Getaway to McKinney, Texas : Where to Stay, Play, & Dine

My annual birthday celebrations never arrive quietly or without including a good deal of planning and travel. I believe birthdays should always include a person’s favorite things and people and as you may already know, exploring new places is one of my most favorite things. For this birthday weekend celebration, I partnered with Visit McKinney and Texas Travel Talk to bring you a weekend itinerary full inspiration and a weekend you can easily replicate for a visit of your own.

Where to Stay in McKinney, Texas

Mckinney Bed and Breakfast

McKinney Bed and BreakfastWhen planning a weekend getaway in a new city, it’s easy to default to the most familiar hotel chain. Let me encourage you to HIGHLY consider a bed and breakfast when visiting McKinney, Texas. If you are shocked to hear this recommendation coming from me, I’m honestly a little surprised myself. It is no secret that I enjoy luxury accommodations. For my first stay in bed and breakfast ever, the accommodations at McKinney Bed and Breakfast were top notch. It’s not a hotel and it’s not a home but for a Mckinney getaway, it is better than both. I would be so happy to stay here with the hosts Vicki and Wayne Hill anytime. They took such good care of us with coffee and gourmet biscotti delivered right outside our door. Breakfast was several delightful courses. I had no idea how lovely a bed and breakfast stay could be. I look forward to coming back for another visit with them soon.

McKinney Bed and Breakfast room

McKinney Bed and Breakfast meal

Where to Eat in McKinney, Texas

As if breakfast at Mckinney Bed and Breakfast wasn’t enough there are plenty of places to tempt your taste buds. There are plenty of options to satisfy your inner foodie in Mckinney. Here are a few of our favorite recommendations from the weekend.

  • SugarBacon Proper Kitchen – Seasonal approach to American cuisine
  • Cadillac Pizza Pub – Pizza, Music, Beer
  • Hugs Cafe – Non-Profit employing adults with special needs
  • Patina Green Home and Market – Daily lunches served in an edgy antique shop
  • Paciugo Gelato Cafe – Italian ice cream and coffee
  • The Yard- McKinney’s backyard hangout with great food, cold drinks, games, and awesome vibes
  • Harvest Seasonal Kitchen-Farm to Table Restaurant
  • Frios Gourmet Pops- Fresh, Frozen, Gourmet Popsicles

What to Do in Mckinney, Texas

Beyond food and relaxation, there is a ton to keep you busy from morning to night on your visit.

Shopping on the Square

While I’m not typically a hardcore shopper when traveling, I was completely taken with the shops surrounding the Downtown Mckinney Historic Square. These are not your aunties boutiques and stereotypical antique shops. The shop owners here are in tune with today’s customers and have curated interesting and original selections of goods that cannot be found elsewhere. I was also happy to find that the personalities of the owners and staff were just as original as the goods they market. Every great travel experience is about the people and the people I met inside the shops of McKinney Texas will have me driving back to shop again and again.

Get Ready to Laugh

One unique entertainment offering in Mckinney is The Comedy Arena. If you are up for a night of laughs, you might want to give this a try for date night. The Comedy Arena is in downtown McKinney, TX just a little off the Square at 305 E. Virginia and is one of the few options that is supplying comedic entertainment every weekend of the year. There is a family-friendly show in the early evening and a more adult show just following later in the evening.

Enjoy Live Music

If you enjoy live music and visit on a weekend, you will be hard pressed not to find live music playing somewhere on McKinney’s downtown square. Almost every shop and restaurant has commissioned a musical act to perform. It’s clear that art and culture are valued by residents and visitors alike.

Unique Ideas and Insider Tips We Love about McKinney Texas

McKinney Farmers Market

Food Walks Of Texas Tours Food Walks of Texas offers guided, walking food tours of historic downtown McKinney. Perfect for visitors or locals, you’ll learn about our city’s fascinating history while enjoying its best eats. In addition to delicious food tastings, you’ll learn interesting tidbits about the backgrounds and inspiration of the chefs/owners behind the eateries, as well as plenty of historical, cultural, and architectural information relevant to the historic downtown McKinney Square.

Mckinney Door on the Square

Look for the tiny door on the Downtown Square This tiny door is one of my favorite insider secrets on the Downtown Mckinney Square! If you keep your eyes open on one of the corners you’ll see a small door with stained glass just at the height of your shoes. An artist installed this artwork to remind those who were looking that there is always something to see if we’ll just pay attention. Let me know if you find this door when you walk the square here okay?

Get a UNIQUE picture taken The UNIQUE letters are currently located in Mitchell Park and make a perfect photo to commemorate your visit. The City of McKinney launched the #IAMUNIQUEBYNATURE campaign to define the city’s image for our residents, businesses, and visitors. It speaks to the inherent uniqueness and embodies the spirit of community in Mckinney, Texas.

Learn How to Bake French Macarons Learn to bake French macarons like a pro in one of Savor’s hands-on baking classes. Each person takes home a gift box of macarons and tote bag from the class.

There is so much more to explore I HIGHLY encourage you to bring a friend or your family and come to find your favorite spots in McKinney, Texas. Be sure to come back and tell me what you loved most, won’t you?

Where to Stay and Play on South Padre Island

South Padre Island Texas WelcomeBeautiful South Padre Island has a known reputation for the influx it receives during a couple busy Spring Break weeks in March. If that’s the only thing that comes to mind when you hear South Padre, I’d suggest you think again! It is a WONDERFUL getaway for families too! During the rest of the year, South Padre Island is a relaxing oasis that rivals the best beach towns in America. This summer our family was invited to experience this Texas island as a family and we’ve got the best recommendations for a getaway you’ll never forget.

*We believe in full disclosure and wanted to let you know that this trip was provided by the South Padre Island CVB in partnership with Texas Travel Talk. As is common in the travel industry, our family was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation. As always we only provide opinions, recommendations, and experiences that are 100% authentic and our own.  

Where to Stay on South Padre Island

Pool at the Sapphire South Padre Island

One of the things I love most about staying on South Padre Island is that there are a wide range of available properties to fit every accommodation preference and budget. I can assure you that there is not a bad view anywhere on the island but if luxury accommodations are what you are looking for (you KNOW this is what our family enjoys most!), I highly recommend booking at the Sapphire through Coastal Lifestyles Luxury Rentals. The Sapphire has two private pools and rows of private cabanas to enjoy a beautiful day poolside.

Sapphire pools South Padre island

Beautiful lush landscape leads you to the beach boardwalk and the beautiful Gulf of Mexico just steps away from the pool cabanas. If you like to pool hop, staying at the Sapphire also allows you access to the neighboring Pearl pools and facilities as well. After spending a little time in the sun you can indulge yourself in luxury with amazing massages, refreshing facials, relaxing manicures and pedicures at the Sapphire Spa.

Sapphire Spa South padre island

Your teens can enjoy a space all to themselves in the Teen Game Room to enjoy some shuffleboard, pinball, pool and foosball! All fun and games here at Sapphire South Padre! At the end of the night, when you want to wind down as a family there is a private movie theater that let’s YOU choose the movie from a lonnnnng list of new releases. Just schedule the movie of your choosing with the front desk and it’s all yours!! This was one of our family’s favorite amenities.

Private Movie Room Sapphire South Padre island

Where To Play on South Padre Island

There is so much to do on the island you might have a tough time choosing exactly what to do first. We spent a very full weekend here and STILL didn’t have enough time to fit every thing in that we wanted to do. That gives us plenty of reason to plan a second (and third) trip back! Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy everything that the island has to offer.

-Get up early and watch the sunrise on the beach. 

Sunrise Sapphire South Padre Island

Build Sandcastles with the Experts!  Who else is fascinated with the elaborate sandcastles you’ve seen on the beach? I am always enamored with them. As it turns out, the experts are available and willing to teach you and your crew a few simple techniques to make you a master architect of sand as well. Several members of our group had the opportunity to meet on the sand to get an in-person lesson. This will be one of our “bucket list” items for our next beach trip!

Sandcastle building South padre island

-Get out on the water in a kayak, jetski, water bike or stand up paddle board!

If your body is a little water logged from being IN the water, you can still have fun ON the water. Even if your family has never kayaked before South Padre Island truly is the perfect place to learn. Of course you’ll all be wearing life-vests but the water surrounding the island in most places is only four feet deep. This means even if you are a little apprehensive about your stability on the water, and worst case scenario you do tip, all you need to do is stand up.

ProTip: Be prepared for the hyper-salinity (extra salty) of the water here. If it gets in your eyes it may be a bit more noticeable than average salt water.

Kayaking on South padre island

-Take a Eco-Sea life cruise while Dolphin watching or go on a pirate adventure on the Black Dragon with Osprey cruises

Pirates Pier Port Isabel

We arrived on a Friday night just in time for the evening pirate show and cruise on the Black Dragon. Drinks and snacks are available on the deck and aboard the ship. This cruise is IDEAL for families with young children.

Black Dragon Sign

The Black Dragon cruise is super interactive and the crew is just incredible with families! You’ll be on board to catch a beautiful sunset over the water and if you are there on a Friday or Saturday you’ll also get to watch the fireworks!

On Saturday, we took the 2 pm Dolphin watch cruise and we saw one of the most active dolphin pods I’ve ever seen!  This was a perfect time of day to be out on the ship too.

Osprey Cruises Chase Family South Padre Island

The ocean breezes kept us cool and there was plenty of shade on the deck to ensure we wouldn’t get too much direct sun. While sightseeing, you’ll also learn about the local wildlife and ecology of the Laguna Madre. The crew will use a trawling net to bring sea life directly to you onboard the ship and return it safely back into the eco-system.

Eco Tour Osprey Cruises Starfish South Padre Island

-Go Birdwatching at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. The birding center is fascinating and people come from all over the world just to see the birds that migrate here.

Swim the Day Away Remember the two awesome pools I mentioned at Sapphire? AND at the Pearl? Almost every resort or condo has great pool access to enjoy splashing the day away. Be sure to take enjoy some pool time while you are here!

Swimming at Sapphire South Padre Island

-Enjoy a fun filled day at Schlitterbahn South Padre

“Experience the best the Gulf Coast has to offer… a 25-acre paradise and the most popular waterpark in the Rio Grande Valley. Enjoy nearly two dozen world-class attractions, roar down 13 amazing indoor and outdoor water slides, or float one of the multiple river systems. The resort includes lodging, great Gulf beaches, fantastic dining location options, and unlimited use of both the indoor and outdoor waterparks.”

Where To Eat on South Padre Island

Vegetarian foods at the Painted Marlin grille

Whether it’s prepping for the day or coming in from a full day of island activities, South Padre has you set for dining options for breakfast lunch or dinner. Two of our best recommendations are WindJammers Beachfront Cafe ( located inside the IslaGrand Beach Resort) and The Painted Marlin Grille. Both have spectacular views and casual attire is acceptable at either location. Remember to be laid back enjoying the views and atmosphere, even though you are in Texas this is island life!

Painted Marlin Grille

Painted marlin South Padre dining

 

Fish and Chips at the painted Marlin Grille South Padre Island

For more family fun and ways to explore South Padre Island head over to Visit South Padre for all the latest activities and fun on the island! Be sure to check out our Instagram for more photos of our trip to South Padre Island and for the latest in Texas travel follow @TXTravelTalk on twitter.

Have you visited South Padre Island? What was your favorite activity, accommodation, or memory? Share in the comments below!  

Taking Time to Inventory Life

California Coastal Views #KiaSBEXp

Late last week, I was sitting down with a friend over coffee and the best breakfast tacos Austin has to offer (more on that later) recounting how fast life moves. It seemed impossible that sections of life that felt so lengthy and exhausting at the time were only a mere 24-36 months in total. It felt like a lifetime. In some ways it really was a lifetime ago, depending on how you measure a life cycle.  It was a different life I lived then. I was a different person then.

Just keep swimming. Keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward. Keep swimming. That’s how I lived a good deal of my early life. It wasn’t so much a life plan I was enacting as it was mostly self-preservation but as I retold sections of my life’s timeline, I evaluated just how very much I’ve lived, endured, succeeded and failed in these 30ish years of mine.

So much. Life is SO MUCH sometimes, isn’t it?

This morning as I take stock in this first half of 2017, I realized this year has brought quite a bit to the table by itself. In this first six months we’ve: welcomed a new baby to the family, I became the weekend wife, leaving a place that felt like loosing “my person”, finding a new home, having our entire life packed in a u-haul and then having it stolen from our driveway (for the record, I still can’t believe that happened), a new job, new schools, a two-week road trip, passing of pets that were like family to us, several speaking engagements, and graduations. I’m sure I’m forgetting so many other things in between because life often moves too fast to take inventory.

Kia Optima SXl Coastal Views

This week I’m fortunate to have been invited on a trip where I get to pause and finally do that. Kia Motors America invited a group of us to the Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara, CA to spend the week especially designed to allow us a little time to relax, reflect and take inventory. They paired us with some of their most luxurious vehicles, the Kia Optima SXL and the Kia Cadenza, for a drive up the scenic California coast. During our time here we’ll be treated to extended dining experiences, spa treatments, vineyard tours, kayak adventures, and dinner cruises. There is also a good allowance of time built-in for me give attention and consideration to the details of life that may have been overlooked. After all, the details are often the most meaningful memorable parts.

A lot has happened in this first 6 months of the year. I’d be foolish to think that 2017 has any intention of slowing down for the last half. I’m taking inventory, resetting and getting ready. Good things are on the way, friends. Really good things.

You are Amazing #KiaSBEXP

Shopping Online? Save Money with Groupon Coupons!


(This is a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own.)

Whenever we have moved to a new city or are off exploring a new place for the first time, I love checking out Groupon.com for great deals on interesting restaurants or activities that are exclusive to that area. However it looks like I haven’t been utilizing the site to its fullest potential.

Shopping Online? Save Money with Groupon Coupons!

Chances are, you’ve probably used Groupon a time or two as well by now. But did you know Groupon has a coupon section for shopping your everyday retailers too. You can find hundreds of coupons thru Groupon Coupons for retailers you are already shopping online like Nordstrom’s, Target, Home Depot, Pet Smart and others.

Groupon Coupons

As we get ready to move in a few months, I will be doing a lot of online shopping for our new home too. I’m going to need a few new appliances. Groupon Coupons has me set with the best deals from Best Buy. Home repair or DIY projects- guess what?  I found great coupons for Home Depot as well. Randall will need to add a few new garments to his professional wardrobe and I’ll be sure to check coupons for his favorite stores too.  (More money saved on those purchases means more money I can spend on Groupon getaways! But seriously…)

I do quite a bit of travel planning online prior to heading out on a trip. Checking out the coupons available for booking car rental, hotel or other travel basics can add up. Saving money on things like this beforehand allows us to enjoy vacation time even more while we are away and spend a little more on luxuries where we REALLY want to. I’ll keep you updated through Twitter for my favorite daily Groupon deals & coupons so be sure to follow me there!

Have you used Groupon.com or Groupon Coupons to shop before? What are the coolest deals or experiences you’ve found using the site?

20 Awesome Experiences of 2016

As we look out with anticipation towards all the possibilities that 2017 may hold, it’s important we take time to reflect on all that happened the year before it. I do this each year and it always seems likes so much more greatness happens by the end of the year than what I first anticipate. I believe this happens when you leave yourself open to adventure, partner with creative, driven people, and live your life with the purpose of collecting and telling great stories. Thanks to our work with Kia Motors in 2016 we were able to tell a plethora of great stories, with incredible people, and have some really awesome experiences. Here is a recap list of some of our favorite memories from 2016.

20 Awesome Experiences of 2016

Dinner under the Stars ( Mom 2.0 at The Ecology Center)

Enjoying the Suite Life ( Hotel Emma, Salamander Resort & Spa, Hotel Zepplin, Solage)

Solage Calistoga suite

Suite at Solage Calistoga CA #KiaSoulTurbo

Ice Box Hotel Emma San Antonio

Hotel Emma, San Antonio TX #ExperienceNiro

Hotel Zepplin San Francisco CA

Hotel Zepplin San Francisco CA #KiaSoulTurbo

We went back in time in Middleburg VA when we drove the all new 2017 Cadenza ( more here)

Alice Chase and Africa Miranda Kia Cadenza Virgina

and we saw the future and what vehicles we would be driving when we get there during  SEMA 2016.

Kia Sorento Ski Gondola

Soul First Class

Soul First Class photo cred: Kia Motors

And went to some pretty unusual places ( Borrego Springs, Seven Magic Mountians, Bird’s Cafe, Penny’s Cafe, )

Sky Art Sculptures of Borrego Springs

Sky Art Sculptures of Borrego Springs

Alice Jeff Joel Seven Magic Mountians

Birds Cafe, CA #KiaSoul Turbo

And some really beautiful places too.

San Francisco Bridge #KiaSoulTurbo

#KiaSoulTurbo Drive

Vegas Views SEMA Kia

Vegas Views

I even got to make a music video and karaoke with some of my coolest friends

This was just a recap of what made 2016 so special. (Be sure to go back and check out any posts on adventures you missed from 2016!) I’m sure 2017 will have even more in store for us. Some things are already on the books and I’ll share with you in the upcoming weeks. Other adventures are still to come and we’ll both be surprised when them come to pass. The exciting part is that with every new place, adventure, and road traveled we learn more about ourselves and have the opportunity to explore and share these stories. Thanks to every one of you who chose to follow along and take part by reading here, interacting on our social channels and generally being such a support and encouragement. Huge thanks to Kia Motors for both taking me along on these adventures and allowing me to tell part of that story. It’s always an awesome experience!!