Happy Groundhog Day

A long standing bucket list item, my friend Kate and I vowed we were finally going to make the four hour trek from Washington, DC to Punxsutawney, Pa. to see Phil's forecast with 10,000 of our closest friends. To-date it is the most bizarre, but fun, 16-hour trip I've had yet.

Travel Tip: Plan Early!

Compulsive over planner could be my middle name. So naturally, I started planning for our 2016 Groundhog Day adventure in October 2015. I thought, four months, plenty of time—WRONG. Apparently Groundhog Day is a very big deal in Punxsutawney and every hotel within 20 miles (which is like ten total) was booked. Our closest option was a hotel 30 minutes south in Indiana, Pa. There were a few cute bed and breakfast options in Punxsutawney, but many are booked a year in advance, so make those reservation early.

8 Hours Round Trip

Kate and I opted to instead drive overnight, leaving DC at 10 p.m., wait for Phil's prognostication at 7:30 a.m. and then head the 200 miles south to DC the same day. It's a loonngg drive, and some of the back roads we took were straight out of a horror movie. But we made it—ready to celebrate in the weather capital of the world!

Parking is available at the Wal-Mart on Route 119 south of Punxsutawney. From there we hopped on a bus ($5/per person) and made our way to Gobbler's Knob.

22 Degrees and Ready to Party

Gobbler's Knob opens at 3:00 a.m. and when we got there at 3:30 it was packed! It's definitely a party atmosphere and I was surprised at the amount of people there from far and wide, many dressed in their craziest Phil-themed attire. Clearly it's a popular bucket list item. We headed straight for the hot chocolate stand and then the bonfire to warm up.

Just before sunrise there were fireworks that we thought reviled any we'd seen on 4th of July. It was almost time for Phil!

Celebrating an Early Spring with Punsutawney

Fa-la-la-llama Hike

Adam and I went on quite a few adventures last year, but for me, our llama trek in Shenandoah Valley tops them all. Donna and Tim, of Twin Creeks Llamas, along with our new friends Santiago, Pete and Coffee Bean, treated us to an incredible three hour hike on their farm, located 90 minutes west of Washington, D.C. Check out the video of our full adventure above.

After arriving Saturday morning, we spent about an hour getting to know the llamas, learning how to halter and lead them, and asking a ton of questions (read their great FAQ here). It was the weekend of Thanksgiving, so it was just Adam and I, but Donna and Tim were sweet enough take us on what they call a "Llama Lite Picnic Hike" on their beautiful property.  

Photo // Twin Creeks Llamas

Photo // Twin Creeks Llamas

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LLAMA LITE HIKE

The Llama Lite picnic hike ($55/per person) is a condensed version of the regular 4-hour trek through Shenandoah's Blue Ridge Mountains. The picnic hike includes 1 1/4 miles of groomed trails that meander through the woods and follow the banks of their two streams. It also includes the standard "trail gourmet" lunch, which was right up there with one of mine and Adam's favorite meals to date. The llamas carry everything for you and Donna and Tim put out a truly delicious spread for us, including Donna's famed pumpkin soup.

All-in-all, Llama Lite is a great option if you're not up for the full hike or are short on time—but Adam and I are certainly looking forward to coming back in the fall to tackle the Overlook Trail ($75/per person).

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Photo // Twin Creeks Llamas

Photo // Twin Creeks Llamas

SLEIGH BELLS JINGLIN'

It was the first hike of the holiday season, so Donna decked the boys in sleigh bells for our hike. They were adorable, as were their kisses—which you could get if you were quick and had some yummy grain as a treat.

(Party) Pete, as he's affectionately called, was my buddy for the hike. Pete is jet black, curious, and was definitely one of my favorites. In fact, Donna and Tim explained that oftentimes llama personalities are compared to that of cats, curious and aloof. But like cats, they each had very unique personalities and it was so much fun getting to know them over the course of our hike.

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12 Hours in Knoxville

NEXT UP, KNOXVILLE

We stopped in Knoxville on our way to Asheville and boy let me tell you was I surprised. It is truly a hidden gem nestled at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, with a ton of charm and Southern hospitality. I'm already wanting to go back. 

MARKET SQUARE

We rolled into town about 7 p.m. and made a beeline for Market Square, host to an eclectic mix of restaurants, shopping, and live music with a small-town flare. Established in 1854 as a market place for regional farmers, the pedestrian mall holds true to its roots with a weekly seasonal farmer's market (and food trucks!).

We had a hard time squeezing in all we wanted to see and do in the short time we were there but some of our favorites included:

  • Stock & Barrel – Burgers and bourbon and s'mores shakes to die for.
  • Preservation Pub - Great roof top and live music! (although be prepared to leave smelling like an ashtray).
  • Scruffy City Hall - Owned by the same folks that run Preservation Pub, $5 cover gets you into both.
  • Tupelo Honey - Southern soul cooking that comes highly recommended. They also have locations in Asheville and Arlington, VA.

And we didn't have a chance to try The Tomato Head and The Crown & Goose but they both looked fun and came highly recommended.

AU REVOIR KNOXVILLE

On our way out of town we stopped at The French Market Creperie. The French Market offers both sweet and savory French crepes and the best fresh squeezed orange juice I've had in awhile. We did a bit more walking around before hitting the road to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (more on that coming soon).

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Next Time

Hotel St. Oliver is definitely on my list of places to stay for my next trip to Knoxville. Just steps from Market Square, the 1876 building was renovated and re-envisioned into an adorable boutique hotel. We stayed at the Knoxville Downtown Hilton, which was lovely, pet friendly and just a few blocks from Market Square.

We also heard great things about Sequoyah Hills and would have loved to explore the 87-acre park along the Tennessee River if we had another day there. Next time!

Music City Love + A Night in Knoxville

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SITE SEEING IN MUSIC CITY

We made the nine hour drive from Washington, DC to Nashville for the start of our 1,500 mile road trip through Tennessee and North Carolina. Our first stop, celebrating the wedding of our sweet friends from college. Their destination wedding was the perfect backdrop for exploring all that Music City has to offer. Neither Adam or I had been, although it has been at the top of our travel bucket-list for some time—and it certainly didn't disappoint.

NASHVILLE LOVE

We so enjoyed celebrating with our college friends, Alexa and Chris, on their special day. With its open-air chapel, crystal chandeliers, and antique church pews, their ceremony and reception at Mint Springs Farm, just south of Nashville, was pure southern elegance.

GOOD EATS + DRINKS

Country music is alive and well in Nashville, as are the herds of bachelorettes and birthday parties at every turn. Nashville is certainly the place to come for a good time and is well known for its storied music history, but I was most surprised to find a capitol city with a thriving food scene and eclectic vibe.

Pinewood Social

My favorite place by far was the trendy Pinewood Social that came highly recommended. This restaurant, meets adult playground, is a funky, fun space with delicious food. Beyond the dining room and bar is a six-lane bowling alley, bocce court, coffee bar and outdoor pool. We were there for Saturday brunch and I honestly could have ordered everything on the menu. We opted to share the pork belly egg sandwich and chicken and biscuits—so good!

More Favorites

MUSIC MUST SEES

From the Country Music Hall of Fame to historic RCA Studio B, Nashville is packed with music must sees. We tried to hit the high notes on our quick 1-day tour.

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NEXT UP, KNOXVILLE

We stopped in Knoxville on our way to Asheville and boy let me tell you was I surprised. It is truly a hidden gem nestled at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, with a ton of charm and Southern hospitality. I'm already wanting to go back. 

MARKET SQUARE

We rolled into town about 7 p.m. and made a beeline for Market Square, host to an eclectic mix of restaurants, shopping, and live music with a small-town flare. Established in 1854 as a market place for regional farmers, the pedestrian mall holds true to its roots with a weekly seasonal farmer's market (and food trucks!).

We had a hard time squeezing in all we wanted to see and do in the short time we were there but some of our favorites included:

  • Stock & Barrel – Burgers and bourbon and s'mores shakes to die for.
  • Preservation Pub - Great roof top and live music! (although be prepared to leave smelling like an ashtray).
  • Scruffy City Hall - Owned by the same folks that run Preservation Pub, $5 cover gets you into both.
  • Tupelo Honey - Southern soul cooking that comes highly recommended. They also have locations in Asheville and Arlington, VA.

And we didn't have a chance to try The Tomato Head and The Crown & Goose but they both looked fun and came highly recommended.

AU REVOIR KNOXVILLE

On our way out of town we stopped at The French Market Creperie. The French Market offers both sweet and savory French crepes and the best fresh squeezed orange juice I've had in awhile. We did a bit more walking around before hitting the road to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (more on that coming soon).

Next Time

Hotel St. Oliver is definitely on my list of places to stay for my next trip to Knoxville. Just steps from Market Square, the 1876 building was renovated and re-envisioned into an adorable boutique hotel. We stayed at the Knoxville Downtown Hilton, which was lovely, pet friendly and just a few blocks from Market Square.

We also heard great things about Sequoyah Hills and would have loved to explore the 87-acre park along the Tennessee River if we had another day there. Next time!

18 Miles on Mount Vernon Trail

HITTING THE TRAIL...

Another DC bucket list item complete! This weekend, Dani and I (finally) biked the Mount Vernon Trail, an 18-mile paved stretch between Rosslyn, Va. and George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. Winding alongside the Potomac River, the trail offers runners, cyclists, and exercise novices alike a scenic escape from hectic city life. Although, on a nice day, we quickly learned the trail can get pretty crowded too.

[VIDEO] ONE MINUTE, EIGHTEEN MILES

Thanks to a little GoPro magic, check out a small glimpse of the awesome scenery along the trail.

Situated in Northern Virginia, the multi-use recreational trail is easily accessible by car or metro. There are some worthy stops along the way, including Old Town Alexandria, Arlington National Cemetery, Gravelly Point, and of course, Mount Vernon Estate, a must see.

BIKE TO MOUNT VERNON

Don't have your own bike or just visiting? No problem, you can rent one from Bike and Roll in Old Town Alexandria and enjoy a scenic ten mile ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. And if the 20 mile round trip is a little too much, you can book a one-way bike trip and return to Alexandria on the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Miss Christin. I think that's next up on the DC bucket list!