• Travel

    Vienna Travel Guide: What to See and Do in Vienna

    Vienna family of five vacation

    If you are looking for a fairy-tale trip, then there is no more perfect a place to visit than Vienna. Vienna, Austria is rich in history, music and baroque architecture, but still has a modern feel to it in parts of the city. Picture a capital city as romantic as Paris but with a third of the crowd. A place as cosmopolitan as London but so much cleaner. It’s a dream come true and it’s all in Vienna, Austria. You’ll surely fall in love with Vienna at first sight, like I did!

    If you’re not spending that much time in Vienna, you’ll definitely want to take a hop on, hop off bus tour like we did via Vienna Sightseeing. This is the most convenient and comfortable way to travel and pack in the main sights, especially if you are traveling with small kids! We got off at Schönbrunn Palace Vienna and Naschmarkt, and these are definitely two must-see destinations in Vienna.

     

    Schönbrunn Palace Park

    Vienna family of five vacation

    The palace is the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs. If you take a tour of the palace and museum, you will learn about the royalty that lived here, particularly Franz Joseph who at 18 became ruler and survived the suicide of his son, the murder of his wife Sisi, and even throughout WWI. Austrian tales of yore got your attention yet?

    Vienna family of five vacation

    The palace park is huge and is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon or a day here. Amongst the gardens here you will see some of the most beautiful flower arrangements. There is also the Vienna Zoo inside the palace grounds that I am told is top notch, if zoos are your thing. We didn’t check this out because I have this weird thing about zoos. (I’m not a fan of animals being confined, and growing up in Chicago, I can go to Lincoln Park Zoo anytime which is free, so I for sure wouldn’t pay to go to another zoo.) However, it is free to enter the palace park!

    Naschmarkt

    Vienna family of five vacation

    Our next hop off stop on the Vienna Sightseeing tour was the Naschmarkt. This is Vienna’s most popular market with 16th-century origins. Located at the Wienzeile over the Wien River, it has more than 100 food & vintage stalls, plus restaurants! Definitely a must-do in Vienna. It’s a true Viennese market experience for locals and tourists alike! Each of the little food stalls or huts in the market offers a different style of food. You can find traditional kraut at Naschmarkt sold from a wooden barrel in the age-old fashion, right next to cutting edge fusion mixes from Italian, Japanese or Moroccan delis.

    Vienna family of five vacation

    When in Vienna, obviously you must eat schnitzel. But don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth and try a sacher-tort. This is the famous chocolate cake you may have heard about. It is one of the most decadent desserts and is shipped all over the world, but you can try it right here in its birthplace, which makes for a memorable experience in itself.

    Vienna family of five vacation

    You might be surprised to learn that most Arab Austrians are of Iraqi and Lebanese origin. Our best meal in Vienna was at this Lebanese restaurant called Duzi’s Kitchen. Hands down the best Lebanese food I’ve ever had (not like I’m an expert on Lebanese cuisine, but I will say I loved this ethnic meal way more than eating schnitzel!)

    Vienna family of five vacation

    Danube Island

    Vienna family of five vacation

    Like any major city, there is plenty for kids to do. In Vienna, we rode city buses and trains to take the kids to Danube Island, where they had a blast jumping on trampolines and zip lining. Recommend this place for getting the energy out of your kids!

    Vienna State Opera House

    Vienna family of five vacation

    There is so much music history in Austria, particularly Vienna where many musical greats resided like Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud. It’s not surprising that opera is one of the main attractions in Vienna. The Vienna State Opera has one of the biggest stages in Europe for good reason – they have over 300 performances and 70 productions a season. There are 180,00 costumes – which is worth 6 miles of fabric – that are housed in a building next door connected by an underground tunnel! So mysterious and romantic, don’t you think? We know nothing about opera, but the kids enjoyed watching opera on the big screen outside the opera house along with thousands of other people on the street!

    I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Vienna. Scroll down to see more photos from this gorgeous city! Stay tuned for blog posts about other cities we visited in Austria, coming soon.

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    VIENNA sightseeing tour

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    VIENNA sightseeing tour

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  • Travel

    Color Outside the Lines with Crayola Experience

    crayola experience orlando

    Where do crayons go on vacation? Color-ado!

    Or actually, to Orlando, Florida, we go. Cheesy mom jokes aside, our recent family trip down South included an all-day outing at Crayola Experience Orlando. Six colorful hours of melts downs (talking crayon-making, not my kids), too many hands-on activities to count, and lots and lots of coloring outside the lines – can’t think of anything more kid-friendly than that! It was Winter Break from schools, so you can imagine how packed Crayola Experience was with families all trying to entertain the kids.

    Our favorite attraction at Crayola Experience was the Melt & Mold – here the kids can create a ring, shark, car or seahorse souvenir out of crayon wax. Roman and Rhys each picked out a shark mold – no surprise because they love all things aquatic! The Drip Art station is a new spin on a timeless classic. We had fun loading freshly made crayons into the Drip Art machine and watching it melt and drip wax into a swirly-whirly work of art. And of course, we enjoyed the Crayon making station where you can customize the label with your name.

    As if all the creative activity stations weren’t enough, Crayola Experience also has playrooms and interactive floors that get the kids jumping and dancing. Pro tip: Plan out the top 5 attractions you want to hit up in advance. You could easily spend six hours at Crayola Experience (like we did), but if you don’t have that much time, make sure to plan out your visit in advance. All in all, we had a blast and Crayola Experience was a welcome break from the usual Orlando theme park hopping.

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  • fashion,  lifestyle,  Travel

    Lady in Red: Desert Fashion Photography

    Lauren Ashley Photography arizona

    What are you most looking forward to this spring? Me – sunshine, warm weather (or just warmer, because, Chicago) and DRESSES! Like this gorgeous dress that I may have stolen from my glamazon girlfriend’s closet (hi, Tiff!) for a desert shoot at Salt River in Coon Bluff, Arizona. She’s like 4” taller and the dress is way too long for me, but look how it moves! Like a dream. Speaking of dreams, I’m already daydreaming about Spring Break with the kids, and have booked tickets back to Florida to visit the grandparents! After having visited Florida once already in December, my friends are starting to joke that I’m becoming a snow bird! 😉

    You know the Instagram vs. reality jokes? I love how this desert shoot turned out. Everything looks so peaceful and idyllic, right? But let me clue you in on a little behind the scenes. There were three of us – me, Lauren A. (my photographer), and Lauren U. (Lauren A’s bestie who I was also going to shoot). Because of the multiple outfits between the three of us, and because we were shooting at sunset and running out of light FAST, I said F*ck it – and ended up shooting both Laurens in my bra and underwear between wardrobe changes. Lauren A. swore someone from all the way on the ground beneath us whistled. Check out Part 1 of my desert shoot here!

    Tell me in the comments – what fun travel plans do you have upcoming, and more importantly, do they include warm weather?

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  • fashion,  lifestyle,  Travel

    Hiking in Style: Desert Fashion Photography at Coon Bluff, Arizona

    bliss tulle Juliet skirt

    Do it for the ‘gram. As in, hike up a mountain in a tulle skirt all for a desert fashion photo shoot. Come on, you know you’ve always wanted to live on the wild side. Recently took a 2,380 mileage run from Chicago to Arizona just to maintain Elite status with United Airlines, and spent a whirlwind 36 hours in the desert with one of my best friends, Tiffany. She knows all the best locations to shoot in Arizona, and Salt River at Coon Bluff here is no exception. (Also lucky for me, Tiff insisted I take her boots because I was planning on doing the hike in my flip-flops.) That desert sunshine, wide open views, are just what I needed (and am craving right now) to escape the bitter, white winter at home. I chose outfits that were flowy in fabric and saturated in color, like my favorite Bliss Tulle blue skirt. I wanted to emphasize them against the simple beauty of the desert background, using the natural wind to create movement in the flowing fabrics. Hope you enjoy my first desert photo shoot – stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!

    Also, did you see my YouTube video of our Spicy Noodle Challenge? I mean, what else ya gonna do with your girlfriend when you’re only in town for one full day?

    Photography by: Lauren Ashley

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