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All things AUSTIN, Texas

June 8-10, 2018

This past weekend I (Emily) had the opportunity to visit Austin, Texas for the first time! I’ll give you an overview of the places I saw that I think would be worth your time! Keep in mind, I was there for only 40 hours and for a bachelorette party. 

From the airport to the hotel where I stayed it was about a 20 minute $20 Uber.  I stayed at the brand new Fairmont Hotel which I would highly recommend.  The rooms have modern decor and they are beautiful, comfortable and very clean.  The hotel has many dining options and a beautiful bar in the lobby.  There is also a very nice workout facility if you make time for that sort of thing while vacationing.  We didn’t have time for the pool, but it did have a specacular roof top pool/ hot tub with the option to rent cabanas. The best part however is the location, it’s a short walk to all of the popular dining and drinking locations including Congress, 6th and Rainey Street.

For the first dinner we ate at the Iron Cactus on 6th street which served excellent Tex Mex.  Austin is known for either BBQ or Tex Mex and this location did not disappoint:  plus it has a great rooftop option that’s outdoors for dining and watching the passerby’s below:  

One of the afternoons my friends and I took a tour bus out to Texas Hill Country and did winery tours/tastings.  I’ve done three other winery tours (two in Cali and one in New Zealand) before and this was way different.  If you are expect rolling hills with rolling vines like I was, that’s not what you’ll get.  I still thought the scenery was incredible however.  The vineyards instead were settled in the middle of farms with a desert like feel.  

After leaving the wineries we came back into Austin to the iconic “I love you so much sign” for the perfect photo op and walked across the street to the cutest ice cream shop, Amy’s Ice Cream.
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For dinner that night we ate at Moonshine Grill.  They do not take reservations and for larger groups will not give you the pager until the whole party is at the restaurant:  we waited for 1.5 hours but I promise you the food is absolutely worth the wait.  If you like southern home cooked soul food, you can’t skip this place! Try the moonshine concocted cocktails or delicious appetizers (MAC N CHEESE) while you wait.  Bonus: most of the food is considered farm to table supporting local farmers, this Iowa girl APPROVES!

For the evening we first hit the bar scene on Rainey Street. The highlight of the night by far was the Container Bar where we danced (and sweat) the night away. PSA -> it’s HOT in Austin and most of the bars are combo outdoor/indoor venues and you WILL sweat, dress (and do your hair) accordingly.  My other favorite bar was The Bling Pig Pub on 6th Street. There is live music and on the roof top there’s arcade games and plenty of space for the many visitors to this iconic bar.  Also mostly outdoors.  

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To conclude the trip, we ate brunch at the highly recommended Geraldines. Again, phenomenal southern soul food cooked from the heart with spectacular service and live jazz music. It is in a beautiful boutique hotel called Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt just off Rainey Street.

BALD HEAD ISLAND, North Carolina

June 17-23 2018

2 beach houses, 14 family members, 1 week.  What could be better than a family vacation at the beach?  Not quite the same as Emily’s bachelorette party weekend, but if you’re looking for a secluded & private getaway that doesn’t require a passport, BHI is where it’s at!  You take a ferry to the island and did I mention no cars allowed – golf carts or bikes only!

We (Katie and husband) flew from Tampa to Wilmington with a connection in Atlanta.  Super easy!  A quick 45 min taxi ride took us from Wilmington Airport to Southport, NC which is where the ferry terminal is based.  We wanted to stay at a cute little bed & breakfast, but all of them required a minimum 3 night stay during summer weekends so we stayed at a Hampton Inn 5 minutes from the Southport seashore.  Here are some of my favorite spots!

Southport, NC :  Adorable, quaint coastal town

Oliver’s on the Cape Fear – Coastal surf & turf dining with expansive water views.  We enjoyed oysters, the most delicious crab dip I’ve EVER had, filet, and grouper. Very pricey but highly recommend!


Southport Smokehouse – BBQ so good we had it twice in one day.  Perfect spot to grab a quick lunch before your ferry departs.  We ended up ordering 6 lbs of meat to take with us to have for our first dinner on island.

Oak Island Lighthouse –  North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse.  Reserve your tickets 4 weeks in advance during the summer months.  Admission is free.


Pro tip:

  1. Purchase your liquor in Southport. No liquor store on BHI.
  2. Uber is very scarce in Southport. Taxi is the way to go.
  3. Deep Point Marina/Ferry info:  Round trip adult $22.  Make sure to book a tram that will take your luggage from the ferry to your house.  The island is 4.8 long x 2 miles wide, too far to trek everything.

Bald Head Island : Think Martha’s Vineyard vibe

Nature paths for hiking, paddle boarding/kayaking, yoga, shopping,  golf course, great beaches for walking, marina with plenty of great food options; there is something for everyone here.  The island is very safe and the kids were running around on their bikes on their own the entire time.  Watch out for snakes and gators!

Yoga classes – My favorite part of the day! 1 hour class for all levels at the Shoals Club, outside and overlooking the ocean.  $15/day and Friday is free if you go every day.


To conclude the trip, we enjoyed our last evening at the Will O’ the Wisp.  If you’re like my husband and I, any vacation we go on we love to have a chill pizza and wine night. This ended up being our favorite night as we met two live aboard sailors (shoutout to Seahorse Tales) and their daughter (who are living our dream!)  This bar is a cute little patio in the marina where they have live music nightly.  Marina Pizza around the corner will deliver pizza to you on the dock for free.  We sipped wine, ate pizza to our hearts content, and chatted the night away with our new friends Jeff, Michelle, & Sami.  If a waitress ever asks if they can sit another couple next to you and share a table- say yes!


Pro tip:

  • Bring bug spray
  • Don’t pack heels
  • Turtles are nesting mid May-early August. Beach patrol ride alongs and turtle walk nighttime tours available through Bald Head Island Conservancy


June 24 – July 1, 2018

I (Emily) recently had the opportunity to take a week break from work madness.  I am fortunate at my job to accrue quite a bit of PTO per pay period so I am able to travel as much as my heart desires.  Most of the time when I travel I go on quick long weekend trips, and when I go on my longer international trips they are jam packed with adventure so when I get home I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.  That was not the case here.  This was truly and R&R vacation and I came back refreshed and ready to work again.IMG_5422I am originally from Iowa so growing up my family and all my aunts/uncles on my mom’s side would go to the lakes of Minnesota for a week.  Once the kiddos (I am fortunate to have many cousins all around my same age) got older we stopped going because sports schedules got in the way and some moved away.  Now that most of us are around 30, everyone started getting nostalgic so we re-created the trip of our youth and returned to Minnesota.  It took a year to plan and organize but boy was it worth it.

We had people traveling in from; California, Colorado, different parts of Iowa and me from Florida. We chose an area called Longville (population 156) on a lake called Blackwater Lake.  This was mostly because that is where we found a house to rent that was big enough to hold all of us. The lakes we went to when I was younger were around this area as well. Those of us flying flew into Minneapolis and then either drove 4 hours further north via a rental car or like me was scooped up by those already driving north from Iowa.

Take me back to easy days floating on the Swan

We stayed in an AMAZING log cabin like house (or “the big house” as my 3 year old cousin likes to call it) called the Blackwater Lodge.  It came with jet skis, a water trampoline and a pontoon boat.  It also had a workout room in the garage (if you care about that sort of thing on vacay).  The week started out cold and rainy but by midweek it got HOT and sunny. Our days were spent sleeping, playing table games, cooking/eating, and of course spending time outside by or on the water.  Our nights were spent doing the same but adding campfires/s’mores and running from horse flies/mosquitos.  We went into town one night for dinner and one day for the infamous turtle races. Apparently Longville is the “turtle racing capital of the world.” Our family’s turtle turned around and went the wrong way… but hey at least we tried ;).

IMG_0276                                                 IMG_5382IMG_0106At the end of my trip, I got a rental car and drove back to Minneapolis and spent one night with my best friend from Iowa who currently lives there.  We went to a concert that night and hopped around to a few of the bars after that.  The next morning unfortunately it was raining so we couldn’t enjoy her local lake, so instead we stuffed our faces with a local Minneapolis treat called a Juicy Lucy. If you do go, make sure you go to the original spot “Matt’s Bar”  It’s just as delicious as it looks!

So many people before I left for this vacation kept asking me “ew why are you going to Minnesota for a week?” It’s been ages since I simply went somewhere and enjoyed the people I was with and truly relaxed.  I am blessed to have a tight knit family and it is hard to be away from them.  This trip put my life back into perspective as I felt like I was slowly losing sight of things that matter more than work.  As I’ve stressed over and over; work life balance is key to working in medicine and maintaining sanity.

My Family

Here are some of our favorite places we’ve traveled to together!


Barry University PA Program, St Croix Campus  –  Scuba lessons with the sharks.14368663_10101106441080334_6012895051468926998_n

En route to Ireland!  1 week, 1,200 miles driven on the opposite side of the road and opposite side of the car, 14 cities checked off the bucket list, and endless amounts of Guinness and bangers & mash tasted.