The Sweetest Place on Earth, Neon Lights & Bourbon Flights

Hello, World! I’ve been a bit MIA recently, so let me start off by saying how wonderful it feels to be home! Since my last post, autumn has graced us with its presence after a much awaited appearance, and there is no better feeling than cracking the windows open to let a cool breeze in. Since I’ve hopped on the fall bandwagon, my Autumn Celebration Yankee Candle has already burnt through to the bottom of it’s wick and I’ve adorned our entryway with a big, orange and red berry wreath, so needless to say, I’m excited for sweater weather.

Last week, I had a brief business trip in Hershey, Pennsylvania – which is about two hours from Philadelphia. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Hershey is a town named after Milton S. Hershey, the man who started the Hershey company. The town is also known as “the sweetest place on Earth,” since the company produces several popular American candies (such as Hershey Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Twizzlers, among many others.) The Hershey company is headquartered (naturally) in Hershey, PA and is home to hundreds of employees, as well as a candy themed amusement park. If you’re looking for a weekend away, Hershey has something for everyone – from attractions such as Hershey Park and Zoo to activities like golf and shopping. There are also several local wineries and breweries (such as Tröegs) in the Hershey / Harrisburg area. And, if you’re a hockey fan, each January the Hershey Bears compete in their Outdoor Classic, which is typically freezing, but well worth the cold! To get to Hershey, it’s an easy drive from Philadelphia on the PA turnpike, and it’s not too far from New York, Washington D.C. and Baltimore, so definitely check it out if you need a sweet weekend away! I’d suggest staying at the Hotel Hershey, as it is historic and boasts sprawling gardens and a great spa. And, if for no other reason, they give you a chocolate bar when you check in, so I’d say that’s pretty sweet!

After my quick trip to the chocolate capital of the world, I came home, repacked my bags and hopped in the car at 3:45am with my husband. Groggy, but excited, there I was, back on the PA turnkpike, cruising past Hershey, by Pittsburgh, through West Virginia, and into Ohio. Dan and I were both ready to get to Cincinnati to celebrate our friends Samantha and Frank’s wedding. Sam is from Cincinnati, and they had picked the most unique venue for their nuptials. The American Sign Museum is easy to pass on the outside…as it’s not in the center of the city and it’s not overly advertised. There is a huge, antique Holiday Inn sign outside, so one could almost think they were in the wrong place. However, the inside is bursting with bright, neon lights and iconic signs, all reminiscent of America’s past. Relics from Chevrolet, McDonald’s, and HoJo’s are all alive and well, and I couldn’t have imagined a better place for our friends to exchange their vows. They both have such vibrant personalities, so it was only natural that their affirmations of love be displayed in such an electric place. I’d highly recommend visiting the Sign Museum for an afternoon in Cincinnati (you’d only need an hour or two to see it all). Aside from the wedding festivities, we didn’t get to see too much of the city, except we did indulge a whole lot during brunch in our hotel with the bride and groom…and I swear, it was one of the best brunches I’ve ever had. For an inexpensive $30, the brunch was all you can eat, and they had everything from lobster and crab to lamb with mint jelly, sweet pastries, desserts, fluffy waffles, omelettes, fried chicken, fresh salads…basically anything you could imagine. So, if you’re in Cincinnati, you need to swing by the Orchids at Palm Court (it’s adjacent to the  Cincinnati Netherlands Hilton), I promise it does not disappoint.

Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Lynn!

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Once the gluttonous brunch concluded, Dan and I rolled out to our car to get on the road for Kentucky. Cincinnati lies on the border of Kentucky and Indiana…and since I haven’t been to either state, I was looking forward to adding more notches to my belt. It was about an hour and a half drive south from Cincinnati to Louisville, and if you know me, I get so excited about any city that lies on the water. Be it a river or an ocean, I am always equally as thrilled, so as we sped down the freeway, I was basically craning my neck out the window like a dog so as to take in all the views.

Our first stop in Louisville was the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, where the air simply smells of sweet Bourbon. We pulled into the gates as an older gentleman welcomed us with a giant smile on his face and the eager wave of his hand. Stitzel-Weller packs a ton of history into it’s sleepy square miles, and all of the products that are housed there surely pack a punch. Since I work in the wine & spirits industry, it was exciting for me to walk around to see where some of the brands I represent (such as Bulleit Bourbon) live and breathe. I had that same feeling when I visited Veuve Clicquot in Reims, and I always leave wineries and distilleries with such a greater appreciation for the craft, the art, and the science behind it all.

Stitzel-Weller was good to us, and we checked into the Hilton Downtown shortly after. On the drive over, I was surprised at how spread out Louisville is. It was a quiet Sunday, and there were very few people out and about. Unfortunately, there weren’t many restaurants open near where we were staying, so we grabbed a pizza for dinner and then explored the Fourth Street Live area, which is home to several bars and restaurants. If you’re from Philly, it has an Xfinity Live type of feel, and they host concerts, events, and classes such as yoga. We walked down to the waterfront area, where the Belle of Louisville floats in all her majesty on the Ohio River. A few blocks away, Whiskey Row (that used to be home to much of the Bourbon industry back in the 1800s) is being revived, so it would be interesting to see that area once it is completed.

 

The next morning, we woke and went to Lousville’s #1 attraction – the Mega Cavern, which is roughly 4,000,000 square feet. Dan and I have visited several caves before, so it was only natural we’d want to go there, and I’ll admit that for once in my life, I didn’t do any research. We drove there in the rain, through a few neighborhoods, an industrial park, and suddenly, there we were, waiting outside of the giant cavern. As we pulled in, I learned that the space is so incredibly large that it is used for both tours and as a storage facility. Yep, people house their boats, cars, and PODS inside one area of the cave – which is pretty darn smart when you think about it. My teeny, tiny brain thought that this was interesting (“how could they do this without disrupting the stalagmites and stalactites in the cave?”) and it was at that point that I realized it was manmade. The cavern was created in the early 1900s as a limestone mine, and several years ago, investors decided to put it to use as a multi purpose space.

Anyhow, we wandered through the building to the area where they do tours, and it was at this point that we decided it would be so cool to do the bike tour through the cave! We barely read anything about the bike tour, signed our waivers, and were handed our helmets. Of course you’d need a helmet in a cave tour…duh! What if I fell into a wall of rock? The helmet didn’t throw me…but I was a bit thrown when the cute, blonde girl assisting us asked me if I wanted a “fat tire, mountain, or BMX bike?”

I crinkled my nose…”Um…I think we’ll go with the fat tire bikes, thanks,” and she smiled. “I just wasn’t sure if y’all would wanna do any tricks,” and it was at that moment that I realized we weren’t going on a bike tour…we had just spent $100 on a BIKE PARK. Yes, like a Tony Hawk, Bam Margera type BIKE PARK. I frantically looked around me and noticed where we must have been reading bike park, our minds interpreted as bike tour. I wanted to burst out laughing. Dan and I probably haven’t been on real, live bikes in approximately four years…aside from the stationary ones at the gym. We strapped our helmets on, and then we were off into the bike park, like the pair of BMX stars that we AREN’T! The cute blonde called out, “you can stay in there til 10:00, too!” and seeing as it was noon, I knew there was no way I’d last an entire hour. I was having flashbacks of my teenage years, when I had crushes on the BMX boys in my neighborhood. “They’re so cool,” I used to think. Now, I wonder if they all have permanent imprints in their rears from those circus style seats. After a few runs, we were over it. Our attempt to exchange the bikes for a pair of tram tour tickets was unsuccessful, so we returned our mud laden hunks of metal and got back in the car. Note: Mega Cavern was totally willing to exchange the tickets…we just didn’t want to wait an hour til the next tour 🙂 I would’ve been all about a leisurely ride somewhere, this just wasn’t what we were expecting.

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Since we were still feeling optimistic and needed to walk off our brunch from the day before, we decided we’d take a stroll along the waterfront to the Big Four pedestrian bridge. This was probably my favorite part, as the waterfront area was beautiful and the bridge itself has a ton of history. It was once a railroad bridge, and it has been converted to allow walkers and bikers to cross easily into Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Jeffersonville was a very cute, small town! It also had a sleepy, relaxed feel, with an adorable main street that was lined with restaurants, coffee shops, thrift stores and even a candy museum. We had lunch at a burger & beer joint (where I coincidentally, finally had a salad), and it was just a great way to spend our afternoon. We walked back across the bridge, happy and holding hands, still laughing about the ridiculous morning we’d had.

We watched the Presidential debate that night…and laughed some more. The next morning, we got up early for our drive back to Pennsylvania…feeling refreshed and ready to get home. Thank you, Hershey, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Jeffersonville for the sweets, the lights, the Bourbon and the sights!

Til next time…

xo,

Marisa

 

 

 

 

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