Saturday, September 1, 2007

Lake Chelan - what the locals know

As I mentioned in an earlier post for Lake Chelan, I took a trip up the Lake to Stehekin. This town is only accessible by boat or seaplane and is located at the top of Lake Chelan. It's very rustic and beautiful, if you have time for a day trip - definitely put Stehekin on your list. Locals know that upon arrival you can rent bicycles to explore the area, including an incredible waterfall called Rainbow Falls. On the journey to the Falls, you pass the old one-room school that's still set-up with desks and drawings from the students around the room. It's fascinating to see what things used to be like for the small population of students who live here. On the way back from the Falls, we made a quick stop for drinks and ice cream before getting back to the dock where the boat was.

If you don't want to take your own boat all the way up to Stehekin (it's a pretty long drive and usually pretty choppy waters), you can also take a more comfortable trip on the Lady of the Lake. There are two options currently based on budget and time, you can take the Lady II for $39 with a 4 hour trip or the Lady Express (or what we call, The Little Lady) for $59 with a little over 2 hour trip.

If you are looking for a view from above, seaplanes are a great way to see the beauty of the Lake from above and get to Stehekin quickly. Chelan Airways offers trips to Stehekin at $149 roundtrip or $89 for one way. They offer a variety of other flights as well that are great ways to experience all that the scenery has to offer.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lake Chelan - eat it up!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm a sucker for a good breakfast. So first off, I'll have to share my favorite breakfast spot - Blueberry Hills. Mentioned in my activities post, they also offer one of the most delicious breakfasts in the area. Ranging from blintzs and scrambles to their new cowboy breakfast and my personal favorite, waffles! Be sure to order bacon if you like it, theirs is super good! PS - they serve breakfast all day and also serve lunch.
A trip to Chelan wouldn't be complete without a delicious meal at Campbell's. We prefer the second floor pub and veranda. It's the perfect place to sit outside and enjoy the view of the town below. Campbell's is located at the start of the main drag providing a bird's eye view. The choices on the menu are pretty standard but they are done well and Campbell's is an institution in Chelan and is one that can't be missed!
For something sweet, I have a couple of ideas. Offering great shakes, malts and frosties is Lakeview Drive In. This charming little spot is right off of the Lake and is the perfect small town dessert stop. 2007 marks their 50th Anniversary and proves how legendary it is among locals and visitors. They also offer lunch/dinner but it's a no-brainer for dessert. The other fun dessert stop offers something a bit lighter - Hawaiian Ice. There are a few of these around town so just keep an eye out for the building, it's pretty hard to miss!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lake Chelan - so much to do, so little time

While in Chelan, there are a variety of activities to keep you busy. While I am there, I always stay in Manson, which is about 7 miles east of Chelan on the Lake. Whether you are right in Chelan or in one of the smaller towns around the Lake, there are plenty of things to entertain you while you're there.

First off, I have to mention the water activities. When you go, I HIGHLY recommend renting a boat. The Lake is so fun to explore and is so vast that without a boat you'll never get the full experience. My personal favorite is to motor out to a nice sunny spot in the middle of the Lake and park - then you can lay out, swim, play games, drink, eat, you get the idea. Aside from my lazy days, you can also wakeboard/water ski, tube, parasail, rent jet skis, go fishing, the list goes on. And before I move on from water activities, I have to mention the areas near Chelan that have fun amusement parks on the water - they are giant blow-up toys that live on the Lake and look like they could be a blast for the younger kids in your group. There is also a waterpark called Slidewaters that has a variety of fun activities for a family-style trip.

Aside from all of the fun you can have on the water, my next pick would be to check out some of the wineries. Over the years, Chelan has grown to be quite the wine country and my favorite is Wapato Point Cellars. On this visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Mama Carol and she was just as sweet as she could be. If you go, definitely ask for her. :) The winery does tastings starting at noon daily and they are complimentary. The bottles are pretty reasonable ranging from around $15-$30 and glasses starting at only $5. They also have a great little restaurant (Winemaker's Grill) on the property and during our tasting I discovered that if you buy a case, you receive a free dinner for two! Dinner begins serving at 5 p.m. If you'd like to check out the rest of the wineries in the area, click HERE

If you are still looking for something different than what is mentioned above, maybe you would be interested in exploring the orchards. Chelan is known for it's soil and all of the wonderful food that is able to be grown there. I will come back to this spot when I go over places to eat but for now, let's talk about their berry farm. Blueberry Hills is a fantastic little family homestead that has a restaurant and also a u-pick berry farm. You can choose from blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. They are all delicious and it's the kind of experience that is only found in small towns - which I personally don't get to enjoy often enough. So do me a favor and check this place out while you're there! :)

Lake Chelan - the lay of the land

I always stay at the home of my boyfriend's parents but if you aren't able to rent a house on the lake, I have a few options that may work. First off, Campbell's is probably the most popular spot in town. The resort offers excellent views of the Lake, a full-service spa, sandy beach, pools, rentals for the Lake, etc. They also have rooms that are equipped with a full kitchen, cozy fireplaces and soaking tubs.

For a more intimate stay, check out Watson's Harverene Resort on the south shore of the Lake. It's been in the same family for 4 generations and is definitely a more low-key location than some of the others on the Lake. The Resort has a heated pool and hot tub, as well as its own beach. You can choose from family cottages or poolside units - all have a kitchen and one unit is large enough to sleep up to 10 people. The best part about this spot is that the resort offers guests a short sightseeing trip on their yacht for free! They also offer rentals for the Lake and have been known to have many repeat guests throughout the years. PS - this is also one of the spots on the Lake that has a gas pump so it's always good to know where it is in case you're running low!

For a comparison, the other spot on the Lake that I would recommend checking out is Wapato Point on the north shore. This location has many different resorts and hotels (and homes) and is very popular with visitors. If you're interested, click here to start the search.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lake Chelan - can this be real?

Thank you to everyone for your inquiries, I should have posted that I would be out exploring my August destination and wouldn't be back until now. Thanks for hanging in there...without further ado, I am thrilled to share with you - Lake Chelan, Washington!

Undiscovered by many, Lake Chelan (pron. Shell-Ann) is one of the most pristine and awe-inspiring places I've ever traveled. I've had the pleasure of visiting a few times (thanks to my boyfriend's family who has a summer home there) and I must confess that I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to experience this place. It's located on the eastern side of Washington state and is about a 3-hour drive (depending on how fast you go) from Seattle.

The lake is glacier fed which explains why it's so crystal clear and refreshing. It's also one of the deepest in the nation, third to be exact. The lake itself is about 50 miles long and I'll expand more on my trip up the lake to Stehekin in a later post, but trust me, it's a looong drive. :) Offering a variety of water sports, delicious local produce (blueberries and blackberries are especially popular), fun souvenir shops and fabulous wineries, Chelan has more than enough to entertain anyone's taste. More to come!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

South Lake Tahoe - Mmm Mmm Good

Sorry for the delay in posting - I was in Vegas and we all know how that goes! So...back to Tahoe. My personal preference when traveling is to find locally-owned restaurants that you can't experience anywhere else. Chains are nice for when you are starving and in desperate need of food right away but if there's time to look around or plan a little, I always go for the local flair. I have included some highlights below and even threw in one on the North shore of the Lake for good measure (thanks Kell!). If you've ever been to any of these or know of some others that are worth checking out - definitely leave a comment!

First one that I must mention is Izzy's Burger Spa (2591 Lake Tahoe Blvd/US Route 50)...I know what you're thinking, spa?? But yes, that's the real name and no, there is no spa in sight. But when the burgers are this good, nobody ever argues! They specialize in delicious burgers that are made to order with toppings as simple as cheese or as complex as teriyaki with a pineapple slice on top! FYI - If you hit Izzy's during peak hours, be prepared for a bit of a wait.

For a little romance, head to Cafe Fiore. The restaurant is small (under 10 tables) and very intimate, perfect for some alone time. I would sit outside if you have the option. The menu features a mixture of classics and unusual dishes that you aren't likely to find. They have a vast wine list and if you go to the Web site, you can search the wine selections with an interactive system. That way, you can check to see if your favorite wine is available for you and your sweetheart!

Evan's American Gourmet Cafe is another small restaurant located in a cozy home and serves up an excellent selection of upscale American cuisine. It's a little farther than some of the other locations but definitely worth the effort. Evan's is owned by a darling couple and they also own The Cantina (another on my list). Check out their Web site, I especially like the "map" link with directions from London. :)

If you are craving Mexican - head over to The Cantina for a delicious margarita and some authentic Mexican favorites. They have numerous accolades and specials Tuesdays-Fridays. Additionally for you beer lovers, there are 30 beers to choose from with 16 on tap!

You can't leave Tahoe without a little seafood and the best place I experienced was The Fresh Ketch which is located right on the Lake (and voted best seafood by Tahoe locals). We had a lovely cruise on the lake after the wedding and stopped here for dinner. They offer a variety of dishes so even a seafood beginner can find something tasty. And I must say, if you like oysters, definitely get "Oysters on the Half Shell" YUM! And if you are there on a Tuesday - they are only $1.25. They have specials each day of the week so be sure to check before heading over if you are interested in getting a deal.

And lastly, Ernie's Coffee Shop - the staple of good ole' fashioned American classics. The food is as good as home cooked, very reasonably priced and the service is with a smile. And rumor has it that the gas station next door is the cheapest in town - never hurts to check that out while you're there!

**For the North Lake Tahoe visitor - check out Gar Woods Grill and Pier Restaurant on the North Shore. A good friend of mine tells me there is patio seating with a great view and a potent daquiri drink called the Wet Woody. She claims is delicious but warns that it's "guaranteed hangover material!" So...enjoy at your own risk!

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's a Deal!

How fitting that a Lake Tahoe deal was delivered right to my inbox today...Travelocity is advertising rates for Tahoe on flights, hotels and activities. If you are in the process of planning a trip - check out this link: Travelocity Tahoe Deals! You may find just what you are looking for. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's a Deal!

Attention travelers! United Airlines is having a fantastic "Coast to Coast" sale. I've included the link below for you to check out. The rates start at $99 each way but the flights are across the country - it's really hard to find deals like this when you are trying to travel from one coast to the other! The travel must take place between Aug 16 and Jan 11 of next year.

The catch is the best deals are on Tues/Wed/Sat and be mindful that there are some blackout dates...but if you find what you are looking for, book it and enjoy the savings! :) If you're interested, click HERE!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

South Lake Tahoe - home sweet home

Although I know there are a variety of hotels to stay at and I'm sure that they are very nice...I stayed in a house and would highly recommend it if it's possible for you. It's really great to be able to have a kitchen and lots of space. Plus, you get incredible views of the Lake and have a chance to meet your neighbors - which in some cases end up being locals who can point you in the right direction of great places to eat and sights to see. We used Accommodation Station Rentals to search for the houses we stayed in. They have a huge variety of sizes and locations - we were very pleased with our options. The house I stayed at for the majority of the trip was located on Heavenly Mountain with 3 levels, 2 decks both with views of the Lake, a pool table, an old school Pacman game, tons of DVDs, a porch swing and a hot tub. It was wonderful!

If you decide against renting a house (too short of a visit, not enough people, etc.) then I would suggest looking into the hotel below as an option for your trip.

Forest Suites Resort - they are located on Heavenly and are pretty reasonable, it was $106/night when I checked the site but you may even find cheaper rates on the discount travel sites. They also have "Special Offers" on their homepage so be sure to check that too!

And I couldn't help but include this link that I came across. It seems a little more budget friendly for rentals and if you can swing it, it's worth it! Lake Village Resort - they have a big selection of condos, townhomes and cabins available as rentals and the prices are extremely reasonable - starting as low as $139/night. How can you beat that? :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

South Lake Tahoe - take it all in

Sorry for the delay in posts everyone - I was in South Lake Tahoe this past weekend for my cousin Jay's wedding. Congrats Jay and Jen! xoxo While there, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to do some research and use it as my next destination. The weather was amazing and the Lake truly takes your breath away when you see it for the first time. Although I wasn't able to see and try out as many places as I had hoped, I got in a lot of research and am already trying to find time to go back!

I flew into the Reno/Tahoe International Airport and it's about an hour to an hour and a half from the airport to South Lake Tahoe. I would recommend renting a car either at the airport (the drive is beautiful as you get closer) or take a shuttle (like the South Tahoe Express) and rent a car once you arrive in town. Either way, you'll need some sort of transportation to get around while there since it's a small city and doesn't have advanced public transportation. Additionally, since it's a tourist town, do your best to pack everything you'll need (other than groceries, etc.) because it can be a bit pricey. :)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Napa Valley - hints and tips

My last little bits will hopefully help to make your trip a little easier, a little more enjoyable and very memorable.

Visit mid-week. There's a lot less traffic and some hotels have lower rates which means more money for food, wine and fun activities.

Speaking of food, wine and fun idea of a perfect fit would be dining at French Laundry or one of the other fine restaurants in the area. If you don't have a reservation and decide on a whim (sounds familiar), head over and prepare to wait - most likely, they'll fit you in. But don't quote me on that, always have a back-up just in case! :)

Try using Silverado Trail as your north-south driving route. It's more scenic and less crowded.

Rutherford Hill Winery's picnic area has a great view, and is nearly empty when picnic areas on the main highway are packed. My ideal picnic? ***Baguette, at least 3 cheeses, fresh fruit and of course, a great bottle of wine*** As a courtesy to the winery, buy a bottle of wine from them to enjoy with your picnic (they'll open it for you if you don't have an opener).

By the way, a great place for picnic goods is Sunshine Market on Main Street in St. Helena (pronounced Hel-EE-na) which is about 30 minutes north of Napa. You'll find an excellent selection of cheeses, fruits and baked goods. Don't forget to grab napkins and utensils while you're there.

While in St. Helena, check out Steve's Hardware for fun kitchen tools and gadgets ranging from tiny tart pans to the biggest wooden spoons you've seen in real life - I'm talking Harry Potter movie style.

PS - If you're near Yountville in the morning (about half way between Napa and St. Helena), stop by Gordon's for coffee with the's a great way to learn more fun secrets of the area.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Napa Valley - more than just wine

If you've exhausted yourself with the wineries, there are plenty of other fun activities to check out while in the area.

I mentioned COPIA in an earlier post and it's a must see! It's the perfect place to learn about the area and have the chance to mingle with other visitors and experts. COPIA is a non-profit that began in 2003 offering a variety of things to explore including art exhibitions, edible organic gardens, films, concerts, etc. Whether you're a home cook or a gourmet chef, a wine novice or connoisseur - there's something here for everyone. Oh...and if you have time to stay for a bite, Julia's Kitchen is a must (that's Julia, as in Julia you see what I mean!).

Another way to experience the area and still get out and active is through a bike tour. Check out Wine Country Bikes located outside of Napa in Healdsburg for a variety of tour options and get a chance to see wine country in a whole new way!

If you have the chance, there are hot springs in Calistoga and I found a great deal on mud baths. These are so fun for a group and romantic for couples. Click here to check out the deals at Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa & Resort.

Last but not least, another tasting. But wait, it's not what you think! Try an olive oil tasting - thanks to Giada and her latest travel show, I learned about Round Pond Vineyard which offers olive oil tastings and it looked so fun...and yummy too! The vineyard is located about 14 miles north of Napa so keep that in mind when planning your travels. I have this one on my personal list for my next trip. It's the wannabe foodie in me. :)

PS - thanks Kell for the tip on Giada's show, it definitely came in handy!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Napa Valley - you take a napa, you don't move to Napa!

It's not easy to find an affordable place to stay in Napa, so here are my thoughts:

Now of course, if you're really on a budget you can look to the chains like Best Western, etc. And honestly, if that makes it easier for you to be able to spend more money on the enjoyment of the trip itself (wine tours, tastings, nice meals) then by all means, splurge where you will get the most out of it! :) Personally, I wanted the full overall experience so my recommendations are a variety of options on the lower end of the pay scale - because believe me, you can spend a fortune on a BEAUTIFUL room or you can look to the list below for some great choices that won't break the bank.

Old World Inn has gotten rave reviews from both the media and past guests. It's a darling bed & breakfast located in Downtown Napa within walking distance to the shops, restaurants, COPIA (The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts) and the fabulous Wine Train. The rooms start at $139/night which is an amazing deal considering all of the amenities and the location. Be sure to check the Web site, they have great specials!

Wine Valley Lodge is slightly outside of Downtown Napa but it's a great deal and close enough that you can still experience the town - a few blocks farther than Old World Inn. The rooms are rather bland and simple but if you are just viewing it as a place to stay, you will be just fine. It's set up like the old motels where it's all one level and the rooms open up to the pool. The rates are really reasonable, I just checked Expedia and it was only $80/night.

For those who plan to be more in the Sonoma area, check out Sonoma Creek Inn, the rates are as low as $79 in the low season...what a steal!

And just for fun...if you have a group - De Mar House is so charming, I just couldn't resist. It's an adorable Victorian home located in Old Town Napa. It has 3 bedroom suites and rents out the entire home for groups. It holds up to 8 people so it's perfect for a bachelorette party or weekend wine tour. And to give you an idea, it's only $525 per night for 8 people on a weekend night (the higher priced nights) - that's a GREAT deal when you break it out per person. :) Hint to my girlfriends...feel free to organize one of your bachelorette parties or a girls weekend there - I'll be sure to be the first to reply YES.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Napa Valley - just a little taste

When you go, I would suggest planning ahead of time for what kind of trip you'd like. For example - is this a learning trip? Do you want to understand how wine is made and learn about the different scents and tastes of different wines? Is this a trip devoted to specific wineries? Are there some that are on a "these are my favorites" list that you MUST visit? Are you a fan of only white wines or only red wines? this a casual wine tasting? For me, I'm all about the casual so I chose to look for good deals on tastings and spend a little extra money on travel so I can enjoy the wine and not be concerned about the ability to drive later. :)
Since the trip can be pricey, I look for free tastings (very hard to come by) which are listed below. I've also included a few that aren't free but pretty close.

  • Downtown Napa wine tasting - "almost free" just buy a Taste Napa Downtown card for $20, it allows you to taste at any of the ten downtown Napa tasting rooms for only 10 cents a glass
  • Rombauer Vineyards - it's free but I know a few people that have visited and had a very difficult time leaving without at least a bottle...PS try to visit on a weekday since weekends can be very busy
  • V. Sattui - the tasting is free but it can be very busy...go figure!
  • Sequoia Grove - now...even though you didn't technically visit the site, I will pass on the knowledge that if you mention you saw a "Two For One Tasting" offer on - you can enjoy a bit of a nice discount
  • Robert Mondavi - along the same lines as above, here's a coupon for two for one
  • Hess Collection - another two for one!
  • Chandon - one last two for one, just click here

Another good tip is if you choose to go to a winery that does cost a bit more - buy one glass and share. :)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Napa Valley - hello wine country!

I would say that this location needs no introduction and is one that I'm thrilled to be writing about since I've grown to really appreciate and enjoy wine over the years. Located north of San Francisco and the Bay area - depending on where you fly in and are driving from, it can be 1-2 hours. When booking a flight, check the airports in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and Oakland. The fastest drive is from Oakland or Sacramento.

Even if you don't know anything about wine or aren't a huge wine fan, the scenery is gorgeous and is an ideal getaway that feels like you're in another country with the convenience of a (hopefully) affordable flight. Be sure to check the weather for the time of year you are planning to visit - the temps dip to the 50s and 60s in the winter months and reach into the 80s during the summer months.