She’s Nauti and Nice [A Weekend Getaway to Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod: Highlights]

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There’s something about her that just seems to capture the hearts of those she comes into contact with. With pristine beaches, blue ocean waters, and the breezy salty air to sweep you off your feet, it’s easy to get carried away by the lure and the charm of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.

One trip, let alone one day, is hardly enough to do it justice, but a short and sweet encounter is better than none at all. Recently, a group of friends and I — mostly hailing from the metro-DC area or further south — hoped to scratch the surface on what the northeast has been keeping secret from us all this time.

Since, A and I are based in Boston, we were the resident “guides” spearheading this trip. Our friends flew from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia and arrived on a Thursday, allowing us a nice long-weekend stretch for maximum adventuring and eats.

Our first full day was dedicated to our daytrip to Martha’s Vineyard. Because our homebase was in Cotuit, it made the most sense for us to drive for the ferry from Woods Hole in Falmouth first thing in the morning by parking our van at the dedicated off-side lot (approximately 4 miles away), and take the shuttle from the lot to the terminal. The ferry ride certainly played a big part in the build up to our vineyard experience. It was so peaceful and so beautiful, and just the perfect distance to enjoy without any fear of motion-sickness (knock on wood).

Once we made it there, it was truly all that I had imagined a quintessential New England small beach town would be. In Oak Bluffs, was our terminal of choice and therefore where we spent our first and last few moments in the island. The area was very walkable and chockfull of surprises. Although there were a handful of businesses closed for the season post-Labor Day, a good bit of seaside activity remained for locals and non-peak season visitors. Edgartown wins the popularity contest for sure, and is home to the Vineyard Vines. However, if you look hard enough and are patient enough, many things lie off the main streets and back roads of these quaint towns. By far the highlight of our trip in my opinion was our pursuit of Bad Martha Beer.

For a day trip, our focus was to enjoy our time together within the three main towns at the tip of the island – Edgartown (our farthest point), Vineyard Haven, and Oak Bluffs. We made sure we had ample time to hit the mandatory sights, such as the Gingerbread Houses/Cottages and Trinity Park Tabernacle, and leisurely stroll around the neighborhoods following our instincts for food and drink stops as well.

As for the remainder of our weekend, we weren’t quite as lucky with the weather, and had to make plans for colder temps. What’s great about Cape Cod and the islands in this case is the multitude of options for groups, couples, families, and adventurers of all comfort levels to create the experience you’re seeking. For equal parts of adventure and solitude, we spent a morning biking along the Cape Cod Rail Trail courtesy of our Dennis Cycle Center rentals. I have not touched a bike in YEARS but they made the process so easy, and the trail right next to the store had a couple of appealing pitstops (hint: one is a winery along the trail!). Well worth the exercise, I tell you.

We of course couldn’t miss an afternoon in the classic town of Chatham for some a lighthouse sighting, beach time, and sunset (or close) cocktails. This vacation life could have lasted forever, in my opinion, but alas we knew it had to end. At least for now.

What’s your must-do/favorite part about Cape Cod and the islands? I have yet to make it to Nantucket so that’s certainly on my list!

I’m sharing our al fresco finds on the trip as well as our quick getaway guide + recommendations based on insight from our Cape Cod-based friends, prior research, and what worked for us on this trip.

Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or check out the Travel + Leisure features on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, MassVacations.com the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce websites. Feel free to link up with your post or favorite related links as well!

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

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Al Fresco Finds: Harrisburg, PA [Quick Weekend Guide and Recommendations]

When you get the opportunity to cross a state off of your “Visited States” Map, you take it. Bonus points if you cover the state’s capital city too.

For me it was Pennsylvania. Sure, I had crossed the state lines on a road trip before, but watching The Office was as close as I had ever gotten to a Pennsylvania experience, which hardly goes deeper than town name references. This time, over a long weekend trip to reunite with my girls and celebrate a delayed housewarming party, I was finally able to visit my friend in PA and do as the locals do when around Harrisburg.

People were definitely surprised by our choice destination, but we stand by it! When friends come together for great food, enjoy awesome beverages, and serene views, it is a splendid combination. And boy did we find all of that this side of Pennsylvania.

Here are our al fresco finds and recs for you!

1. Tröegs (Hershey, PA)

We happened upon Tröegs in a search for fresh air and a hydration station after one too many roller coaster rides. It wasn’t exactly part of the plan post-Hershey Park (we questioned ourselves too initially), but I’m glad we made this not-so-small pitstop. Tröegs Independent Brewing is quite the watering hole. Their outdoor seating area, with its pergola, greenery and serene view, is a sight at dusk, made 100 times better with a cold one in hand. Inside, long bar tables and stools place you right at the heart of the brewhouse within a massive tasting room. You can expect to spend a good chunk of the day there trying their selection of beers (try a tour!) and snacks. Their flatbread was amazing and perfect for sharing.

2. Millworks (Midtown Harrisonburg, PA)

Millworks brunch is just the bomb.com. Between the courtyard and their rooftop biergarten, you can really go from casual to romantic options while eating outside. The indoor dining space has industrial, rustic details and is enormous, with capacity for large groups or local special events. In fact, they host a variety of special events as well as artists and their work at their very own in-house studios. Your head is going to be in a swivel as soon as you step into those doors and you will be stuffed to your heart’s content when you leave.

3. Spring Gate Vineyard and Winery (Harrisburg, PA)

Spring Gate may just have it all. Wines, ciders, and beers within its expansive grounds. We were lucky to make it there early afternoon on a Friday and have the place almost all to ourselves, but that also meant that the party was far from getting started. At its peak, there’s live music, food trucks, plenty of outdoor seating and parking, but be sure to plan ahead to maximize your experience!

4. Ever Grain Brewing Company (Camp Hill, PA)

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Ever Grain is a casual warehouse-style spot with a good selection of beers, party games and food, care of their neighbor, Red Sky Cafe. We had their samples for a tasting of all their offerings and there was plenty to share among three people. Their staff was very accommodating too, even when we spilled some beer from the sheer weight of the tray – be very careful and save your drinks when carrying that thing!

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Like I said, I had no previous experience anywhere in PA before visiting this past year, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It felt a lot like being in Virginia when we drove around and explored with more of a Northeastern social culture.

Should you feel compelled to pay the Harrisburg area a visit, there are a few ways to do so and to make the most of your stay.

How to get there:

From Boston, I flew in from Boston Logan to BWI via Southwest and drove to Harrisburg with friends who were mostly coming in from the metro D.C. and VA area. I was fortunate to have that option. Our friends from New York City were conveniently able to take the train directly to Harrisburg PA. There is also a small airport in Harrisonburg itself that may be more convenient for a higher fares.

Where to stay:

Harrisburg seems to have a wide selection of hotels that range from affordable to commercial to boutique. Closer to the main downtown area is a Hilton Hotel, a Crowne Plaza, and City House Bed and Breakfast.  Since I was staying with a friend, I was based in Mechanicsburg for the weekend, a short 20 minute drive from downtown. It is a quaint area with more affordable lodging options if you’re trying to save on accommodations. If you’d prefer to check Harrisburg out on a day trip with family, it might make more sense to stay in the town of Hershey, where the park and a few family-centered destinations are located.

What to do:

If you’re like me and plan your adventures around food and drinks, Downtown Harrisburg has a growing and increasingly diverse scene. It is also fairly walkable, conducive to fun bar crawls with a crew. During the day, a stroll to Midtown Scholar Bookstore and Cafe, around Broad Street Market and along the river make for nice day time activities. For more of an adventure, the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat takes you on a scenic tour of Harrisburg aboard a historic vessel itself. City Island Harrisburg is exactly what the name implies and is home to various tourist destinations such as a baseball stadium and a soccer stadium and a few businesses. Children and children at heart can also make a day trip (or longer if you wish!) out of Hershey Park.

Other Places to Eat or Drink:

Some key and notable destinations during our weekend in Harrisburg include Cafe Fresco (where we ate practically everything on the menu and loved it), The Brick Haus (taking the lumberjack shot is a must, hint: it comes with bacon!), and Sawyer’s (simply for its central location and outdoor bar and games + dancing).

Let me know in the comments if you have any other thoughts or want to link up! I referred a lot to the Explore HBG website and my local friend’s recommendations.

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

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Why visit Harrisburg, PA? [A Weekend Trip: Highlights]

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When planning a visit to Pennsylvania, travelers often instinctively think of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh before considering its capital as a worthy destination. Now with a growing food, beverage, and art scene, and its own place in American history, Harrisburg and its surrounding areas are trying to prove that it can always be sunny this side of PA too.

“There has to be a story here.” A man, clearly very confused, stopped a group of seven women casually traveling as a pack in downtown Harrisburg. My college group of friends and I have been fortunate enough to reunite from various points of the US once a year. It started as an effort to visit one another no matter where we in the country we settled into. Four years in, and I’d say the efforts are going strong.

It was our dear PA-based resident’s turn to host for a long weekend. Our itinerary consisted of vineyard/brewery stops, Hershey Park, a scenic, historic stroll, and plenty of time to catch up. It turned out to be the perfect amount of activity and down time to suit the interests of a group our size.

Our home-base was in Mechanicsburg, a mere 20-minute drive from downtown Harrisburg. We were too early for the town’s Jubilee Day, “the  largest, longest-running, one-day street fair on the East Coast” (pennlive.com), but our weekend wasn’t short on memorable moments. We had amazing bites in all our food destinations, though I wouldn’t recommend poutine fries between rollercoaster stops at Hershey Park if you know what I mean.

Have you ever been around Harrisburg? I’ll share my recommendations particularly some must-try al fresco finds in the area in a post soon! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or check out the Thrillist feature on Harrisburg or VisitPA for any Pennsylvania-related trip planning needs including free resources. Philly is definitely still on my list for my next time in Pennsylvania so I’ll have to make a return in the future. Feel free to link up with your post or favorite related links in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

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