11 Fun Things To Do in Myrtle Beach

“Are you going to play a lot of mini golf?” smirked my boyfriend, as I told him about my planned trip to Myrtle Beach, sponsored by the tourism board.

And hey, it’s not a bad question. Actually, Myrtle Beach is known as the “Miniature Golf Capital of the World,” with over 50 courses to choose from.

But that’s not what I would be focusing on for my trip. Instead, my goal was to go beyond the guidebook to discover Myrtle Beach activities beyond the green. And while I did spend time around the “Grand Strand” — Myrtle Beach’s waterfront strip showcasing 60+ miles of beaches — I added other atypical experiences to my itinerary.

Stay: North Beach Plantation

This luxury resort sits on the Atlantic Ocean in North Myrtle Beach. Onsite you’ll find pretty much everything you could need: beach access, free Wi-Fi, restaurants, a 2.5-acre waterpark, multiple indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, a fitness center and incredible spa (tip: get the Fijian Ritual!) and more.

Along with two towers full of various sized condos, they have standalone villas and vacation rentals with shops dotting the blocks, giving it a suburban neighborhood feel. It’s large, and there’s a free shuttle that can help you get around if needed.

Tip: Spring for the waterfront views, especially as even the one-bedroom condos have balconies. They’re actually pretty budget-friendly for what you get, especially if you go in September (about $200 or less per night!).

Airbnb also offers a slew of great Myrtle Beach options! Click here to snag $40 off your first Airbnb stay!

So what kinds of Myrtle Beach activities exist beyond mini golf? Check out the video above. Then, scroll down to read my trip highlights (so you can add them to your itinerary, too!).

  1. Savor Local Wine Culture

While typically vineyards in the US grow grapes like chardonnay, merlot and pinot grigio, in South Carolina there’s only one variety that flourishes: the muscadine. There are over 300 varieties of muscadine, many of which you can try at La Belle Amie Vineyard in Myrtle Beach.

I never expected Myrtle Beach to have a vineyard and winery. A tasting room maybe, but actual rows of grape vines next to olive bushes? I felt like I was in Italy.

Or France, as they also sell wine from their family vineyard in the South of France. You can read the full (and inspiring) story of how that partnership came to be here.

Vicki Weigle, La Belle Amie Vineyard’s owner, believes you only need to know two things about wine: if you like it or if you don’t. This fun philosophy can be felt throughout the property, including Wine Wednesday’s live outdoor music and the creative wines with fun names offered at the tasting bar. How about a glass of “What Was I Thinking?” or an “Ice Queen” ice wine made without freezing the grapes?

By the way, it’s just $5 for six tastings + surprises like mulled wine and wine slushies. Yum!

  1. Learn A New Water Sport

There are so many water sports to choose from in Myrtle Beach! Two on my itinerary were new to me: wakeboarding and surfing.

While inclement weather cancelled the wakeboarding, I did visit Shark Wake Park to see what the course looked like. It’s a controlled pool with ramps if you’re up for doing tricks. Cables pull you as you try to stand on what looks like a snowboard. Sitting back and watching the advanced wakeboarders is also an option.

I did get to try surfing near Springmade Pier at the softest beach I’ve ever stepped on with Jack’s Surf Lessons.

Wow, was surfing hard! The waves were pretty high — about three feet — so it definitely presented a fun and exciting challenge for a newbie.

Actually, here’s me (below) standing for 0.3 seconds until I came crashing down so hard I lost my GoPro to the Atlantic Ocean despite it being on a headstrap tied into my hair. I just hope a school of fish has found it and is putting it to good use. Sigh.

Despite the technical issues, I had a lot of fun trying something new. Plus, Jack is such a cool, laid-back dude he had the group laughing the whole time.

Just leave the GoPro on the beach unless it’s really affixed.

  1. Indulge In Some Boozy Brunch

You know those beautiful wood accented spaces with high ceilings and lots of natural light flowing in? And maybe a case of colorful macarons beckoning you to stay a while? That’s Croissants Bistro & Bakery.

And while they do make some incredible baked goods (salted caramel brownie, anyone?), you also won’t want to miss their savory fare. Of course, shrimp and grits is a local favorite, especially as these grits are laced with pimento cheese. Make it a boozy brunch by adding on a mimosa or Bloody Mary with your choice of vodka!

  1. Get High (Literally)

Myrtle Beach’s boardwalk stretches for 1.2 miles along the waterfront, showcasing quirky restaurants (some jokingly claiming to be the “8th Wonder of the World”), arcades, various Ripley’s Believe It Or Not attractions, rides and more.

While a walk down this wooden stretch is a must on a list of Myrtle Beach activities, another way to take it all in is with a ride on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel.

The giant enclosed Ferris wheel takes you 200 feet high for an aerial perspective of the beach and boardwalk.

While I rode the SkyWheel during the day, I was told by many locals it’s actually best at night when it’s all lit up.

Tickets are $14 per person.

  1. Stretch It Out (On The Beach)

A true highlight of my trip was doing a morning yoga class on the beach with Dawn Yager, owner of Shanti Yoga. I love yoga anywhere, anytime; but there’s something truly therapeutic about going through Sun Salutations while actually being washed in the sun’s loving glow.

I must have felt inspired, because I held Crow Pose for my longest time ever! Just a few simple shifts like moving my gaze beyond my hands and digging my fingers into the ground helped so much.

Tip: If you’re visiting during September, Shanti Yoga offers discounts on classes at their Myrtle Beach studio for National Yoga Month.

  1. Photograph The Gorgeous Live Oaks

You can see Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss all over Myrtle Beach; however, in historic Conway — a city founded in 1732 located about 25 minutes from the coast — you can take a tour of them.

They’re so whimsical; the gnarled branches adding a gothic beauty to the area. In Myrtle Beach they’re prevalent and protected. You can wander the very walkable neighborhood yourself using the free Historic Trail guide (pick it up free at the Conway Visitor Center). Additionally, here is a link to a self-guided Conway tour using a map and/or QR codes.

Tip: After seeing the gorgeous trees, take a walk along the Waccamaw River on the 1.5-mile River Walk.

  1. Savor The Local Craft Beer

While Myrtle Beach isn’t a craft beer hub, it does have some quality beer offerings. Hop heads can check out New South Brewing, featuring a large tasting room with plenty of space to chill with some board games and a nut brown ale, or talk suds with the brewmasters.

While they don’t have flights, 6-ounce pours are only $3. Plus if you book a tour in advance ($7) there are tastings included.

If you try one beer only, make it their famous “White Ale.” The brew is a take on a classic Belgian wheat ale, with notes of coriander and citrus.

They’re also known for their canned beers; in fact, their slogan is “The beer from here. Hand crafted. Hand canned. Hands on.” You can purchase a 6-pack to-go ($9) or create a mixed case ($30).

Tip: The local grocery chain, Lowes Foods, features a Beer Den with craft beers on tap and a growler program!

  1. Wander Brookgreen Gardens

I love wandering without a plan, especially when that wandering involves being immersed in lovely live oaks, inspiring sculptures and gorgeous gardens. Brookgreen Gardens is that place, a sculpture garden (the country’s largest) and wildlife preserve featuring thousands of acres of nature.

Take a pontoon ride on the onsite creek to see alligators and osprey while learning about the property’s rice farming heritage (cultivated by past African and Indian slaves). Made up of four former plantations, one pre-Brookgreen Gardens homestead was actually home to Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia.

While the tour was interesting, my favorite part of the visit was just wandering the gardens without a plan, taking moments to regroup and admire Mother Nature.

  1. Bird Watch In Huntington Beach State Park

Nearby is another natural beauty: Huntington Beach State Park. The two main attractions in this 2500-acre park are the beach and the trails, including a nature walk and a boardwalk over the marsh.

Oh, the Marsh Boardwalk! One of the most peaceful places I’ve ever seen and one of my favorite Myrtle Beach activities. I spotted so many birds — egrets, herons, cormorants — as well as a variety of crabs dancing in the mud. I stood in silence and awe for a good 30 minutes just taking it all in.

Here’s a printable birding checklist for the park if you want to create a fun challenge for yourself! According to the park, a full day of bird watching could very well get you 100 different species sightings.

  1. Try Hook-To-Plate At Wicked Tuna

You’ve probably heard of farm-to-table; but what about hook-to-plate?

Murrells Inlet is where many locals — especially local restaurants — claim the freshest seafood in South Carolina comes from. At The Wicked Tuna they make use of their uber fresh location, employing their own fleet of fishing boats to head out each day and catch what’s served on your plate.

Fresh catch, lobster tails and sushi rolls are all part of the fun, typically with a twist. While the pan-seared scallops might be dressed in a cauliflower puree and tamarind brown butter, a soft shell crab might be topped with cilantro oil and sweet potato flakes.

I was obsessed with my “Dragon Egg” appetizer: a halvedavocado filled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, blue crab, king crab and spicy crab and gowned in tempura sweet potato, spicy mayo and sweet glaze. Paired with my wasabi- and basil-laced “Wicked Lemonade” (pictured above), my taste buds were certainly dancing.

Everything was superb, complimented by a prime waterfront view from the patio!

  1. Indulge Your Inner Carnivore

The name River City Cafe may sound simple; but actually, this meat-focused eatery has a dizzying list of delicious burgers you must try.

While I was tempted to try their Short Rib Cheeseburger featuring short rib meat mixed with prime beef, I had to savor the “Kitchen Sink Burger.” This enormous sandwich showcases two patties topped with chili, hickory-smoked bacon, grilled onions, spicy jalapeños, mushrooms, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and mayo. And that’s not all. That setup is then placed neatly (yea right) between two grilled cheeses, accompanied by fries, onion rings and coleslaw.

Luckily this was a trip full of active Myrtle Beach activities!

Turkey, chicken and veggie burgers are also available for those seeking a healthier meal.

What are your favorite Myrtle Beach activities beyond golf? Have a travel question? Please share in the comments below!

~ By New York city based award-winning travel blogger, Jessica Festa. Find her at Jessie on a JourneyFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest. This post originally appeared on her blog

Have You Tasted These Wines From Brazil?

When I received an invitation to taste the Wines of Brazil by the Brazilian Consulate in Atlanta, I was intrigued. Though I have traveled to Brazil three times, Brazilian wines have not really appeared in my radar as a food critic. Why was that? And what role does wine play in Brazilian cuisine? I wanted to find out.

Held at the famous Brazilian steakhouse chain, Fogo de Chao, the event was a gathering of many wine producers who had traveled from Brazil to talk about their products. There were half a dozen wine tasting stations, each represented by a producer pouring a few kinds of reds and whites.

Turns out that Brazil has a long history of producing wine, dating back to the middle of the 19th century. The real action started several decades later when Italian immigrants arrived and embarked on an ambitious plan. Their plan was ambitious out of necessity, since a wave of German immigration preceded the Italian immigration and the Germans predictably settled on the best available lands. In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, this ended up meaning those lands closer to the coast.

The Italians had to march inland over the gentle slopes of red soils that reach to the Atlantic Ocean, onto the high plateaus and through the hills to found towns with names like Garibaldi and Nova Bassano. They settled into valleys named after homes left behind, like the Vale Trentino.

Brazil’s biggest representatives in the international market are sparkling wines of high quality and exceptional acidity and freshness. Produced through the Traditional or Charmat methods, they both tend to use mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

A typical meal of the Serra Gaúcha region still begins with Agnolotti en Brodo and generally includes polenta and some sort of roasted chicken or pig dish. Older people continue to speak Italian in the region. This vestigial Italian continues to be  widespread, particularly once you get out of the city and into the valleys that surround Bento Gonçalves, and it shapes the wines as much as it shapes the language.

So, what do Brazilian wines taste like? Most people would say they are young, easy drinking, table wines. Brazilian Muscats are most internationally recognizable. Light bodied and flavorful, these can be enjoyed outdoors while the men grill meat for hours and the rest of the families prepare plates of salads, fried yucca, rice and beans.

Among the red varieties, Merlot has been recognized by some experts as the one with the highest potential to represent Brazil in the international market.

The vineyard also talked about the emergence of wine tourism in Brazil. Many travelers head to neighboring Chile and Argentina for wine tasting tours and to stay at haciendas with local wineries. Brazil also offers beautiful landscapes, local cuisine and great tasting wines across the country. Here are some places to check out:

Vale dos Vinhedos

Named by the Wine Enthusiast magazine as one of the 10 best wine tourism destinations in the world, the Vale dos Vinhedos is filled with beautiful landscapes, great wine, plenty of great restaurants and places to simply relax. With around 200 thousand tourists each year, it has become a famous destination in Brazil.

Garibaldi

A city that specializes in the production of sparkling wines and features a sparkling wine tour route. Around 90 thousand yearly visitors come and check the local attractions.

Pinto Bandeira

Besides the impressive landscapes, with native woods, waterfalls, and of course vineyards, the highlight of this Pinto Bandeira is their sparkling wines. Small and intimate, this is a region where the local wineries continue to offer charming gastronomic and lodging options.

Altos Montes

Another young region where the landscape is dotted with cutting-edge wineries, celebrating modern architecture beautifully integrated with the vineyards. An advanced culinary school in the region has helped the cities of Flores da Cunha and Nova Pádua to become the twin gourmet centers of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Região das Hortênsias

Centered between the cities of Gramado and Canela, this is a region made famous by their well-preserved colonial architecture. While the region has preserved the look of the past, the local hotels and restaurants are very much up to date with a year-round promotional schedule that has been attracting tourist for years.

This Summer, Forget Tiny Houses, Stay in a Luxury Treehouse

Looking for a fun way to spend this Father’s Day weekend? Check out the newest trend in glamping – modern, high tech and sustainable treehouses. The Dove Men+Care Elements 360-square-foot treehouse equipped with a luxurious private bath, climate control, high speed Wi-Fi and a stocked refrigerator is like a “spa in the sky.”

Located at the base of Lookout Mountain near downtown Chattanooga, TN, the Elements Treehouse stands out for its state-of-the-art bathroom constructed of natural elements inspired by Dove’s Elements product range and sweeping forest views.

The treehouse is the second house for rent at a treehouse resort – Treetop Hideaways in Flintstone, GA. Founded by local entrepreneurs Andrew Alms and Enoch Elwell, Treetop Hideaways came about as an idea to allow childhood memories to flourish and for families to experience sustainable living close to the city.

The Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse is designed by architect Pete Nelson, a world-renowned treehouse architect, host of Treehouse Masters and owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply company. It features modern architectural designs surrounded by nature, utilizing the most efficient and sustainable systems.

A wooden staircase leads you to the entryway marked by a living sage wall and Japanese Shou Sugi Ban-style charcoal wood. Welcomed by the aroma of sage, enter a cozy sitting area with furniture made of reclaimed wood, kick off your shoes and browse through the pages of ‘Cabin Porn.’

In the morning, sip on local MayFly coffee while lounging on the private deck. Feel the cool morning mist, listen to the sounds of birds chirping and the flowing stream on property.

Interior designed by Will Taylor, founder of Bright Bazaar is done in nature-inspired style, with sage bedding, charcoal-etched wall art, and sandalwood accents. Green, white and grey Earth tones create a rustic yet contemporary ambiance. Connect to Alexa to play your favorite music as you nap in the Tuft & Needle queen mattress downstairs or climb to the loft where you can see the tree canopy through the skylights from the comfort of two beds.

The focal point of the treehouse is the spa inspired Elements bathroom with charcoal wood paneling, clay sink, heated flooring, temperature controlled 5-head shower, linen robes, Dove Men+Care Elements toiletries, and a glass enclosed tree in the bathroom with skylight and see-through flooring. Here you can feel like you are showering in the forest, yet have your preferred water heat set on the digital keypad.

Grab a cold beer from the refrigerator and get some steaks or hot dogs started on the outdoor grill. The outdoor fireplace is perfect for roasting marshmallows under the stars and reminiscing about good old campfires.

Chattanooga is quickly becoming a top travel destination voted ‘Best Town in America’ by the readers of Outside magazine. Surrounded by acers of forest, Treetop Hideways is located within minutes of world-class climbing, mountain biking, trail running, caving, and more. Nearby attractions include Ruby Falls, Rock City Gardens, Tennessee Aquarium, Cloudland Canyon State Park and North Chickamauga Gorge.

The Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse is the perfect family friendly retreat to spend summer holidays in nature and comfort.

Dining at The W

Hotel restaurants typically don’t have a good perception when it comes to offering superior quality food or unique cuisines. But the W Atlanta – Midtown is an exception.

Inspired by its Georgia location, TRACE restaurant incorporates southern cuisine in the menu, using seasonal locally sourced ingredients.

The Midtown Atlanta hotel can be described as urban chic at best. Glamorously dressed people can be found getting out of their uber expensive cars into the illuminated car port. The lobby feels like a trendy lounge with live DJ, as patrons cheer their martini glasses.

TRACE is located up a flight of stairs, on the second floor of the hotel. Walking past the bar feels like you have entered a massive den/ library/ man cave. The bar is beautiful, but the stack of cookbooks by local authors displayed on the shelves catches my attention. Krista Reese, Kevin Gillespie, to name a few…

The interior of TRACE is contemporary, yet comfy. Tall glass windows line one of the walls of the room, while the exposed ceiling creates a feeling of a warehouse. Then there are colored pots and pans covering an entire wall, dark wood floors, and giant blue gray screens hanging from the ceiling. I feel like I’m in a 21st century barn!

Cocktails are the main attraction at TRACE. In addition to regional brews and global wines, hand crafts cocktails with unique names are rotated off the menu often. My favorite was Anger Management (perfect after a tough week right?) with mango vodka, agave, pineapple and orange juice. The powdered habanero around the rim of the glass is sure to give you a burn with each sip. Gotta Wear Shades (I told you the names are creative) was also quite refreshing for a bourbon drink. It had fresh blackberry/ blueberry juice, peach bitters and Ridgemont Reserve 1792.

The menu is sectioned into shared plates, salads, entrees and sides. Southern favorites such as fried gulf oysters, deviled eggs, and thrice cooked wings are nostalgic starters. The oysters are fresh are corn flour battered, served with spicy rep pepper jelly aioli. The mushroom and goat cheese toast is hearty and delicious. Grilled salmon is seared crisp on the outside and tender in the center. It feels more of a personal entree than an app plate though. Everything comes with generous portions of healthy greens sourced from GA farms.

The crab and avocado salad was my favorite. Again, a good portion of greens is topped with fresh steamed jumbo lump crab meat is perfect for seafood lovers, and the grilled avocado adds a surprise element to each bite. Gulf catch  of the day, grouper in this case, was chewy, though well seasoned with with black pepper, and sat on some very spicy cooked kale. Another twist I enjoyed was the pimiento mac and cheese. Though the pimento made the dish a bit runny, the toasted bread crumbs added a crisp nice texture.

For dessert, I tried the chocolate mousse cake, a rather rich flourless version with dark creamy mousse. The raspberry and chocolate sauces were a bit runny for my taste, but good enough to lick the plate clean!

Museum of Broken Relationships

The museum of broken relationships in Zagreb is by far the most unique museum I have ever been to. Unlike other museums, it doesn’t carry any antiques, jewels or historic remanences. On the other hand, it displays items donated by patrons from all over the world that hold symbolic value to them personally.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Museum of Broken Relationships

The idea of this museum was coined by two Zagreb-based artists, Olinka Vištica, a film producer, and Dražen Grubišić, a sculptor, after realizing a heartbreak. What started as a personal collection of items leftover from a broken relationship, became a 1000-item traveling museum that received audiences across Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Macedonia, the Philippines, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Items on display include everyday quirky items such as a stiletto shoe, CD’s, laundry basket, toy cars, letter, etc. Each of the items is accompanied by a personal account of the relationship, country of origin and how long the relationship lasted. I found the the notes to be particularly interesting, and rather funny, as people recounted short stories of randomly falling in love, and of inevitable heartbreaks.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Museum of Broken Relationships

One can spend an hour or two seeing the small museum, though the museum also sells books with pictures and stories of some of the items on display. You can also find break ups on the interactive world map and read stories on the blog. Reading stories of broken relationships are perhaps the opposite of reading romantic novels, but surprisingly they don’t get you down or depressed. I feel that reading about real-life relationships that didn’t always end well makes us realize that we live in a realistic world where everything is not always perfect. It makes you feel that you are not the only one who has suffered through a heartbreak. And it makes you smile to read about how people fall in love and cherish the smallest of gifts for years to come.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Museum of Broken Relationships

While the museum is very popular among visitors, it nearly doubles its attendance around the Valentine’s holiday. If you would like to unburden your relationship, send in your item to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

The Museum of Broken Relationships has permanent exhibits in Zagreb, Croatia and Los Angeles, California.

Ten Things I Learned at The Sedona Yoga Festival

Sedona is a magical place, and when I learned that there was going to be a yoga festival taking place in Sedona, I immediately signed up! This was actually the fifth annual Sedona Yoga Festival which generally takes place in February/ March time frame. The festival lasts for 4-days and includes over 200 workshops on a variety of topics, besides yoga, that included spiritism, meditation, communication, sound therapy, healing, nutrition and more.

I have read many books on spirituality, explored different practices, do yoga off and on, and am always open to trying new things. I was excited to be hearing from the 100+ speakers coming to the festival from all over the world and eager to learn more.

Here are my top takeaways from the sessions I attended. Note, a lot of it is my own interpretation of what the speakers might have said.

There’s nobody here or out there who can hurt you more than yourself.

Heather Shereé Titus, Director of the Sedona Yoga Festival advised at the opening ceremony to love yourself, and be the love you want to see in others. It is only your own practices, behaviors and reactions that can cause you the greatest pain. You yourself allow the negative or positive energies to flow into you.

Nourish yourself with asana, meditation and inquiry before helping others.

This applies more to people who teach, help or care for others. Gina Garcia,  500-hour certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Across America (YAA), a non-profit corporation that teaches yoga and wellness educational programs across the country, conducted this extensive workshop.

Avoid prescription medication and alcohol to protect yourself from fallen angels. 

I did not know much about unwanted spirits attaching themselves to human bodies in the time when we are most vulnerable. Professional Energy Cleanser Herman Petrick talked about keeping a clear and balanced energy field, and how it can help with depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, re-occurring nightmares, chronic headaches, etc.

Sound is an important vibration that helps relax and quietens the mind.

“Like a dinner bell, the sound of bowls can alert you for meditation,” said Ashana in her hands-on workshop with quartz crystal singing bowls. Though I did not buy any bowls, I have started playing flute, tabla, gamelan, meditation and yoga music during meditation, before sleeping and while lounging, and it has had profound effects.

Make superfoods part of your daily diet.

Until now, I knew what superfoods generally are and tried to eat them now and then. But Jeff Breaker, who represents Purium Health Products, emphasized that eating real food can make you feel better, help recover faster and enhance the spirit. He recommended eating organic greens, whole grains, soaked nuts, and filtered water. Also, eat as much vegan as possible and add a superfood shake to your diet. I have started making my own granola with organic oats, chia, flax, almonds, dried blueberries, agave, honey and coconut.

Energy flows through the gaze of the eyes.

In the session on Drishti by Sara Elizabeth Ivanhoe (yoga spokesperson for Weight Watchers), I learned how to focus on a still image to improve my yoga postures with fluid transitions. The same can be applied to everyday life by working on the third eye to see beyond time and space.

When you want to connect with someone, look into their eyes.

Leah Misty and David Tietje of Thai Love Yoga did an interactive seminar on enhancing communication, which included Sacred Space Ritual, Soul Gazing, Thai Massage, Laughter Yoga, Connection Trio and Affirmation Circle. My husband and I gazed at each other’s eyes, gave each other gentle massages and exchanged words of gratefulness. I found this exercise very useful and repeat it every time I want to convey my message to another person in an assertive yet gentle manner.

Everyone is born with spiritual gifts. Learn to recognize and appreciate them.

I found Sunny Dawn Johnston’s workshop on intuition to be the most interesting as she talked about connecting with the spirit world. Every person has intuition, but sometimes cannot distinguish between mindless chatter and the angelic voice. To exercise receiving guidance we can raise our vibrations (through music, yoga, dance, nature), play intuitive games, and start trusting ourselves.

Chocolate is good for the soul.

Some of you may be delighted to hear that (good quality dark) chocolate heightens your sensations. In Yoga of Chocolate session, instructor Jyl Marie combined yoga poses with 100% organic Chocolate Tree chocolate tastings. Her aim was to use chocolate as a way of encouraging people to slow down and really taste, savor, and enjoy their present moment experiences, whatever they may be.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading this post and will come back for more!

A Guide To NYC’s Best Subway Art

Whether you’re a native New Yorker or a tourist looking to explore the wonders of the city, you’ll no doubt find yourself taking the subway. While there are certainly crazy NYC subway stories that’ll make you crave a cab, venturing into New York’s underground can be unforgettable for good reasons, too. This is especially true is you’re into colorful creativity, as art in the subway abounds!

NYC takes its title as one of the world’s art capitals seriously, so expect to come across some of the finest art in the city just taking the subway. Keep your eyes peeled for the various gems you’re sure to come across —  especially when it comes to the five installations listed below!

1. Life Underground

Where: 14 St @ Eighth Avenue station

art in the subway

STOP BY THE 14TH ST/EIGHT AVENUE STATION TO SEE LIFE UNDERGROUND! PHOTO VIA TOM OTTERNESS

This 16-year-old installation, meant to capture “life in New York,” is one of the city’s best pieces of art in the subway. Artist Tom Otterness used over a dozen bronze sculptures to depict everything from the homeless being watched over by police to New York’s famous sewer gators chomping on the head of a wealthy citizen. It’s easy to rush through the city when it comes to a commute, but these playful figures are worth slowing down for!

2. Happy World

Where: Flushing/Main Street

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA IK-JOONG KANG.

Flushing is often noted as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city — a fact that Ik-Joong Kang made a point of celebrating with this art piece. Happy World uses over two thousand hand-painted ceramic tiles to depict various aspects of the large world Kang saw in Flushing and beyond. This includes many different people, events and views of NYC. With so much happening all at once, it can be comforting to see it condensed into a single installation (even if condensed refers to over two-thousand tiles!).

3. REACH

Where: 34th St/Herald Square

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA CHRISTOPHER JANNEY @ JANNEYSOUND

Suspended above the N/R platforms of this station, there is a green bar with sensors that run along its side. While this horizontal rack has a tendency to go unnoticed by commuters, it’s actually a brilliant piece of interactive art in the subway that encourages New Yorkers to communicate with one another, even at their busiest. Waving your hands in front of the sensors causes a light to flicker on, and a sound to come from the rack on the opposite platform.With this unique musical instrument, those on the downtown and uptown platforms can interact without a single word!

4. My Coney Island Baby

Where: Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA MTA

There are a number of creative reasons to make your way down to Brooklyn’s Coney Island. NYC street art is one, while the other is the artwork of Robert Wilson. This installation features a wall of glass bricks showcasing silkscreened images. The format of this unusual exhibit makes the pictures — like Nathan’s Hot Dog stand and Coney Island’s famous carousel — especially alluring on sunny days when light streams in, illuminating the images. Just one reason to plan your Coney Island trip for a sunny day!

5. Elevated

Where: Lexington Avenue/63rd St

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA MTA FLICKR

With the Second Avenue Station nearly a decade in the making, artist Jean Shin had to pull out all the stops when planning her contribution. Sure enough, her mural “Elevated” is a standout even among the world class art of this brand new subway line. This piece spans over three levels of the station, depicting the construction done to dismantle the Second and Third Avenue line, along with stills of commuters — all of which are composed of ceramic tile, glass mosaic and laminated glass. This piece works to connect the past of New York to the present. And this is something you can be a part of for yourself, now that this new subway line is open!

~ By guest blogger, Shania Russell, a senior at Bronx Academy of Letters with a passion for writing. She has used programs such as Young Playwrights Inc., The Moth and Girls Write Now to channel these passions, and has done her best to help others do the same as managing editor of her school’s literary magazine, One Pen. When not busied with her tendency to overextend herself with various projects, she can be found with her nose in a book or humming the tune of whatever musical soundtrack she is obsessed with that week. THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON NYC TOURS & PHOTO SAFARIS

Highlights From The New York Times Travel Show 2017

We are back from The New York Times Travel Show where I spoke, signed copies of my books, and networked with dozens of travel companies from around the world. This year, it was a record breaking show with 30,099 participants and 560 companies representing over 170 countries!

On Saturday, I spoke on a panel called Global Travel Tips for Women moderated by April Merenda, owner of Gutsy Women Travel, along with Cheryl Benton of The Three Tomatoes, and Lea Lane, author of “Travel Tales I Couldn’t Put in the Guidebooks. We discussed best-practices for women traveling solo, including popular destinations (Cuba, Morocco, Bali), safety and money saving tips.

Later that afternoon, I spoke to over 50 people interested in volunteer traveling at Meet The Experts area. It was amazing to see so many people were interested in more meaningful travel rather than pure vacations. I hope they will turn up at one of our Go Eat Give trips soon!

I also signed copies of Beato Goes To Greenland and Beato Goes To Indonesia at the New York Times Bookstore. It was a humbling experience sitting next to travel legends Arthur and Pauline Frommer with my own books.

Some of our travel partners you may already know of were also there at the show. In 2016, Amanda and I traveled to Chile with family-run Vermont based company Yampu Tours and Philippines Tourism.

In the Travel for the Mind, Body and Soul section, we ran into our friends at the Art of Living Center in Boone, NC where we organized a yoga retreat last spring for Go Eat Give.  

Indian Tourism got the award for the most creative booth. They were giving out free samosas and mehndi (henna tattoo). What’s not to love?

Travel to India with Go Eat Give in 2017

This year, we are looking to partner with more tourism departments and tour operators and have plans to bring you stories from South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Georgia, Croatia, New Zealand, Russia, Uzbekistan Puerto Rico, St Lucia, British Virgin Islands, Arizona and more. Stay tuned by subscribing to the blog.

We’re Bringing the Puerto Rican Food Party to Atlanta

The coast, the mountains, and the home: that is the landscape of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine painted by Atlanta-based renowned Chef, Hector Santiago. Known for his stint on Top Chef, Santiago has made a name for himself through his restaurants Pura Vida, and his most recent foray in the Atlanta food scene, El Super Pan.

INSPIRED BY THE WORLD – El Super Pan boasts traditional dishes from all around the Spanish Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic), some of which have very non-traditional fusion elements from other international cuisines, particularly flavors from East Asia. One would never see pork belly buns, fish sauce, or anchovies in Puerto Rican cuisine, but Santiago is a firm believer in the expansion of what we know about food. He is inspired to create by the fresh ingredients grown in whatever environment he happens to be cooking in.

El Super Pan's pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine
El Super Pan’s pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine

Santiago, along with other Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chefs, Julio Delgado and Andre Gomez, will be planning a menu for Go Eat Give Destination Puerto Rico that provides a true glimpse into the everyday food in Puerto Rico; a real slice of life. But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing “run-of-the-mill” about everyday Puerto Rican food. It is full of layers of spices, textures, and strong flavors, because food and eating is such a big part of Puerto Rican culture. Santiago said that when he was a kid in Puerto Rico, cooking at a young age was extremely common, and all of his friends used to come to his house to cook together, laugh, play, and eat. 

Two staples of Puerto Rican cuisine that you will see as a base for just about every Puerto Rican dish are Sofrito and Adobo. Sofrito is a rich mixture of peppers, onions, tomatoes, salt and pepper that serves as a starting out place for much of Puerto Rican cuisine. Adobo is a complementary mixture of spices that one would be extremely remiss to leave out of their Puerto Rican dish: cumin, corriander, oregano, black pepper, garlic, etc. These spices and vegetable bases make cuisine so flavorful and bold, it’s easy to take for granted. Santiago recalled the first time that he tried oatmeal in the mainland United States, and he thought, “what is this?” “Puerto Ricans hate bland food,” he laughed “at home oatmeal has vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon, sugar, a little salt. It’s one of those big differences.”

YEAR-ROUND FOOD FESTIVALS – Santiago explained that there is an immense festival culture in Puerto Rico. There is always something going on and with that, comes the food. He joked, “If you’re not drinking Cerveza in Puerto Rico, you’re probably eating!” There is truly a festival for every occasion on Puerto Rico and for the harvest of every possible staple food you could think of. There are coffee festivals, banana festivals, taro festivals, corn festivals, tomato festivals, orange festivals and more than five different festivals dedicated to crab. Puerto Rico is also a growing home to very large, internationally recognized culinary festivals, like Saborea (savor) where over 70 chefs, brewers, mixologists, and baristas come together to celebrate the best the country has to offer.  I’m not sure there are many other places in the world where food is SO central and so celebrated–that’s how you know it’s going to be good. 

Bacalaitos--fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack
Bacalaitos–fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack

THE COAST – To start, the chefs will present a taste of the coast. Attendees will taste bacalitos, which are fritters of salted cod. Santiago says bacalaitos are a very traditional Puerto Rican dish, despite the fishes’ natural cold water habitat. They are a food tradition left over from Spanish influence, so they import the cod to keep the tradition alive. There will be a variety of empanadas and alcapurrias. Alcapurrias, unlike empanadas, are made with a batter of mashed root vegetables like plantains and taro, and are often stuffed with fish or crab. This is the food people think of and crave in the coastal regions of Puerto Rico: little, deliciously crunchy, fried seafood snacks that are easy to grab and go.

An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine
An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine

THE MOUNTAINS – For the main courses, Santiago, Gomez, and Delgado will prepare a taste of the mountains, a frequent weekend escape destination for many Puerto Rican families. One of the dishes include Mofongo. Although you will find similar cuisine throughout the Spanish Caribbean, mofongo is thought of as originally Puerto Rican. It features green plantains mashed, fried, and served with crispy pork chops spiced with, of course, adobo and garlic. Pork is a common and celebrated form of protein in Puerto Rico. So, we will also get to taste Lechon Asao, pork slow roasted until the skin is thin and crispy, which will be served with arroz con gandules (pigeon peas).

Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding
Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding

THE CASA – For the final course, we’ll get to taste Puerto Rican desserts commonly served at home such as flan, arroz con dulce, rice pudding with cinnamon, coconut and raisins, and a Puerto Rican favorite: papaya con queso. As I was speaking with him, I could tell Santiago clearly favored the latter as he nodded and said, “It’s amazing.”

All of these thoughtfully planned out and expertly prepared dishes, combined with the live music and dancing always present at Puerto Rican food festivals, we are all going to feel as if we are actually there. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this amazingly rich culture than through a fiesta of food, one of the things it holds most dear. So let’s eat!

GET YOUR TICKETS TO DESTINATION PUERTO RICO TODAY!
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Read more about Hector Santiago and El Super Pan

Read more abut Julio Delgado and JP Atlanta

Read more about Andres Gomez and Porch Light Latin Kitchen

Changing the Face of Craft Beer

Jason Santamaria is a Beer Architect, a somewhat unusual title. He is the president and one of the co-founders of one of Atlanta’s newest players in the Craft Beer scene, Second Self Beer Company. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the brewery at their location on the West Side of Atlanta, and got to know how exactly he and Chris Doyle, “The Alechemist”, were building.

Jason (left) and Chris (right) at the opening of their Tasting Room.
Jason (left) and Chris (right) at the opening of their Tasting Room.

Chris and Jason have been brewing together since 2005. Jason comes from a culinary family and he claims that this background is part of the reason he felt a connection to brewing craft beer. But for him, it wasn’t just about making the best version of a beer that many others were already producing, it was about making something entirely different.

The first beer that Jason and Chris produced and took to brewing competitions, was a Red Hop Rye. The problem was, it didn’t exactly fit into any particular beer category. Essentially, they combined elements from three different beer categories: Red Ale, IPA, and Rye Wheat beer, and came up with a new style of beer. For Jason, “it’s a perfect example of American ingenuity in beer.” This is Second Self’s beer philosophy. They are constantly working to create beers that have never been thought of or heard of; sophisticated not just in structure or flavor, but in concept as well.

Jason has even introduced international cuisines to American craft beer. Second Self’s “Thai Wheat” was inspired by Jason’s travels to Thailand in 2010. He took cooking classes while there and learned about a tradition spice blend, “well, technically a tea,” he said, that is now the base of the beer. They use fresh lemongrass and ginger, which is something you would never find in a traditional wheat beer. He mentioned that it took about 100 iterations to perfect this drink.13717447_1137234076297947_7784726724660029685_o

This kind of detail-oriented production is what is needed to make the type of beers that Jason envisions: Beers that are able to pair with a multitude of cuisines and flavors. Beers that are not too overbearing, but that still maintain a complexity of flavor that make them a delight to drink on their own. Jason talks about beer as a sophisticated sommelier would talk about wine, and there’s a reason for that. “Wine’s been at the dinner table too long and beer needs to have its place too,” he says.

I believe Second Self is creating a new space within American Craft Beer that is doing just that; it asks for a spot at the dinner table based on its merit and thoughtfulness, and I believe the beers Second Self is producing deserves that spot. So does renowned Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chef, Hector Santiago, which is why you will see Second Self beers alongside our amazing menu of expertly prepared Puerto Rican dishes at Destination Puerto Rico (by the way, I am partial to the Mole Porter). Any beer with as much insight, enterprise, and creativity behind it as the ones Jason and Chris painstakingly draw the blueprints for, build and perfect, is sure to bring not just beer, but any dining experience, up to a whole new level.

Second Self Beer Company has just opened a new Tasting Room. You can book a tasting tour of the brewery on their website!
Second Self Beer Company has just opened a new Tasting Room. You can book a tasting tour of the brewery on their website!

Get your tickets for Destination Puerto Rico today

Read more about Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle 

~ By Virginia Spinks, intern at Go Eat Give. Virginia is a senior at Emory University majoring in religion and anthropology. As an Atlanta native, she has grown up around many different cultures and cuisines, and has always had a passion for food. She views food as an experience: a point of connection to bring people together and create lasting memories.