With it’s tree-lined streets and classic New York neighborhoods, Rochester is an excellent example of the beauty upstate New York has to offer. And at only an hour and a half drive from Niagra Falls and Buffalo, it’s a much less touristy destination in which to relax while still enjoying the sights.

ENJOY Rochester FOR FREE

  • Highland Park: Walk your dog, explore the grounds, have a picnic, play some Frisbee…The wooded and wide-open spaces provide the perfect place to relax in the shade or soak up the sun and the conservatory provides a glimpse of a wide variety of plant life.
    Highland Park | Rochester, NY
    Highland Park | Rochester, NY
  • Eastman School of Music: Free concerts are a regular occurrence here, so check the schedule while you’re in town and maybe you’ll get lucky!
  • Festivals: During the spring and summer months there are plenty to choose from. From the lilac festival to the jazz festival there’s always something to look forward to.
  • Mendon Ponds Park: Trails, hiking, water activities, sledding if there happens to be snow on the ground, and if you happen to have a handheld GPS, it’s a popular geocaching location.
  • ArtWalk: Between Memorial Art Gallery and the George Eastman House on University Avenue is a unique outdoor art gallery with everything from sculpture to painted park benches on display. Surrounding the walk on cross streets are shops, theatres, galleries and museums for your viewing pleasure.
  • Rochester Art Center: If it’s art you crave, the exhibits at this gallery should do the trick. Admission is only $5 most of the week, but on Thursdays it’s free!
  • Rochester Public Market: Produce, meat, cheese, baked goods and a variety of other gifts and goods can be found on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at this popular market. There is often live music on the weekends and special events throughout the year.

OUR FAVORITE THINGS

They may not be free, but if you have a few extra bucks and you happen to be interested, check them out!
  • Eastman Kodak House: Hit up this museum if you’re film buffs like we are. Admission is $14, but if you happen to have a local entertainment Book there’s a BOGO coupon in there. Learn about the man who built a film empire, go on the included tours of the house and gardens, and take a look at the temporary exhibits and collection of old wet plate, dry plate and film cameras.
    George Eastman House | Rochester, NY
    George Eastman House | Rochester, NY
    Eastman House | Rochester, NY
    Eastman House | Rochester, NY
    George Eastman House | Rochester, NY
    George Eastman House | Rochester, NY
    George Eastman House | Rochester, NY
    George Eastman House | Rochester, NY
  • Susan B. Anthony Museum: Information about the head of the women’s suffrage movement? Yes, please! Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
  • Ice Skating at Ritter Ice Arena: Located at RIT, the rink offers ice skating for $3-$5 plus a $3 skate rental, but in the off-season the hours are limited, so check the schedule before showing up.
  • Cinemark Movies 10: Yeah the movies may not be brand new releases, but it may be your last chance to catch that summer blockbuster on the big screen before it goes to DVD. Tickets are only $4 regularly, but on Tuesdays you can get in for $1!


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GRAB A BITE

Sure, Rochester is no NYC, but there are plenty of places to dine on the cheap, even for vegans and vegetarians!
  • Joe Bean: A coffee geek’s paradise, this cafe with it’s bar-like atmosphere and flights of beer specializes in espresso. And they do it well. I can’t remember the last time I had such a smooth, rich latte. Even their soy milk is a special barista blend. They don’t do fancy syrups, but from someone who usually likes those fancy syrups, ya don’t need ‘em. Just enjoy the excellent flavor.Joe Bean-2Joe Bean-1
  • Dogtown: You can probably guess what food item is featured on the menu at this restaurant, but the variety will certainly impress you. At least a dozen ways to eat a hot dog are available including a Cincinnati Chili dog and a Golden Retriever. Surprisingly, there are also an impressive number of vegetarian options on the menu including a veggie dog that can be substituted for ten of their listed menu items, a veggie burger and a portabello melt. Prices hover between $3.5-$4.50 for the dogs and sides like vegan baked beans and french fries are $2.Dog Town-2Dog Town-1
  • Abbots Frozen Custard: I’m told this is a Rochester staple. They offer several flavors of frozen custard including wild strawberry and summer pumpkin, but also a limited selection of frozen yogurt and other treats like sundaes, Oreo ice cream sandwiches and frozen chocolate-covered bananas. Grab a cone with a scoop or two for under $5.Abbott's-2Abbott's-1
  • Brueger’s Bagels: You can’t go to New York without partaking of a New York bagel and this place claims to be the best (though don’t they all?). Drop by for breakfast or an afternoon snack or take some home to enjoy as soon as you roll out of bed (that’s how we like our bagels).Brueger's Bagels-1
  • The Red Fern: One of Rochester’s all-vegan eateries, this one is on the higher end of “budget friendly,” but not a bad option for dinner. Vegan baked mac and cheese, a Compost Plate (an answer to another Rochester staple’s meat heavy Garbage Plate), and a killer seitan sandwich. Meals are between $9-$10 for the most part and servings aren’t huge, but they also offer $5 juices and plenty of vegan desserts.The Red Fern-2The Red Fern-1

MONEY SAVING TIPS

  • If you’re planning on visiting a fair amount of museums and restaurant chains, it might be a good idea to pick up an Entertainment Book or a Save Around Rochester book for a hefty selection of BOGO coupons. Before you buy one or the other, though, browse through and make sure it’s got the coupons you want (Entertainment has one for the Eastman House but Save Around doesn’t).
  • Pick up a City Paper, free at many restaurants and cafes, and take a look at the events calendar. You could find free concerts, trivia nights at local bars, even theater and outdoor activities.
College towns always have something going on, so keep your eyes peeled!
First of all, for our first big overseas excursion on our own, we did pretty well. By which I mean we came back alive and with some fairly interesting stories. That said, it was quite a wild ride! Sure, we’ve been out of the country together since we’ve been married, but not like this. We went to Mexico for our honeymoon, but we stayed at a resort and spent most of our time relaxing by the pool. We went on a mission trip to Nicaragua, but all that, including fun day-off activities, was planned for us. And yes, we’ve gone on road trips and visited various U.S. cities, but it doesn’t compare to taking off over the Atlantic and spending two weeks fending for yourself in completely unknown territory all while trying to stick to a budget that matches what’s currently in your vacation account.
We spent countless hours pouring over guide books and airfare websites and travel tips and tricks pages as we charted our course, made our schedule, and mapped our route. It was exhilarating and when we got there we were (mostly) prepared.
When we arrived in Dublin, Ireland, it was in the AM and we followed the advice of seasoned travelers to go on with your day as if you haven’t just been flying for 12 hours. We caught a bus with our couchsurfing host who met us at the airport (two hours late), changed, and hit the town, ready to see the sights. Unfortunately, our bodies weren’t on the same page as our wills and after the first sight we had to take a brief respite in the park. Actually, Josh almost didn’t make it to the park. He started nodding off during a tour of Dublin Castle and had to catch himself from tipping sideways once or twice. But it was OK. We weren’t the only ones napping on the lawn…
Dublin Castle | Ireland
Dublin Castle | Ireland
It didn’t take long for the excessive amount of walking to get to me. It was probably somewhere around the end of the second day that I came to the conclusion that my sneakers weren’t quite as comfortable as I initially thought and briefly considered buying new ones. Needless to say, that never happened. I just vowed to burn them when I got back home (which also never happened).
We went to museums, we appreciated art, we spent a lot of time in various parks looking up where we were supposed to go next. We saw an Oscar Wilde play in the upper room of a popular cafe and listened to the choral evensong at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was wonderful.
St Patrick's Cathedral | Dublin, Ireland
St Patrick’s Cathedral | Dublin, Ireland
We only got turned around a few times.
We hopped on a bus to Cork and were less than delighted to watch our host meet us by the fountain, in the rain, on a tandem bike. “That’s not our host is it?” Josh asked. I took one look at his bushy red beard and replied, “Yes. Yes it is.” We were wet, we were cold and we were cycling back to his place, josh on the rear saddle, me on the handlebars in the middle hanging onto our host for dear life. But despite the ridiculous picture we made and our travel tiredness (perhaps because of it), I couldn’t stop laughing. Fortunately, he turned out to be a really great, really intelligent guy who took us dancing and out for local beer and traditional Irish music. He also provided Josh with some seriously fresh blood pudding which he described as “Tripe-y,” which I believe means “Wow, now I know what coagulated intestines taste like.”
Fresh Black Pudding | Cork, Ireland
Fresh Black Pudding | Cork, Ireland
The fact that our host had bikes was useful, though we appreciated them less when they wouldn’t change gears as we climbed the ridiculous hills of Cork that it turned out we wouldn’t have had to climb would we have been headed in the right direction. We recovered, but the leisurely ride became even less fun when we tried to get a bit ambitious with the distance and got caught in the rain. That was about when I started drafting a lawsuit against the manufacturer of my windbreaker for claiming that it was waterproof when, clearly, it was not.
Cycling in Cork, Ireland
Cycling in Cork, Ireland
We also stayed in a hostel for the first time, which turned out to be a heck of a lot nicer than I thought it would be. And unlike in our host home, the heat was on. As for the sights, we never made it to Blarney Castle, but a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher more than made up for it. Blue skies, waves crashing at the base of monumental cliffs, tall grasses waving softly in the breeze…it was wonderful.
The Cliffs of Moher | Liscannor, Co. Claire, Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher | Liscannor, Co. Claire, Ireland
In Cork we got turned around enough times to question our navigational skills.
From there we hopped on a plane to London — Stanstead, that is — and took a coach into the city. Four days of sightseeing and traipsing from one end of the city to the other can really wear you out. But we were happy to talk shop (photography, of course) with our highly interested host. Unfortunately we could only stay there for two of our four nights and ended up walking forever to a hostel the third night and the crappiest hotel I have ever seen on the last. Seriously. Crappiest ever. It didn’t have it’s own bathroom. We couldn’t figure out how to turn the heat on. I’m pretty sure the water that came out of the tap was brown. It poured the whole 30 minute walk there, I was soaked to the bone, the four other hostels and hotels we had tried first were booked, and yes, I may have cried. Don’t pretend like you wouldn’t have done the same.
But we saw popular sights like the changing of the guard and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and saw the most wonderful production of Les Miserable at the Queen’s Theatre. I may also have cried there….
Shakespeare's Rebuilt Globe Theatre
Shakespeare’s Rebuilt Globe Theatre in London
Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre
Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre
I’m pretty sure in London we misread a map more than I ever thought was possible for two intelligent individuals….

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From there it was a coach to Bath, England where our super friendly host met us at the station and whisked us away to explore all the historical sites and sounds of the city. Yeah, we went to Stonehenge, but everybody was right: it is just a big pile of rocks. But as the home of Jane Austen and the Roman Baths, there was plenty more to do. We even went into Whales for an afternoon with our host to check out some more castles and scratch one more country off our list. We didn’t get to stay as long as we would have liked, but our host graciously offered to drive us to the airport at an ungodly hour of the morning so we could catch a plane to Edinburgh.

Stonehenge | Wiltshire, England
Stonehenge | Wiltshire, England


The Royal Crescent | Bath, England
The Royal Crescent | Bath, England
Roman Baths | Bath, England
Roman Baths | Bath, England
We didn’t get lost in Bath once!
In Edinburgh I was reminded of how much I hated my shoes and finally broke down and bought a coat and hat. I drastically underestimated how cold it would be and that stupid little windbreaker I brought (you know, the one that wasn’t waterproof) didn’t do a lick of good at keeping out the chill. Thank goodness for Primark! Man I wish we had those stores here! Josh did OK with the chill, though he did borrow my back-up scarf (I bought a second in Ireland) to wrap around his head when we ascended Arthur’s Seat.
Arthur's Seat | Edinburgh, Scotland
Arthur’s Seat | Edinburgh, Scotland
Again there were museums and art and history and daily stops in local cafes to determine our next destination, warm up, and guzzle the mochas I was quickly becoming addicted to. But Climbing Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh, and squeezing in a tour through the Edinburgh Dungeon were the highlights. Yeah, the latter is most definitely for the tourists, and we weren’t sure how it would go, but we went anyway and actually had a blast. Our host was great, too, and provided as much lively conversation in the mornings and evenings as we could ever want.
Scottish National Gallery | Edinburgh, Scotland
Scottish National Gallery | Edinburgh, Scotland
The Edinburgh Dungeon | Edinburgh | Scotland
The Edinburgh Dungeon | Edinburgh | Scotland
Before heading to the airport to head back to Dublin where we’d catch our flight home the next morning, we also took a train out to North Berwick (pronounced, as I so animatedly like to recall, North Bare-rick) to pay a visit to the Scottish Seabird Center. It was hard work making the most of it after we missed our train, had to wait an hour for the next one as we worried we would miss the boat tour we were hoping to go on, and then arrived only to find out they had scrubbed that tour anyway and weren’t having another until we had to leave. I may have been a bit grumpy. Plus, I wanted to see puffins. Little did I know that September is not when puffins are vacationing on the coast of Scotland. Apparently that’s in June…
Bass Rock | Scottish Seabird Centre | North Berwick | Scotland
Bass Rock | Scottish Seabird Centre | North Berwick | Scotland
On the upside, I don’t think we ever got lost in Edinburgh. OK, maybe once or twice but that was only because we couldn’t find our host’s flat.
So, our two week excursion nearly at an end, we flew to Dublin where we decided to spend the night in the airport to save the money and the hassle of trying to get back into the city for a night, only to rush back to the airport in the morning. We will never make that mistake again. And unless you can sleep through riotous amounts of noise and find a cold tile floor exceedingly comfortable, I would not recommend it to anyone I cared about either. Just don’t do it. Just don’t. Josh looked like a zombie for the next two days. Seriously. I should have taken a picture. Major zombie face.
Sleeping in airports
Our cozy arrangement would have been perfect for a long night in the Dublin airport. Unfortunately, the cleaning crew kicked us out of the area after only 15-20 minutes.
Back at home two flights and one excessively long layover later, we reminisced, edited 100,000 photos over the next month and a half, and couldn’t wait to share our experiences with everyone we knew, even if they didn’t ask to see our 100,000 edited photos.
So despite the ups and downs, twists and turns, exotic food and strange sleeping arrangements, it was an amazing journey and we can’t wait to do it again. Maybe mainland Europe next time?

ITINERARY
We’ve been asked many times how long we stayed in a city, how we got from place to place, that sort of thing. So here’s a practical breakdown of how our trip went.
Trip length: 14 days
Cities visited: 5
Money spent: xxxx (over half of which was spent on plane tickets to get there)
We flew into Dublin in the morning and hit the ground running. We spent three full days exploring completely on foot and were completely satisfied with how much we got to see and do while we were there.
From Dublin we took a coach to Cork. It was only a couple hours and a short walk from the coach station to the center of town. Most of Cork could have been appreciated on foot, but because things are a little more spread out, we were glad to have access to bicycles. It extended our reach outside of just the little downtown area. We stayed there for two days.
From Cork we took a bus to the airport and flew to Stanstead Airport outside of London. From there is was maybe an hours’ coach ride into the city, but it was still quite a bit cheaper than flying into a more central airport. We got to the city in the late morning and spent 4 days in London, once again mostly on foot save for a handful of rides on the tube to get to and from our host’s home outside the city.
From London we took another coach into Bath, England — it took about two hours — and arrived nearish lunch time. The city was no trouble on foot, but to see Stonehenge we had to use a set of wheels. Fortunately our host was kind enough to drive us out there. We stayed for a day and a half which we didn’t feel was long enough, unfortunately.
Edinburgh was our last stop and we arrived in the morning by plane from Bath. We took one bus to try and make a train for a day trip, but otherwise we trudged up and down the hilly city on foot to and from our host’s home each day. We took the train to North Berwick one afternoon and a bus to the Edinburgh Airport for our flight out. We stayed for three days and could have stayed for one more at least.
From the Edinburgh Airport we flew to the Dublin Airport (it was much cheaper to do it this way) and slept in the airport until our morning flight back to the states. It wasn’t the most pleasant way to spend the night, but by this point we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a late bus to the nearest hostel and back in the morning.
Eventually we made it back to West Palm Beach (via Charleston and a three hour layover we could have done without) and I’m not going to lie, I was glad to be back in warmer climates. : )
The entire trip, travel, meals and lodging included, was around $3,204.
The tickets alone were $1,843 and the rest, about $1,360, was spent on, well, everything else (food, admission, transportation, cold medicine…). Only around $150-$200 went to lodging as we couchsurfed most of the time and loved it. And in case you’re wondering, that all totals up to a bit under $100 a day plus plane tickets to get there. Could we have done it for less? Sure, but we had saved up for a year and didn’t want to deprive ourselves of every fun thing that cost a little extra. ; )
So now you know. A two-week trip through the UK and Ireland might just be closer than you think!
Trinity College | Dublin, Ireland
Trinity College | Dublin, Ireland
The Tower of Big Ben | London, England
The Tower of Big Ben | London, England
There’s a lot of planning that goes into any foreign vacation, but steel yourself for even more preparation if you’ll be backpacking (i.e. hopping from city to city).
See, if you’re going to Paris for a week or London for 10 days, there is usually only one hotel, one flight, and maybe a train or two that you’ll need to book. If you’re seeing as many sights as you can possibly take in in one trip, there’s so much more to consider.
Take our two-week jaunt across the UK and Ireland, for example: We took three coaches, seven planes (including the four that took us from the States and back), countless buses and rides on the Tube, and stayed in five host homes, two hostels and one grungy hotel. See what I mean? It takes far more planning and foresight to get a backpacking trip together than a relaxing vacay at a posh resort in Rome where the only advance planning required is to make sure the resort shuttle picks you up at the airport on time.
The coach from Dublin
The coach from Dublin


So here are a few tips to ensure your trip is a successful one:
1. Start planning early: The best thing to do when organizing a trip like ours is to start early. Earlier than you think. Do your research, scour guidebooks and the web, and map out each step of your journey well before you set foot in your destination country or you might end up like us, caught  in a downpour somewhere in London with no umbrella in the middle of the night when every hostel within walking distance is booked and you end up staying at the dumpiest hotel in the city for £65 a night. Not fun.
2. Book transportation: Once you have your itinerary down, nail down how you’re getting from city to city (train? plane? rental car? coach?) and purchase tickets in advance so you don’t have to worry about missing the only coach to Leeds for the next six hours.That way you won’t be burning the midnight oil comparing costs of various modes of transport, stressing about whether or not you’ll arrive a your destination in time for that Mariachi band you really want to see.
3. Book accommodations early: There’s nothing worse than sitting in a coffee shop minutes before they close just so you can use their WiFi to locate the nearest hostel or hotel. Yes, we’ve done that, too. Book before you arrive in your destination city so you’re guaranteed a place to sleep even on busy weekends. It’s tempting to want to wait until the last minute to see if a better option pops up, but it’ll hardly seem worth it at 3:00 am when you’re standing on a street corner hoping the fifth hostel on your list has at least one vacancy.
4. Have tickets in hand: For crying out loud don’t forget to have all your tickets for various modes of transportation and tours printed out before you arrive. You may not be able to find a computer and printer on the road and God forbid you lose access to the e-ticket on your phone because you used up the battery searching for the best bar in Amsterdam.
5. Be prepared: The famous Boy Scouts motto holds true when traveling the world. Research the area you’ll be visiting and know what kind of clothing you’ll need, whether or not you’ll have access to clean drinking water or food, and whether you’ll require tools for really roughing it (tent? camping stove? sleeping bag?). You may not want to carry the extra weight initially, but that multi-tool, protein bar, extra towel or windproof jacket may come in handier than you initially anticipated.
Having your trip mapped out and everything in place when you touch down or pull into the station will provide a much less stressful experience for you (unless you’re one of those people who thrive on never knowing what happens next) and you’ll be free to enjoy the world that much more (without being forced to pull out your smart phone every five minutes to figure out how to get from Dublin to Cork or praying there’s still one seat left in economy class.)

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Train From Edinburgh to North Berwick Scotland
Train From Edinburgh to North Berwick Scotland

We love couchsurfing when we travel. There’s just something exhilarating and rewarding about being welcomed into a complete stranger’s home in a strange city and being treated like old friends. We love meeting new people, hearing their stories of intrepid adventure and hosting people in our home, which we have done many times. But surfing on other people’s couches (especially abroad) is a whole other can of worms. It is still exciting, a great way to meet people and experience a new culture, but there are a few tips and tricks to follow to ensure your surfing experience is as thrilling as you always hoped it would be.Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 2.48.01 PM
1. Be patient: If relying on a host to unlock the front door or meet you for dinner, you may have to adjust your schedule. They have a life and probably a job and you can’t expect them to alter their schedule to accommodate yours.
2. Be flexible: Plans can change, especially when multiple parties are involved. Be open to adjusting your schedule if something comes up.

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3. Be prepared: Find out in advance if you’ll have to plan your own meals or provide your own towels or sleeping bags. Not all hosts will be able or willing to provide you with everything you need.

4. Steel yourself: Not everyone’s standards of cleanliness or idea of what makes a complete meal will jive with yours. Just know that you may have to deal with situations you’re not used to when staying in someone else’s home.
5. Be independent: Don’t rely on your host for all your transportation needs and directions. Some will be happy to show you around town or direct you to all the popular attractions, but some won’t offer, so make sure you can deal with being out on your own.
Cycling in Cork, Ireland
Cycling in Cork, Ireland
6. Plan ahead: Especially if visiting a popular vacation destination like London or Amsterdam, send couch requests several weeks to a month in advance. The couches of people who like to host often fill up fast and you may be hard pressed to find a host if you wait too late to ask.


7. Don’t expect too much: Some hosts may offer to feed you, cook for you, even drive you around, but that is not the norm, so don’t go into it expecting to be catered to.
8. Be respectful: Clean up after yourselves and ensure you’re not inconveniencing your host with your stuff or your schedule. If they go to work early, don’t come back at 2 am after a wild night on the town squealing and making a ruckus and remember what your mother told you about picking up your stuff. Don’t make your hosts tiptoe around piles of your clothes tossed around the living room.
9. Be considerate: Find out what your host’s schedule is like, if you need to leave at the same time they do in the morning, what time they’d like you to be back in the evening, and what the house rules are, if any. They may want you to check your shoes at the door or not eat in the living room, but whatever it is, remember that it is their house and you are a guest. It’s not a bad idea to offer to cook them a meal or buy them a drink, either, if you have time.
10. Don’t be nervous: If it’s your first surfing experience, relax! Most hosts are friendly and happy to have you in their homes. They are doing this for the same reasons you are: to have fun meeting new people and learning about new places! So make a new friend and enjoy the conversations and educational opportunities that come with the couchsurfing experience!
“Where the heck is Stuart, Florida?” You may ask? Well I’ll tell you: it’s a bout halfway between Orlando and Miami right on the East Coast and it’s just the place for a relaxing beach getaway. Only about a 45 minute drive from the Palm Beach International Airport, it’s a world away from bustling Miami or even urban West Palm Beach. I’m not calling it quaint or quiet by any means, just different. Check out the hotspots below.

GETTING AROUND

  • Palm Beach International is the closest public airport, although if chartering private jets is your thing, Witham Airport is right smack bang in the middle of Stuart. It’s a pretty big airport, so rental car options abound and many Stuart hotels offer free transportation to and from the airport for your convenience.
  • You can rent a car at one of the many rental companies in town if you didn’t drive, but there’s also Stuart Scoot, a bike and scooter rental shop downtown, if you’re looking for a easy breezy way to get about. Bike rentals start at just 10 bucks a day, $5 after the second day, and scooter rentals are by the hour ($30 for 2 hours) or day ($55 per with discounts for multiple days). There’s also a public transport system…sort of…but I wouldn’t bother if I were you. The frequency and number of stops is fairly embarrassing.

ENJOY Stuart FOR FREE

  • Beaches: Lets be honest. This is why people vacation in Florida. And when it comes to beaches, Stuart has options. Pop over the Ocean Street Bridge and you’ll find popular Stuart Beach, complete with beach-side eatery, “The Chef Shak,” that offers everything from ice cream and smoothies to hot dogs and soft pretzels. They even have a veggie burger! Bathtub beach is a good option for families with kids and for easy if not terribly exciting snorkeling as a rocky reef keeps waves from breaking over your head during low tide. And just up the road is The House of Refuge, a historical landmark with a rocky shoreline that offers some pretty impressive views when waves crash against them. There are numerous other unguarded beaches up the coast that are less crowded and popular for fishing in the evening, so as you drive, keep your eyes peeled.
    Surfing at Stuart Beach
    Surfing at Stuart Beach
  • Parks: A solid handful of parks offer walking or running trails, the opportunity to see Florida Wildlife up close, or just a place to relax and take a few vacay snapshots. Memorial Park and Flagler Park are both downtown and are home to palm trees and picnic tables. You’ll find bridges over streams and majestic Banyans at Memorial Park and swing sets and an unbeatable view of the St. Lucie River and the Roosevelt Bridge from Flagler Park and Shepherd’s Park across US 1. Kiplinger Nature Preserve is a good bet if you want to see birds and alligators, Halpatiokee is best for mountain biking, tennis, trail walking and easy canoe trips. Sandsprit is perfect for boating, picnicking, and watching the holiday boat parade.IMG_7376
  • Free music: If you happen to be around from October-April, don’t miss the free concerts downtown on the Riverwalk stage every Sunday afternoon. Different styles of music and local bands are featured all the time and the river provides the perfect backdrop for a day of live music. Show up early for the farmers’ market and browse the art and baked goods. On the weekends you can often find roving musicians downtown and live music on the patio at many of the restaurants around town.free music
  • The Barn Theatre: While tickets for this community theatre are a bit high for my taste at $20, most shows kick off with a friends and family night that’s free to theatergoers. Technically it’s the cast’s last dress rehearsal, but you’d never know it as they treat it like opening night. It’s usually the Thursday before opening night, so if you happen to be in town, call the box office to make sure they’re doing it, then enjoy some free theatre!barn theatre
  • Stuart Heritage Museum: Located in an old feed store downtown, this place has the city’s history stacked from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, quite literally. If history’s your thing, drop by for an hour or two in the morning or afternoon.stuartheritagemuseum.com.
  • Osceola and Flagler Street: The two streets make up the heart of Downtown Stuart and are home to gift shops, independent clothing stores, restaurants, cafes, specialty shops and ice cream parlors. Browse and enjoy art galleries and unique shops you won’t find anywhere else. Afterward, take a stroll along the boardwalk and take a snapshot in front of the Roosevelt Bridge.



OUR FAVORITE THINGS

  • River Tours: They don’t usually come cheap at $20 or more a pop, but they provide quite an experience and might even offer an opportunity for turtle or dolphin spotting. The Schooner Lily is a historic sailboat that takes off from the pier downtown and offers a 2-hour tour of the river up to three times a day in the busy season (October-April). The captain and first mate give passengers a bit of history of the area and even play a few Irish tunes on their fiddle and guitar on the evening tours. treasurecoastsailingadventures.com. But if it’s mansion-spotting you’re after, check out the Island Princess. Tours range from 3-5 hours and the captain will point out many of the area’s most famous homes (and their inhabitants) and give a bit of history on the surrounding coats and waterways. islandprincesscruises.com.Schooner Lily
  • Florida Oceanographic Society: This educational facility offers entertainment for all ages including an opportunity to pet a stingray, learn about the sea turtles in their 750,000 gallon lagoon, take guided nature walks, and lots of other hands-on learning opportunities. In the summer they also offer guided nighttime turtle walks where attendees can witness sea turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. FOS also offers lots of info on local waterways and ecological issues so residents can stay informed. Admission is $12 for adults, $6 for kids from 3-12 and free for the little ones.floridaocean.org.
  • Canoeing and Kayaking: As a city surrounded by water, there are plenty of options for kayak rentals. South River Outfitters at Halpatiokee Park will have you weaving through mangroves and around the docks of waterfront homes (keep an eye out for alligators and manatees). Beach Water Sports on Hutchinson Island offers paddling in the causeway (keep an eye out for boats). River Front Kayaks will send you out on the St. Lucie (keep an eye out for dolphins). Rentals usually start around $20 per boat and some places also offer Paddle boards or mountain bikes.paddleboardingkayaking
  • Art Festivals: They abound in this small town, especially in the spring and winter months. Some of them are free, but some ask for a $5 donation, usually for charity or the local arts council. They’re filled with local and national artists, typically with an emphasis on paintings and photography with a sprinkling of jewelry, sculpture and craftier items. They never fail to offer an afternoon of entertainment. To see what’s coming up, visit martinarts.org.


Save up to $525 when you book your flight and hotel together at Expedia.com!


Save up to $525 when you book your flight and hotel together at Expedia.com!

GRAB A BITE

  • Salted Lime Cantina is one of our favorite eateries. You can snag a key-west inspired meal (burritos, salads, piled-high hurricane nachos) at the almost exclusively outdoor restaurant for under $10. The tropical atmosphere is bright and relaxing and the food is good, but don’t expect much from the servers. Apparently their in the Key West mindset, too, and are renowned for taking their time minding their customers. Just don’t grab a table if you’ve got to be somewhere after dinner.
  • Kilwin’s downtown is the place to go for ice cream. There are literally dozens of delectable flavors and even a few kinds of sorbet. They have a wide selection of fine chocolate, too, if you’re more in the mood for a truffle or caramel apple. No FroYo, though, which is my fave. So if you want a lighter option, head to Orange Leaf on US1. It’s not local, but it just happens to be the best in town.
  • East Ocean Bistro is a great place to enjoy an exceptional lunch on Thursdays. They have a special menu on that day with a list of items that are only $6.99. Granted, the portions aren’t huge, but they usually suffice for lunch. They also have the best salad in town with homemade spiced pecans, dried cherries, pears and house vanilla bean dressing. It’s to die for and it’s under $9.
  • The Deck Restaurant has the best veggie burger in town (trust me, I’ve had them all), plus some pretty tasty conventional options as well. It’s busy on the weekends, but most evenings there is live music on the outer deck and it’s one of the few west-facing waterfront restaurants in Stuart where you can watch the sun set over the river. It’s certainly the cheapest.
  • Coffee Bar Blue Door is one of our favorite places to frequent. It happens to be where the young, hip crowd hangs out and they hang out often. The small cafe has a very cozy (i.e. small) interior, but eclectically adorned. The outdoor patio is the seating area of choice, though, and most folks will order and take their coffee, tea, wine or beer outside to enjoy the Florida weather. There are a few food items to choose from, but the menu consists more of snackish items like brie and cheese plates, muffins, soup and quiche than actual meals. There’s a regular music schedule that features local artists, story times for kids, and Monday movie night where the owner rolls out a projector and offers a free movie out on the patio. Another plus: it’s one of the few places in town that’s open after 10:00 pm. Most nights the door is still open until 1:00 or 2:00 am.
    blue door
    Image used with permission
  • Stuart Coffee is another local establishment that offers good coffee and inexpensive grub. Breakfast pastries, house-made parfaits, muffins, and wraps are great for breakfast with a flavored latte (ask to see their box of recipes for a ton of creative flavor combinations), and wraps, sandwiches and salads offer an easy lunch or light dinner. They also serve some beer and wine with a decent happy hour (BOGO), but they close early (7:00) so plan accordingly.

MONEY SAVING TIPS

  • When you get into town, stop by the welcome center downtown for more maps and information than you’ll know what to do with. The staff will help point you in the right direction if you’re looking for something to do and there will be plenty of free publications available with event schedules and listings.
  • For discounts on dining out, don’t neglect to visit localdines.com. You can search for restaurants by city in South Florida and save 50%, sometimes more, on local restaurants. It works instantly, like Groupon, and you print out your certificate and go!
  • For discounts on restaurants, hotels and even activities like paddle boarding, visit the Chamber of Commerce’s website. To save with those coupons, however, you’ll have to order in advance and have the vouchers shipped to you. Give it at least a week. Our fave: Coastal Paddle Boarding. You can get up to 75% off sometimes!
Enjoy the beach!