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My Favorite Places and Things to Do in Jacksonville

March 16, 2015

Before Will and I moved to Tennessee, I made a list of my favorite places and things we did in Jacksonville. We lived in the beaches area for a year and a half and made a lot of great memories with family and friends there. Whether you are a new resident or just visiting, there’s something for everyone on this list.


  • TacoLu // Tacos are a must, try the Grilled Mahi and the Bangin’ Shrimp tacos
  • Zeta Brewing Co. // Great beer, food and atmosphere near the beach
  • The Brix Taphouse // Good spot for nightlife with live music or a DJ most weekends
  • Milano’s on Kernan // This was right around the corner from our condo, go on Thursday for $1 Pizza Night and try the Long Island Iced Tea – the strongest we’ve ever had!
  • Safe Harbor Seafood Market and Restaurant // Mayport is where the best seafood in town is caught and you can go right to the source by shopping and eating at Safe Harbor. Sit inside or outside with an incredible view of the water.
  • Bold Bean Coffee Roasters // I usually went to Starbucks to work, but I found this local coffee brewer in Ponte Vedra before moving and loved it – great coffee served in ceramic mugs and nice atmosphere
  • MOJO Kitchen // Great local BBQ and live music
  • Shim Sham Room // A speakeasy style cocktail lounge in Jacksonville Beach
  • Culhane’s Irish Pub // We were addicted to the chicken tenders here – so crispy!


  • Beaches Town Center // I love this whole street for their unique shops and galleries
  • Bluetique North Florida // This is a curated boutique by Goodwill, great spot to shop for quality secondhand clothing and accessories, including many new items
  • Beaches Green Market // This farm market is every Saturday in the beaches area – purchase local honey, maple syrup, fruits and veggies, seafood, and Kenyan grown coffee
  • St. John’s Town Center
  • Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach // So many cute local shops and restaurants on Centre Street, including antiques, upscale clothing, candy makers, etc – it’s so worth the drive!


  • North Beaches Art Walk // This art walk was the first event I ever attended at the beaches and I loved walking around shopping local arts and crafts
  • Jacksonville Downtown Art Walk // Much like above, but downtown with live music too
  • Driftwood Jacksonville Beach // A family friend co-owns this shop, full of unique coastal finds from Florida artists
  • One Spark Festival // This festival started in Jacksonville and is now known as “The World’s Largest Crowdfunding Festival” for all types of projects, including the arts


  • Atlantic Beach // Our favorite spot to hang on the beach and bring our dog. Dogs are allowed on this beach all day, unlike Jax Beach (which is before 8am, after 5pm)
  • The Golf Club of Amelia Island // This was about 40 minutes from where we lived, but it’s a scenic drive once you get off the highway and the course is beautiful
  • TPC Sawgrass // Will golfed here with his work buddies and it was his favorite of all the courses in town – it’s a pro course so it makes sense! He also went with his sister to The Players Championship tournament
  • Adventure Landing // We went here for the put-put golf and arcade games, but it is mainly a water park in the summer and they have ice skating in winter. Live alligators hang out near the entrance (it’s a fenced-in habitat, of course!)


  • Hawthorn Salon // the coolest salon in town, I just love their branding and decorations. I highly recommend Corrine and Chelsea for cut and color
  • Baptist Primary Care // Dr. Michael Kring took care of me when I broke my toes – he asked about my exercise habits and made sure I knew what I could still do with my injury. Being healthy starts with exercise, so I appreciated his holistic views on medicine.
  • A1A Family Eyecare



Your turn: Have you been to Jacksonville and have a favorite spot I didn’t mention? Tell us about it in the comments!


Goodbye Cincinnati, Hello Jacksonville

September 26, 2013

To explain my long absence here lately, we are now residents of Jacksonville, Florida! I had big plans for posts in August and September, assuming I would have plenty of time for my business plus everything that comes with moving across the country. I couldn’t be more wrong! Between visiting friends and family, scheduling movers, and packing up everything we own, not much happened on the business side of things. I basically left my job at the beginning of August to have a month to prepare to move. It took most of September to get settled in, but I’m starting to get back into a routine.

We are super excited to be in Florida, but also sad to leave behind so many wonderful friends and places in Ohio. I thought it would be fun to list some of my favorite things that we did while we lived there, an Ohio bucket list for you!


  • See the Cincinnati Reds play at Great American Ballpark
  • Go outdoor ice skating in Fountain Square
  • Experience the sights and shop international groceries at Jungle Jim’s – my grandmother would spend 3 hours here every time she came to visit, no lie!
  • Spend a Saturday at Findlay Market – Dojo Gelato, I’m thinking of you!
  • Have dinner at ThreeSixty, a revolving restaurant with amazing views from the riverfront of Cincinnati.
  • Try local Ohio BBQ (Montgomery Inn BBQ and City BBQ)
  • Volunteer and shop at Crafty Supermarket
  • Have some coneys or even a 3-way at Skyline Chili
  • Go bar hopping at Mt. Adams (my favorites – The Blind Lemon, Monk’s Cove, and Longworth’s) and go up to the monastery for an incredible view of the city and Ohio/Kentucky border.
  • See the shark-rays at Cincinnati Aquarium
  • Have a Lager or Dunkel at the Hofbrauhaus and enjoy some German culture, including a live accordion player. (I just discovered that my maiden name, Hagerman means “North German,” so of course I love this place.)
  • Attend an outdoor concert at Riverbend (Incubus, Bush, Dave Matthews Band)
  • Attend a match at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament
  • See a show at the Aronoff (Beauty + the Beast, Seinfeld)


  • Go on the Candelight Tour of renovated historic homes in the Oregon District
  • Take your pet to Oak Grove Dog Park – we took Cody here all the time, it’s free with separate areas for large and small dogs.
  • Attend the Celtic Festival live music, including Gaelic Storm who performed in the third class party scene on Titanic.
  • Browse great works of art at The Dayton Art Institute and enroll your child in Summer Art Camp, which I attended in grade school.
  • Attend a Dayton Fliers basketball game and/or the NCAA First Four at the UD Arena
  • Go to Elsa’s for authentic Mexican food and the Bad Juan, the strongest margarita ever (they make you stop drinking after two)
  • Have dinner in the Oregon District (Thai 9)
  • Take advantage of Restaurant Week to get discounts on fine dining (El Meson, Figlio)
  • See a show at the Schuster Center (The Lion King)
  • Attend a Dayton Dragons game – they are minor league, but tickets usually sell out!
  • Go to the Ohio Renaissance Festival to shop local artists, see plays acted out in mud, and attend a live jousting match!
  • Attend an outdoor concert at JD Legends and get your redneck on, a.k.a. great people watching, tiki bar, and a party in the sand (Badfish, Justin Moore, Aaron Lewis, Charlie Daniels Band)
  • Buy local and organic food straight from the farmers at 2nd Street Market

If you happen to visit Cincinnati or Dayton yourself, you have my recommendations! There are tons of great things to do in these two cities that I didn’t mention but I had to stop at some point. If you have any must dos to add to my list, please share them in the comments!

Photo by Steven Weis.


Across the USA to Alabama

May 24, 2013

I’m talking my about my favorite places to visit in Alabama for the Across the USA series over at Elembee today! Head on over there for some travel tips from this Bama girl and photos of my favorite state. Kory from A New Journey is joining me to tell about another southern state that I love, Tennessee!

*EDIT (April 11, 2015)*

Lisa did an overhaul of her website (it looks amazing!) but the Across the USA Series didn’t make the cut. This was my piece about Alabama:

I lived in Alabama for my entire life up to about 3 years ago, when I moved to Ohio. I currently live in Dayton, OH with my husband and little dog. We still visit Alabama often to see family and friends, and we both miss living on campus at the University of Alabama!

Alabama has a lot of rural beauty with scenic farmland, beaches, lakes, rivers, and a few cities in between. It’s so wonderful in the spring when everything is green and there are blooms everywhere! It really is true what they say about Southerners being so nice, you can’t go anywhere without being greeted by friendly locals. Since there aren’t any professional sports teams, everyone has a lot of enthusiasm for their chosen college team. Whether you’re an Auburn or Alabama fan (and you have to pick one!), there’s a lot of camaraderie and it’s great to be a part of.

It’s hard to pick just a few places to visit, since everything is so spread out, so I decided to talk about each of my favorite cities in Alabama and hopefully you will have a chance to visit at least one of them!

  • Birmingham: As Alabama’s largest city there are so many options for whatever you may be interested in. For some good southern comfort food check out the Irondale Cafe, which is the original Whistle Stop Cafe from the Fried Green Tomatoes book and movie! I highly recommend visiting Homewood, where you will find many local shops and art galleries. Drive up to Red Mountain to see the statue of Vulcan standing high above the city. The view is incredible, plus Vulcan Park is a great place to picnic or go in the museum to learn about the history of the iron and steel industry in Birmingham. If you want to learn more area history, go Downtown to the Civil Rights District. There you can visit the Civil Rights Institute and see sites of historical events that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, including the 16th Street Baptist Church.
  • Mobile: This is the place to be for white sandy beaches and great seafood. It’s also about an hour from Gulf Shores, which is another top vacation spot in Alabama. Try Felix’s Fish Camp for freshly caught fish, oysters and shrimp and an excellent view of the bay. Visit during Mardi Gras if you can – despite popular belief, the original Mardi Gras took place in Mobile and they take a lot of pride in that fact. There are several weeks of parades and they are so much fun!
  • Huntsville: If you are into science, visit the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. The museum has many exhibits that are great for families. You can also experience the anti-gravity and simulation of space travel in amusement park rides outside the museum. If you are really adventurous, you can enroll in Space Camp (for kids) or Space Academy (for adults) and train like an astronaut. Travel back in time with a visit to Alabama Constitution Village, a living village depicting Huntsville as it was in 1819 at the time of the state’s founding.
  • Tuscaloosa: Visit in the fall to watch University of Alabama football and experience southern tailgating on the quad. It’s not your average tailgate, many people grill out wearing dresses and polos – some people even set up their tent with furniture! We love our football and it doesn’t hurt that Bama is the National Champion for two years running! It’s also worth it to take a tour and see the few buildings that survived the Civil War, plus the campus is beautiful!

Photo by Steve Driskell.


Family Trip to Mackinac Island

December 26, 2012
Family Photo

Grand Hotel from the Ferry

As promised, I am back with more info on traveling to Mackinac Island, Michigan. Since this trip happened in June, I wanted to make sure to post about it before the end of the year! This time we went with our sister Cheryl, Aunt Felicia, and cousins Brittany + Rex and their sweet baby, Elliana. We had so much fun! Even though it was rainy for the first couple of days, we still had plenty to do. We split our trip into two cities, so here is the breakdown of activities.

Mackinaw City

The first night we stayed at American Boutique Inn. This small motel has a lot of character, plus it is cheap and right on the lakefront. Will and I just happened to get the Somewhere In Time Suite, which was a funny surprise! Since the movie was filmed in this area, you see references to it everywhere, and to tell the truth, it’s pretty cheesy (but I love it!).

Somewhere In Time Suite

We spent the afternoon in the downtown shopping district, where there are a lot of great places to buy souvenirs and treats. We saw great prices on shirts, especially at Momentum – I paid $17 for my MACKINAW CITY moose hoodie! Of course, you can’t visit the area without stopping by one of the fudge shops or The Popcorn Factory, where Will recommends you try the dill pickle flavor!

Mackinaw City

Dinner was Mama Mia’s Pizza, where we shared pitchers of LaBatt and Supreme and Hawaiian pizzas. I’m not one to like pineapple on my pizza, but this was delicious! Don’t forget to visit the free museum upstairs while you are waiting on your food! The NBA Finals were on, so the guys headed to Dixie Saloon (they have saddle barstools!) to watch the game, while the girls took a walk on the lakefront to see Mackinac Bridge in the sunset.

Mackinaw Bridge in SunsetMackinaw Bridge Sunset

Mackinac Island

It rained a lot Monday morning, so we took the noon ferry out of St. Ignace with Arnold Transit. While waiting to check into the hotel, we went shopping on the main strip. Again, this was a great time to be a fudgie and get some treats!

We stayed at the beautiful Mission Point Resort which is also right on the lakefront. Make sure to try the $5 martinis next to the dining room – if you’re lucky, the bartender will tell you what drink you are, then make it for you. We also had fun drinking mojitos and learning logic tricks from the bartender at the hotel bar. They certainly do everything they can to keep their guests entertained!

We had our first dinner at The Gate House, if you remember from my first Mackinac post, we sang karaoke here on our honeymoon. I am happy to report that the food there is wonderful! Try the whitefish, which is fresh from Lake Michigan. It was pouring rain that night, so we took a horse-drawn taxi both ways.

Mackinac Carriage Ride

Tuesday morning we took advantage of the clear weather and rented bikes from the resort and biked the loop around the island.

Biking around Mackinac

We headed to the Grand Hotel to check out the shops and the view from the cupola. It started pouring again, so we bought ponchos and rode to the Yankee Rebel Tavern for lunch. I will never ride a bike in a poncho again, that was dangerous!

Grand Hotel

It stopped raining after lunch so some of us went on a carriage tour. Will and I decided see some frights at The Haunted Theatre, which is scarier than you might think!

Mackinac Main Street

We wanted to live large on our last night, so we spent the entire (very late) evening at the Pink Pony. We ate an amazing dinner on the patio and enjoyed our last evening together. Felicia took the baby back to bed, while the rest of us found ourselves in the bar. We had fun with the house musician Brian, he takes requests and can play almost anything!

As luck would have it, Wednesday was a beautiful day, but we had to catch the 10:00 am ferry back to St. Ignace. Bay View Bed + Breakfast coffee shop had yummy breakfast sandwiches and coffee, however, we almost missed our ferry because they were slow with our group’s order. Don’t let that stop you from going, but I wouldn’t recommend going 20 minutes before the ferry leaves!


All in all, this was such a fun trip and I learned that Mackinac is perfect for honeymoon and family vacations! There really is something for everyone. If you have any questions or tips about Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, please share them in the comments!

Mission Point

{Photos via Cheryl Culp // Brittany Johns}

In My Suitcase
White shorts, Neon flip flops, White lace tee : Buckle
Jean shorts : Macy’s
Teal cami, Stripe cami, Coral top: Express
Navy floral tank : American Eagle
Jacket : Nike Factory Store
On The Go Bag : Vera Bradley
Sunglasses : Costa Del Mar
Jeans (similar) : Charlotte Russe


Our Honeymoon on Mackinac Island

June 10, 2012

Shepler's Ferry

Two years ago this week, Will and I were still in newly wedded bliss on our honeymoon in Mackinac Island, Michigan. It was a very romantic and secluded, so it was the perfect spot for a honeymoon. The only transportation allowed on the island are bikes and horse-drawn carriages, so we felt as if we had gone back in time. Since our anniversary was last week and we will be returning for the second time this month, I’d like to share some of what we did there, from the fancy honeymoon perspective. When we return from our upcoming family trip, you’ll get to hear more about the cheaper and casual options the island has to offer!

Continue Reading…


Top 5 Paintings to See at The Art Institute of Chicago

February 23, 2011

Chicago Navy Pier

I just took a weekend trip to Chicago with my husband Will and we had an awesome time! With our circle of friends and family, I’m pretty sure that we were the only ones who had not been yet – of course, when you live about 4 hours away, it’s about time! Our friend Mike was very generous to let us stay in his fully-furnished condo downtown next to the Sears Tower. We had a phenomenal view from the 26th floor! We spent the weekend exploring the city, walking around downtown and discovering the Millenium Park with “The Bean” sculpture/modern art/mirror… whatever, it was cool. We also had a chance to go to Navy Pier and eat at Harry Caray’s Tavern and hang out at Houndstooth Saloon, a bar for University of Alabama alumni!

Of course, seeing famous paintings was definitely a highlight of the trip! The Art Institute is so huge that you have to have a plan for what you want to see before you leave. Here are my picks for the top five paintings to see at The Art Institute of Chicago:

American Gothic

American Gothic, Grant Wood: This was the first famous painting that we found completely by accident. I think Will really likes this one and he is most familiar with it. This is when we realized that we should be searching for the famous paintings instead of wandering aimlessly. The museum has a handy visitors guide that tells you where they are located.


Nighthawks, Edward Hopper: Nighthawks is one of my favorite paintings to study in Art History class. I would love to have a print of it in my house one day, because I find it so interesting. In the museum it is one room over from American Gothic on the second floor so you can easily see them both in a short time.

Bedroom at Arles

Bedroom in Arles, Vincent Van Gogh: Van Gogh was a lot more difficult to find, because this painting is in the old wing of the museum. If you ask for directions from a staff member it will make more sense. It is so exciting to see an actual Van Gogh painting and I remember seeing pictures of this for many years in school books.


Time Transfixed, René Magritte: I really enjoy Surrealism because it transports you to a different dimension and makes you think outside the box. This painting is so strange and intriguing and people love it.


The Old Guitarist, Pablo Picasso: Last, but not least, there is a Picasso in The Art Institute! Once again, it was amazing to see an original painting by one of the Masters. We made sure to see this one before we left to take our hungry souls to Harry Caray’s!

It was really awesome to see these original paintings in person. I have been studying them my whole life, and even Will was familiar with many of them, and he is not usually an art person :) Next time you have a chance to visit Chicago, stop by The Art Institute and see these famous paintings!


Fun Places in Ohio: Fountain Square Outdoor Ice Rink

January 10, 2011

Fountain SquareFountain Square

I am so excited that this was the first new place of the year, because I thought it was only a Christmas thing. To find out that it is open until February makes me happy. Will gave me ice skates for Christmas so of course I was eager to try them out! We’ve been to Fountain Square before and that’s how we knew about the ice rink. It turned out to be cheap fun too… I only paid $2 for the both of us! It was freezing outside, but we had a great time! I got a ton of great pictures, and it was just really nice to go out and do something new.