18 Hours in Baltimore

My best friend Myllz made a major move to Baltimore last year and she’s literally been begging me to come so I could explore her new city. For context, I was really bummed when she left Brooklyn. I spent most of my 20s exploring the “New Brooklyn” with her. Going to lounges, finding new black-owned businesses to support, visiting exhibits by up-and-coming artists. Since she left, I haven’t been on the scene AT ALL. So our “Woke and Bougie” group chat, which consists of me, Nikki, Kadia (and Myllz), decided to hop on a bus and surprise her in Baltimore.

Everything was set and planned seamlessly. We would leave work at 4:30 PM and catch the 5:30 PM Greyhound to Baltimore. Then we would meet her at a rooftop bar and yell SURPRISE!!!!! (Her husband, Drew, was in on all of the planning). The only problem was, it was a busy Friday and that 5:30 PM Greyhound never showed up. We waited for 4 hours. Greyhound is not a bus company I would recommend at all anymore (I say anymore because growing up my family and I took it to Niagara Falls all the time and it used to be so fun but now…). They are so unprofessional. They do not tell you how long the bus is delayed for or why. They just leave you hanging and waiting. The worst part about it is that the employees get annoyed if you ask them any questions (Maybe they are trained not to give any information because they were all tightlipped when it came time to provide that information). One employee even said, “If I told you how far the bus was you all would get up and leave and we don’t want that.”

Finally, we just said we would go get dinner and try again another weekend. The next morning we all felt guilty and knew we should try again. What did we have to lose? So this time we booked a bus ticket on PeterPan, which was a way more professional and timely company and drove 4-hours to Baltimore. We left at 1 PM and got to Baltimore around 4:30 PM. Drew picked us up from the train station. Our surprise wasn’t as big as we originally planned because Myllz’ reaction was a little delayed. Once she got over the shock of it all she was so excited and couldn’t wait to show us around her new city.

In 18 hours we were able to accomplish A LOT.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites Inner Harbor, which was actually a very nice hotel. The hotel had a free happy hour and complimentary breakfast. The rooms were like apartments, equipped with a kitchenette, dining room and living room. It’s also a pet-friendly hotel.

Myllz took us on a walk to the Inner Harbor. It’s kind of like the South Street Seaport in New York. Then we went to eat crab cakes and sipped on Frosés at Phillips.

Later that night, we had dinner and wine at 13.5% Wine Bar. I absolutely loved this place. The wine was AMAZING. I didn’t like the food as much as I loved the wine though. My suggestion, order something small like an appetizer or a platter of cheese. I made the mistake of ordering a large plate and was disappointed. This was the first time in history, that I didn’t finish my food and didn’t ask for a to-go bag. We then went dancing at Sangria, which is like a hip hop lounge. Finally before we went back to the hotel, we took a nice walk through Downtown, Baltimore.

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The next morning, we had breakfast at Teavolve Cafe. It’s such a cute restaurant and it’s black-owned. I had a Mango Bellini and a red velvet pancake.

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Then we went to another harbor called Fells Point. We watched the ducks and enjoyed the beautiful Baltimore views. Baltimore is really special. That’s how we spent our 18-hours in Baltimore. I’ll surely be back.

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Have you ever been to Baltimore? What are some of your favorite places to visit while there?

Weekend Trip to Denver

When I told people I was headed to Denver, most questioned: “Why?” I know it’s not the typical go-to destination, but Denver is a major city that’s on the come up. To be honest, I probably would’ve never visited if I didn’t have a conference that I was attending. A few of my Lyft Drivers mentioned that there has been an influx in the rates of tourists since marijuana became legal there.

Denver is like any other city. It’s mostly filled with suburban neighborhoods but has a downtown element that’s charming. As a solo traveler in Denver, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aurora Conference Center, which was located in the town of Aurora. The hotel is only 2-years old but my stay was superb. The color scheme was burnt orange and blue, with hints of wood. It has a pool and a full functioning gym. I chose this hotel because it was near the conference that I was attending.

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Most of the people in Denver were actually quite friendly. I only had one horrible encounter on my third day there, when a crazy (racist) man came into my Lyft and got mad at me because I sat in the front seat. When I offered him the seat, he said he didn’t want it, and threatened to choke me…it was odd. That was the last time, I did a Lyft-Line for the rest of my time there; I almost forgot that I wasn’t in Kansas (aka New York) anymore.

The day before the conference started I decided to explore downtown Denver. I came across a few gems. The first being the Denver Museum of Art. There was a powerful exhibit at the museum, which explored the plight of Native Americans and their culture through the eyes of artists.

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My art museum visit was followed by a stroll down 16th Street. 16th street is a strip of stores and food establishments, kind of like an outside mall. I went inside stores like Victoria Secret, Bare Minerals, TJ Maxx and H&M. After that, I ended up on 15th and Larimer, but it was blocked off due to a food festival they were having.

One of the primary reasons people visit Denver is because of the mountains, however, since I was alone it was not something I wanted to tackle solo. I will be back next year (God’s willing) and will definitely add an exploration of mountains to my list of things to do.

NOLA…Anyone?

I’m just going to call a spade a spade and say New Orleans is one of the best cities I’ve ever visited in the United States…who knew? I visited NOLA for the first time with friends from Penn State Hazleton (kind of like our own little reunion). We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb with just enough rooms and bathrooms to accommodate all 13 of us. Our obligatory first stop was, of course, Bourbon Street from there we explored some of New Orleans famous attractions, but definitely couldn’t tackle all of them, which gives me an excuse to return as soon as possible.

Bourbon Street:

Bourbon Street is a strip filled with bars and clubs of all kinds. If you’re into country music and mechanical bulls, there’s a bar for you. If you love hip-hop and a good turn up, there’s a spot for you too. What I love about New Orleans is that it’s one of the only places where you can walk around and into clubs with a red cup and no one will stop you. When they say you can drink on the street, they mean it (not like I’m an alcoholic but I was actually impressed by this). Bourbon Street is known for its hurricanes as well, but I was more than willing to do the long walk to Fat Tuesdays (633 Bourbon Street) to get their frozen drinks because it was only $10, more than half the price than it was in Miami.

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Swamp Tour

The swamp tour in New Orleans is a must. The tour is about 2-hours long and it takes you deep into the swamp for alligator sightings. One cool thing about the tour is that our tour guide actually brought a small alligator on the boat that we could all touch. The scenery and nature in the swamps are absolutely stunning. No trip is complete to NOLA without doing this.

Ky Tip: Check out Groupon.com for Swamp Tours at a discounted price in NOLA.

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French Quarter

The French Quarter was one of my favorite places in New Orleans. It makes you feel as if you stepped back into time and is one of the most charming locations in the city. There you can take a carriage ride throughout the neighborhood, explore the different artists, restaurants, and bars, or even take a cultural walking tour. I fell in love with this place, especially at night, when I visited the Blue Nile and watched soulful blues artists sing their hearts out.

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Café Du Monde

Café Du Monde is a famous spot for beignets in New Orleans. Beignets is surprisingly good. I didn’t think I would like them but I did. They’re like French donuts covered in sugar. They come out on a plate hot and you can have coffee with them. They’re delish and I brought some back home for my family to try.

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Harrah’s Casino

Casino’s are self-explanatory. If you want to gamble you go…no surprise there. But this casino actually has a delicious buffet and a club called Masquerade, so it might be worth a shot to try out. Outside of the casino was the trolley line, which is a cute vintage trolley that takes you throughout the city for $1.50.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is another tourist attraction near the French Quarter and Café Du Monde. It’s famous for the Jackson Square Park and St. Louis Cathedral.

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Food!!!!

The food in NOLA is freaking good. I tried a shrimp po’boy for the first time and almost licked my fingers off. I also tried alligator sausages, for the culture. Some of the spots we dined at were Cajun Seafood, Ruby Slippers, and Drago’s Seafood.

The Hood

Our uber driver took us on a tour of the hood, because why not? In the hood, we met a motorcycle gang, got frozen drinks for $4 and visited cemeteries. Cryptic right? It’s not. Cemeteries are actually a thing to do in New Orleans.

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If interested, check out my new Orleans things to do. I didn’t get to do all of them, but here’s a healthy list of things to do Kydee Style (AKA Why am I such a dork?)

2017 American Black Film Festival in South Beach, Miami

Miami in my late twenties was not the same experience as it was in my early twenties. But this time I was there to network and gain inspiration from the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), so my experience was more work and less leisure.IMG_2375 I stayed at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel with my friend Brittany. I attended some of the panels but for the most part enjoyed my time on the beach, for some much needed R&R. South Beach is crowded but the beaches are beautiful and one of the only beaches on the East Coast that I actually enjoy.FullSizeRender (19)FullSizeRender (20)ABFF 2017 was good. One of my favorite sessions was the Master Class in Producing with Stephanie Allain and Mel Jones, where I learned how to initiate, produce, and fund a project. John Singleton also made a surprise drop-in which was both unexpected and exciting. FullSizeRender (23)IMG_2388FullSizeRender (17)ABFF was sponsored by Shea Moisture, so Brittany and I decided to be models for the brand in one of the festival’s lounges. FullSizeRender (24)This recent trip to Miami made me realize I’ve outgrown it a little.For the most part, I stayed on Collins Avenue, which was where my hotel was located because Ocean Drive is not what it used to be. Back in the day, it used to be the mecca of South Beach. Now it looks rundown and ratchet.  Of course, no trip to Miami is complete without going to Wet Willies or Fat Tuesday. I chose the latter. Their drinks are overpriced, I think $20, and you can’t drink on the street anymore. I hid my drink in my purse and told the bouncer “You didn’t see anything….right?” He smiled and let me go. In spite of everything, South Beach is the perfect weekend getaway when you just need a change in scenery and a break from it all. FullSizeRender (28)FullSizeRender (29)

 

Weekends By Ky: Philadelphia

So often we look across the world to experience history and culture and never in our own backyard. This past weekend I decided to visit my friend Brittany in Philadelphia. We spent the first-night having careless fun which included fish tacos at a Mexican restaurant and Korean Karaoke. The following day I felt a little under the weather, so we got a bunch of snacks from the grocery store and watched Law & Order Criminal Intent all day. Finally, she convinced my sick self to get up and catch a movie which we did and it was awesome. Luckily for me, I got a double deal. We went to see the movie on the UPENN campus and I got to experience life as a Penn ivy leaguer, well sort of. That night, Britt made delish spaghetti and I called it a night early.

Kydee WilliamsThe next morning I felt so much better. We got an early start and headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art. I ran up the Rocky Balboa stairs like I was the champion himself. I had no idea about the significance of those stairs as it related to the movie. I saw people line up just to get a picture with the Rocky statue and I eventually put two and two together. We headed straight to the museum and luckily for me my Penn State credentials granted me access to the museum at a discounted student rate.

Kydee Williams Kydee WilliamsThe museum was amazing, filled with a lot of antique furniture, portraits of George Washington and breathtaking artwork. What captivated me most was the medieval room which was an exhibit filled with military armory from the middle ages. As someone who is always assuming that this part of our history was somewhat fictional, it was interesting to see the steel army wardrobe of the past on display.

IMG_7615 IMG_7616 IMG_7618Kydee WilliamsOutside of the museum was The Oval, which is a seasonal local festival. Brittany and I watched performances and drank apple cider while sitting on a haystack. We enjoyed taking in the amazing sights of this beautiful fall afternoon.

IMG_7606I felt fulfilled as I headed back to New York. Who knew that the Philadelphia Museum was the first museum in the United States? I didn’t. Not only did I experience the culture, and a lot of history in a short 2-days, but this weekend seemed longer than ever. I was totally ready to head back to work and finally have something great to say when someone asks me the quintessential “So how was your weekend?”