A Sassy Guide to Galena & the Car That Got Us There the 2020 Toyota Highlander

My family and I usually take a big trip during the summer since my sister has it off from school, but 2020 is a weird one so instead of doing a trip to say Japan we decided to do a road trip to Galena, IL. It’s about 3 and half hours west of Chicago and has tons of history. 87% of Galena’s buildings are historic buildings and can’t be torn down so it’s literally like stepping into the 1800s when this town was in its heyday. Galena is located right on the Mississippi River so it used to get a lot of steamboat traffic, but when the rivers got lower the steamboats couldn’t get through because their cargo was too heavy and the city eventually lost its luster, but it makes it such a cute getaway today!

2020 Toyota Highlander – peep that sun roof tho!

Toyota loaned us their new 2020 Highlander for the weekend and it was literally the perfect car for a family road trip. Some of our favorite features as a family included:

  • Ventilated front seats (it was so hot out this was amazing!)
  • Three-zone automatic climate control with separate second-row control panel so we each could have individualized temperature settings!
  • Wireless smartphone charging station – key for doing directions from your phone and not losing battery
  • Jim’s favorite thing – the in-dash split level shelf where he could put his mask and napkins haha
  • The Head-Up Display with speedometer and navigation assistance that appears right above the steering wheel in the glass so you don’t have to turn your head to look at directions or what music is playing!

We arrived in Galena at our B&B Felt Manor Inn on Friday evening around 5pm. I had won a gift card for a stay at the inn last year so it came in super handy when we needed a getaway that was closer to home, in-state, and had a private coach house so we didn’t need to have contact with any other guests.

Felt Manor Inn.

The coach house is completely separate from the main inn and was recently renovated and is completely modern. The rooms in the inn are more traditional to a 1800s home with no TV, etc., so I am glad we picked the coach house because we decided to have a pizza & movie night our first night in Galena. We had originally planned to eat downtown but the pizza place we wanted to try was still only doing take-out. This ended up being a blessing because downtown was PACKED to the gills with people and bachelorette parties. We felt more comfortable doing our own thing at home. We got pizza from Cannova’s which was actually fabulous – get their speciality pizza with spinach – YUM!

We started Saturday morning early because we wanted to do some physical activity by renting bikes from Fever River Outfitters to ride along the Galena River Trail. 3 bikes for 2 hours were about $60 – a real deal to us city peeps! We went about four miles down the trail which ended at a really great view of the Misssissippi River and some really cute rainbow Adirondack chairs and then biked back.

We stopped at the Belvedere Mansion on the way back which was a real treat. This home was considered the first mansion in Galena and was owned by J. Russell Jones who owned a bunch of steamboats. The home was eventually sold after he got offered a job as a US ambassador to Belgium, but the home itself is still maintained in all its 1880s glory. A lot of the house has trinkets and treasures from all places over the US so each room has its surprises – like the original drapes from the movie Gone with the Wind are in the conservatory and there is a clock that possibly belonged to the captain of the Titanic!

Galena River Trail.

After our tour, we rode back downtown and got lunch at Dirty Gurt’s – good pub type food – and then went home to shower. I had convinced everyone that we needed to do a winery tour of Galena’s finest wineries in the area, but I failed to realize most of them closed at 5pm so we ended up only going to Galena Cellars Vineyard, but it has a gorgeous view of the hills and you can do wine flights for as low as $10. I did the rose flight and Jim did a dry wine flight.

That evening we went for dinner at a German/French hybrid restaurant called Fritz & Frites which was cute. Most of Galena’s Main Street is shut down so people can eat in the streets and it makes for a cute little view downtown.

Sunday morning we woke up relatively early again to pack up, eat our delicious breakfast from the inn (they make it fresh every morning! drool!) and went back to downtown Galena to do our own self-guided tour of the history of the downtown buildings and stopped in some of the shops like Galena Apothecary, Great American Popcorn, and Elle & Beck. On our way home we stopped at Thunderbay Falls which had these gorgeous falls and fishing (we just did the falls!), and then drove the 3 hours home.

Galena Cellars Vineyard.

COVID CONCERNS: This weekend away was literally just what the doctor ordered for me – I really needed to get out of the city. Downtown was a little crowded at times, but if you stayed at the beginning or ends of the closed off Main Street you could avoid a lot of the crowds. I would say 50% wore masks on the street and the other half didn’t so just be forewarned. All stores and restaurants require masks and a lot make you use hand sanitizer before coming in the store as well. Felt Manor Inn was completely contactless and we highly recommend it for someone looking for a hybrid Airbnb/Inn experience since you could be relatively alone but also got amazing happy hour platters, cookies, wine, and breakfast each morning left on the porch!

Drop any questions you have about our first road trip we’ve tried during the pandemic in the comments below!

A Sassy Guide to Delafield, WI

A Sassy Guide to Delafield, WI

If you’ve ever wanted to live in a Hallmark film, well I have the perfect town for you to visit. Delafield, Wisconsin is located in the Lake Country of Wisconsin (which they won’t let you forget – there are lots of items you can buy that proclaim you are a Real Housewife of Lake Country!) and only a two and a half-hour drive from downtown Chicago. It’s almost equally between Milwaukee and Madison give or take 10 minutes so it’s a great getaway for most cities in Wisconsin too!

My friends and I love doing little weekends away with each other so we decided to explore Lake Country and the small town of Delafield for a short autumn weekend in November. We left on Friday night and got to the hotel a little after 10pm since we stopped for dinner outside of Milwaukee.

So remember when I said this town is basically a Hallmark film set? Well, that’s true. It’s super quaint, cute, homey and all decorated for the season. However, that’s where the comparisons end. Most Hallmark-Esque towns might not be very modern. I, for one, automatically think of old-timey bed and breakfasts, outdated diners, and antiquated buildings, but Delafield is modern and has a lot of updated amenities. One of those being the hotel we stayed at The Delafield Hotel.

The Delafield Hotel is a luxury hotel with a great blend of cozy and modern features. The lobby has a masculine lodge feel, but still feels bright and welcoming. The rooms are roomy, cozy, but still have modern touches like Kohler rain showers (I DIE!) and fun artwork. The hotel also houses its own restaurant – I.d.– and is next door to a massive fitness center, be Fitness, that the hotel guests are allowed to use during their stay. We were actually blown away by the hospitality here (everyone is SO nice) as well as the space being so fresh and modern. This hotel could easily be in the heart of Chicago.

On our first night, we opted to stay in and just watch TV (lots of channels btw including On Demand!) and woke up early the next day to go to brunch at Belfre Kitchen. They call themselves a neighborhood gathering spot and we’d have to agree – we went back twice for brunch and then some appetizers before dinner and were impressed with both. Their space is airy, modern, and built-in a former church. It has a very cool vibe and the menu is very unique. For instance, we each got one of their mimosa flights which came with different juices and the choices were things like rhubarb, prickly pear, and pomegranate in addition to typical juices like orange and peach.

After brunch, we did some shopping around town. Our favorite store being Element Style. It had all the cute, cozy items you need for the season. Each of us bought something here like gloves and sweaters. Some other places we’d recommend to stop in: Next Door, Bliss Boutique and the cute antique store next to Angelina’s restaurant.

That evening, we went to I.d. for dinner and again were blown away. The caliber of food they had was high and reminded me of some of the best restaurants I’ve been to in Milwaukee and Chicago. Our favorite dishes were Nashville Hot Chicken Wedge, Beet Gnocchi in a sheep cheese fondue, and the Chorizo Verde Meatballs. I can’t say that anything was not good though! You could literally order anything on this menu and be impressed – like you can’t go wrong with amazing truffle fries!

If you’re looking for nightlife, this town isn’t really it. Sorry, Delafield! But I think they know that. Our hotel had an amazing bar that had live music and we could have easily stayed there for more drinks, but we decided to go to the other bar in town Revere’s for a more relaxed vibe. They have a game room in the basement too with darts, pool, and Golden Tee. They also have Photo Hunt (nude version only please – if you know what I mean please leave a comment below!). We stayed way too long. Most people had already left, but that’s our MO. Like I said before, everyone in this town is beyond nice and we made friends with the bartenders and were having a grand ole time. Pro Tip: this town is like New Orleans so you can drink on the street. We are large fan of roadies so this was one of our fave things about Delafield!

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The next morning, we woke up and hung out in our insanely comfortable beds while recapping our evening and then drove home but not before we stopped to get some Spotted Cow to take home with us. If you know, then you know.

A Sassy Iceland Guide

A Sassy Iceland Guide

My girlfriends and I like to travel. If you’ve been here long enough you probably know that since we were just in Cabo earlier in the year and we will take random trips around the country like Charleston, LA, and Nashville, but Iceland was our first “adventure” trip together. Usually, our trips revolve around drinking and shopping and then more drinking and then a nice meal out. This trip was more like athleisure wear and waterfalls and then drinking until we did it all over again! Below is the itinerary we followed and some overall tips for navigating Iceland.

Overall Tips

Let’s start with some tips. I did a LOT of research before I went here and I feel like some of it was valid and some were a little off. So here are my two cents:

  • Everyone complains about the food being so expensive, but I didn’t find it to be that pricey. We went out for meals every night in Reykjavik and we usually spent around $50-$60 each time for a nice meal and wine. If I went out to a nice dinner here in Chicago it would cost me way more than that. I think the issue is that normally inexpensive items are expensive like say a salad or a hot dog are double what they normally would be and that’s why people complain about the price. If you are going thinking you are going to spend what you normally would in a big city like NYC or Chicago then you should be fine!
  • Alcohol IS expensive. Most of it is shipped in so wine is expensive. We bought a bunch of wine at Duty-Free when we landed to help us with pre-dinner drinks and that helped a lot. It’s much cheaper at the airport than in town.
  • We went back and forth on having a car or not, but we ultimately went no car. We didn’t want to have to pack up our bags multiple times and travel around so we just did day trips. It actually was probably cheaper for us too to do it this way because gas is actually VERY expensive so while the car itself is cheap, everything else is not.

DAY ONE: Exploring Reykjavik 

We got into Reykjavik early, so we decided to take the first day relatively easy. We took naps, got ready and went out for lunch at Snaps Bistro. The food was fine, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to dine here.

Next up was a puffin tour with Special Tours. My friend who had just visited told me about it and it didn’t disappoint. It is about a two hr. tour that leaves from the port and it goes out to this tiny little island with all the puffins. You learn alllll the facts about puffins and wildlife in the area.

After our tour, we decided to do what we do best and that is participating in happy hour! Happy hour is a time-honored tradition in Reykjavik because booze is expensive so everything is usually half off during these hours and some bars end pretty late so you can go from bar to bar just chasing deals, which is what we did. Here is our little tour that started from the port and ended on a rooftop!

  1. Slippbarinn – They have really good cocktails!
  2. Lebowski Bar – If you area fan of the movie then you will love this place. We aren’t super fans so we walked in and walked out basically, but worth it to stop by at least!
  3. Kaffibrennslan – This was a cute outdoor bar across the street from Lebowski. If it’s nice out, I recommend it but otherwise, these places are a dime a dozen.
  4. Petersen Svitan – Now this was a winner. This rooftop was gorgeous and the drink and food deals were good. Def hit this spot up!

We ended our day with dinner at Mat Bar which I cannot recommend enough. The food was FANTASTIC especially the bay scallops which they had hand caught that very day. After dinner, we walked home and got the most amazing sunset. I would highly recommend going to the water to watch it. Our set around 11pm and we were nice and drunk at that point so it was the perfect end to the day!

DAY TWO: Golden Circle Tour 

Day two we started the day very early with a tour of the Golden Circle from Get Your Guide. We did one that involved an hour of snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier. I could not recommend this tour enough.

We basically had a private tour with a very nice minibus. It was us and a couple on their honeymoon with our tour guide who was local to the area and knew so much about everything. Since it was a small group we really could pick and choose what we wanted to see and explore more of whereas with a big group you’re really on their time table. We saw so many beautiful things this day including the Geysir, Þingvellir National Park, and Gullfoss Waterfall, but of course, our favorite part of the day was the snowmobiling.

Getting up to the glacier is a bit of a pill since it’s rough terrain you’re in a super jeep, but once you get there it is so worth it. They suit you up so you don’t need to bring any gear, but I recommend long socks because you’re wearing your own shoes. Sneakers are completely fine but you do slide around a bit so just be careful on the ice. Being a plus woman, I was nervous they wouldn’t have the gear to fit me but they had suits up to like a 4X since men in Iceland are pretty big and hearty!

Also of note, this tour is about 8-10 hours. You leave early in the morning and get back around 6pm. Since it’s day time until 11pm this didn’t bother us, but this is why a lot of people like to have their own car so they can do things on their own time table.

When we got back to Reykjavik, we got ready to go out and had dinner at Forettabarinn which is right by the port and Slippbarinn where we had had drinks the day before. This restaurant is cute and casual and good for a quieter meal. I like the location because it’s not in the main busy square. My favorite thing we ate was the lemon quesadillas because after a day out on the road eating lamb, I was ready for some American comfort food!

This night we were SET on finding some fun bars because we had struck out the night before and we were very successful when we found a karaoke bar in the basement of Saeta Svinid. Saeta a burger bar in the main square over by Pablo Discobar (which we tried many times to go to, but it was NEVER full of people), and the karaoke bar in the basement was one of our fave spots we hit up. Afterward, we went to a bar our waiter had recommended – Kaffibarinn – which was full of tourists and right up our alley. This bar closes pretty early though so I would start at Kaffibarinn and end at Saeta.

DAY THREE: South Coast Tour 

We did a tour of the slightly-more-out-the-way South Coast on day three. The tour was also about 10 hours because you’re covering more ground. This one was also through Get Your Guide but much cheaper because we were on a giant bus with about 60 other people. We didn’t like this tour as much because it was so rigid and it was way less luxurious and we didn’t get special attention like we had the day before.

However, we still loved that we got to see Skogafoss Waterfall, the black sand beaches that were in Game of Thrones, and Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. So many waterfalls! All so gorgeous! You must come to see this part of Iceland, but if you have your own car I would say that’s the way to do it.

Back home we got ready and went to dinner at Rok Restaurant. We got there right before it closed, so we felt a bit rushed and didn’t love our meal but I feel like maybe it was just because they were about to close and didn’t have everything normally on the menu. We ended our night at Bravo for drinks where we ended up meeting some amazing locals. It was hilarious and fun night…and we stayed up way too late.

Day FOUR: Blue Lagoon & Home 

We saved Blue Lagoon for our last day and I am so glad we did because we were dead as doornails after partying the night before at Bravo.

Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and the water is blue and gorgeous and hot AF. This was definitely the most relaxing thing we did the entire time we were there and I say it’s a must. Each reservation gets you four hours of time at the lagoon. We bought the premium experience which got us each a drink of our choice (smoothie, champagne, beer, etc.), a robe, and a reservation at the spa’s restaurant. The spa’s restaurant lets you wear your robe to lunch and it’s glorious. I had the most amazing lamb dish I have ever had here and then afterward we went right back in the hot springs.

The lagoon has its own shuttle back to the airport that costs about $15 (I believe), that you can book prior to getting on-site and we did that. If you have your luggage with you, you will have to check it at the front gate so make sure to leave time to pick it up on your way out.

And that, my friends, is how to spend the perfect four days in Iceland!

 

A Sassy Milwaukee Guide

A Sassy Milwaukee Guide

One of my best friends from high school (and study abroad!) lives in Milwaukee – or rather in a suburb of Milwaukee nowadays – but that meant I spent a lot of time visiting her and the adorable little city a lot over the last few years.

Last weekend, my friends and I went up for a night to go to Irish Fest. I think often Chicago gets this rap for being the best at street fests, but I argue that Milwaukee does it way better than we do! The Summerfest grounds aren’t just used for the two-week music festival (which is awesome btw – it’s like a much cleaner and less chaotic Lolla), it’s also then a site for multiple other festivals through the summer! Irish Fest takes place on the same festival grounds right on the lake and it’s a ton of family-filled fun. Tickets are only $20. It’s never too crowded. The food is great (curry chips!). And the music is amazing – and often the bands play multiple days while at the fest so if you can only go one day you’ll probably be able to see all the bands you want!

Below is the itinerary I followed on my recent trip this summer to Milwaukee. There is so much to see and do there and I will probably do a follow-up guide of some of my fave things to do for a whole weekend, but if you’re looking for just an overnight trip and want to see some cool things here is the guide for you:

Hotels

  • Saint Kate: For our latest trip to Milwaukee, we wanted a hotel that was closer to downtown and my friend had recently heard great things about this new art gallery/hotel called Saint Kate. I am so glad we stayed here because this place is gorgeous and so cool. The lobby and second floor are one part hotel one part art installation. So many cool pieces. To keep the artistic theme going, each room comes with a ukulele, a record player, and a roll of paper and coloring pencils so your artsy side can come alive. The rooms themselves are also very artsy! The tiles in the bathroom are art in themselves. The rooms have a very whimsical steampunk vibe and the beds are comfyyyyyy. We loved our stay here and highly recommend it.

Restaurants

  • Crossroad Collective: A food hall in Milwaukee’s East Side neighborhood. They have many food stalls, but our fave was the Egg & Flour Pasta Bar. Enough so that we took our leftovers back to the hotel with us! They make their pastas IN A WHEEL OF A CHEESE like they do in Italy so we were sold right away. I also tried the Falafel Guys’s hummus and falafel (some of the best falafel I’ve ever had), and my friends all got ice cream from Scratch which they all adored.
  • Toast: We went here for Brunch and sat outside on the patio. It’s a really cute, no frills place with straight forward good brunch food with a Mexican spin. I loved my breakfast sandwich. They make their own donuts in house. I have to say I wasn’t a fan, so skip those!
  • Giggly Champagne Bar: I mean if there is a champagne bar, you best believe I am gonna go there! This one happened to be in our hotel and they have an AWESOME happy hour until 7pm where glasses of wine are only $5, so def hit this up even if you aren’t staying at the hotel.

Shopping

  • Waxwing: This is such a cute little Midwestern local good shop. Lots of cute gifts that are specifically focused on the Midwest/Great Lakes area.
  • Beans & Barley: A specialty goods store and restaurant. Kind of reminds me of Treasure Island but with gifts and a little deli. We didn’t eat here, but I’ve heard good things.

Walls

  • Selena Mural: In the Walker’s Point neighborhood is an awesome mural of the Mexican-American Madonna, Selena Quintanilla by Marco Ramirez. I somehow managed to match it completely by accident! It’s across the street from Fuel Cafe for those trying to find it.
  • Black Cat Alley: An award-winning outdoor art gallery on the East Side (right by Crossroad Collective). There are 17 murals – an amazing opportunity for outfit shots!

The itinerary for this trip was created with the help of Visit Milwaukee. This was not a complimentary trip and all opinions are my own. 

A Sassy Cabo Guide

A Sassy Cabo Guide

At the end of January, my girlfriends and I went to Cabo San Lucas for a little girls trip. The goal was to drink all the tequila, sit by a gorgeous pool, and just relax. We were only there for 4 days and we really spent a lot of time at our hotel, but below are some of my recommendations. I 1000% want to go back soon because I really loved it there. It has a really unique topography that almost reminded me of Ibiza. It has fun nightlife. It has gorgeous resorts. It’s not far from Chicago. I totally get the hype around Cabo now. So below are the places I recommend that we went to.

Hotel

 

We stayed at The Montage Los Cabos and it was probably the nicest hotel I have ever experienced. First off, the location is just perfect. It’s not in downtown Cabo, but not far enough that you can’t take a cab or Uber downtown. It’s also right on the Santa Maria beach which is conveniently on a bay. A lot of Cabo is on rougher ocean water so it’s harder to kayak or paddleboard or even swim, but this water was calm and easy to do activities in.

The rooms are GORGEOUS. Our outdoor shower was my favorite feature and the amazing turndown service every night. And don’t get me started on the staff. I could talk your ear off about how great the service was. The resort is pretty small so everyone knows you by name…or in our case by what we drank. Mimosas in the morning, tequila in the afternoon, and wine at dinner.

Bars

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  • Happy Endings: Hands down my favorite bar we went to when we went out on the town in downtown Cabo. It had more locals than tourists, beer pong, and the DJ was cranking out the old and new hits.
  • The Office: One day, we were supposed to take a booze cruise and it fell through so we changed plans and ended up getting lunch at this beach bar. They walk around with shooters, people can come to braid your hair, and the food was pretty decent. They also make their own tequila. It’s a super fun party atmosphere and you are literally sitting in the sand. My only complaint is that this place is really out of the way and it definitely seems like a day party so you are missing a day in the sun (all their tables are under umbrellas), so come here closer to sunset if you want more time at the pool.
  • La Vaquita: We happened upon this place on our way to a club and loved the outdoor dance party vibe they had going on.
  • Mandala: A legit nightclub. We were only here for a little while before asking where the closest taco place was (the best idea we ever had), but this place was fun although it for sure had a more American vibe. You sort of felt like you were in Vegas, not Cabo.
  • The Rooftop at the Cape: We started our night out here with live music and lovely views of the ocean. The food was just OK and the drinks are pretty expensive since it is a hotel, so I recommend coming for sunset and a drink and then moving on. But the live band was my favorite part for SURE. The lead singer of the band we saw sounded exactly like Charlie Puth.

P.S. Everyone kept telling me we HAD to go to Cabo Wabo Cantina because even though it’s cheesy, it’s fun. Not sure if we just had a weird night but everyone was over 55 and the band was not that great. We had one drink and peaced out of there. I would avoid even though it’s a must on a lot of to-do lists out there.

Restaurants 

 

  • Flora Farms:  We didn’t leave our hotel for many meals since the hotel was so fabulous, but we did make one trek off-site to go to Flora Farms which is a restaurant/bar/event space/shopping area/ice cream store. It literally has everything including a spa and they also teach different classes on the farm too like cooking or painting classes. We came for lunch and got a bunch of pizzas and an amazing charcuterie board. We stayed until they literally kicked us out because they have so many fun little areas to explore like a turtle pond and a beautiful garden. It’s out of the way, but worth it.
  • Mezcal: This was the nicer restaurant at our hotel. We loved our meal here and I think it’s worth going to if you want to get out of the downtown area. All the seat are near fire pits and look out on the water and the food was spectacular – especially the fish tacos!