8 Breweries & Taprooms in 6 Hours: How I did a Self-Guided San Francisco Brewery Tour

Self-guided san francisco brewery tour

8 San Francisco breweries and taprooms in 6 hours – achievement unlocked! Since moving to the Bay Area almost 3 years ago, I’ve always wanted to plan my own beer tour of San Francisco. I have only resided in Berkeley during my time here so have mostly covered the East Bay’s inviting breweries. However, I was aware that many of San Francisco’s breweries are close together so I figured I’d cover many of them in one go someday.

That day finally came last month when my cousin and her boyfriend decided to drive up from South Bay for the weekend to stay at mine and Roger’s apartment. They rarely get to venture to the big city so I thought this was the perfect chance for the 4 of us to explore the San Francisco beer scene.

Note that a few companies around the Bay offer paid brewery tours that range from $99-$200/person (public and private), but they are more structured than the one we undertook.

How I planned our self-guided San Francisco brewery tour:

  1. I searched the web to find the most highly recommended breweries in San Francisco. Yelp, Thrillest and Eater SF mostly contributed to my list creation.
  2. I mapped the tour route on Google Maps, making sure every brewery was close to one another and that our route ended by a BART station to get us back to the East Bay by the end of the night.
San Francisco Brewery Tour

San Francisco Brewery Tour Route (Created on Google Maps)

Logistics of our self-guided San Francisco brewery tour: 

  1. Start early! We got a late start (around 5pm), which actually made for a pretty fun night, as we made it our goal to hit each spot before they closed.
  2. Every brewery on our tour were no more than 8 minute drives from each other! Nobody wanted to be a DD (designated driver) so we ended up taking Lyft everywhere, which was very affordable split 4 ways.

Breweries on our San Francisco Brewery Tour: 


Triple Voodoo (Dogpatch neighborhood)

Flight from Triple Voodoo Brewery

Flight from Triple Voodoo Brewery

This was a great first stop on our tour (and right across the street from a MUNI stop). Triple Voodoo has a wide selection of beers, many seating options, and is dog-friendly. For such a great spot, we were surprised it was less than half full on a Saturday. I would definitely recommend.

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing (Dogpatch)

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

Despite its poor Yelp reviews, I definitely wanted to try the Smokestack given its popular array of beers. Sadly, Yelp was right and this was our least favorite of the breweries due to its poor (and even rude) service and overpriced food. They offer a small cup of almost cold and unseasoned mac n’ cheese for $7. I will say that their ribs are incredibly tasty though.

Magnolia’s main location in Haight-Ashbury is still on my list of places to try.

Laughing Monk (Bayview-Hunters Point)

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

Flight from Laughing Monk Brewing

Inside Laughing Monk Brewing

Inside Laughing Monk Brewing

A small space with lots of character. It’s hard not to smile after a glance at Laughing Monk’s logo, which is literally a laughing monk. A beautiful Autumn tree covers the brewery’s main wall, providing the perfect atmosphere to kick back with friends. They offer unique beers with even more unique names, such as “Devil’s Hoard” and my favorite: “STEVE?!”.

Ferment Drink Repeat (FDR) (Excelsior, Portola)

Games and Beers at Ferment Drink Repeat

Games and Beers at Ferment Drink Repeat

Unanimously voted as our favorite brewery on the tour. Why: the best tasting beers on the tour, the friendly service, selection of boardgames, and clean, modern atmosphere. Their lights look like hops!

Barebottle Brewery (Bernal Heights)

Flight from Barebottle Brewing

Flight from Barebottle Brewing

The largest brewery on our tour, offering corn hole, additional games, and a food truck (which sadly closed by the time we got there at 8:30pm). Honestly, things were getting a bit hazy at this point for all of us, but from what I can remember this place was solid (and very busy). There were many cute pups running around.

Almanac (Mission)

Almanac Brewing

Almanac Brewing (it was too dark to get a good photo of the beers)

Another wonderful brewery tour stop due to its friendly service and tasty beers. I only wish we had more time here, as it closed soon after we started drinking. Being in the Mission district, I’d highly recommend grabbing a burrito from El Farolito and heading over to Almanac after (we actually did the reverse).

We stopped by Big Rec Taproom and Zoe’s to round out our 8 tour stops on the way to El Farolito and the 24th Street BART station.


Thanks for stopping by! Do you have any San Francisco brewery recommendations?


Highlights from BottleRock Napa Valley Festival 2017

Napa’s biggest music, food, and wine/brew festival came to a close Sunday night after 3 jam packed days of massive headliners, celebrity chefs, and a plethora of activity-filled sponsor booths. For a festival only in its fifth year, the organizers of BottleRock really know how to pull off a crowd-pleasing event (for over 120,000 festival goers). Last year was my inaugural BottleRock experience, and I was so fortunate to be granted a 3-day VIP pass this time around after winning a photo contest from BottleRock on Instagram last year.


If you are considering going to BottleRock next year, here is information that may be helpful. This is my favorite festival so I can’t say enough positive things about it.


Highlights of BottleRock 2017

  • Favorite performances: Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and the Naked & Famous.
  • Favorite meal: Paella from Gerard’s Paella.
  • Favorite interactive sponsor booths: Alaska Airlines (cool photo booth and free Moscow Mule making kit), Columbus Craft Meats (free salami), and Jim Beam (free fan that turns on when plugged into your phone!).
  • Coors Light Sports Bar: we loved this place not only as a momentary escape from the heat, but because they printed out free Instagram photos whenever you used the hashtags #BottleRock and #HopValley together! There was no limit on the photos you could print.

Why I love BottleRock 

  • It’s not just a music festival. It also celebrates two defining characteristics of Napa (and two of my loves): food and drinks. And the breadth of variety they offer is wonderful! They have sushi, pizza, burgers, falafel, cupcakes, Indian, dim sum, vegan, and so much more. Where else can you get discounted noted Napa restaurant food from the likes of Mustard’s and Morimoto?!
  • The design details. BottleRock is so well thought out that I’d love to see an ultra-high-speed video of the organizers putting it together. There is something photo-worthy in every direction – from colorful lanterns, beautifully placed lights, large art displays, to live mural paintings.
  • Its demographic is more mature than most music festivals. This means no teenagers running around wasted and puking their lunches out behind a tree or on a perfectly good patch of grass. For the most part, BottleRock festival goers are fun but appear to know their limits.

Accommodation & Transportation for BottleRock 

  • Accommodation in Napa is not cheap so my group of 5 opted for an Airbnb in Suisun City, which is 25 minutes east of the festival. It was just $435 for 2 nights ($217 per night) in an entire home to ourselves and I thought the location was great.
  • Last year my group stayed in a secluded Airbnb in Sonoma for a much higher price. This is also a good option, but the festival traffic from Sonoma to Napa is worse.
  • I recommend booking your accommodations as far in advance as possible, as Napa is a popular destination in general.
  • We drove everyday, but the festival does offer free shuttles to and from San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Fairfield, Sonoma, Mill Valley, Palo Alto and Santa Rosa.

Is VIP worth it? 

  • What comes with a VIP wristband: separate access to food, drinks, sponsors, and viewing areas (some sections are raised for better viewing). The best perk of VIP was the VIP-only acoustic stage, which featured many bands and artists in an intimate environment. We were a little choked when The Naked & Famous didn’t end up playing during their slot though.
  • Personally, my current financial state would not allow me to purchase a $709 festival pass regularly. However, I think it’s worthwhile – especially for the intimate shows – if you have the extra money to spend. Maybe someday…

Price comparison:

  • General Admission: $139 (1 day) and $349 (3 day)
  • VIP:  $275 (1 day) and $709 (3 day)

BottleRock 2017 in Photos:

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Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the main stage

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The highly photographed LOVE structure at BottleRock

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One of the many colorful lantern displays at BottleRock

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At the BottleRock VIP entrance!

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Finding your friends at BottleRock can be difficult so we always agreed to meet under the lanterns

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Floral photo-op at BottleRock

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Exploring the BottleRock VIP area

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Got Sailor Moon buns at the Paul Mitchell tent in the VIP section

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My favorite dish the festival: Gerard’s paella

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Hand rolls from Morimoto ($10 each)

 

 

 

 

BottleRock Napa Valley 2017

The intimate VIP stage

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The tent where the VIP stage is

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One of my favorite bands, The Naked & Famous, performing

Let me know if you have any questions about BottleRock or if you have anything to share about your BottleRock experience!

Where to Grab a Drink in Berkeley, California

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Albany Taproom’s $12 Flight

It’s been just over two years since I made the move from Vancouver, British Columbia to the just as culturally diverse Bay Area town of Berkeley, California. The college town, which is just a 20 minute train ride from San Francisco, has no shortage of restaurants, book stores, and places to stroll and get your cardio on (e.g. the Berkeley Marina or Berkeley Hills). However, in the couple years I have resided here, one thing has puzzled me: the shortage of bars in Berkeley. Most mid-large sized cities offer at least one lively block of bars and go-to weekend places, but Berkeley is oddly not one of them. I live downtown and I can count the area’s decent bars on both my hands. I must mention that there is Telegraph Ave., which is home to a couple bars geared toward college students. If that’s you then Pappy’s and Kip’s are where you’ll probably be on a Friday night.

If you have encountered the same conundrum I first faced in Berkeley, fret not, as I have done the work for you and sussed out the most worthwhile drinking experiences in the city.

My Top 2 Places to Grab a Drink in Berkeley

Note that these are beer places, as I am a beer lover (if not already obvious from my profile photo). Refer down the list for wine and cocktail recommendations.

1. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room (West Berkeley)

  • Stellar customer service! Our bartender shared a plethora of information on each beer and the brewery
  • Well-designed, modern atmosphere
  • Great selection of beers
  • Easy to find parking
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Flight at Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room

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Our Flight with Dojo Dogs from the Food Truck Outside

2. Fieldwork Brewing Co. (West Berkeley)

  • A great space to drink at with a friend or a big group (they have really picturesque outdoor seating)
  • A constantly changing selection of in-house brews
  • Offer tasty empanadas if you’re hungry
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Me and a Flight from Fieldwork Brewing Co.

If you’re looking for lively atmosphere: Jupiter has a great outdoor area and live music on some nights (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, and food.

If you’re looking for a dance floor: Missouri Lounge (West Berkeley). Offers beer, cocktails, and hot dogs.

If you’re looking for creative and interesting cocktails: Tupper & Reed (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer and scorpion bowls too.

If you’re looking for a high class experience: Revival (Downtown Berkeley) or FIVE (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and food.

If you’re looking for a good Happy Hour: Beta Lounge has Happy Hour 4-9pm (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and bar bites.

Honorable Mention:

  • Albatross Pub (West Berkeley) offers beer, darts, and a multitude of board games.
  • Albany Taproom (technically in Albany, which is just north of West Berkeley) offers beer and food.
  • Comal (Downtown Berkeley) offers beer, cocktails, and upscale Mexican food.
  • Starry Plough (South Berkeley) offers beer and bar food.

Am I missing anything? If you can think of other great places to grab a drink in Berkeley, let me know in in the comments below!

Napa: 12 Wineries in One Day

After relocating from Vancouver, BC to California in August 2014, I was thrilled to hear my parents planned their first weekend trip to visit me. We only had 2.5 days together so I planned a weekend where they could see as much as possible (without the San Francisco touristy destinations, which they’ve already done).

After hiking and sightseeing around the Point Reyes National Seashore and Marin Headlands on the Saturday, we ventured bright and early to Napa the next morning. And when I say bright, that is no exaggeration – the temperature that day rose to over 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). We couldn’t wait to hop into each winery for the strong winds of air conditioning.

As the title states, we managed to visit a total of 12 wineries in one day. Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean we had 12 wine tastings, but that we saw the grounds of 12 different places. Some of which are very worth seeing. If you’re looking to show some out-of-towners Napa in one day, feel free to take a page from our book:

Itinerary for Napa in One Day:

9:00AM – Arrive at the Napa Valley Welcome Center as soon as it opens for an extensive map and 2-for-1 tasting coupons.

10:30AM – Drive all the way up to the north end of Napa to the town of Calistoga and have brunch. I highly recommend the French/Cajun spot, Evangeline.

11:30AM-6:00PM – Explore the wineries as you make your way back to downtown Napa to your heart’s content! Here are the 12 we ventured to in order:

* Indicates what I’d recommend stopping at

  1. *Chateau Montelena ($25/person tasting)
  2. Sterling
  3. Clos Pegase
  4. Charles Krug
  5. Trinchero
  6. *Berringer
  7. *Sutter Home (free tasting)
  8. *Heitz (free tasting)
  9. Beaulieu Vineyard (BV)
  10. Andretti
  11. Darioush
  12. *Hess Collection

Note: you definitely want to start the wineries early, as many of them close at 4/4:30PM. Neither of these require reservations either.

6:00PM – Stop by Oxbow Public Market to check out some trinkets, fun shops, and unique food vendors.

6:30PM – Dinner in downtown Napa. I found Spanish tapas eatery, ZuZu, on Yelp and it did not disappoint. The tapas are quite small however, so maybe opt for dessert after. We got gelato from Frati Gelato Cafe around the corner.

The Day in Photos…

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Evangeline for Brunch in Calistoga

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Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict and the Waffle

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Waiting for our Tasting at Chateau Montelena

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Chateau Montelena

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The Chinese-Inpspired Lake at Chateau Montelena

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Private Tasting Section at Chateau Montelena

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Unexpected Chalkboard at Sterling Vineyards

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The Iconic Napa Valley Welcome Sign

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At the Berringer Winery Grounds

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Berringer

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Heitz Winery

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The Columns at Darioush

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The Art Collection at Hess Collection

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The Prawns and Octopus at Zuzu in Downtown Napa

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Mexican Nachos and the Best Tapa – Flat Iron Steak

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Downtown Napa

Thoughts on Napa? Let me know in the comments below!

Spring Getaway: 4 Days in Montreal

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Monster-sized poutine with corn dogs at La Banquise

One of my closest friend’s wedding brought my boyfriend and I from San Francisco to Ottawa for the last weekend of April, which ended up being a 15 hour journey (SF > Los Angeles > Philadelphia > Ottawa). These are the types of flights one must take when one would rather use travel dollars on delicious food. And so we figured, why not take the two hour train to Montreal if we’re already flying that distance?

I visited Montreal on a family trip in elementary school, but have wanted to go back in adulthood (and I’ll admit, mostly for the food). Unlike my parents’ structured trips, we spent a portion of our time just wandering aimlessly hoping to find some special spots. Our plan did not disappoint.

As always, as a frugal traveler, I am writing to share money-conscious tips, random observations, and places I thought were worth seeing.

2 things in Montreal that surprised me:

  • The transit system is PHENOMENAL. Maybe it’s because I’ve been suffering from horrible San Francisco transit, but I really believe that Montreal – whose train system was designed after Paris’  – was topnotch. Even as a tourist, it was easy to understand, efficient, and went everywhere we needed to go. I don’t think we ever waited longer than 8 minutes for a train.
  • EVERYTHING there is in French. Of course I knew the city was bilingual, but forgot just how French it really is. I thought at least signs and menus would be in English, but the majority of signage is in French. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help – they’re all quite friendly.

3 neighbourhoods to stroll:

  • Outremont – I was so disappointed that we discovered this area on our last night once most shops and restaurants were closed. Away from all the tourist hustle and bustle, lies this quaint neighbourhood equipped with stylish restaurants and boutiques.
  • Plateau-Mont-Royal – restaurants, bars, and quirky shops. What’s not to love?
  • Ville-Marie (walk along Rue Saint-Denis) – this area is a good time in the evening. Relatively affordable drinks and food, video game themed bars, and a cat cafe that we found way too late can be found here.

2 restaurants to check out:

  • Cinko (Ville-Marie) – everything is $5 and the food is actually good. WHAT. Check out my drool-worthy photo of my hot dog covered with mac n’ cheese below.
  • La Banquise (Plateau-Mont-Royal) – long touted as the best poutine joint in the city, I’d have to agree. If you like big, fatty foods as much as I do – this is the place for you.

The Trip in Pictures…

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Took a short hike to the famous cross on Mont-Royal (you can see it was a wet day)

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Art at every turn in Montreal

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Me and this chick in the St-Laurent neighbourhood

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More art

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Famous smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s (opened in 1928)

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Chilling on a banana peel at Station Mont-Royal

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Quiet weekday at Marché Jean-Talon

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They have tons of juicy fruits to sample for free

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Biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen

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Delicious crepes at the market

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Space Art

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Chinese garden at the Montreal Botanical Gardens in its off season (not much to see)

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$5 hot dog smothered in mac n’ cheese with salad (at Cinko in the Ville-Marie Neighborhood)

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One of the most memorable displays at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (I couldn’t stop thinking of the quote from Mean Girls, “That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets.”

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Part of a Canadian artist’s satire collection (I wish I could remember his name)

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Me, pretending to understand

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A chair made of stuffed animals

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Contemplation

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One of the best bagels with pesto spread I’ve ever had (from St-Viateur Bagel & Cafe)

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The famous Gibeau Orange Julep

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The orange julep tasted just like Orange Julius and I wanted more

Thanks for stopping by! Let me know your thoughts below 🙂

Where to Eat and Drink in Bali

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As promised, I recapped our overall experience in Bali, then did a post on shopping tips, and now I present you our recommendations for food and drinks on the beautiful island. I could have rice and noodles everyday so Bali was basically a magical wonderland of eats for me.

We are value hunters so the majority of our recommendations are well-priced, but we did splurge a couple nights. Below are our faves from South Kuta, Ubud, and Canggu and I throw in my favorite snacks from the trip.

Where to eat in South Kuta

  • Warung Mak Jo – modern, clean warung on a main street with a great bang for your buck. Get their noodles and Balinese coffee!

    Coffee, lumpia goreng, and mie goreng at Warun Mak Jo

    Coffee, lumpia goreng, and mie goreng at Warun Mak Jo

  • Hong Xing (Nusa Dua) – wonderful Chinese-Balinese fusion restaurant right on the beach in Nusa Dua behind the Bali Collection Mall
  • Bawang Merah Jimbaran Bay Restaurant – what a perfect way to end the night: watching and listening to the Indian Ocean’s waves coming onto shore while having fresh seafood. While it was our most pricey meal of the trip (1 fish and 2 beers for ~$25 USD), it’s still cheaper than what you would pay in America and very worthwhile.
With our juicy fish on Jimbaran Bay Beach

With our juicy fish on Jimbaran Bay Beach

  • BreakTime Bali (Nusa Dua) – quaint roadside cafe with cheap noodles and wonderful juices
Ramen pizza, kari ayam (noodles), and a mixed juice from BreakTime Bali

Ramen pizza, kari ayam (noodles), and a mixed juice from BreakTime Bali

Where to go for a drink in South Kuta: Ayana Resort’s Rock Bar is one of a kind. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, it is the best place to watch the sunset. Get there early to avoid waiting and just get drinks and an appetizer if you don’t want to spend too much.

One of the many viewpoints from Rock Bar

One of the many viewpoints from Rock Bar

Beers and the spring roll appetizer at Rock Bar

Beers and the spring roll appetizer at Rock Bar

Where to Eat in Ubud (the town where every place has Happy Hour)

  • BreadLife – on-the-go or searching for the cheapest eats? BreadLife and their Chinese buns is your answer.
Chinese buns for lunch at BreadLife

Chinese buns for lunch at BreadLife

  • Pringga’s Grill – Happy Hour is buy 1 get 1 free cocktails. Great for Balinese and Italian options (we actually got pizza here)
  • Get gelato when you’re in Ubud!

Where to Drink in Ubud

  • Kebun Bistro – you’ll almost forget you’re in Asia when you step onto this French cafe’s patio. Classy place serving up 2 for 1 sangrias in the afternoon!
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Sangria and fries at Kebun Bistro

Where to Get Coffee and Tea in Ubud

The Bali Pulina plantation outside the town offers a wonderful tasting of their finest teas and coffees after partaking in a tour. Sip while looking out at the luscious, green Bali countryside from their towering tree house.

Tea and coffee tasting at Bali Pulina

Tea and coffee tasting at Bali Pulina

Where to Eat in Canggu

  • The Loe – hands down the BEST meal we had during our trip, which is surprising seeing as we were the only ones in the restaurant for the whole duration of our dinner. The food was incredibly tasty and they offer very unique menu items. Go here on your stay!
The pictures don't do the food at The Loe justice (pictured: bruschetta, Italian style suckling pig, and fried pig skin)

The pictures don’t do the food at The Loe justice (pictured: bruschetta, Italian style suckling pig, and fried pig skin)

Cool music paraphernalia all over The Loe

Cool music paraphernalia all over The Loe

  • Echo Beach Club – another great choice right on the beach. This place has an extensive drink and food menu and all the food is cooked fresh on the beach in front of you!
Drinks at Echo Beach Club

Drinks at Echo Beach Club

Snacks you have to try in Bali

If you love seawood like I do then you must try these snacks:

Seaweed flavored Pringles!

Seaweed flavored Pringles!

Seaweed flavored and salmon teriyaki Lays

Seaweed flavored and salmon teriyaki Lays

Special shout out to our Airbnb stay at Ubud Ku Guest House in Ubud, which provided the best breakfasts straight to our room every morning:

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Thanks for stopping by! Check out the full recap of our Bali trip here and my Bali shopping tips here.

Napa Valley – A 24 Hour Jaunt

I had the pleasure of staying in the relaxation and wine destination of Napa Valley this past weekend. The theme of the visit – as is with all my vacations – was #StudentBudget. If you’re looking to discover the pricey wonders of Napa in a financially-tight fashion then look no further than my splendid experience.

We got our room at Napa Discovery Inn at a strikingly low $80 (taxes and fees included) from Hotwire.com. The tiny accommodations were nowhere close to luxury, but that’s never bothered me before. Our host was incredibly friendly and our room was well-sized and lacked any sort of questionable smell.

Napa is chalk full of wineries so that even after plentiful online research I had no idea where exactly to go during our two days there. Thus, our first stop was the Napa Welcome Center located in beautifully quaint downtown Napa. We told a lady there we were looking to experience the area as affordable as possible and she promptly handed us free and 2-for-1 wine tasting cards. And off we went…

First day destinations:

  • Sutter Home (free tasting with card) – our sommelier was amazing. He recommended restaurants around the area and told us about the free tasting across the street at Heitz.
  • Heitz (free without card) – beautiful backyard sitting area.
  • V. Sattui (2-for-1 at $15 with card) – this was a major tourist destination, as the winery was named 2014 winery of the year. The grounds were absolutely fairytale-like.
  • Peju – we stopped by here since this is only one of the few wineries to close past 4PM.
  • Farmstead restaurant worthwhile dinner spot. Warm and modern decor was on point and the food was delicious. We had the cheese rolls and vegetarian gnocchi.

Second day destinations:

  • Napa Premium Outlets – not much to see here. It’s got your typical Coach, Michael Kors and J. Crew factory stores.
  • Uncorked at Oxbow – free tasting with card.
  • Oxford Public Market (restaurants and things for sale) – very similar to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Worth seeing, but definitely has overpriced offerings.
  • Melted – amazing little hipster lunch place in downtown Napa where you can find food that your wallet isn’t actually cringing at.
  • Darioush Winery – this is just absolutely worth seeing. At $300/wine tasting there was no possible way we were touching any of their wines, but it’s perfect for photo-ops.
  • Black Stallion – beautiful grounds again.
  • Robert Mondavi Wine Estate – again, just a great place in Napa to take pictures.
  • Yountville home to 2 Michelin rated restaurants (French Laundry and Bouchon). Picturesque town great for taking an afternoon stroll.
  • Ristorante Allegria – classy Italian restaurant in Downtown Napa. A great choice that is slightly cheaper than your typical Napa fare.

-Pictures of the Trip-

DSC00136The Sutter Home Grounds

DSC00142The Backyard at Heitz

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DSC00183The Grounds at V. Sattui

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DSC00193Inside Darioush

DSC00216Black Stallion

DSC00229Robert Mondavi