Last week, I visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time. My friend Shelby and I have made a pact now that that we’re graduated and going to live in different cities, with her getting married, and me looking at years of school ahead… we are going to schedule at least one trip a year to make sure we see each other and get out to see the world.

Last summer, it was Washington, DC to visit our mutual friend Claire, and this summer it was Washington state – a state neither of us had been before. This time around, Shelby was a far better planner than I was. With finals, MCAT studying, and coaching, I didn’t have much time for planning so right now, I’m going to shout out Shelby for A) planning the majority of the trip, and B) trekking the streets of Seattle to find green juice with me AND C) doing very challenging hikes with me. You’re an amazing friend.

So back to this trip. We chose Washington because neither of us had been to the PNW and we’re always down to explore. We spent two days in the mountains and a day in the city. While the amount of time we were gone wasn’t what I like to call sufficient enough to get the full feels of this incredible place, the experience is ALWAYS worthwhile. Here is what we did get to do!


Day One:

Shelby and I are still under the rental car age of 25 years old, but my parents gifted us with a rental car for our shared graduation present. This was the only way we were able to get up into the mountains directly from the airport. Thank you, Mom & Dad.

After landing in Sea-Tac, we found our rental car and drove the straight drive up to Mount Rainier National Park, where our Vrbo (similar to AirBnB) was located. In fact, it was located just outside of Ashford, WA about 10 miles from the park entrance. Our cabin was a small A-frame with a lofted bedroom and a cozy feel. It depends on the days of the week you rent, but it’s about $100 a night on average. Our place was PERFECT for us. We had easy access to the park, and it was a beautiful, safe cabin tucked away in the woods.

If you are in the area and need a place to stay when visiting Mt Rainier, I highly recommend our Vrbo spot. Find it here! Whoever invented app-based travel, you’re a genius, my friend.

After we settled in, Shelby and I realized we would be without cell service for the next 48 hours. I wanted to share my adventures so badly, but I think that “unplugging” was really good for me at the time. We got to be up in the mountains experiencing life away from the hustle & bustle, and just enjoy the fresh and clean air up in the mountains. It was so quiet where we stayed; the only sounds we heard were cars driving in and out of the park.

Day Two:

… the start of the hiking days! We drove up into Mount Rainier after examining the map and taking to the park rangers about which hikes we should give a shot in the still-early season. Many of the hikes we’d looked at prior to traveling weren’t open due to snow remaining in the park. On our way up to Paradise, we “stopped by” Narada Falls (which really was a trek through the snow), to view the beautiful falls. The viewpoint gets you close enough to the falls that you feel a good mist. The path to get there was treacherous, but totally worth it.

We then headed to the visitor’s center where we talked to the knowledgeable park rangers and decided on exploring the park and heading up to Paradise, where one can expect to find a great view of Mount Rainier itself. It’s absolutely beautiful and worth the loopy drive up there.

On our way back down from Paradise and the epic view of Mount Rainier, we had planned on hiking the Wonderland trail. Instead, on the way back down the twisty road that beautifully displays Christine Falls, I noticed a bridge above the falls I hadn’t before. We checked out the map and decided that we’d make the 1.9 mile hike up to both Christine Falls, and further down, Comet Falls. Why not?

The hike was beautiful. Not far into the trail, we found the bridge over Christine Falls, visible from the road I had previously seen. This made for a scenic view and perspective for just how high up we were. The bridge was a little creaky and my odd fear of heights-over-water combination actually did just fine. The view was worth it. We kept going past the bridge for the remainder of the hike but only about .2 miles from Comet Falls, we decided to turn around. As mentioned previously, we visited at a time early in the season, so there was snow remaining and that was exactly the case. After reaching this point, to our dismay, we made a decision to turn around. The drop off was too steep and the snow may have just been too slippery to take that risk. I was sad to leave after coming so far, but safety is always my main concern when out in nature (especially without cell service). I recommend this hike if you’re adventurous and enjoy chasing waterfalls. 😉 It wasn’t the most difficult hike I’ve done so far, but that’s not to say it was easy. I also recommend doing this hike in the middle of the summer/fall if you want to make it the full way without concern for falling off a drop-off with snow present.

bridge over Christine Falls

This day was topped off with dinner and local wine (which I wish I could get around here).

Day Three:

The second day of hiking. This day, Shelby and I decided on the ___ trail. Everything was going fine until we looked up and realized just how much elevation we would be gaining. This was due to an accidental wrong turn made by the both of us; we didn’t chose to go the wrong way, we simply unintentionally chose the more challenging route. Little known fact, Midwesterners have an even harder time with physical activity when it involves a difference in elevation (the ground is pretty flipping flat here), so this was exceptionally difficult for us and took quite a few breaks to get through it.

We hiked this roughly 4 mile hike “backwards” and I enjoyed every second of it. When we were *finally* close to where we thought the top was, we were watching out for the lookout so graciously promised on the map.

Shelby reminiscing on her “forced” childhood hikes 😉

There were several people around the back corner near the top, and what appeared to be deviance from the trail, but according to my Apple Watch, we had more distance to go before we had reached the lookout. I knew those people were not where they were supposed to be. The view from the lookout was worth every foot of elevation gain (a little more than 1300 feet) !!! After finally reaching the sign that pointed to “lookout,” Shelby and I downed water, apples, and some good-sized handfuls of Dot’s pretzels at the top with a gorgeous view.

not a bad view, right?

After finishing this exceptionally challenging hike, we decided we needed food in the near future, before the notorious “hanger” would strike for either one of us. With a bit of a drive to the next city to grab something, we decided on checking out the National Park Inn on the way out of the park. To my pleasant surprise, there were tons of fresh options, local fish dishes, and vegan options. I naturally gravitate towards plant-based foods, so I went for a dish that had a whole grain tortilla base layered with mashed cauliflower, arugla, roasted chickpeas, and roasted cauliflower. I’m not sure if how hungry I was made this one of my favorite things I’ve eaten of if it truly was, but damn that was good. I think I’ll be making my own version. 🙂

After making it out of the park and enjoying the views for the last time, we made the drive back to Seattle to return the rental car. We took the light rail from the airport to the neighborhood where my Shelby’s family lives and got to begin our look into the beautiful city.

Day Four:

Our first and final day IN Seattle. Knowing we’d only have one day, we decided to prioritize the things we really wanted to see while we were there. We saw the Space Needle from a distance – the entire skyline is gorgeous – but we didn’t feel a compulsory need to go up into it. In fact, I think Shelby perceived my fear of heights to be a determining factor 😉 And let’s be real here, this day was pretty focused on finding the food.

In the neighborhood we were staying in, we came across a plethora of good restaurants, shops, and parks. We began our day going toward Pike Place Market and checked out the area. It was a great experience – the fish-tossing, the smell of *very* fresh fish itself, and all the other ornate items being sold at the market. Shelby and I walked around to find some form of food and we decided on Honest Biscuits. They featured locally sourced ingredients and plant-based options. Seriously, so good. Everyone loves biscuits, but they’ve even better when the ingredients are more wholesome.

Shelby and I each got a breakfast sandwich where we could pick the done-ness of our eggs, and choices of meat, and cheese. Other potential contenders were the biscuits and gravy made from lentils. If I find myself in Seattle again, I will be heading back here.

After cruising through the market for the majority of the day, Shelby and I went back to the neighborhood we were staying in – where the Brooks headquarters are located, along with several new restaurants! I got a perfectly portioned and priced poke bowl with tons of toppings, protein, and choice of rice. I can’t remember the name (so sorry) but I don’t think you can make it to the Pacific Northwest without getting Poke or at least some form of seafood. 🙂

Shelby and I were then on a quest for dessert. And much to my surprise, Shelby chose a plant-based cafe, Flying Apron. It was adorable and the food and coffee was amazing. You know when espresso is so rich that you don’t even need milk because the flavor is just that good? That’s what this coffee was like. And the vanilla birthday cake (which just happens to be my favorite)… that was some of the best cake I’ve had.

Then, there was dinner. And I was full. We went to a local Mexican fusion restaurant where I was happy with chips & guac and a watermelon margarita. When you’re on vacation, you have to try everything.

We spent the last night on the patio enjoying the fresh air and shortly after, packed our bags for our early flight. Though our trip was extremely short, I am so grateful to be able to travel. Being in new places is such a refreshing experience regardless of where you go. The crisp mountain air does not hurt, either. And with that, PNW, you will see more of me in the future.


Thanks for reading!

xx,

M

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A city, a district that is rich in history, people, and endless things to do whether you’re a history buff or not. The streets are cobblestone, homes are rows upon rows of…row homes, and culture & diversity are abundant. I had never been to this busy, trendy, yet historic city before, but I am extremely glad I was able to visit our nation’s capital. A friend and I decided spontaneously on February 14, Valentine’s Day, that we were going to go visit a mutual friend who was interning at the National Rural Health Institute this summer. Boy am I glad we did. I learned quite a bit about our country in our short few days at our nation’s capital. With this, I took away a few things that may help you if you decide to visit this beautiful place.


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morning MARC train

ONE: FLY INTO BWI

Flying into Washington, DC from ND was not the most cost-effective option, but flying into Baltimore was MUCH better (not to mention the usage of SkyMiles). Regardless, if you want to visit DC, I recommend looking for tickets for Baltimore-Washington International airport and then taking the $8 MARC train into DC from the airport. If you have the luck I had, it will probably be much more affordable than flying into Reagan.

TWO: METRO

Like most big cities, taking the subway/metro/tube/ ETC is probably your best bet of getting from destination A –> B in terms of cost, time, and experience. Navigating the Metro is easy, in fact, the most difficult thing you might have to do is change trains to get to your final destination. Riding the Metro is what the people of that city do every day. Sure, you’re a tourist and just visiting, and yep, you probably look like one too, but you’ll get to see what the locals do as well as feel the vibes of the city.

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food truck burrito bowl with kimchi 

THREE: FOOD TRUCKS

Like most big cities, one could argue that everything is expensive in DC. This includes food. But on Urban Street, you’ll find an abundance of food trucks. Food truck food tends to be less expensive than dining in, and it’s usually fresh. We ate on Urban Street twice – the first time I got a chicken burrito bowl with kimchi, and the second, rice and garlic ginger spinach, broccoli, and cabbage. Each of my meals were between $7-8, were huge portions, and very, very, very delicious.

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basement air b+b

FOUR: AIR B&B

I’m sure that not everyone’s experience with Air B&B is amazing, but we could not have been more satisfied with our stay. This is an affordable option for travelers that gives you something hotels don’t: being in a neighborhood. With residents of that neighborhood. Ours was in the basement of a red row home, included wifi, metro cards, and bike passes. On top of this, we were in the middle of a beautiful historic neighborhood staying amongst the locals. If you’re interested in our exact spot, (which I totally recommend), click here.

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tourist?

FIVE: NATIONAL MALL

Do your research ahead of time on which monuments and museums you would like to see while you’re visiting the area. I was in DC for 4 full days, saw plenty, and didn’t see even more. If you weren’t previously informed, the monuments and museums are all free admission. Hell yes. We made it to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (get your free tickets ahead of time!), the Museum of Natural History, the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. Absolutely beautiful and so very beautifully American.

My favorites? 

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espresso + vanilla w/ dark chocolate

  • Gelato at Pitango nearly nightly; the espresso flavor is to die for.

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my favorite exhibit.

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  • The Food exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. It displays the different changes in our country’s food system throughout the years including cooking devices like the George Foreman grill, as well as the evolution of the government-issued food pyramids over across history.

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  • The shops in Georgetown as well as Georgetown Cupcakes. It’s a must.

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  • George Washington University’s Medical Campus and seeing the emergency department where Ronald Reagan was taken after being shot (and saved), in the 1980s.
  • The Lincoln Memorial – it’s HUGE, dare I say monumental. 😉 Way bigger than I had pictured in my 8th grade US History class.

As mentioned previously, you cannot leave this city saying you’ve “done it all.” It’s not possible. The key is to get the most out of your experience. 🙂  If you’re heading to our nation’s capital for vacation or a conference, I hope this helps you get the most out of it.

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Cheers, and happy travels!

xx,

M

 

Hello, everyone! This past week has been wonderful. I have hardly thought about school, and as much as I love learning, stepping away for a few days has been the best thing I could ask for. Now that I’m recharged, I am ready to finished my 6th semester of undergrad, strong. 🙂

So where was I?

When asked what my plans were for spring break, and being told I was flying to Las Vegas, I got the common response of “VEEEEGAAAAS!” Yes, Vegas is known for being “Sin City,” but coming here for the second time with one of my best friends, we had different plans. Last year, we walked all over the strip and discovered places we wanted to return to, and others we wanted to explore even more and that’s exactly what we did! Want to know how I did Vegas? Or if you are interested in all the food? Keep reading!

DAY ONE:

Before getting here, Koryn & I FaceTimed for over two hours the night before deciding what we should bring with. The weather forecast giving us some foreshadowing to a gorgeous week. The entire week here was predicted to be in the mid-80s and not a cloud in the sky. Boy did we luck out – it’s March, people. The majority of our packing lists included swimsuits, shorts, tank tops, and sundresses. We did well.

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not bad!

When we landed and got checked into our resort around dinner time, we hit the pool as soon as we could (don’t worry, we wore sunscreen). After feeling like we hit heaven prematurely, we headed to our favorite restaurant from last time, Buddy V’s. It’s located in the Venetian (an Italian-themed resort), and has many options for meals. I enjoyed Madeline’s Whole Wheat pasta with veggies. One thing I wish we had realized when we made our reservation is just how long it would take us to walk to the Venetian from the Monte Carlo (we were nearly late for our dinner reservation, but trust me, it was worth the fast-paced walk). Another thing to note about Buddy’s is the croutons. Koryn & I shared a caesar salad so we could reminisce on the warm, risotto croutons.

 

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koryn’s photo, her credit 🙂

Find it H E R E:

https://www.venetian.com/restaurants/buddy-v-ristorante.html

After dinner, we walked to the Bellagio to explore before getting on the tram. To our surprise, we found a gelato shop ran by an Italian family at Cafe Gelato. My friend Koryn got cappuccino gelato and I got pistachio. It reminded me of the endless amount of gelato I had whilst in Italy myself…

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pistachio heaven

Find gelato H E R E!

https://www.bellagio.com/en/restaurants/quick-eats.html#/Cafe%20Gelato

DAY TWO: 

It was one of the best Mondays I’ve had in a long time. We woke up and hit the gym for a quick workout before we stocked up on fruits & veggies at the grocery store. It was 85 degrees before noon so we took advantage of the pool. Can we just take a second to reflect on how amazing the sun feels when you live in North Dakota? Ok. Anyway. After getting cleaned up, Koryn and I headed back to the strip and explored some more resorts and walked the strip (outside). New York New York is like walking through just a smaller version of the Big Apple, so I’ve been told.

The restaurants within the building feel as if you’re outside; restaurants that emulate street food, American food, and many places to find shakes for dessert. Koryn and I couldn’t decide where to eat this time! We tried Broadway Bar & Grill and sat in what felt like a patio. We shared a salad, mozzarella triangles, and fresh cut french fries. Healthy or nutrient dense? Nope.  But what about dessert? Neither of us had been to Shake Shack so we gave that a whirl. Zero regrets.

DAY THREE:

Another 85+ degree day spent by the pool in the morning with SPF of 50 and not a cloud in the sky. No sunburns, minimal tan lines we are in great shape. Let me take a second to talk here. Koryn and I got to nerd out a little this Tuesday. Within the Luxor resort is where you can find the Bodies exhibit. Being both of us have taken gross anatomy and lab, we have experienced the marvels of the human body and been fascinated each time we walked out of class. Bodies was a briefer version of our previous knowledge, however, our minds were blown away when we got to the embryonic section of the exhibit.

There were various embryos beginning at 4 weeks of life all the way up to 24 weeks. Each embryo showed immense progression of developmental features of the fetus and the bones and cartilage were specifically preserved to portray the development. The embryo at 8 weeks was smiling. We were mind-blown!

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a book review to come 🙂

After we had our fair-share of anatomy for the day, we walked back to the Monte Carlo for dinner – 800 degrees pizza. I’m sure many of you have had wood fired pizza, but this stuff is amazing. The ingredients are fresh and their specialty pizzas are something I could rave about.

Many of you know that I don’t choose to eat pizza unless it’s really good, and if you’re with me, it’s worth it. 🙂 I got the Bucca, which is a rosemary base, grilled onions, butternut squash, bacon, mozzarella, and I asked for fresh basil. I had plenty of leftover pizza for lunch the next day! 

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I wish you could at least smell this pizza.

After finishing dinner, and feeling spontaneous, Koryn & I decided to check out the Cosmo. We discovered how gorgeous the inside of the resort is during spring break last year, but just walked around in awe. This time, immediately, we found The Juice Standard, a fresh-pressed juice shop that makes juice, smoothies, and has plenty of other vegan options. I had done my research on where to find an acai bowl in Vegas, only having seen them on my fellow food bloggers’ Instagram feeds. We got to sample a few different juices and Koryn decided on the “Bee Royal” consisting of apple, lemon, and extra ginger. I got an acai smoothie with granola, coconut flakes, banana, pumpkin seeds,cashews, and more smoothie than I have ever had before.

 

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you know a smoothie is good when it’s served with a straw and a spoon.

Find The Juice Standard here:

 http://www.juicestandard.com

We enjoyed our treats in the Cosmo itself, but noticed there was an escalator going upward, so up we went! We found a rooftop pool proceeded by “are you two here fore the event?” “uhhhhh, no…” So for for a short, unintentional time, we discovered one of the views of the Strip from the pool at the Cosmo. We can only wonder what the event was!

We got on the early shuttle back to our resort and came to realize it was still in the mid-70s. We spent about an hour in the hot tub, and walked back up to our room. Koryn fell asleep at 9, and I fell asleep at 10. Yes, you read that right. We’re still unsure of how this transpired, but that’s ok. This trip was about feeling refreshed!

DAY FOUR: 

Another day in the sun with fruit for breakfast and not a cloud in the sky. Before we headed for the pool this time, we took about a mile and a half walk to Dunkin Donuts, yes, I know they’re everywhere. But guess what? They’re not in North Dakota so it’s a treat 🙂

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We spent some more time in the sun, still reapplying high SPF sunscreen, and enjoyed every second of not thinking about responsibility. Once we got cleaned up for the day, Koryn and I wanted to hit a few of the stores on the strip. Fashion Show Mall is located north of Caesar’s Palace and is, well, how Vegas does everything, huge. After a long evening of hitting the shops, we had salads in Caesar’s Place on our way back to our resort. I had a grilled Chinese chopped chicken salad with cashews, cabbage, grilled chicken, and microgreens on top.

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salads are the best when they don’t consist of lettuce alone. 🙂

Wait, I forgot. On our way past Caesar’s Palace, in the front entrance of the mall was a Pressed Juicery stand. Seeing my Instagram friends in California rave about this juice, I tried two different kinds – Greens 2 & Vanilla Almond. No wonder everyone loves these.

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a great way to get some greens in while away.

Koryn and I finished dinner and headed back to our ride back to our dessert, but we wanted to check out the creamery within the Monte Carlo. We sprinted back from the tram at Bellagio to make it, but it was closed. We were sad over ice cream… there’s always tomorrow. 🙂

 

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The Juice Standard

DAY FIVE:

Our last full day here in sunny Nevada. Koryn and I made breakfast and enjoyed the sun until mid-afternoon before getting ready to head back to the Strip for the last time. I had been looking for a place that serves poke (in Japanese, “to cut”). For those that don’t know, poke is basically deconstructed sushi. I got salmon, cucumber, avocado, spinach, crushed peanuts, and eel sauce.

 

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my Hawaiian friends were right about this one 😀

 

http://pou-kei.com – check it out!

Koryn and I walked to Caesar’s to do some more shopping and at the end of the day, we returned to the creamery that had closed on us the night before. Koryn & I shared a cookie ice cream sandwich as an honorary last hoorah. Nice work, Vegas.

 

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again, zero regrets!

To our dismay, we ended the day by packing up our belongings (and hoping they don’t exceed the 40 lb weight limit) for our flight the following day.

DAY SIX: 

Our final day in the sun. This time, we were blessed with a mid-day flight to enjoy a little more time by the pool before checking out. And off the the airport- just like that, spring break 2017. If you were wondering, my bag weighed 39.5 lbs, and Koryn’s weighed 40.0. St. Patrick was on our side today 😉

This trip was relaxing and refreshing – exactly what college students need in the middle of the semester. I am so happy to get home to Stella in my own bed. Tomorrow will be full of meal-prep, a kick-a** workout, and a lot of histology. Who is with me?

Hope everyone’s spring break was as delicious as mine!

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Vegas, we’ll be back!

 

xx,

M