An Insider’s Guide to Southfield, MI

Next time you fly into Detroit, head over to Southfield to see everything the city has to offer. From golf courses to art galleries, there’s plenty to stay entertained all weekend. Just don’t let anyone else in on the secret so you’ll have the town to yourself.

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Image via Flickr by Vignesh Anath

Beech Woods Golf Course

If you’re looking to improve your golf game, Beech Woods Golf Course is the place to go. There’s even a heated driving range to practice your swing before you get on the course. The pro shop will help with any equipment you may need, as well as club repairs.

Park West Gallery

Take a stroll through Park West Gallery to enjoy some of the finest art around. Local art is often displayed to show the beauty of Southfield through the artists’ eyes.  The artists themselves often make surprise appearances so you can compliment them on their art or ask what their inspiration was. Workshops are also held throughout the year to learn about the techniques the artists use in their work.

Beech Woods Recreation Center

If you have children who need to let some energy out, or you just need to release some energy, head to the Beech Woods Recreation Center. This gymnasium is over 17,000 square feet and includes three basketball courts, four volleyball courts, and a full health and fitness center. Classes such as karate, gymnastics, aerobics, and yoga are also held so there’s an activity for everyone.

Joseph Bourgon from Sommers Schwartz, P.C. is a local who loves exploring his city. He states:

“Some of my favorite things to do in Southfield include going to Star Theatres, seeing a Picasso at the Park West Gallery, and enjoying the city’s 30-plus miles of public trails. When I feel like relaxing I’m always sure to visit Burgh Historic Park, and when I’m looking for some exercise the Beech Woods Recreation Center is always a good choice. If I’m willing to spend 20 minutes in the car I’ll catch a Tiger’s game!”

Star Theatres Southfield

Sometimes there’s nothing better than catching a flick on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  That’s where the Star Theatres comes in with a variety of movies and low ticket prices. Grab your large bag of buttery popcorn and a Coke, and enjoy the show.

Carpenters Lake Nature Preserve

Head out to Carpenters Lake Nature Preserve to become one with nature when the city gets to be too much.  In the summer, the lake is full of fishermen trying their luck at catching sunfish, bass, and minnows among others. There’s plenty of trails to walk around to get in your exercise as well.

 

4 Can’t-Miss Autumn Adventures in Spokane

Spokane, Washington is absolutely stunning in the fall.  

Though I’m a Seattleite now, the “Lilac City” will always be a second home for me, after living there for several years.  I loved being so close to nature, feeling the stark seasonal changes, and seeing new restaurants and shops open up as downtown grew. 

Every year when the days begin to shorten, I always get a bit nostalgic about my time there.   The heat loses its bite and the city is transformed into a canvas of bright colors as the trees prepare to drop their leaves.  For those of us not lucky enough to live there, it’s a beautiful place for a peaceful weekend away.

Here are some of my favorite autumn adventures to enjoy in Spokane.

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Pavillion By Night by Matt Reinbold is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Marvel over the Victorian houses and bright colors of Browne’s Addition

If you’re visiting Spokane for a short trip, you’ll probably be staying in one of the downtown hotels.  Once you’ve dropped off your bags, a good place to stretch your legs is by walking to Browne’s Addition, which is widely known as one of the best neighborhoods in Spokane, and is just west of downtown.  Spend an hour or an afternoon strolling through its quiet streets, enjoying the stately homes and marveling at the bright colors of the trees lining the roads.  The sugar maples, which blaze in bright reds and oranges throughout the fall, are particularly vibrant.

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EJ Roberts Mansion by Tracy Hunter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

If you have extra time, stop by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture on 1st avenue (which is having a Halloween party this year!), or lengthen your walk by heading north, crossing the Spokane River on a footbridge.  From there, head East on the Centennial Trial to loop through Riverfront Park, where you’ll see more dazzling colors, before heading back to downtown Spokane.

Go apple picking at Green Bluff

A fantastic way to spend one of Spokane’s brisk, sunny autumn days is a visit to the orchards.  Greenbluff excursions are a strong tradition in Spokane, and it was always the day trip I looked forward to the most in the fall.  After your morning coffee, pile into the car with friends and family to make the short drive out of town to the north.  After about 30 minutes you’ll find yourself on a plateau, surrounded by a collection of orchards and farms.  Reserve an afternoon to stroll through the trees, filling a bucket with crisp, bright apples.  There’s a reason Washington is famous for this fruit! In fact, more than 100 million boxes of apples (at 40 pounds each) are produced in the state each year. 

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Apples by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Several Green Bluff orchards also have small presses where you can make a jug of sweet apple cider.  It doesn’t get any fresher than that! Just make sure to enjoy it over the next day or two, since there are no preservatives.  One way to use up that cider is to  try your hand at making a fancy fall cocktail

Taste seasonal beer from award-winning breweries

Though apples are Washington State’s most famous crop, did you know the Evergreen State also dominates the hop industry, producing around 70% of all hops grown in North America?

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Beer Sampler by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Though cities like Seattle and Denver are well-known as craft beer havens, Spokane has been quietly been producing award-winning breweries.   There are plenty of good breweries around town, but No-Li Brewhouse on the river in the Logan Neighborhood, and Steam Plant Brewing downtown are great places to start. This time of year is particularly special, because “fresh hop” beers are in season, which is a must-try if you’ve never tasted them before.  

If beer’s not your thing, taste a “farm to table” craft liquor from DryFly Distilling or take a distilling class at Tinbender Craft Distillery

Take a scenic drive to Schweitzer and Lake Pend Orielle

When you think of the Rocky Mountains, what do you imagine?  It’s likely you thought of the wilds of Colorado, or perhaps Wyoming or Montana.  You might be surprised at how close Spokane is to the northern Rockies, which spill over into the narrow neck of neighboring Idaho.  Schweitzer Mountain Resort is a favorite skiing destination in the winter, but it’s also a gorgeous place to visit in the fall, and only about a 2-hour scenic drive.

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Lake Pend Orielle at Sunset by Bjorn is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Pack a picnic and make a detour to Farragut State Park, where you can explore Lake Pend Orielle or go on a hike.  Or, stop for lunch and window shopping in the quaint town of Sandpoint, located at the north end of the lake.  Shortly after leaving Sandpoint, you’ll begin the zig-zagging journey up the mountain, feeling the temperature cool as you climb.  When you reach the resort, stunning views of the mountain range reward you.  For adventurers who’d like an even better view, grab a chairlift ticket to the top of the mountain, where 360-degree views will take your breath away.  

An Insider’s Guide to Los Angeles, CA – Part 2

There’s so much to do in the city of Los Angeles that it deserves a second guide. Skip the crowds and check out these lesser known destinations next time you’re in town!

Los Angeles

Image via Pixabay

Go Wine Tasting

Not just a surfer’s town anymore, Malibu is also the place to go to visit the vineyards. Head into the hills to taste local wine and listen to live music on the weekends. Bring your own food for the ultimate spot for a picnic on a sunny day.

Explore a Space Shuttle

The California Science Center holds Endeavor, a real-life space shuttle. Walk around the massive shuttle in awe as you examine the outside of it. No visitors are allowed inside, but there’s plenty of exhibits to show you what life is like onboard. At least you can pretend you’re up in space.

Make a Visit to the Getty

This free museum highlights the best of European and American art, and has some impressive architect. Exhibits are constantly changing, so you’ll see something new each time you visit. The outdoors are stunning as well – you can walk through the beautiful gardens and end up with a panoramic view of Los Angeles.

Employment Attorney Mamta Ahluwalia of HKM loves coming here, stating:

“The Getty is one of my favorite places in L.A. I love how majestic it looks and how it watches over a twinkling and chaotic Los Angeles in all its smog and glory. It’s a great place for a warm summer evening if you want to peruse art, walk or lounge in the gardens, and get away from the city without leaving it.”

Camp Under the Stars

Sometimes you just need a break from the city and to get away from it all. Head to the Angeles National Forest for over 600,000 acres of forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. Pitch a tent for a weekend and enjoy hiking and relaxing while watching the stars. You’ll feel much more refreshed come Monday morning.

Visit an Orange Grove

Oranges groves used to be everywhere you looked in Los Angeles, but that’s no longer the case due to the recent development. Luckily, they’re still thriving in a few places. Head to the San Fernando Valley to see the real life orange groves and even pick a few at California State University.

An Insider’s Guide to Bensenville, IL

The Illinois city of Bensenville is in a great location – far enough away from the city of Chicago to not be bothered, but close enough for a quick drive over to Lake Michigan. Check out a cheap movie at a small theater, or get active by testing out your ice skating skills. Either way, you’ll find plenty to do in Bensenville!

Bensenville

Image via Pixabay

Catch a Flick
The Bensenville Theater is a great place to see some of the latest movies when you need to be inside. It’s nice and cozy, with only two screens, and located right next to an ice cream shop. The theater is popular due to its old school prices – only $5 for adults even at night.

Visit the Planetarium
Space lovers will enjoy a visit to the Adler Planetarium.  With a focus on astronomy and astrophysics, you’ll want to dedicate at least half a day to visiting the building. There’s three theaters to watch various movies related to space movies, view antique scientific equipment, and check out extensive space exhibits. You’ll feel like you’re in another world after you leave the planetarium.

Swim in Lake Michigan
The lake is the place to be in the summer. Beat the heat and jump in the water to cool off. You can rent a jet ski or boat to take out for the day and explore more of the lake.

Dan Kaiser from Kaiser Law loves Bensenville in the summer, stating:

“As far as things to do goes, nothing beats a summertime visit to the Lake Michigan waterfront. Whether its bike ride from Belmont Harbor to the Planetarium, a Castaway’s lunch at North Ave. Beach or just dipping your toes before a Cubs game the lakefront is a simple, beautiful escape from big city stresses.”

Go Ice Skating
The Edge Ice Arena is the perfect place to go to year round. Whether it’s too hot or too cold outside, the temperature’s always the same on the ice to skate around. Those who want to improve their form can sign up for lessons on top of just attending the public skating.

Head to the Golf Course
To practice your swing, make your way to the White Pines Golf Club. This full-service golf club has two 18-hole courses to play on, and a bar and grill to talk about your game over lunch with your buddies. It’s even available to rent out for special occasions if you really want to impress your clients.

An Insider’s Guide to Walla Walla, WA

Walla Walla has it all, from  wine to shopping to outdoor activities. The weather’s dry year round, so take advantage and head outdoors to practice your golf game or ride your bike around the area. When you’re done with that, visit one of the dozens of wineries to taste local wine.

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Image via Pixabay

Check Out the Arts

Walk along the historic downtown area to see public art all throughout it. You can even download the Art Walla Public Art Walking Tour from the town’s main website to have a self-guided tour explaining what each piece of art is that you’re walking by. When you’re done, pop in one of the restaurants for lunch and a glass of wine.

Go Shopping

The downtown area has not only restaurants and wine tasting shops, but plenty of shopping to do. Many boutique shops line the streets including clothing, jewelry, and handmade craft shops. The area has a very laid-back feel, so take your time and get to know the local vendors who run the shops.

Bike Around the Valley

Walla Walla is rated as one of the top road cycling destinations in the nation. Beginners will love leisurely going through the paved trails and flat roads through the farmlands and enjoying the sights. More experienced bikers can head to the mountains to tackle the twists and turns of the steep, ascending hills.

Monte Willis of law firm Willis & Toews, PLLC loves taking his bike out in the area, stating:

“Bicycling is my favorite thing to do in Walla Walla.  Not only does Walla Walla have the Mill Creek Trail for riders of all levels and a network of mountain biking trails surrounding Bennington Lake, but it also provides access by miles of county maintained roads with relatively low traffic.  If you want an interval workout, ride north toward Waitsburg, Dayton or Prescott where you will ride through undulating wheat fields with views of the Blue Mountains.  Ride south toward Milton Freewater, Oregon over flatter terrain through wheat fields, vineyards and orchards; often with the wind at your back on the return trip.”

Go Wine Tasting
Probably the most well known activity to do in Walla Walla is go wine tasting. There’s so many places to go that it’s easiest to join one of the dozen different tour companies that offer to take you out for the day. You won’t have to worry about driving, and they’ll take you to some of the top wineries to talk to the owners and taste local wine.

Practice Your Swing
Located in southeastern Washington, the weather is usually dry and warm, making it a great place to play golf year round. Some of the state’s best golf courses are here, making it a truly special experience. There’s courses for beginners as well as the future Tiger Woods.

An Insider’s Guide to Naperville, IL

Rated one of the most beautiful towns in the Midwest, there’s plenty to do in Naperville. Located southwest of Chicago, it’s loaded with outdoor activities such as swimming in the public pool to walking along the Riverwalk. History buffs will love exploring the city’s early settlement by seeing restored buildings in a town from the 19th century.

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Image via Flickr

Learn History at Naper Settlement

History lovers will enjoy the 12 acre outdoor village that’s been converted into a village. Actors will join you in full costume to pretend you’re back in the 19th century. Be sure to listen to the stories they tell throughout the day to explain how settlers’ every day life was. You’ll even get the chance to see dozens of restored historic buildings from when the town was first settled.

Swim at Centennial Beach

This fenced four acres holds an outdoor pool open to the public which is popular during the warmer months. Parts of it are shallow enough for children to wade in, while the other end goes out to 15 feet deep for more advanced swimmers to practice their skills. If you’re not much of a swimmer, you can rent a paddleboard board  to still be out on the water.

Walk Along the Riverwalk

The top rated attraction in Naperville is walking along the DuPage River. A focal point of the community, it’s won national awards for being one of the most beautiful spots in the Midwest. Located downtown, there’s plenty of shopping to do in the area after your walk. Once you’ve worked up an appetite from shopping, you can hit one of the many restaurants in the area.

Local Mark Mathys loves to visit this area, stating:

“The Naperville Riverwalk is great for a picturesque stroll along the DuPage River. Brick walk-ways, covered bridges and fountains line the half mile that is along the downtown area. After you take in all that nature has to offer, you can shop at great boutique businesses or name brand stores. To top it all off, you can choose to eat at one of a dozen great restaurants or simply grab some ice-cream while you watch the ducks paddle by. One of the highlights of Naperville at any time of the year.”

See a Concert

The Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center boasts world-class acoustics in its stadium that sits over 600 people. The building is 13,000 square feet and meant to give the listener an intimate feel. All genres of music can be found playing here throughout the year.

Climb a Tower

The Millennium Carillon in Moser Tower is 16 stories high and has a 72 bell musical instrument. It’s one of only a few Grand Carillons around, and its 72 bells go up six full octaves. For a great view of the city, climb the steps to reach the top and see the skyline of Chicago on a sunny day.

 

An Insider’s Guide to Los Angeles, CA

There’s always something going on in the busy city of Los Angeles. Stay in the city to shop, eat, and drink your way around the area. If you need a break from all that, head out to the ocean or up a mountain to get some hiking in and view it all from above.

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Image via Pixabay

Catch a Concert

While there’s many venues around the city to see live music at, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is a one of a kind experience. The stainless steel architecture is where you can see the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which features a beautiful pipe organ and stunning acoustics. Make a night out of it and grab dinner from one of the many restaurants in the area before the show.

Shop to Your Heart’s Delight

The famous Rodeo Drive is where celebrities are spotted daily, but you don’t have to be rich to shop here. While shops like Cartier and Gucci can be found here, stick to window shopping for those as you find deals in more affordable shops like Guess and Ralph Lauren. Keep your eyes peeled while you’re here – you never know who might be sitting next to you at lunch. If all else fails, follow the gaggle of paparazzi patiently waiting for the latest celebrity to come out of the shop they’re in.

Visit the Venice Canal District

No need to go to Italy to see the canals – Los Angeles has a whole district dedicated to them. Take a leisurely stroll next to the water along the scenic route, away from the bustling city. Each home on the water has a unique style to it, and boats are often seen gliding along each night.

Jessica Anvar at Lemon Law Experts loves visiting them, stating:

“One of my favorite things to do in LA is to go for Sunday brunch at Gjelina on Abbot Kinney followed by a walk amongst the Venice Canals.  Abbot Kinney, a street in Venice named after the man who built the gorgeous Venice Canals, has become home to some of the best restaurants in LA. Gjelina, Tasting Kitchen and Wabi Sabi are just a few of the finest on Abbot Kinney.  A definite must for all LA visitors.”

Spend the Day at the Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is a fun place to spend the day with family or friends. Stuff yourself with fair food like corn dogs and cotton candy while you try your luck at winning that giant stuffed animal in the fair games. Make sure to take a ride on the Ferris wheel to see an incredible view of the city and the Pacific Ocean.

Hike With a View

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, and Griffith Park is the perfect place to do that. The park has over 50 miles of trails to hike, run, or ride horses on. There’s many different routes to take, but a popular one is Mount Hollywood. You’ll be able to see the Griffith Observatory, a wide view of the city, and the infamous Hollywood Sign. Don’t forget your camera!

An Insider’s Guide to Austin, TX

Austin has proved over the years that it’s much more than the state capitol of Texas. Live music plays every day of the week here, so there’s no shortage of opportunities to see your favorite genre of music. There’s plenty to do outdoors, from swimming in a pool made from natural springs to biking around all the trails and parks.

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Image via Flickr

Go Swimming

When the temperature’s hot, the place to be is Barton Springs Pool. The pool is over 3 acres and is filled completely from natural springs close by. With a year round average temperature of 68 degrees F, any day of the year is perfect for taking a dip. The depth ranges from very shallow to 18 feet, so it’s a great place for kids learning to swim for the first time or more advanced swimmers wanting to practice their skills.

Check Out the Bats

A unique and little known fact about Austin is it’s home to the world’s largest urban bat colony. Head to Congress Avenue Bridge to check them out if you’re not spooked easily. If you’re really into bats, make sure to come in August when the Bat Fest takes place. Along with some amazing Texan food and beer, you’ll have the chance to see 1.5 million bats come out when the sun goes down. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Listen to Live Music

Austin is called the live music capitol of the world, and for a good reason. Almost any night of the week will have live concerts available all over the city for your listening pleasure. Not just limited to country music, everything from reggae to jazz to rock can be found at different venues. Bigger concerts like Austin City Limits and SXSW also take place in Austin, so grab tickets if you happen to be in town during one of those events.

Jerod Slay explains why he loves the city so much:

“Austin is loaded with fun things to do for visitors, from touring our beautiful capitol to cooling off in the natural spring pool at Barton Springs, but one of our favorite things about Austin is still the wide variety of live music you can find on any night of the week.”

Walk or Bike Around Town

The sprawling city has trails all around it to stay active on. Lady Bird Lake is a beautiful place to visit during the warmer months to get a walk in and have lunch overlooking the lake. There’s plenty of parks throughout the city to ride your bike on as well. If you’ll be there for awhile, sign up for one of the many races around the area.

Watch a Race

Adventure junkies will love visiting the Circuit of the Americas. Home to the famous Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, races can be seen here year round. Treat yourself by getting a VIP package to a race complete with a tour of the venue and catering service.

 

An Insider’s Guide to Tacoma, WA

Seattle gets all the credit in Washington state, but you’re missing out if that’s the only place you visit. Just half an hour south is Tacoma, a city that’s full of activities to do. Treat yourself to a weekend here so you have time to do everything.

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Image via Pixabay

America’s Car Museum

While in Tacoma, don’t miss out on this massive car museum. Antique cars dating back to 1903 line the walls, and everything from muscle cars to hot rods can be found here. You’ll also find old motorcycles and even the “Flintmobile,” a car straight out of “The Flintstones.”

Point Defiance Zoo

The city’s so large that it even managed to fit a zoo in it! See polar bars in the Arctic Tundra and watch sea lions play in the Rocky Shores. Camel rides are even available for kids depending on the weather outdoors.

Cheney Stadium

You don’t have to deal with the traffic of Seattle to see the Mariners play – Tacoma has their own Tacoma Rainiers! This minor league baseball team plays from April to September, and is the perfect way to spend a night out. Buy some popcorn and peanuts, and grab your seat to cheer on the local team.

Local Garth Gasman knows there’s no better way to spend a summer evening than in Tacoma:

“There are a number of things to do and a number of good places to eat in Tacoma.  A summer time favorite of mine has been enjoying a beautiful evening at Cheney Stadium watching the Tacoma Rainiers.  You also can’t go wrong watching the sun set while having dinner on Ruston Way, whether its Harbor Lights, Katie Downs, The Lobster Shop, The Ram, Wild Fin or any of the others restaurants that are right on the water!” 

Museum of Glass

Prepare to be amazed as you gawk at all the beautiful handmade glass work. Almost anything can be found here, from glass bowls to the ceilings you’ll walk underneath. You can even watch the experts carefully perform their work in the Hot Shop during your visit. Make sure to buy a souvenir in the gift shop before you leave to take home your own glass blown item.

Washington State History Museum

Learn where Washington’s roots started at this informative museum in Tacoma. There’s so much to absorb here that at least a full day is recommended. Walk through artifacts from the Native American culture and civilization, and continue through important periods such as industrialization and women’s suffrage. An interactive history lab learning center allows visitors to see how our ancestors used maps and periodicals to navigate through the state as they were exploring it. You can even climb aboard a model railroad to pretend you’re back in time.

An Insider’s Guide to Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia is a city full of history and delicious cuisine. Places like the Liberty Bell and LOVE Park are within walking distance of the city center, and there’s plenty city parks to sit at to rest when you’re tired. The city is also known for its wide-variety of craft beer, and of course, cheesesteaks. With so much to do and eat, it’ll be hard to get bored.

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Image via Pixabay

Visit LOVE Park

If this park sounds familiar, it’s probably due to its controversial past with skateboarding. Hundreds of skaters enjoyed skating here until 1995, when the city deemed it illegal. After people still didn’t listen, the city put up barricades and had guards watching it at all times. While it’s long been abandoned, you can still see the site of the original LOVE park. The LOVE sign is now in the city center in front of a fountain.

See the City From Above

For an amazing 360 degree view of Philadelphia, head to One Liberty Observation. There’s interactive maps showing you where and what you’re looking at. You’ll see the suburbs of the city, and even the state of New Jersey just off in the distance.  Don’t forget to take a selfie with the giant head of Ben Franklin while you’re up there.

Try a Cheesesteak

When in Philly, you have to try at least one cheesesteak. Where to go for the best one is highly controversial depending on who you ask though. Some of the most highly recommended ones come from Shank’s Original, Geno’s Steaks, and Tony Luke’s. Wherever you go, you won’t be disappointed.

Cheesesteak isn’t the only food that the city’s known for though. Ted Kaplan elaborates:

“Philadelphia is a great place if you love food. Our city is known for its eclectic and wide ranging foodie options, everything from a Philly cheesesteak, through fine dining options throughout the town. A favorite gem is a French-Moroccan inspired brunch place called Cafe La Maude, in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. If you check it out you need to try the the Parisian Za – you wont be disappointed!”

Liberty Bell

One of the most commonly known attractions, the Liberty Bell resides in a small museum. It explains how the bell came to be and all the history around it. If the line is too long, you can still view it by going to the side of the building, where it can be seen day or night. Admission is free.

Hang Out in the Beer Gardens

The city is overflowing with places to drink beer, and many of these restaurants have beer gardens to sit in during the hot summer months. While there’s plenty of places to choose from, there’s unique ones like Independence Beer Garden, which is actually in a garden. It’s also right across the street from the Liberty Bell – you can’t get a better location than that!

Exploring the Wild Blue Yonder