you’re a local and regularly see the parade in person.

As we were walking to the parade, we had planned on finding a spot near the turn of the parade at the corner of 6th Avenue at Central Park or near Bryant Park. We were stopped by some Department of Homeland Security personnel. They gave us tickets for bleacher seats which ended up being amazing! We were able to sit down while we waited and if we wanted to go back and forth between sitting down and being up against the guard rails we could. It was purely by luck and happenstance and it made for the best experience!

Another option to view the parade, is to secure a hotel room along the parade route. The rates typically are a pretty penny sometimes up to three times the normal room rate with the requirement of multiple nights minimum to book. The other kicker is that you will likely have to book the room at least a year in advance.

After the parade

The parade is from 9 AM-12 PM ET. Once the parade is over, the sidewalks were busier and there just was a fun buzz and vibe. We walked from where we were seated on the south side of Central Park to around the Rockefeller area. At the time there were many street vendors and food vendors so we leisurely strolled around. We tried some street food to hold us over from a light breakfast of donuts and coffee until we had Thanksgiving dinner. My favorite was the honey roasted pecans from the nuts 4 nuts stand near Rockefeller center.

Thanksgiving Dinner in NYC

You will want to plan ahead for Thanksgiving Dinner in New York by making a reservation. Many restaurants are closed but those that are open typically provide a prix fixe menu and it can be costly. We decided to be efficient and instead of spending a hefty chunk of money on just a dinner, we spent a little more and combined dinner and an experience. We had dinner aboard a ship while also enjoying floating along seeing the statue of liberty and the New York City skyline. I was very impressed by the dinner and I wasn’t expecting much because it was a buffet. But, I know many of these day cruises do other boozy brunches and fun experiences that I would be totally game to check out in the future.

A few things to keep in mind, the cost included the ship experience and dinner. The cost of any cocktails, beer or wine will be additional.

Thanksgiving dinner aboard a ship in New York City
Dinner on the cruise, yum!

Other Things to see & do in New York City

Central Park

Amidst a bustling city, there is a lot to see within the 843 acre span of green space in Manhattan. You could spend days in Central Park and still not see everything. Depending on how much time you have to devote to exploring the park,I would for sure have certain points of interest you want to see. It’s very easy to get turned around while in the park (at least for me!) So, it was really helpful when I made a plan of the things I wanted to be sure to see and what made sense in terms of the order in seeing them.

My list of things to see in Central Park included: Belvedere Castle, Bow Bridge, The Lake Viewing Area (by Bow bridge), Bethesda Terrace & Fountain Minton Tiles at Bethesda Arcade, The Mall, Central Park Carousel, Wollman Ice Skating Rink, Rocks near Gapstow bridge with the NYC skyline in background, & Gapstow Bridge in Central Park.

Iconic Buildings of New York

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron building has to be one of the most unique buildings. It is a historic part of New York City as well as being featured in many movies to confirm it takes place in Manhattan. Located near Madison Square Park makes the wedge shaped iconic building a must see during a Thanksgiving in New York.

Rockefeller Building

The Rockefeller building and Rockefeller center are definitely the iconic center of Christmas in New York. While spending Thanksgiving in New York the tree is usually in place already. The Rockefeller tree is almost always lit the Wednesday following Thanksgiving. So, you could always extend your trip to catch this as well.

Woman standing across the street from Rockefeller Plaza in New York City on Thanksgiving
Across the street from Rockefeller Plaza

Chrysler Building

In the late 1920’s and early 30’s this was the tallest building in the world. The style of the Chrysler Building stands out as one of the most recognizable in the New York skyline. While this building doesn’t have an observation deck, there are retail stores as well as restaurants, bars and event spaces for rent available.

The chrysler building peeping up over grand central station at night in New York City
Chrysler Building peeking out behind of Grand Central Station

Empire State Building

Similar in Art Deco style to the Chrysler Building this mid town sky scraper is often lit up with festive and fun colors. The Empire State building does have an observation deck that would be fun to visit during your Thanksgiving in New York both during the day or night.

Grand Central Terminal

This transportation iconic station is beautiful inside and out so it deserves a stop during your time in New York for Thanksgiving. Grand Central is the transportation hub connecting New York’s subway system with the Metro North above ground trains. As well as transportation there are several stores and restaurants housed here.

Woman standing in the center of Grand Central Station in New York City on Thanksgiving

The High Line

The High Line is an elevated public park located on a retired freight train track. At one point, it was called the West Side elevated Line. Now the High Line, after nearly becoming demolished in the early 2000’s is a continuous just under 1 1/2 mile greenway space home to over 500 different species of plants and trees. On one side of the High Line is Hudson Yards, home of The Edge observatory deck.

Woman looking through a glass window off into the distance of the NYC skyline from The High Line Park
Peep the edge off in the distance

Little Italy & Chinatown

Manhattan and it’s surrounding boroughs are home to many different neighborhoods having their own vibe and atmosphere. Little Italy and Chinatown are a few of many neighborhoods you can explore. But secretly, they’re my favorites. New York is such a diverse and amazing city that these neighborhoods can make you feel like you’re not even in the United States.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most well known bridges in Manhattan on the East River. Bridging the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge has a pedestrian path that is about a mile to walk the whole thing. The views of Manhattan and Brooklyn are great along this walk. Once in Brooklyn you will be close to the DUMBO area photo opps as well as some great New York craft beer!

Brooklyn bridge in New York City

Washington Square Park

Other than Central Park, Washington Square Park is one of the prettiest parks in New York. It is flanked by several NYU (New York University) buildings although not property directly of the University. It’s a great place to relax and soak in the city looking at the Washington Arch which reminds me of some architecture in Europe.

Woman standing against a light pole looking at the arch in Washington Square Park

Times Square

This is honestly my least favorite thing in New York to do. It’s really overrated. Although, my husband wanted to see it so we walked here after our dinner cruise on Thanksgiving day. The most annoying thing about Times Square is the constant sidewalk performances that try to get money for you before they even do anything of interest. Seeing all of the lights and hustle and bustle in my opinion is a one and done thing and I totally get why locals will avoid this area at all costs!

Viewing Platforms in New York

This was something that while in New York this time, we didn’t do. It was somewhat of a regret though, because it was my husbands first time to NYC. So, I wish we would have done at least one as they are a lot of fun and I’ve done several in the past. Each one listed below has a different vibe and of course location making the view different as well. Below are the five observation decks you should check out. Skip the line tickets are available as well.

The Edge

Located at the Hudson Yards and viewable from The High Line, is one of the newer observation decks in New York City, The Edge.

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

The newest of all of the observatory platforms in New York, is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. Located near Grand Central Station, it’s very centrally located. Depending on when you visit, there are many different experiences you can choose to have. But, regardless you will need to wear soft booties over your shoes and if you visit during the day, be sure you have sunglasses and are wearing sunscreen. It can cause sunburn and be quite blinding on very bright days!

Top of the Rock

The Top of the Rock is an iconic 360 degree observatory deck in New York City to take in the rest of the iconic skyline. The view of Central Park is absolutely amazing any time of year.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is an iconic New York City building. Visiting the observatory there would make your New York Thanksgiving weekend unforgettable.

One World Observatory

The One World Observatory can be paired with a visit to the 9/11 museum, ground zero tour as well as the memorial.

New York City Tours

I love walking around and exploring on my way to the things I set out to see. But, if you’re short on time and want to maximize your time in New York for Thanksgiving a hop on hop off bus or tour to see a lot in a condensed amount of time.

Where to eat & drink in New York

Some of the most quintessential NYC eating experiences include pizza, bagels, New York deli’s and the original NYC diner/luncheonette in no particular order. (As well as breweries because I always have to mention breweries!) Here are all of the breweries to visit in the NYC area.

New York Pizza

Lombardi’s

Located in Little Italy, Lombardi’s was established in 1905 and is the first pizzeria in the United States. They don’t take reservations so it definitely can get really busy and you might have a wait. But, it’s definitely worth it! Showing up a little hangry and not wanting to wait, we absolutely lucked out and snagged a few stools at the bar. It wasn’t fancy, but it was just focused on great delicious ingredients making it such quality food.

Joe’s Pizza

Another pizza institution in New York, your time there for Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without trying Joe’s Pizza. There are multiple locations, we visited You can order pizza by the slice or a whole pie, it’s up to you! (The slices are HUGE!) And, likely there will be a line out the door so you’ll have some time to decide what you want to order. But, part of that may have attributed to the fact that we went to the location near Times Square on Broadway. We ordered a full pie (half pepperoni & the other half margherita) then an italian salad.

New York Bagels

While in New York for Thanksgiving, be sure to get your fill of carbs with the famous NYC Bagels. Read more in depth about all of the bagel shops to check out here.

New York Deli’s and Luncheonettes

New York is known for their deli’s and old school diner/luncheonettes. Katz Delicatessen is probably the most well known and iconic. However, this is a solid list of delicatessens in Manhattan to have a quality sandwich. After a day of walking over 14 miles all over Manhattan, a late lunch/early dinner at Lexington Candy Shop was delicious! Definitely be sure to take a trip into the past by having a soda float. (A cherry coke float was a delightful choice!)

WHERE YOU HAVE TO EAT A NY BAGEL WHILE VISITING NEW YORK CITY (NYC)

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NYC

Spending time in New York City and not having at least one NY bagel should definitely be a sin! One of the most quintessential culinary NY experiences most definitely is having a NY bagel with schmear. (They do not mess around when it comes to the amount of cream cheese!) Seriously New York (NY) Bagels are famous for a reason. New York City is the city that doesn’t sleep so do not sleep on your opportunity to experience them. Especially if they’re piping hot and fresh (which they usually are!) Even if there’s a line, it usually moves pretty fast.

NY Bagels

The main question many people ask is who has the best bagel in NYC. But, also what makes a NY bagel better than any other bagel. The main ingredient that sets NY bagels apart is the NYC water used to make them. Another distinguishing factor is the fact that they boil them versus baking. All of these factors play into why NY bagels are at a level above any other bagels worldwide. The battle of who is the best comes down to preference. Are you a bagel purist? Or do you like off the wall trendy, fun and inventive flavors or spreads? There are many great places to try out bagels to make an assessment on your own of where you have to eat a NY bagel.

Must visit NY Bagel Shops in NYC

There are so many different bagel shops in New York City. It really depends on your preferences and flavors you like the best as to what you’ll enjoy more. Some are more basic and some have crazy off the wall flavors of cream cheese and bagels alike. Really it could also be what you’re in the mood for too! Every shop we visited I tried a different combination to keep things interesting. While planning what bagel shops to try out, I referred to none other than the Food Network’s best bagel list. (I also kept in mind recommendations from some of my foodie friends via DM on Instagram.)

Many of the bagel shops were very overwhelming with all of the options. It was hard to decide exactly what to try. I definitely regret not trying a pizza bagel or Rueben bagel where available at some of the below spots. But, there’s always next time and many more NY bagels to be eaten as NYC is a favorite place of mine to explore. But lets talk about the specific bagel shops and what we tried and my thoughts.

Ess a Bagel

Ess a Bagel was recommended on the Food Network’s list as well as by some other foodie friends. So, I knew it had to be on the list of must try bagel spots for a NY bagel in NYC.

Location(s): 831 3rd Ave New York, NY

Bagels tried: Sausage egg & cheese breakfast sandwich on whole wheat everything & whole wheat everything with olive spread.

Other options and flavors available: Ess a Bagel has a good option of different but yet more basic bagel varieties. For example plain, everything, sesame, nine grain, whole wheat everything, poppy, pumpernickel, garlic, onion, salt & cinnamon raisin. The spreads available range from standard to adventurous. For example some of the offerings included everything, oreo, raisin walnut, banana nut and sun dried tomato.

Review/Compare: Delicious! I loved that they had olive cream cheese (which is one of my favorites & not always easy to find.) However, if you want really adventurous off the wall flavors, Ess a Bagel probably isn’t the best option in that regard. But, this is a solid place and if I wanted the olive cream cheese this would be my first choice. Also offering delivery & pickup is a consideration as well!

Tompkins Square

Tompkins Square Is known for having really creative and off the wall cream cheese flavors. The line is usually long no matter when you visit, but it’s well worth the wait! But keep in mind they also will ship all over the USA. (So you could have a piece of NYC wherever you are!)

Location(s): Two locations

1) 165 Avenue A

2) 184 2nd Ave (Between 11th & 12th Street.)

Bagels tried: Bagel Sandwich (that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me!) that had a shredded pork, tomato, cheese and a chipotle spread on an everything bagel and a French toast bagel with pumpkin cream cheese. Both were amazing! My husband always tended to get bagel sandwiches and I got bagels with spread but especially at Tompkins Square after trying his sandwich I was kicking myself for not ordering a bagel sandwich as well. (Even though the french toast bagel with pumpkin cream cheese was so amazing.)

Other options and flavors available: There are many sandwiches available as well as build your own options with many different combinations. It can be quite overwhelming! One of the things I noticed was in comparison to other places there were a lot of sweeter options here including blueberry, chocolate chip & french toast bagels. A few of the different sweet spreads I saw included apple cinnamon, fig & honey, cookie dough and snickers. Even the basic bagel offerings seemed way more comprehensive with a great addition of sourdough being available. There were many tasty savory spreads as well including bacon scallion, lox dill and chipotle avocado to name a few.

Review/Compare: Amazing! Both the sandwich and sweet combination were delicious. I would say just due to the amount of options available and how tasty what we tried was that this was my favorite NY bagel shop. It was so hard to choose what to try. It will be my first bagel stop on a return trip!

Kossar

If you’re more of a bagel purist, Kossar would definitely be a shop to head to.

Location(s): 367 Grand Street on the Lower East Side.

A convenient location if you are in the Battery park area or checking out Canal Street.

Bagels tried: Bacon egg and cheese on an everything bagel and a pumpernickel with everything spread.

Other options and flavors available: In comparison to other NY bagel shops, this was definitely the most basic with only a few options. However, what we did try was amazing! Just if you want more options and variety I would say go elsewhere.

Review/Compare: Kossar is an NY bagel institution. Not crazy off the wall offerings, just basic but really good! They didn’t have as many choices for schmear/cream cheese so because of that, I wouldn’t pick this as my favorite. But, if I was nearby I wouldn’t hesitate to pop in.

Spreads available at the Kossar bagel shop in Manhattan NYC

Other NY Bagel shops

There are so many different bagel shops in NYC it seriously would take forever to eat them all (especially after spending a long weekend there!) But definitely be sure to sample a few to compare and figure out what your favorites are. It may be a good idea to consider if you want more of a basic but good experience or all of the options and off the wall flavors. Speaking of off the wall flavors, one bagel shop in NY I didn’t get to but have wanted to visit for a long time is The Bagel Store.

The Bagel Store

Although technically not in Manhattan, in the nearby borough of Brooklyn where The Bagel Store is located. The hours are very limited so keep that in mind when planning to visit. The Bagel Store took the internet by storm several years ago with their fun and colorful “Rainbow bagels”.

Location(s): 69 5th Ave, Brooklyn NY

Other options and flavors available: From crazy colorful glittery rainbow colored bagels to twists on some of your NY bagel favorites, The Bagel Store has all of those available as well as a cross between a croissant and bagel or rather the “Cragel”. During different holidays and seasons, they offer different colors and festive offerings of the colorful Rainbow bagels. The menu is quite extensive having offerings beyond even bagels.

NYC Food tours

A great way to try some great food including NY bagels is by booking a food tour. NYC has amazing food so a food tour is a great way to maximize your time trying out all of the deliciousness! Some of the below bagel and food tours are great options.

More NYC food & drink adventures

NYC Craft Beer Breweries

A Long Thanksgiving weekend in NYC

THE BEST CRAFT BEER BREWERIES IN NYC TO VISIT

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Craft Beer in NYC/Manhattan

No trip is complete without checking out some breweries during your time spent in in NYC. Manhattan is an amazing place to visit for great food & drink. Due to the compact nature of the city, it’s not very conducive to the large spaces needed for beer brewing and production. Many craft breweries are located near but just outside of Manhattan. If you love beer as much as I do, it’s worth a trip outside of Manhattan/NYC to grab some great brews.

In Manhattan proper there really is only one brewery operating and actually producing beer. More about the specific brewery in NYC craft beer section below.

NYC Craft Beer

There are plenty of restaurants and pubs (or beer pubs) where you can get craft beer in Manhattan, however I personally prefer more of a taproom type environment that you can only get at a brewery. Even though the only operating full production brewery in Manhattan does have a restaurant so some could argue it’s more of a brew pub.

Torch & Crown Brewing Company

Torch & Crown is Manhattan’s only full production brewery and restaurant. Conveniently open for both lunch & dinner all week while also offering advance reservations. Depending on when you plan on visiting it’s pretty easy to just pop in for a beer or two and sit in the bar area as well. It definitely had a more traditional taproom or brewery feel while being right in Manhattan/NYC. If beer isn’t really your thing, they also offer wine & cocktails as well. So, it’s definitely a place you could go to appeal to everyone if there are people in your party that don’t necessarily care for beer.

Large steel beer brewing vessel in the taproom at Torch and Crown brewery in Manhattan NYC, New York
Torch and Crown Taproom/Restaurant

Other Half Midtown Rockefeller Center Taproom

While not actually brewed in Manhattan, if you’re short on time and can’t make it to the brewing facility/taproom in Brooklyn the beers are flowing in Midtown at their taproom! In a great location near Rockefeller makes this a great option before or after viewing NYC from above experiencing the “Top of the Roc”. This is a newer location as they operated a pop up in the fall of 2021 and the Midtown taproom is now open.

NYC Craft Beer bottle shops

If you’re too busy taking in all of the sights and walking all over the city, Beer Table is a specialty craft beer store conveniently located in Grand Central station. It’s located near the 43rd & Lexington entrance across from track 13.

NYC Pub Crawl or Beer Tasting Tour

If you’re looking for more of a social experience, a pub crawl or beer tour in NYC is a great way to try some local beer and experience local or historic locations although not necessarily breweries in NYC/Manhattan. I’m also a huge fan of making your own pub crawl. Link to specifics detailing a craft beer brewery crawl on public transportation in the Twin Cities of MN at the end of this article.

Craft Beer Breweries in Brooklyn

Most of the craft breweries close to Manhattan/NYC proper are located in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Brewery, the namesake of the area is one of the most well known. However, there is a lot better beer at other breweries. Below are the breweries that are definitely worth a visit.

Other Half

This brewery has multiple different locations. Multiple locations are in Brooklyn, NY. We visited the Domino Park but the Centre Street location is just two blocks from the Smith & 9th subway station making it really easy to get to!

During my visit, the tap list was extremely IPA heavy with only a few other brews that weren’t IPA’s. For me, this was disappointing because I’m more of a fan of what I call “gimmicky IPA’s”. (Milkshake IPA’s that are fruity and creamy and not just a smack in the face of hops.) But, my hophead husband loved all of the beers he tried. If your favorite beer style isn’t IPA’s, I would definitely recommend checking the tap list in advance of visiting Other Half Brewery while you’re in the NYC area.

Pink sour beer sitting on a table with the lights of the taproom and bar in the distance at Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, NY

Evil Twin

Evil Twin Brewing has a pretty wide distribution range as I have been able to stumble across many of their obscure beers at Total Wine and local bottle shops that sell craft beer in Minnesota. Visiting the taproom in the trendy DUMBO area of Brooklyn after snapping some pictures in the area it was fun to sample a flight of what they were offering.

Some of their beers are pretty heavy but with good flavors and I loved being able to try those beers in a flight. Sometimes committing to a whole 16 oz. of an imperial stout is a bit rich and too much for me. Trying beers like this in a taproom is really my favorite!

Flight of beers with man sitting behind it sitting on the table at Evil Twin Brewing taproom in Brooklyn NY

GRIMM Artisanal Ales

Grimm had an amazing ambiance and vibe to their tap room. It was just really small, more intimate and really chill. All of the beertenders working were so helpful, friendly and personable. We chatted with several of them about the breweries in the area and also some of our favorite breweries we’ve been to during our travels abroad and across the USA. As well as our favorite breweries in Minnesota, Wisconsin &North Dakota. Experiences like that and how welcoming and open others are to chat about beer is what I enjoy the most about traveling and visiting other taprooms.

The variety of beers offered at GRIMM Artisanal Ales was fantastic. There was quite the range of beers on tap and each style was very well done. They will ship their beer to select states and will deliver locally via Grubhub & Caviar.

pink colored sour beer in a stemmed beer glass sitting on a coaster on the wooden bar with the back of the bar in the background

Getting to Brooklyn

One of the most popular things to do while in NYC is walk across the Brooklyn bridge.Depending on when you’re planning on visiting the breweries and what the weather is like you could walk to the first taproom. It’s also a great feeling knowing you’ve walked and earned your beer/brews.

Brooklyn is pretty well connected to Manhattan NYC via transit so it is definitely doable to take the subway/train. Keep in mind though, depending on the time you’re visiting typically the trains don’t run as frequently later and on the weekends.

Once we arrived via walking over the Brooklyn bridge, we walked to the first brewery then ended up taking Uber’s as it was a little more convenient. Although, it cost more it just helped us to maximize our time and not wait around for public transportation. But, that was a personal decision. It’s definitely doable using the subway system.

More NYC Travel:

Thanksgiving in NYC

NYC Bagels

Beyond Breweries in NYC- More Craft Beer Travel:

The Best Breweries in Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities), MN

Public Transportation Craft Brewery Crawl in the Twin Cities, MN

Italian Craft Beer Guide

Craft Beer Inspired Road Trip

The Best European Craft Beer Experiences

POMPEII, ITALY: THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Why Visit Pompeii Italy?

If you’re near Naples, Sorrento or Positano during your time in Italy definitely carve out a day to spend visiting Pompeii, Italy. Pompeii is an amazing natural phenomenon that you really have to see to fully appreciate. It is famous due to the fact that it was destroyed in 79 CE when the volcano, Mt. Vesuvius erupted. This abrupt burial in molten ash and volcanic debris preserved the Ancient city of Pompeii. The Ancient Roman city of Pompeii was located at the base of Mt. Vesuvius and from a technology perspective was way ahead of its time. Visiting Pompeii is truly like stepping into a time capsule to understand how this ancient city operated and how the people of this time lived. The level of preservation was jaw dropping. If you’re interested in history at all, Pompeii Italy is a must visit!

colorful frescoes in the Pompeii Italy Ruins

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Another reason to visit Pompeii is the fact that it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. There are UNESCO Heritage sites located worldwide as well as many located in Italy you can visit. A UNESCO heritage site is designated for having a scientific, cultural & historical significance. UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations [World Heritage Committee.] According to UNESCO, “What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application.” The World Heritage sites belong to all of the people of the world regardless where they are located.

Visiting Pompeii Italy

There are definitely some logistics and things you need to know before visiting Pompeii, Italy. First thing to consider is where you will be coming from and what’s the easiest way to navigate there from a transportation perspective. More on that below in the “Getting to Pompeii” section. The second thing to consider is if you’re going to take a group or private tour for the Pompeii ruins. Lastly, the third thing to consider is if you’re planning on also visiting Mt. Vesuvius. Lets dive into more of the details on all of these items so you’re better prepared to plan a day there.

view down one of the streets in the ruins of Pompeii Italy

Getting to Pompeii

Depending on where you’re staying and your mode of transportation will dictate how you get to the Pompeii ruins. More than likely you will be traveling via train either from Naples, Sorrento, Positano or other Amalfi coast towns. You will want to exit the train at the Pompeii Scavi train stop when visiting the ruins. The entrance to the ruins and area where you will meet with a tour group isn’t far from the train station exit. If you book a tour, you should have specific directions on your ticket (printed or e ticket) where to meet your group for entrance to the ruins.

blue and white sign reading Pompei Scavi train station outside of the ruins in Italy while visiting Pompeii

Visiting Pompeii from Sorrento vs. Positano, Italy

It’s a lot easier to get to Pompeii from Sorrento versus Positano, Italy. Visiting from Positano there are a lot more hurdles and transit plans to consider. For example, the train only goes to Sorrento then you have to take a bus or private transfer via car/taxi to Positano. Whereas if you’re just staying in Sorrento just getting on the circumvesuviana train to the Pompei Scavi train stop is much easier. Keep that in mind when planning your overall time in Italy and deciding where to stay/base yourself out of for day trips.

Top Tips for Visiting Pompeii, Italy

Wear Comfortable clothes & shoes

The shoes you wear will get quite dusty so keep that in mind! Don’t wear your brand new white sneakers if you can help it. But, you want to ensure you’re wearing comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking. That and dress comfortably in well breathable clothing. The sun really beats down and I visited in the middle of September when it was still very hot! Which brings us to the next tip in terms of what to wear for your day trip.

Hat & Sunscreen

Be sure to wear a hat to cover your face and apply plenty of sunscreen. Definitely bring some additional sunscreen with you as you will likely need to reapply. I applied cream sunscreen in the morning and then had a smaller size spray and reapplied several times while I was there.

Women standing on crosswalk stones above the street in the Ancient city of Pompeii Italy
Elevated crosswalk in ancient ruins of Pompeii, Italy

Bring a refillable water bottle

Be sure to bring a refillable water bottle with you. There are several spots within Pompeii when you’re visiting that you can refill your water bottle with cool fresh water. You will need it!

Book Tours & Tickets in Advance

Visiting Pompeii independently is definitely doable. But, keep in mind that there is very little signage located within the ruins. The amount of context and navigational help during the visit with a tour guide was well worth it. While the tour only lasted two hours, she also pointed out how to navigate to other areas of interest. So, after the formal tour we wandered around for several hours looking at the specific places and buildings our tour guide had mentioned. I’m really glad we booked a tour otherwise I don’t know if I would have been as impressed with what I was seeing not knowing the backstory, history & context. The tour guide did a great job of making you feel like you were living in the Ancient city when it was thriving.

Using the Restroom

There are bathrooms within the ruins, however, they can be somewhat hard to find and navigate to. There is an easily found restroom at the entrance of the ruins. I was lucky enough that the ticket admittance employee let me go out, use the restroom & then re-enter. I’m not sure if that’s standard practice as my tour guide helped me to do this. Definitely use the restroom prior to entering so you won’t be in a similar situation!

Beautiful frescoes in the bath house while visiting Pompeii Italy

Visiting Pompeii & Mt. Vesuvius

There are many tours and guides that include both Pompeii and a visit to Mt. Vesuvius. Exploring not only the ruins of the Ancient city of Pompeii, but the famous volcano that erupted to freeze Pompeii in time forever.

If you’re planning on visiting Mt. Vesuvius the biggest mistake made when we went was that we didn’t purchase our tickets for Mt. Vesuvius National Park in advance. You can purchase tickets directly from the National Park at Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio.

On the link above, you will find comprehensive information about opening hours and what to expect during your visit. There is also information about an app that you can download to use while there.

frescoes and details in the pompeii runs while visiting in Italy

Herculaneum

If you really enjoyed your time visiting Pompeii, Italy consider an add on trip to Herculaneum. While I didn’t visit Herculaneum. It is rumored that Herculaneum is much more well preserved. I was in awe with how well Pompeii was preserved so Herculaneum if you have time would be a great addition to your travels. Another thing to keep in mind is that Herculaneum is a lot smaller than Pompeii so it’s possible to see almost everything in just a few hours.

Naples, Italy: National Archaeological Museum

If you enjoyed visiting Pompeii, there is more information and artifacts in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. Depending on where you’re staying and your travel route this is an easy day to half day trip if it’s something you’re interested in. I really enjoyed seeing additional artifacts and the details around the different types of gladiators and how they trained.

More Italy Travel Beyond Visiting Pompeii:

In addition to visiting Pompeii, Italy here are some more resources and information on visiting the amazing country of Italy.

Italian Craft Beer Guide

What you Need to Know Before Traveling to Italy

15 Day Italy Itinerary (coming soon)

THE BEST FESTIVE EVENTS FOR CHRISTMAS CHEER IN MINNESOTA

A LIST OF FUN UNIQUE EVENTS & THINGS TO DO DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON (MOSTLY IN THE TWIN CITIES)

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What is there to do to celebrate Christmas in Minnesota?

Minnesota is truly the “Ultimate Winter Wonderland”. If you’ve never been to the state of Minnesota in the winter, I mean it’s hard not to be festive when you’re surrounded by snow and natural fir trees. No matter where you are within the state of Minnesota there is holiday cheer and many fun events to celebrate the Christmas season. From holiday light displays, epic Christmas trees, events and Christmas markets, holiday themed restaurants and more! You’re bound to have a White Christmas and a very festive one at that! There are a multitude of different ways to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season across the state of Minnesota so lets dive into the details and all of the fun events to plan out your Christmas in Minnesota!

Minnesota Holiday Light Displays

I don’t know about you, but those twinkling lights get me every time. Whether it’s a traditional color, bright white or multi colored displays of Christmas lights they just make me happy. Throughout Minnesota there are many opportunities to see beautiful sparkling lights all over the state. Every year it seems the events start sooner rather than later. (Many of these start around Thanksgiving or shortly before.) Read more about The Best Christmas Lights in Minnesota.

The Christmas lights from Bentleyville shimmering off of Lake Superior. Photo taken from Pier B Resort.
Bentleyville in Duluth, MN

Festive Cocktail Pop Up Bars & restaurants

Miracle Pop up at Lawless Distilling

Miracle pop up is a festive cocktail experience that’s located many different places throughout the United States and some international locations as well. This year there is actually a second location at Stilheart Distilling as well! In the past, I’ve always gone to Lawless but it’s great to know there’s more than one location participating in Minneapolis for 2021.

Miracle pop up cocktail bar for Christmas at Lawless Distilling in Minneapolis Minnesota
Miracle Pop up at Lawless Distilling in Minneapolis, MN

Betty Dangers & Psycho Suzi’s Festive Bars

Both of these fun bars are located in the Northeast area of Minneapolis. Betty Dangers and Psycho Suzi’s offer festive cocktails, food menu & over the top decor to really get you in the mood to be festive. No Christmas in Minnesota is complete without visiting at least one of these for some drinks and good cheer!

New for this year, Betty Dangers is offering Felicia’s Navidad while Psycho Suzi’s is offering Mary’s Christmas Palace. The last year they had these events (2019) Mary’s Christmas Palace was at Betty Dangers.

Felicia’s Navidad is a Mexican food and drink centered event which is new for this year. Whereas Mary’s Christmas Palace continues for the fourth year from after Halloween through December 31st! There is a time limit if you wish to be indoors, however they have an all season patio where there aren’t any time limitations. These two restaurants/bars are located near each other so you could always make a reservation at one and then head over to the other for the patio! Even more christmas cheer to go around.

12 Bars of Christmas

The 12 Bars of Christmas is a pub crawl throughout Minneapolis. Typically it takes place the first weekend in December and the bars have changed year over year. It’s a fun festive bar crawl if you’re up for walking around downtown in cold temps in the name of Christmas cheer! I have yet to make it to all 12 bars. Usually 6-7 makes for a pretty good night! This has been cancelled for the past few years due to the pandemic, but definitely keep it in mind for the future!

Christmas tree farms

There are many Christmas tree farms across the state of Minnesota to celebrate Christmas by selecting your own tree. Visit the specific tree farm websites to inquire about making a reservation as most have only limited time slots and trees if you want to cut your own! Many of these locations have other festive events going on such as cozy fires, hayrides or small markets. Luckily there are locations all over the metro for convenience. One of the most well known is Hansen Tree Farm.

Hansen Tree Farm

Located North of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area is Hansen’s Tree Farm. Usually the event venue is open in early November for photographers and events for holiday photos.

However, most people make a reservation to cut down their own tree making it a Christmas tradition to load the family up, head to the tree farm and select the perfect tree. (Just after typing that, I’m laughing out loud picturing Clark Griswold’s Christmas tree once they brought it home.)

Girl standing amongst Christmas Trees at Hansen Tree farm in Minnesota

Rum River Tree Farm

Located in the northeast of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area is Rum River Tree Farm. Where you can cut your own Christmas tree, visit Santa, have a hayride and even food trucks! More than just a family tradition, it’s also a fun and festive event after selecting the perfect tree.

Krueger’s Christmas Trees

Located East of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area within the St. Croix Valley in Lake Elmo is Krueger’s Christmas Trees. Here you can choose a pre-cut tree or cut your own for a fun and festive afternoon with your family. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance!

Christmas in Minnesota: Holiday Afternoon Teas

St. Paul Hotel

You could travel to London or just book an afternoon tea at St. Paul Hotel. Enjoying an afternoon of luxury surrounded by the classic holiday decor at the historic St. Paul Hotel is sure to put anyone in the holiday spirit.

Mad Hatter in Anoka, MN

Located in the north metro and specializing in the afternoon tea experience this high tea experience is one you should miss! You can make reservations for a brunch or tea easily online making it perfect to fit into your holiday plans.

Nicollett Island Inn

Holiday Tea at Nicollett Island Inn is a full afternoon tea experience. Including delicious tea, pastries and savory food as well. It’s definitely a splurge but I love a great holiday tea! Be advised, they have valet parking only in their lot unless you park on the street just outside of the hotel.

tablescape at Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis MN for Christmas Holiday tea
Nicollet Island Inn Holiday Tea

Christmas in Minnesota: Holiday Events and Markets

There truly are so many holiday events and markets in Minnesota that it would be nearly impossibly to list all of them. Here is a list of many that are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area this year.

Holidazzle

The days of the Holidazzle parade are long gone. It used to be a Minneapolis tradition to go to the Holidazzle light parade then see the downtown Macy’s Christmas display. However, sadly both of these events have been discontinued from their former glory. Holidazzle now looks a little different as it’s located in Loring Park and the theme and what’s available changes each year. It’s still a really fun time and there’s usually vendors, food & much fun to be had.

Holidazzle in Loring Park Minneapolis, Minnesota lighted trees and tents for the festive holiday event in the snow
Holidazzle in Loring Park

St. Paul, MN: European Christmas Market

Located at Union Depot in St. Paul, Minnesota this Christmas Market will make you feel like you’re in Europe. An open air experience with all of the twinkling lights and local vendors selling holiday gifts as well as festive food to enjoy. It’s a must visit especially if you miss the classic European Christmas markets or have always wanted to experience them. You can, right here during Christmas in Minnesota!

Handmade Holiday Market at Lakes & Legends Brewery

On Saturdays in December, the handmade holiday market will be going on at Lakes & Legends Brewery. What’s better than popping in for a few pints, getting some shopping done and also supporting local artisans? If you love craft beer, be sure to check out The Best Breweries in the Twin Cities. Many other breweries throughout the Twin Cities have markets or festive holiday events.

Excelsior Chriskindlsmarkt

Within the western suburbs is another European inspired market, Excelsior Chriskindlsmarkt. Inspired by a Christmas markets of Germany and Europe but located in the Midwest of the USA. The Northern Express is a fully immersive winter wonderland experience in December in Excelsior, MN. Expect to feel like you’ve landed at the North Pole for an evening of festive fun the whole family will enjoy. This Christmas Market features items to peruse for sale by local artisans including food and beverages. There are many events and parades for children in addition to the market itself. You may even see appearances by Santa and his reindeer!

The Northern Express (Excelsior, MN)

The Northern Express is a fully immersive winter wonderland experience in December in Excelsior, MN. Expect to feel like you’ve landed at the North Pole for an evening of festive fun the whole family will enjoy. Pair your visit onto the Chriskindlsmarkt for a festive day or evening.

Visit Historic Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, MN

The beautiful historic mansion gets decked out in allllll of the Christmas decor. In addition to this, there are Christmas tours & even a free light display as mentioned previously. If traditional Christmas is your jam, Glensheen is sure to deliver!

See Santa & the decorations at the MOA (Mall of America)

The Mall Of America is a place I don’t go often. However, during Christmas the decor and specialty Christmas stores are absolutely amazing! One of my favorite seasonal stores is the ornament store. Just walking around seeing all of the large Christmas trees, sparkly lights and snagging a holiday coffee drink is the perfect afternoon during the Christmas season in Minnesota. The Mall of America also has a Santa Experience for the little ones.

Outdoor Activities to celebrate Christmas in Minnesota

Go Ice Skating in Rice Park

There are many opportunities to ice skate all over the state of Minnesota. The most iconic for Christmas in Minnesota is Rice Park. Explore Minnesota offers a more comprehensive list of places to ice skate in Minnesota.

Go Sledding or Snow Tubing

No Christmas in Minnesota is complete without seeking out a sledding hill for some wholesome fun! Growing up, spending an afternoon sledding before coming in to a Christmas eve or day meal is something I will forever cherish.

Whether you take your own sleds to a nearby hill or head to a more formal event they’re both so much fun! Many ski areas offer snow tubing so that’s something the whole family can enjoy on a winter afternoon or evening.

Some popular snow tubing destinations include: Theodore Wirth, Buck Hill, Highland Hills, Elm Creek & Welch Village. Or you could seek out a neighborhood favorite in your area!

Christmas themed performing arts

The Ordway

Each holiday season, The Ordway offers different musical performances to enjoy. Each year, the offerings differ and performance dates can vary as well. Be sure to check directly with the Ordway so you don’t miss out on a Christmas themed performance in Minnesota.

The Guthrie Theater

Typically the Guthrie will have performances of the classic play “A Christmas Carol” throughout the month of December. Check the specific dates with the theater directly.

Ballet Performances: The Nutcracker

A classic holiday ballet performance of, The Nutcracker is always sure to please. Many different ballet houses across the Twin Cities metro area put on a performance within the month of December. One of the most well known being the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota.

Trans Siberian Orchestra Concert

The Trans Siberian Orchestra is a combination of rock playing well known Christmas Carols. Typically this performance comes to St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center venue for a handful of performances. Each year it’s different so definitely check with Ticketmaster & directly on the Trans Siberian Orchestra website for the specific details.

Beyond Christmas in Minnesota: more MN Travel

MN Travel Guide

Comprehensive MN Packing Guide (by season)

Minnesota Summer Bucket List

Things to do in the Twin Cities

Things to do in Duluth, MN

Did I miss a favorite spot or somewhere that should definitely be included? Drop me a line by sending me an email or reach out to me on social media.

If you liked this post, pin it to Pinterest for later reference and Happy Holidays!

WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE BEST CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN MN

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

As a local Minnesotan that has lived in MN a majority of my life, I definitely have the scoop on where you can see the best Christmas lights in MN. In no time you will be planning your next outing with some fluffy white snow falling down, hearing Christmas music, and enjoying the twinkling festive lights of the holiday season.

You can see the best Christmas lights in MN all over the state! There are a number of locations to really put you in the holiday spirit. From Southern Minnesota, the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, to Northern Minnesota and the North Shore of Lake Superior you’re sure to have instant Christmas cheer when visiting any of these holiday light opportunities. Minnesota is truly the “Ultimate Winter Wonderland”. If you’ve never been to Minnesota in the winter, I mean it’s hard not to be festive when snow and natural fir trees surround you. Add in the magic of holiday lights all over the state and it’s the most magical Christmas ever!

Lets get into the specifics of all of the locations of awesome Christmas lights in MN. Starting with a few classic locations in Northern Minnesota.

Christmas lights in MN: the locations

I don’t know about you, but those twinkling lights get me every time. Whether it’s a traditional color, bright white or multi colored displays of Christmas lights they just make me happy. Throughout Minnesota there are many opportunities to see beautiful sparkling lights all over the state. Every year it seems the events start sooner rather than later. (Many of these start around Thanksgiving or shortly before.)

Bentleyville (located in Duluth, MN)

Bentleyville Tour of Lights is one of the most popular Christmas light displays in Minnesota. It’s located in Bayfront Festival Park down by Lake Superior in Duluth, MN. This is an outdoor event near the lake after dark so be sure to dress warm! Click on the link above for specific details but generally the even starts at 5 PM the weekend prior to Thanksgiving through a few days past Christmas. The event is free but you have to pay for parking within the event lots. While you’re in Duluth, you can also check out the next Christmas light event listed below.

The Christmas lights from Bentleyville shimmering off of Lake Superior. Photo taken from Pier B Resort.
Bentleyville reflecting off of Lake Superior

Spirit of the Lights at Glensheen Manshion (Duluth, MN)

Spirit of the Lights at Glensheen Mansion is a free outdoor event. However, it’s a great idea to check out these lights as well as go on an evening candle light tour of the historic home. The Glensheen Mansion is an awesome place to check out any time of year but the holiday decorations throughout the home are seriously next level. They’re very traditional and are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

Kiwani’s Holiday Lights (Mankato, MN)

Kiwanis Holiday lights is located in Mankato, Minnesota at Sibley Park. This is both a light event but also much more. Truly a fun evening for the whole family! Mankato is located a quick drive from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Plus, in comparison to other events this is a charitable cause which makes it really special to help those in need during the holidays.

Paul Bunyan Park (Bemidji, MN)

The Night We Light Celebration in Bemidji, MN is a yearly tradition. Near the south shore of Lake Bemidji in Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan Park lights are illuminated the day after Thanksgiving in the Night We Light event then the lights continue to display through the holiday season. It’s a great way to celebrate Christmas in Northern Minnesota. I just love seeing Paul and Babe with Christmas lights surrounding them.

Bemidji, MN lake front during the holiday season. Trees with Christmas lights on them behind the Paul and Babe statues and lighted with green and red a #Bemidji with a Minnesota outline in front
Paul and Babe in Bemidji, MN during the holidays

Rice Park & Mears Park (St. Paul, MN)

Rice Park and Mears Park, both located in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota become a place to see Christmas lights and a large illuminated Christmas tree. Though not as famous, Rice Park’s Christmas tree is as large as the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City! Truly a sight to be seen during the holiday season. Then there’s also the iconic skating rink located in Rice Park which is a Christmas tradition for many families and couples in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (Chaska, MN)

Winter in Bloom located in Chaska, Minnesota at the U of M Minnesota landscape arboretum. Walk through the arboretum grounds with their take on Christmas lights both indoor and outdoor. Be sure to dress warm!

Things to do in the twin cities, visit the mn landscape arboretum in Chaska. Holiday light event in the winter

The Winery at Sovereign Estates (Waconia, MN)

The Spirit of Winter is an event at Sovereign Estates Winery in the western suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Throughout the 20 acres this winery covers there are many different sparkling Christmas lights displayed. This event starts prior to Thanksgiving until early January this lighted event is sure to dazzle both young and old alike during Christmas in Minnesota.

Holiday Lights Tours

All is Bright Holiday Lights tour is a fun option to see a lot of Christmas lights in one swoop. So, gather up your friends and family to set out on an evening filled with twinkling lights, festive music & if you’re over 21 you can also bring our own alcoholic beverages. This starts from the Eastern metro and drives through neighborhoods

Festive Residential Homes or Neighborhoods in Minneapolis

Hayden’s Holiday Lights (Stop by this Minneapolis house for a 2000 lights display synchronized to music on 104.9 FM.)

Location: 5205 Washburn Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55410

House on Howard is a private owned residential home that gets decked out with 10,00 LED Christmas lights. They have 4 special arches for police, firefighters, armed services and the towing industry.

Location: 2418 Howard Street NE, Minneapolis, MN 554418 November 27 – February 1 7 nights a week: 5:45pm – 10:15pm

Armatage Holiday Light Tour This neighborhood publishes a holiday light tour map online where you can plan your route in advance. The list of homes participating is available in early December and is only an event for a few weeks within December.

I hope you enjoyed this list and are able to visit some of them this holiday season. Happy Holidays!

More Minnesota Travel:

Minnesota Vacation Ideas

THE BEST OF WYOMING: FROM JACKSON TO YELLOWSTONE

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

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About Wyoming

Wyoming is located in a mountainous region of the United States. It is the 10th largest state in the USA by area. However, given the wide sprawling space it is also the least populated state. Cheyenne is the capital city of Wyoming. Many travelers that have been to Wyoming opt for Jackson (or Jackson Hole), the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Really, that was the main attraction for me to travel here if I’m being honest.

Jackson Hole

As you fly into JAC (Jackson Hole airport) you’re literally engrossed in the gorgeous jagged mountains right away and Grand Teton National Park. There is a lot to do and see in downtown Jackson as well as in the National Park. It’s all relatively compact compared to other National Parks so you can see a lot in a short amount of time.

sunset in the background of the mountains behind the Airplane at JAC Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming

One thing that really confused me before I visited was the naming convention of this area. Is it Jackson Hole or is it Jackson? Jackson Hole actually is more of a region within Wyoming. Jackson is the actual town whereas Jackson Hole is the region of the valley. Included in Jackson Hole is the town of Jackson, Teton Village, Wilson, The Aspens, Moran Junction, Moose and areas surrounding. The more you know, right?!

Things to do: Downtown Jackson

Elk Antler Arch

One of the main attractions in the center of the downtown area is the Jackson Hole antler arches. There are arches that are made out of elk antlers on the corners of George Washington Memorial Park in downtown Jackson that many people get great photos of! These are made out of real local elk antlers but supported by a steel base. There is a live webcam of the square if you’re missing Jackson or want to check it out prior to seeing it in person.

Restaurants/Food

Cowboy Coffee Co. is a local coffee shop with a few different locations. One is located downtown “by the square” and the other a little farther out but it’s just a drive through. We hit them up multiple times. The breakfast items and specialty lattes were amazing! My favorite being a snickers iced almond milk latte and a biscuit breakfast sandwich.

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a must! You won’t be able to miss it with the quintessential bucking horse logo lit up in the main square downtown. (If you’re there at night.) It’s so fun! Once you go inside it’s like stepping into an old fashioned western bar. They even have bar stools made of saddles it was a fun place to go and have a few drinks after dinner one evening.

Persephone Bakery needs to be on your list if you have a sweet tooth! The chocolate walnut sea salt cookies are to die for! They also offer food but, my friend just brought back the goodies to our cabin.

Sidewinders Tavern is a Diner’s Drive In’s & Dive’s spot. I always like checking these places out as they’re usually my jam. (Awesome food & non-pretentious!) I was a little disappointed they were out of one of the DDD dishes but we were also there a little later in the evening so keep that in mind!

A few of the breweries listed below also served food (so technically they could fall into both categories.) Read more on the details below.

Breweries & Beer

Snake River Brewing is a great place to have a few beers and also a casual lunch or dinner. They have plenty of seating both inside and outside. We did have to wait a bit for a table as it was close to lunch time so we just grabbed a few beers and snagged a spot on the free seating area before a table was available.

Roadhouse Brewing Co. We had lunch on their patio after a longer hike. I was impressed with the beers and the food was also great. Definitely recommend!

Pro tip: If you sit on the patio, it overlooks the downtown square so you’re able to people watch and the “Stageshop” where you can take horse drawn carriage rides from the south side of the town square is right below.

Glass of water on the table with Roadhouse Brewing logo on it and in the background the antler arch on the square corner as well as stagecoach station for horse draw rides downtown Jackson Wyoming.
Roadhouse Brewing patio with antler arch & stagecoach station in the background

Melvin Brewing was combined with a Thai restaurant called Thai me Up. It was a really interesting set up and definitely more of a restaurant vs. industrial brewery vibe. We ended up having a few beers (they really didn’t have a lot on tap at that time) and some food. The food was definitely an added bonus to wanting to check out this brewery! It was so good.

Grand Teton Brewing While we didn’t actually go to the taproom, we also sampled some brews from Grand Teton Brewing after we picked them up from the store. (It’s actually brewed in Idaho!) But the namesake made it appropriate to enjoy after spending time adventuring in Grand Teton National Park.

Shopping

There are so many different shops in the downtown area selling t-shirts & typically souvenirs. But, from a recommendation of my friend Lydia I had to check out the MADE store. It was amazing! So many handmade items (hence the name!) and a lot of travel focused things as well. One of my favorite things in the whole store was a line of candles by Good and Well Supply Co. These candles smelled absolutely phenomenal and each had a distinct and different scent to capture the essence of a National Park. It was so hard not to buy everything in the store!

Grand Teton National Park

This national park is known for the dramatic snow covered rugged mountains and pristine lake views. All of Grand Teton National Park is located in the state of Wyoming. The park is open all of the time, 24 hours 365 days a year. However, there are definitely considerations to be made when deciding when to visit. During high season (May-September) it will likely be more crowded but more services and things will be open within the park. In comparison to November- April where things will have more limited hours or be closed all together. Many things will be closed between September and October until spring. So, it really depends on what you want to see on your trip to the park.

View driving down the road in Grand Teton National Park
Driving through Grand Teton National Park

Yellowstone National Park

This national park spans three different states. Parts of Yellowstone are located in Idaho, Wyoming & Montana. The South entrance of Yellowstone National Park is only a little over an hour drive from Jackson. So whether you’re planning on spending only one day in Yellowstone or a few days, I definitely would recommend it. It’s crazy how different the landscape is across Yellowstone National Park compared to the Grand Tetons when they’re logistically so close together. I have a whole post detailing our specific itinerary in Yellowstone for one day. It definitely wasn’t enough to see everything in Yellowstone so a return trip will be needed for sure!

4 Day Wyoming Itinerary: Jackson to Yellowstone

Lets get into the itinerary from Jackson (Hole) to Yellowstone within our time in Wyoming. Technically we were there a little over four days. However, these were all of the full days in Wyoming when we actually did “activities”. The other days, when we arrived we basically just flew in later in the evening, got our rental car and checked into our accommodation. Alternately, the day we left we literally did the reverse we woke up, gased up the car, returned it and then flew home. Technically I don’t count these days as actual days of the itinerary but I think it’s important to note that as well for your planning purposes.

As you’re planning your trip, keep in mind ours was somewhat of an abbreviated version. But, can you experience the Grand Tetons & Yellowstone National Park in less time? Yes. You really could hit a lot of highlights especially if you didn’t want to hike much in 2-3 days. However, keep reading to dive into what we did on our trip from Jackson to Yellowstone.

My number one tip would be to spend more time in Yellowstone and stay within Yellowstone National Park or closer for 1-2 nights and the rest of the time in or near Jackson.

Day One: Jackson & Grand Teton National Park

Wake up bright and early, happy to be here & ready to explore! We had a slight shift in plans just due to last minute circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control. Essentially our friends ended up arriving later than we originally had planned so we set out to drive around Grand Teton National Park getting the lay of the land then met up with them around mid day for lunch at Dornan’s.

Dornan’s

Dornan’s is located right at the entrance of Grand Teton National Park Moose Entrance and actually isn’t a part of the National Park. There are two sit down restaurants and a few casual restaurants located here. There’s a general store/grocery/deli and gift shop as well as tour guide/activities. Activities that operate out of the Dornan’s area include: fly fishing, river trips on the Snake River & tours to view wildlife. There are some seasonal skiing and snowshoeing opportunities from Dornan’s as well. After we had lunch at Dornan’s we headed on our first hiking adventure.

Jenny Lake Area

Parking at Jenny Lake area I was actually really surprised at how much parking capacity there was. We were able to easily find a parking spot at South Jenny Lake/Jenny Lake Visitor Center. From there we doled out the $18 (per person) to take the shuttle boat (round trip) across Jenny Lake. (You can also hike around the lake but since we were already planning on hiking a considerable amount it was worth it to us.) That’s totally up to you what you decide. But, since we didn’t have as much time and were planning on going past Inspiration Point it was for efficiency.

Pristine blue Jenny Lake with trees and mountains off in the distance within Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
Jenny Lake

Hiking: Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point & Cascade Canyon

Once across the lake we set out on a very highly trafficked hiking trail. It was well marked with signage for Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, Cascade Canyon & Jenny Lake Trailhead. It was mid-day and there were constantly people that we saw. So, if you want more solitude this trail wouldn’t be for you. Essentially, you follow the trail to Hidden Falls then continue on to Inspiration Point. Many don’t continue on after Inspiration point but honestly this was on my favorite part of this hike. We even saw moose along this trail!

Despite the hazy atmosphere when we were there Cascade Canyon was absolutely stunning! I definitely recommend continuing on the trail to this area. The amount of people dwindles after Inspiration Point and you really almost have the Canyon to yourself. It felt like it just opened up and there was a babbling stream, wild flowers and gorgeous landscape as far as you could see. Cascade Canyon was truly stunning!

Dinner in Jackson

After our hike we headed back to the cabin to change then went to dinner in Jackson. Since we were headed to Yellowstone the next day, it was an early morning so we pretty much ate then turned in somewhat early.

Day Two: Road Trip to Yellowstone National Park

We chose to spend one day in Yellowstone National Park, however, we only really saw a piece of the park. You could easily spend 2-4 days there. Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are only separated by a mere 31 miles by the John D. Rockefeller Parkway. I have a full detailed itinerary of what we did during our One Day in Yellowstone National Park from Jackson & the south entrance.

But here’s an abbreviated version of the sites we visited: Drove to the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park from Jackson. Then once in Yellowstone went to The Grand Prismatic Spring, Hiked to Fairy Falls, Visited Old Faithful Geyser and Visitor Center then West Thumb Geyser basin boardwalk. It was a full day but definitely doable!

After arriving back we used the outdoor grill outside of our cabin and had a low key dinner then spent some time down by the Snake River. It was great to relax after a long and busy day!

Day Three: Rafting & Downtown Jackson

Where we stayed offered a discount on rafting trips through Dave Hansen. It was really convenient because they actually picked us up and dropped us off right from the main office of the campground. (Versus having to drive into town to the Dave Hansen office and park there to essentially back track to closer to where we stayed.) But, if you’re staying closer to town it wouldn’t be as much of an issue to meet at the rafting office.

The rafting experience was an absolute blast! I would love to raft again! Our guide, Vlad was awesome at instructing us as we made our way down the river and offering information about the river, wildlife and the area. Afterward, although I wasn’t overly warm during the time on the water I got heat stroke. From the sun reflecting off of the water it’s so important to ensure you’re adequately hydrated. Heat stroke is definitely no joke!

I started to feel woozy and gross after we were done eating and having a few beers. Even though I had a large water, I’m sure the brewski’s didn’t help! EEeeekkk! We had a more chill day planned so we ended up just going back to the cabin for a bit and resting before our evening at the chuckwagon dinner.

The chuckwagon dinner was a lot of fun! Although somewhat cheesy at the same time it was fun to learn a little more about the history of the region. You travel in an actual covered wagon to your “camp” and watch the interactive show. It was a unique opportunity to do something different.

A line of horse drawn covered wagons snaking around a dirt path with trees and mountains in the background

Day Four: Grand Tetons National Park & Jackson

Hiked to Grand View Point

Our last full day in Wyoming we set out on 5 mile hike early in the morning. We hiked to Grand View Point. It was definitely worth the effort for some amazing views! But, we really were the only people on the trail until we were closer to the actual viewpoint. There was also a lot of evidence of bears in the area along the trail (hair in the dirt and on trees) so I was extra thankful that we had bear spray! During the start of our hike there was definitely something lurking around that never did show itself (thank god!) but we were prepared with bear spray. I think we also were loud enough that whatever it was kept its distance.

After the hike, on our way out of Grand Teton National Park to Jackson we made our way to a few additional stops within the National Park. Stops below listed in order from when we were done hiking to making our way south and closer to Jackson.

Oxbow Bend

You’ve probably seen pictures of Oxbow Bend and didn’t even realize it! It’s a gorgeous spot to enjoy the view and snap a few pictures. It’s where the Snake River opens up and you can see a stunning reflection of Mount Moran in the distance reflecting off of the water.

Mountain and reflection in the river at Oxbow Bend in Wyoming

Schwabachers Landing

Schwabachers Landing is actually a boat landing. There’s typically a wooden sign off of I-89 but for some reason it was missing and we missed the turn on the first try. We doubled back and turned down the small gravel dead end road. From there it’s just a short walk to the beautiful view down by the river.

Near the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park Schwarbachers Landing wooden fence with the river and mountains in the background

Mormon Row

This area of Grand Teton National Park is within the Southeastern part of the park. It’s a historic region where some homesteaded houses was originally settled by Mormons from Salt Lake City in the late 1800’s. This cluster of houses known as Mormon Row built houses together to develop a community and share the labor amongst everyone.

A small older wooden log cabin near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park with plains grass surrounding it and mountains in the distance

After hiking and further exploring Grand Teton National Park we were absolutely starving and made our way into town to have lunch. We ate on a patio overlooking the square then spent the afternoon and evening popping into fun shops downtown. Until later that evening when we went to the brewery combination Thai restaurant.

Where to Stay from Jackson to Yellowstone

There are so many different options of where you could stay during a trip including Grand Teton National Park, from Jackson to Yellowstone. We stayed a little bit south of Jackson in a cabin within a campground that offered cabins, tenting, and hookups for campers. It was a little more cramped than I would have liked but it also was nice to have a full refrigerator and a kitchen/grill for our use. I probably wouldn’t stay there again, which is why I’m not mentioning it by name.

There are many different places to stay in Jackson, Wyoming from Jackson to Yellowstone.

If you liked this article, pin it to Pinterest for later reference!

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ONE DAY YELLOWSTONE ITINERARY FROM JACKSON & THE SOUTH ENTRANCE

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Coming from Grand Tetons/Jackson

So you’re in Jackson Hole and so close to Yellowstone here’s the ultimate one day yellowstone itinerary to make a day trip to Yellowstone National Park worth your while. Traveling from Jackson and spending some time in Grand Tetons National Park you’re so close to Yellowstone you’re practically doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least spend one day there. Jackson (or Jackson Hole) is only a little over an hour drive to the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Once you’re in the park, it’s absolutely massive so we narrowed down what we wanted to see to some of the top sights on the south side of the park.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in the United States. It was the first ever National Park established in 1872 so it is very well known. The park is mostly within Wyoming but some portions of it are also in Idaho & Montana. It would be impossible to see everything in a day but if you were like us and also exploring the Grand Tetons this was a great option to get a little sample of some great sights within Yellowstone. But of course, I definitely want to return to see even more. It was so amazing how different Yellowstone was in contrast to the Grand Teton National Park.

Let’s dive into our one day Yellowstone itinerary!

Road Trip Itinerary for one day in Yellowstone

Leave Jackson early

It’s best to leave well before the sun is coming up so you can maximize your time in the park once you arrive with less crowds. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting it will more than likely be busy but getting a jump start on the day by leaving around 6 AM is a good idea.

Stop 1 in Yellowstone: Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

The first stop once we were in Yellowstone was the Overlook over the Grand Prismatic Spring. The overlook gives you a great birds eye view onto the spring and is a prime spot for some amazing photos! Park at the Fairy Falls Parking lot. If you arrived early enough you should have no problem finding a parking spot. Follow the signs on the trail to the overlook. Once you’re done oohing and ahhhing at the Grand Prismatic spring from above, backtrack on the trail from where you started. About halfway to the parking lot you will head toward Stop two in Yellowstone on your one day itinerary.

A photo of the Grand Prismatic Spring geothermal area in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring from the overlook

Stop 2 in Yellowstone: Fairy Falls Trail Hike

As you made your way to the Grand Prismatic Springs Overlook from the Fairy Falls Parking Lot, you would have seen where you veer off to hike on the Fairy Falls Trail. Make your way back here and be sure to enjoy your out and back hike to Fairy Falls at around 7 miles. This was a very easy hike, very little elevation gain and mostly flat. Once you reach the falls, this is a popular trail so there will be a considerable amount of people. But, there are no shortages of great photo spots as well as places where you can rest for a bit before turning around on the second half of your hike.

Quick tip: DO NOT set down backpacks or any of your gear and walk away to take pictures near the waterfall. Why? Well, when we were there some other hikers had done just that. Their backpacks were literally ransacked by a bunch of chipmunks! Don’t be those people! More on that in the things to consider section.

mischevious chipmunks trying to get into hikers backpacks left alongside the trail at Yellowstone National Park

Stop 3 in Yellowstone: Grand Prismatic Spring Boardwalk

Even though you viewed the Grand Prismatic Spring from above, taking in another viewpoint along the boardwalk gives you a different perspective. The boardwalk wraps around in a winding circular fashion where everyone walks one way. (I’m not sure if it’s always been this way or if it was an adjustment due to the pandemic?) Seeing the vivid colors and feeling the steam up close was an experience not to be missed. This famous hot spring really is as vividly colored as photos you’ve seen. But, the science behind it is equally as interesting as the colors are caused by a heat loving bacteria.

Stop 4 in Yellowstone: Visitor Center & Old Faithful Geysir

This area of the park has a lot of services accessible. Because Yellowstone is so large, there are ten main visitor centers within Yellowstone National Park. For the sake of this one day Yellowstone itinerary, I would head to the Old Faithful Visitor Center. You originally entered the park via the south entrance, however this area is actually near the Yellowstone west entrance.

Near the Old Faithful visitor center, there are many restaurants, places to stay, a gas station, of course the visitor center and behind the visit center the most famous geysir, Old Faithful. There are pretty accurate predictions posted to keep visitors informed on when the next eruption is planned to happen. The crowds near Old Faithful will get quite busy during these times and there’s really no way around it.

photo of a woman and man standing by a sign that says Old Faithful Geyser

Stop 5 in Yellowstone: West Thumb Geysir Basin

This is the last stop actually in Yellowstone as a part of your one day itinerary. Take your time to soak it all in. The vast differences of everything you’ve seen today as well as comparing it to the things you’ve seen in the Grand Tetons National Park. The different geysirs within this basin were not as colorful as Grand Prismatic but, I still found them very interesting. Definitely make sure you walk the full loop around the boardwalk here. (Even if you’re tired from walking and hiking all day!) I promise it will be worth it. Plus, this is the last stop before heading back to Jackson.

Drive back to Jackson and relax

At this point in the day, you’ve seen what you set out to on your one day Yellowstone itinerary and you’re tired! Gas up if you need to and head back on your way to Jackson after you’ve had a full and satisfying day. I can almost guarantee you’ll be intrigued and wanting to explore even more of Yellowstone National Park in the future.

Things to consider for your trip

Time of year (Yellowstone is seasonal) It’s usually busiest in June-August. Spring or fall both are a great time with the weather being a little cooler but there are usually less things open and less services available.

Plan Ahead

Yellowstone has decent options for food and drinks, however it’s always a good idea to plan ahead! We ensured everyone had full water bottles and packed a cooler full of additional drinks and snacks. Although not a road trip (more of a day trip) some of my top road trip tips definitely apply to this one day Yellowstone itinerary.

Before you head out, it’s a good idea to check your route and ensure there aren’t any temporary closures within Yellowstone that would effect your plans.

Have a paper map or download an offline map. You won’t always have access to great cell phone service. (Especially if you’re planning on hiking!)

Wildlife

Be sure to keep your distance from wildlife! This is not a zoo and too many people will treat it as such. Respect the animals and their natural habitat by giving them space both for their safety as well as your own.

Do not feed the animals! It’s dangerous for you but it creates a dependency from the animals on being fed. Depending on what you’re wanting to feed them it can also be bad for them. Just don’t do it!

Plan your activities and be prepared. If you’re hiking be sure to secure bear spray! Bear spray is incredibly toxic. (3x more toxic than mase.) And it dispels a lot farther as well. Given those facts, if you’re flying to Yellowstone you CANNOT bring bear spray with you. It isn’t even allowed in checked baggage. However, there are several places in Jackson where you can rent some and return it. The Grand Tetons & Yellowstone are known for having a bear population and it’s best to be prepared for the slight chance that you could cross paths with one.

If you’re road tripping, you definitely could purchase some in advance. But, it is expensive to buy and is a little cheaper just to rent unless you know you’ll have use for it multiple times. It definitely just depends on your specific situation.

Respect the Park

Follow all posted signs, stay on trails and boardwalks to preserve the natural ecosystem.

Leave no trace! If you pack it into the park, pack it out. The leave no trace principles are all about leaving the park or environment you’re visiting in the same condition as before you were there. As if there was no evidence or no trace of your presence.

Have a great time. Yellowstone is truly amazing! I was in awe both by the amount of sights you can pack into one day and how different and diverse the landscape is in Yellowstone National Park.

Places to stay in Yellowstone

While we enjoyed just a snippet of Yellowstone National Park in one day you definitely can make it a two or three day part of your trip or National Park vacation. There are even places to stay within Yellowstone National Park! (Most of them are seasonal.) But, it’s a great way to cover a lot more sights within the park by camping or staying there for a night or two.

More planning resources:

If you enjoyed this one day Yellowstone itinerary, be sure to pin it to refer back later!

An extended itinerary Things to do in Jackson Hole & The Grand Tetons National Park to add onto this one day Yellowstone itinerary.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU TRAVEL TO ITALY: TIPS & TRICKS

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ITALY

Before you travel to Italy, be aware of these travel tips and tricks. Italy is on so many travelers bucket lists and it’s no surprise why! The people, the landscape, the food and culture are all amazing. I would have to say undoubtedly it’s one of my favorite countries I’ve been to. (And to be honest, I don’t like to say that because there usually is something beautiful and unique about every country or destination that draws me to it.) But, Italy really is a place that most people should go at least once in their lifetimes. Heck, I just went and I’m already scheming the cities I would visit on a return trip. (Just don’t tell my husband that!) Actually, I’m certain he already knows because I was already creepin’ on some flight deals to another city in Italy.

ITALY TRAVEL TIPS & TRICKS

Currency

The currency used in Italy is the euro. Not only as an Italy travel tip, this is a general travel tip for international travel that it’s always a good idea if possible to at least have some currency on you when you arrive. It’s best to avoid exchanging currency at the airport because rates are higher and you don’t necessarily know when you’ll have access to an ATM. My bank has a service where you can order currency in advance. I would check into that at least a month before you leave. If you’re able to do that, you will usually need to request it at least a week before you need it but it could be different depending on your bank’s policies. Do your research on your specific situation!

Lastly, be sure to carry at least some cash with you as not all places (especially the smaller locally owner ones) don’t process card payments or you have to have a minimum purchase to use a card.

Card Payments

Be sure you check with your credit cards to be sure you don’t have any foreign transaction fees. If you’re planning on taking any money out using your debit card via ATM be sure you understand if your bank partners with foreign branches and what your fees will be. You should have at least two cards that don’t have foreign transaction fees to use on your trip. For example, we like to use an AMEX (American Express) as our main travel card but AMEX isn’t as widely accepted in Europe so we also have a travel VISA card as well.

Electricity (adapters and converters)

Traveling to other countries, you want to be sure you have the appropriate electricity adapters and converters. This is largely dependent on the country you’re traveling to and your country of origin. Electricity in Italy helps to lay it out really well. So another Italy travel tip, be sure to pack a converter & adapter combo!

Italy’s electricity comes out of the socket at 220 volts alternating at 50 cycles a second where in the United States it’s 110 volts at 60 cycles a second. Given this difference, you will need an adapter (the plugs that go into the wall are completely different). You will need a power converter (if your device cannot handle the voltage and it needs to be stepped down) so you don’t fry it. Many adapters you will find these days are also converters but you need to be aware if it’s just an adapter or if it’s both before you go plugging in your devices while traveling to Italy.

Having a combo adapter/converter with multiple plug in’s and USB ports is very handy!

Crossing the Street

This might be somewhat of a weird Italy travel tip but it definitely is worth mentioning! It took me a while to get used to this so I wanted to be sure to call it out. But, by the time we left it still made me nervous. Knowing this in advance I would have felt a lot less lost once arriving in Italy. When you cross the street in Italy, especially in the larger cities was incredibly unnerving at first. I was very unsure of myself and really just followed the lead of some locals. To put it quite bluntly you really just start walking across the street and assume that the traffic will stop for you. They’re not going to stop prior to you starting to cross the street so you really need to take the initiative and just go!

Eating Dinner

This was one of the hardest things to adjust to in Italy! Typically restaurants won’t even open in the evening for dinner until 7 PM maybe 6. But, if you’re there at that time it will likely be dead with no other patrons in sight. This is a good tactic though if you don’t have reservations to try to get into your coveted restaurant right when they open for dinner. But after a full day of walking around and sight seeing having to wait until 8 or later to eat dinner was difficult for me. There were many occasions where I was so exhausted we opted for an easy takeaway pizza dinner (and usually gelato afterwards) as we made our way back to the hotel.

Seafood Risotto in Positano Italy with house white wine
Seafood Risotto in Positano

Apertivo

Another reason that Italians eat later is because of their happy hour or culture of apertivo. I was very much a fan of how Venetians did apertivo (happy hour or before dinner drink) with small bites called Cicchetti. Most cicchetti you eat with your fingers but some will be skewered with a toothpick. Different bars will offer up varying types of delicious local snacks to enjoy along side a glass of wine or cocktail. I mean who doesn’t love a snack with their after work/pre-dinner drink? Whether you call it an apertivo like Italians do or happy hour, I’m all in!

Blackboard with cicchetti offerings at Il Santo Bevitore in Venice Italy
Cicchetti offerings at Il Santo Bevitore in Venice

Driving in Italy

Driving in Italy definitely is not for the faint of heart! Especially in certain areas such as the Cinque Terre and Amalfi coast where there are really narrow and winding roads. Specifically, while in Positano the driving etiquette is something you should be aware of. As, you’re rounding the sharp corners there are typically large traffic mirrors so the driver can look to see if there is another driver coming. Another tactic that was used was honking as you got close to the corner as an alert to any oncoming traffic. With the combination of cars parked alongside the already narrow roads and a lot of traffic many times one car (or bus) would have to back up far enough to allow the other vehicle to pass. I’m not saying not to drive in Italy. Just to be prepared for narrow roads depending on where you’re going.

Public Transportation

For the most part public transportation is pretty reliable, although at times it’s not right on schedule. Most of the trains are great and there are many different types of trains throughout Italy. If you know your plan and schedule, pre-book your train tickets between the major cities in advance. For both convenience and it will likely save you money. I used TrenItalia and Italiarail to research and pre-book my tickets.

One huge lesson learned though is to not count on the Amalfi coast buses, especially on Sunday! As you can probably gather, we totally overlooked the fact that we were traveling on a Sunday and after our train arrived in Sorrento we waited for nearly 4 hours to catch a bus to Positano. The other thing, once we were on the bus to Positano it was starting to get dark and it was hard to tell where the bus stops were and which one we needed to get off on. That’s a whole other story in itself! It was a very frustrating moment in our trip and I can confidently say if we travel to the Amalfi coast again, I will secure other transportation from Sorrento or Naples or choose to stay in Sorrento and do day trips to other locations along the Amalfi coast.

Picture of a bright red TrenItalia train sitting on the tracks in the train station in Florence, Italy

Water buses in Venice

When purchasing water bus tickets in Venice from someone, be specific about what your plans are. We learned this the hard way as we should have just purchased a day pass as we were planning to take multiple trips. (From Venice to Murano and Burano as well as in between.) The self serve kiosk when we were coming back was a huge hassle and luckily they actually had some people there that could help us at the time.

Packing

Depending on what your itinerary entails and your methods of transportation much like other European trips, I always choose my luggage wisely. Usually, I end up bringing a smaller to mid size roller (depending on the length of the trip) and a backpack. It’s way easier to navigate in train stations and airports when you can tote half of your belongings on your back and the rest in a reasonably sized roller bag.

I will say, in regard to your roller bag be sure you can pick it up and tote it up stairs yourself because there aren’t always readily accessible escalators or even elevators (lifts) in train stations and hotels. So don’t pack everything but the kitchen sink! I’ve definitely refined my packing abilities due to frustrations on past trips and Italy was no exception. Funny story we had a random girl approach us (actually my husband) and ask if he would carry her ginormous rolling luggage up the stairs. So, word to the wise don’t be that person! We already had all of our own luggage to tote. I then came up with a new travel mantra if you can’t carry it yourself, don’t bring it!

Secure Tours or admissions in advance

This trip to Italy was a little bit more haphazardly planned in regard to tours. Usually, I secure these way in advance to ensure we get the time we want and if there are limited amount of tickets etc. But, we weren’t even sure we’d get to go because of the good ol’ C dawg pandemic so it truly bit us in the butt a few times. I wasn’t able to get tickets for the secret itineraries tour at Doge’s Palace in Venice and the number of slots to hike Mt. Vesuvius were already spoken for when we visited Pompeii. Learn from me and plan ahead (if you can). Especially if you’re traveling during a busier time (June-August) or it’s an activity with limited spots.

Picture out into Venice Italy from the Bridge of Sighs while at Doge's Palace
Picture from Doge’s Palace while crossing the Bridge of Sighs

Coperto

When dining in a restaurant you will notice a coperto charge on your bill. It’s a per person cover charge. This charge will be published on the menu to notify you of the specific amount. (Just look at the fine print!) Each restaurant charges a different amount (it’s not a set fee). There’s actually no legal limit to what this fee can be but normally it’s around 1-3 euros per person.

Water

While dining at a restaurant you will be asked if you’d like water. Then still or frizzante (sparkling). It always comes in a bottle and it isn’t free. You won’t see Italians ever offering or drinking tap water in a restaurant.

On the other side of the coin, most cities will have extremely fresh water available free in water fountains around the city. I saw these in Rome, Cinque Terre, Venice & while at the Pompeii ruins. So definitely be sure to pack a reusable water bottle to bring with you for the duration of your Italian Adventures!

Drink the house wine!

If the restaurant you’re at is offering a house wine option it’s usually local. The wine will be offered in a liter or half liter option with the choice of red or white. The best thing about the house wine is the fact that it is very affordable. A liter option many times will be 10 Euros or less where as some of the other wines by the glass are that cost just for one glass. I’m no sommelier but the house wine to me tasted just as amazing as the wine we had in tuscany at our wine tastings.

Woman drinking red wine seated at a table with a tank top and sunglasses on in Italy

Eat the Gelato

There are gelaterias everywhere! Make sure you sample some while you’re in Italy. My mouth waters just thinking of a few of the delicious cups of gelato I enjoyed while there. No joke, I kept a running list of all of the different flavors of gelato that I tried. My top three favorites were: ricotta fig and honey (pictured below), biscotti & tiramisu.

Be weary that not all gelato is created equal. The best gelato won’t be super dark and vibrant colors (for fruit gelato) and typically the best quality product is stored in tin containers. I remember one peach gelato I had was so faintly colored but it was literally bursting with flavor.

And since dinner can be later, it’s definitely encouraged to get gelato prior to dinner and after. (I made that rule up.) But, hey when in Italy, am I right?

Holding up a cup of light colored gelato in Riomaggiore Italy with the buildings of the city behind it
Gelato in Riomaggiore

Try different foods

The food was phenomenal! All of the homemade pasta, delicious desserts, their coffee, and cocktails. Italians really pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients and the freshness and quality truly comes through in how delicious it is. One thing I really regret not doing while in Italy was either a food tour or a cooking class to make some home made pasta with a local. But after spending 15 days in Italy we really packed it in and I’m not sure I would have even had time.

Different regions of Italy are known for their specific food specialties and sometimes have a dish that you absolutely have to try there. For example, in Rome it’s the cacio e pepe. Which literally means cheese & pepper. It’s a more rich “grown up” version of mac and cheese with a little kick with the pepper.

When we were closer to the coast I ate a lot of seafood pasta and dishes while my husband ordered what I would consider more “classic italian” or basic dishes. (Mostly red sauce dishes that sounded boring.) But, I swear his was always better! So, word to the wise DO NOT overlook these dishes because they’re done so well.

a cone of fried seafood in Riogmaggiore Italy with the sunset and ocean in the background from the balcony
Fried seafood in Riomaggiore

Italian dinners

I know I already covered the time of dinner above, but, it’s also important to point out that Italians eat multiple courses. A traditional Italian dinner structure will consist of the following courses: an apertivo , an antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, insalata, formaggi e fruta, dolce, caffe, digestivo.

An apertivo is typically wine or a bubbly drink like prosecco served alongside a small bite such as nuts or olives.

Antipasti is what i would consider an appetizer. Common antipasti courses are a charceuterie plate or bruschetta.

The primi is usually the first warm course. It typically doesn’t consist of meat but it often times will contain truffle or seafood. (Insert drool emoji!) I ordered a lot of seafood and truffle dishes.

Secondi is dependent on what region you’re in but there will be more expanded meat options.

The Contorni is actually served at the same time as the secondi but on a separate plate. Typically these dishes are vegetable based.

Insalata is a more leafy salad type vegetable and depending on what the contorni is it may not be offered.

The next course formaggi e fruta (cheese and fruit) is usually regional cheese with complimenting fruits to accompany it.

Toward the end of the meal you will have dolce which is dessert. Tiramisu and also lemon ricotta cheesecake were some of my favorite offerings.

After dessert, you will have caffe (an espresso) and a digestivo. The digestivo is usually an alcoholic drink that aids with digestion such as limoncello or amaro. Funny story about amaro, I am not a fan of the famous italian drinks Aperol spritz (gasp!). So I googled other spritz drinks to try. I came across an “Amaro Spritz” so I asked to try it when we were at lunch in Rome. They looked at me like I had three eyeballs. She explained to me it’s an after dinner spirit and served it to me then. I really enjoyed it! But, I’m sure after my blunder she told multiple people about my silly request. Italians are very particular about the right time to drink certain drinks or enjoy certain foods so I just went with it. But, when in Rome well Italy, right?

tablescape at lunch in Rome Italy showing pasta dishes, white wine and water
The best cacio e pepe (with truffles) in Rome (bottom dish)

Learn some of the language

While Italians are very hospitable and welcoming in general it definitely goes a long way to make an effort to learn some basic phrases in Italian.

Ciao= hello or goodbye (used interchangeably)

Buon Giorno= Good Morning

Buona Sera= Good Evening

Buona Notte= Good Night

Grazie= Thank you

Lei parla Inglese= Do you speak English?

I found myself being able to assimilate to Italian rather easily as it has a lot of similarities to Spanish. I took Spanish and did a Spanish language immersion program as a part of my formal education. I’m by no means able to speak conversational Spanish but it’s the only other language besides English that I know more than just a few phrases. Feeling like I caught on to several Italian words because of the similarity to Spanish was a great feeling and I’m sure just one of the reasons Italy gave me the warm fuzzies. (I mean the wine probably was another one, maybe?) Another Italy travel tip, wine will definitely help with your courage to speak Italian!

You could always purchase a phrase book if you really want to impress the locals!

Hiking

This Italy travel tip is more specific to the Cinque Terre region of Italy. However, it was definitely something that I learned! If you’re planning on hiking the Cinque Terre be sure to break it up into 2-3 days. My husband and I tried to hike the whole thing in one day and it wasn’t easy! We aren’t what you would consider seasoned hikers. Upon our return, people who hike a lot and that I would consider more experienced confirmed those hikes are hard! So, keep that in mind if that’s something you’re planning on doing during your time in Italy. Read more about the Cinque Terre and where else we went during our 15 days in Italy here. (Coming soon!)

Hiking along the Cinque Terre National Park In Italy
View hiking in the Cinque Terre of Italy

Mama Mia!

This really isn’t an Italy travel tip, but I wanted to include it anyway because it’s fun. Yes, it is true they really do say Mama Mia (always very exasperated and annoyed.) The first time one of our tour guides said this it really made me smile. Well actually who am I kidding it made me smile every time!

MORE ABOUT ITALY

Now that you’re versed in travel tips for Italy and you really want to visit NOW, lets get planning! I have some other Italy articles that you will enjoy. Italy is well known for wine, but we sampled a lot of great craft beer. Check out my Italy Guide to Craft Beer for some great Italian brew pubs and breweries you have to visit. Coming soon, 15 days in Italy highlighting what we did in a little over two weeks in the amazing country of Italy.

Really ready to dive into planning? Aside from travel resources (like my blog!) I always like to purchase travel books too like these ones to inspire me:

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