A Vegan’s Guide to Niagara Falls, NY

For those of you who may not know, I spent about a year in college being a vegetarian and six months of that time being a vegan. During this time, I learned a lot of neat recipes, and found many different delicious vegan friendly restaurants.

When I first went vegan I thought going out to eat would be inconvenient for me because I would be limited to a short menu and wouldn’t be able to get something I actually wanted. I am fortunate to say I found myself proved very wrong, and found several places that had the most amazing vegan food and other restaurants that were more than accommodating.

So for all you lovely vegans looking to visit the Buffalo Niagara Falls area, this one’s for you.

  1. Orange Cat Coffee, Lewiston, NY

IMG_2625This cafe is a simply vegan heaven. The reason is simple, everything on the menu is vegan friendly. The cool part? You wouldn’t really immediately know. In fact, here’s a funny story. I went here with a couple of friends (while I was vegan) to grab some coffee, sit down, and just enjoy time with one another. About half way through some of decided we had a sweet tooth and went to find a pastry to split. At the time we were completely unaware that any of the decadent cookies, scones, and muffins were vegan friendly, so we just stuck to our coffees. Well maybe a week later I happened to find out that everything was indeed vegan and my life has forever been changed. To this day, I still have yet to find a bake shop that sells a better snickerdoodle cookie, vegan or not. I dare you to go here and not indulge. Best part? A coffee and a cookie comes to less than 4 dollars… can I get an amen?

2. Mario’s Pizza, Niagara Falls, NY

IMG_3352Mario’s Pizza is located right downtown in Niagara Falls on Old Falls Street right across from the state park. Although Marios is not necessarily a vegan restaurant, the do offer the option to make a Pizza with vegan cheese. This isn’t just any old pizza either. This is literally the best pizza I have ever had. The downside is that I you are going to need to buy a whole pie if you want vegan cheese instead of just ordering by the slice. However, eating a whole vegan pizza may not really seem like a negative for most of you. What are you waiting for? Get yourself to Mario’s for the best vegan friendly pizza and eat the WHOLE thing.

3. The Griffon Gastropub

This restaurant has several locations, but the ones I have been to are located on Military Road in Niagara Falls by the outlet mall, and in Lewiston on the Main Street.IMG_1936 This restaurant makes the list thanks to its mouth watering veggie burger. I know what you’re thinking…  a veggie burger really? This is probably one of the most generic options for a restaurant to include on their menu if they want to be able to say they have vegan/ vegetarians. However, this burger is by no means generic. This burger is flavorful, and filling, and not like every other veggie burger on every other restaurants menu. I promise you, I do not mess around when it comes to delicious food. Don’t believe me, guess you’ll have to try it for yourself.

4. Brickyard Barbecue, Lewiston, NY

IMG_1907In the middle of a meat lovers paradise you’ll find another lovely black bean burger that tastes out of this world. I will say, if you are a vegan who really doesn’t like being around meat, I would not go here. Perhaps, though, you are traveling or visiting with friends whose dietary preferences range from carnivore, to vegetarian, to gluten free, to vegan… Brickyard Barbecue could be the spot for you. So sit back with friends, in a place where you can enjoy a wide variety of beers made right next door and enjoy that delicious veggie burger.. Maybe even split a fried pickle appetizers… just be cautious about the sauces.

5. Downtown Niagara Falls Indian and Halal food trucks and restaurantsIMG_2962

One thing Niagara Falls does not seem to be lacking in is Indian and Middle Eastern Food. If you find yourself wanting to be a little more courageous when it comes to dining this is the option for you. One of the favorite things to do when I worked downtown was during my lunch break I would grab a veggie or falafel gyro from the yellow halal food truck on old falls street and then go sit in the state park and enjoy my lunch or dinner. The food was made fresh right before me in the cart and came out hot and ever so flavorful. If you don’t know what something is on the menu I find the workers are more than happy to always explain dishes and recommend options you may have not tried otherwise.

6. Alz Rootz Cafe at Soma Cura Wellness, Grand Island, NY

Inside my favorite hot yoga studio in the Niagara region sits a small little cafe where serve smoothies, juices, and a small menu. I haven’t tried much from this menu but I am still obsessed with the smoothie I got from there. The smoothie contained something along the lines of banana, spinach, cinnamon, oats, almond milk, and drum roll please… sweet potato. This smoothies was as rich and delicious as the best custard I have ever had. In fact, it was so good that I literally stopped at Wegmans on the way home to buy sweet potato so I could remake something similar for myself at home.

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So if you are vegan/ vegetarian and looking for a cool weekend getaway head to Niagara Falls where you can indulge and not have to worry about feeling limited in your options. In fact, you may even notice your carnivorous friends eyeing down your vegan friendly treats.

~~han

Niagara Falls and Buffalo for the Breakfast lover

This one goes out for those of you who go a restaurant and consistently choose from the all day breakfast menu. From one breakfast snob to another I have compiled a list of my favorite breakfast spots in the Buffalo/ Niagara Falls area long enough that you could literally plan a weekend getaway around eating breakfast foods.

Niagara Falls:

  1. Power City Eatery

IMG_2626Power City Eatery is a local gem in Niagara Falls, just outside of the hustle and bustle of the main touristy area. This cafe keeps there menu simple and delicious featuring pastries, coffee, lattes, egg sandwiches, soups, salads, and sandwiches. The cafe is counter service style and then you can enjoy your food to go or stay for a while at one of the many tables in the cafe. I have mentioned this in other posts, but my favorite thing about this cafe is that it is so spacious. For me, when I go to a cafe I typically go by myself to work from my computer for at least an hour at a time. Sometimes local cafes are too crowded or just too small that it either makes you feel awkward or even claustrophobic. At Power City Eatery you can enter without having to worry about it feeling too crowded or like another patron is reading over your shoulder the entire time.

  1. Third Street Retreat

Just off Third Street and Buffalo ave, almost right across from the Casino, in the bottom of the Jefferson Apartment Building is where you can find this hip little hidden gem for an excellent breakfast. There menu is pretty standard as far as breakfast goes but they definitely do it well. My favorite thing about this restaurant is the decor and the vibe. This small restaurant is decorated in kind of an old school music vibe and it looks really cool from the inside. When I travel, I would always prefer to eat somewhere local rather than the same chain restaurants I have at home. So if you are in Niagara Falls and are trying to avoid eating a $20 bunch buffet at TGI Fridays, look no further than Third Street Retreat!

Lewiston:

  1. Syros

Just off the main street in Lewiston lies my go- to and absolute favorite breakfast spot in the Buffalo/ Niagara Area. Prior to Niagara Falls I lived in the Philly area, where I never understood how lucky I was to have diners on almost every corner. IMG_2526After moving to Western New York and realizing that this was not such a thing there it took me a little to find something that compared. Thanks to a lovely Lewiston Local, my family and I were introduced to Syros.

Syros became my go to for breakfast and brunch because it has that diner charm combined with food that makes my mouth water from nearly 400 miles away. IMG_2525At Syros, no matter what you choose you cannot go wrong. If you find yourself unable to decide I would 100% the gyro omelette, which features gyro meat, and feta cheese along with a side of tzatziki sauce. The day I make the trip back to Niagara Falls this will be my first stop.

  1. Brickyard Brewing Company

Brickyard Brewing Company, or BBC is my go to option for a delicious, boozy, Sunday Brunch. Working in tourism I often have to work every weekend, however; any time I was off on a Sunday you bet I could be found at BBC sipping on Bottomless mimosas and enjoying food just as good as their regular menu. So if you can’t guess already here’s why I love BBC for breakfast: the food is incredible and they offer bottomless mimosas along with other drink specials. The only downfall is that they are only open Sundays for brunch, so it can be easy to accidentally miss it. However, I think part of the reason why it is special is because you could only get brunch on Sundays– otherwise Syros would have a tough competitor. When you go here I recommend the breakfast burger if you are looking for something savory or a stack of doctored up pancakes if you are looking for something sweet.

  1. Villa Coffee House

This sweet little breakfast spot has a more hidden location just off main street. The restaurant has a super small town meets diner vibe and features a standard, yet delicious breakfast menu. Villa Diner is an excellent choice if you are looking to spend less money because they offer pretty good specials, which including a tip, would set you back no more than $10. My go to option here would be to get a create your own omelette with bacon, mushrooms, cheese, and onion, and most importantly, DiCamillo Bread. The simplicity of this restaurant is what sets it apart and makes it a wonderful spot to catch breakfast.

  1. Orange Cat Coffee

IMG_2375I have written about Orange Cat Coffee several times now so there is no hiding my love for Orange Cat! Although this not going to be a sit down breakfast option, this is the perfect place for those looking for a grab and go coffee and a delicious pastry. In my opinion, there is nothing to not love at Orange Cat. Their prices are really good, there pastries are delicious, they have rotating coffee flavors, and every time I go in there everyone is always smiling. If I had to give a downfall I would say that if you were trying to sit in during a busier time sometimes it can be difficult to find a seat. If that happens to you, I recommend taking your coffee and pastry to go and walking down main street to the waterfront and enjoying your coffee with a view instead.

Buffalo

  1. Perks Cafe

To be honest, I really have only been here one time and that was right before I moved back to Pennsylvania. That being said one time was all it took to turn Perks Cafe into a place I am looking forward to one day returning to. Towards the end of Elmwood sits Perks Cafe where inside you will find a cute little cafe/ coffee shop. The coffee and lattes were delicious, the pastries looked mouthwatering, and they did have small menu with a couple good looking food options. The thing I found most intriguing was that most if not all the tables had several outlets, so this would be a wonderful spot if you were looking to get some work done.

  1. Spot Coffee

Spot Coffee is kind of like a local chain cafe in Buffalo. The one I went to was the Elmwood location and kind of reminded me similar to Power City Eatery in Niagara Falls. The Cafe was plenty spacious so among all the other 20 some year olds on their computers I did not feel claustrophobic or awkward, and the menu was vast with many tempting options. This is a good option because if you find yourself loving Spot Coffee, there are several different locations so you can go to whatever location is most convenient to you at the time.

  1. Ashker’s

IMG_2864I initially found this restaurant during my hunt for a juice and smoothie bar. Little did I know I would find a lovely little cafe with not only delicious smoothies and juices, but also a fantastic menu for breakfast and lunch. I wish I remembered what the name was but my favorite was this fluorescent pink smoothie which I think had beets, peaches, and a couple other things. I would combine this with a breakfast quesadilla and then go about my day knowing that if everything else where to go wrong I had made at least one healthy decision.

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I don’t know if breakfast tourism is a thing, but with this lovely list you could make a long weekend out of traveling around Buffalo and Niagara Falls just eating breakfast. I really truly hope you enjoy these recommendations and much as I do and please please please leave a comment if you have any other local breakfast places you love so I can go try it out as soon as possible. Disagree with one of the suggestions leave a comment anyways have a super wonderful day!

xoxo han

8 Tips for Cruising on a Budget

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St. Thomas, USVI

Nowadays when it comes to vacationing it seems almost impossible to get away without throwing away your entire pit of savings. Recently, my family and I have really enjoyed cruising because you get to see many different places, there’s always something to do, and there always seems to be something to do that appeals to each of us.

The only problem with cruising is somehow no matter what we do, we always end up with some sort of ridiculous bill at the end. I would say that is the biggest downfall to a cruise vacation, for what going in can seem very budget friendly (if you can find a cruise special for under 300 and flights for 200 or can drive to port you could potentially go on a 5-7 day getaway for around 500 per person).

That being said, as I stated earlier, cruises always have a magical way to get you to fork over ridiculous amounts of cash. More recently it seems as though around every corner on the boat there is some sort of costly temptation whether it be drinks, excursions, gift shop, sweet shops, or specialty dining.

Because of this, I have compiled a list of ways to enjoy your cruise and not break the bank and or potentially not spend any additional money.

1. Look for Cruise Specials

Okay so this one is obvious, and often times this isn’t really an option for everyone because most of the time the sailing date is often at a weird time. However, if you find yourself with a flexible schedule, you may be able to find a cruise that may cost $500+ during a summer month for $200-$300 per person in January. If are traveling with let’s say a family of five, saving $200 per person could save you $1000 in the long run.

2. Find a Departure port within driving distance

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Charleston, South Carolina

Once again, this option may not really work for everyone. If you are departing from a city in the middle of the USA it may just not really be possible to make the drive to a port city. That being said, I know I would personally be willing to drive max 10 hours away, so in that situation I would actually have a lot of options. Although you would still have to pay for gas tolls etc. that would probably maximally come to about $200 total. Once again, if you think about a family of five going on vacation and you get a flight for anywhere from $200 to $500 per person, you could potentially save yourself anywhere from $800 to $2300 dollars.

3. Fly out of a major airport

So this is for those who driving really isn’t an option to. You can save a lot of money on flights if you simply just fly from the nearest major airport to you. Living near Philadelphia I kind of luck out that within two hours I have several major airports. However, let’s say you live in Rochester New York, I can almost guarantee you that if you that if you look to fly out of the local airport it is going to cost you. Instead be open to flying out of other airports such as Buffalo, Syracuse, Toronto, or even the Niagara Falls Airport for flights with discount airlines such as Spirit or Allegiant. If you are willing to drive around two hours to an airport you could save a significant penny.

4. Look for cruise ports that won’t require you to book an excursion

IMG_4852
San Juan, Puerto Rico

This a really big one considering excursions can range anywhere from like $30 per person to $200+ per person. That being said I have done excursions that were worth every single penny– but that is not the point. The point of this is sticking to a budget. A couple of ports I would recommend would be Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Isla Roatan, Honduras; Havana, Cuba; Nassau, Bahamas; Catalina Island, California; San Juan, Puerto Rico, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; or any time the cruise ship mentions going to their private island. These ports have either had a beach or the city right there so you can just get off the boat and immediately be right where you want to be and explore without having to spend an extra dollar.

5. Be careful at the bar

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Charleston, South Carolina

Okay I’ll be honest this one can be tough. Obviously the most cost effective solution is to not drink but as most of us are cruising for vacation, this really isn’t an option. I have seen drinks at the bars on boat range anywhere from around $7 to $11+. If you choose to pay for drinks as you go you could save $100+ just by getting one of the less expensive drinks on the menu. Another option the cruise is going to tempt you with is going to be to buy a drink package. Basically, you would pay around $55 dollars a day and you get like 10 or 15 drinks a day included. I would definitely recommend this if you plan on getting at least 7 drinks a throughout the course of the day or if you enjoy really fancy drinks such as martinis.

If you plan on going on a vacation where you are going to be drinking quite a bit, cruise lines such as Norwegian now have some cruises where all the alcohol is included. So you literally just walk up to the bar and they give you whatever you like. Or anytime a server comes by with a tray of drinks you can try whatever you would like to try. This is also nice because if you get a drink you don’t like you don’t have to feel so bad about not finishing it.

6. Eat On-Board when you are at port

The best thing about the cruise is that you literally have unlimited food within an arm’s reach ALL THE TIME and…. IT’S FREE! So if you want to save a chunk of money on your days at port simply eat on the boat right before you go, explore– maybe get a small snack, drink, or a local favorite, get back on the boat and then fill up on all that good free food again. Going back to my family of five scenario, let’s say for everyone to get lunch at port it costs $100. If you go to three different ports you could save yourself a good $300 dollars.

That being said, I do understand that some places you go there are food you are going to want to try. However, if you opt for a couple small snacks, this little trick will still save you a lot of money!

7. Only allow select members of your group spending privileges

This one more pertains to families, but when you are on the boat your room key becomes your form of payment. When you book your cruise you will have the option to choose who in your party has the ability to make charges on their card. My next tip will kind of get into this more but the boat is going to have a lot of ways where it is easy to swipe your card and pay for something stupid and if only one or two people have access to making charges, it is a lot easier to control what, when, and how money is spent.

8. Avoid all the ‘extras’

This one could probably be the most difficult. Like I stated in the beginning, every corner on the boat there is some sort of option to spend extra money. This can include but is not limited to shopping, specialty dining, a sweet shop, arcade, a casino, and even classes. Long story short, if you want to save a good amount of money I would just straight up avoid all the above because I can tell you from experience you really aren’t missing much.

So if you are planning your next vacation but finding yourself on a rather tight budget, cruising could be a really great option for you! By following the tips listed above you can make sure you actually stick to that budget.

Got any other suggestions or think I’ve made a mistake? Leave it in the comments?

Need help planning your next vacation??  Leave me comment!

xoxo

 

06.12.16 unexpected swims in the jungle

What a day (so far)!! I woke up at 8:30 and got into a van to go for a two-hour drive into the jungle for my first white-water rafting experience! During the days leading up to I was quite honestly a bit worried because there are a lot of things involved in white water rafting that completely terrify me because it involves water. Even before we booked the excursion I was a little hesitant and tried coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t but I just told myself I had to do it. As well, I found out white water rafting was a little more intense than I had assumed. Sitting here now after, I can definitely say it was fun and I would do it again.

So, on the adventure.

Once we arrived we ate lunch, which was curry, rice, fruit, and a couple of other things I didn’t pay enough attention to because they were meat dishes. The food was awesome but not as good as the food from yesterday while we were trekking.

After, we got our life jackets and helmets and then had a quick little briefing where we learned the paddle commands and basically what to do if you fall in. My first wrong assumption of the day was that you simply sit in the raft and go down the river and the river guide kind of steers you. Nope, you are paddling the whole time basically. My second wrong assumption was that you sit in the raft and are better secured to the raft. Nope. You sit kind of on the edge with your feet lodged in a little raft crevasse and there’s a little rope on the raft, that if you are me, you hold on to for dear life.

Into the raft and down the river we went following about 6 other rafts of people. The water was kind of pleasant at first and the rapids were occasional and not super intense. Of course though, I screamed when we wend in every single one. The funniest thing is when you get stuck on a rock you have to kind of jump on the raft which feels like bouncing in a bounce- house, so of course I could help my die laughing every single time, which for our group was often because almost every set of rapids had us stuck on a rock.

The scenery was incredible. There is no way to properly explain the feeling of going down a river surrounded by trees and mountains. It was more beautiful than words, and in this situation, being scared for my life in the process is the cherry on the cake of the memory.

About halfway through we reached the point where the really big sets of rapids were one after another. You knew you were about to go through something intense and crazy when you started seeing the workers with cameras trying to capture your reaction.

These rapids had our boat stuck between rocks nearly completely sideways and then finally as we were unstuck, dropping down quickly. There were some points where we would be stuck on a rock in a rapid and water would nearly fill our entire raft, which was somewhat pleasant, somewhat refreshing, but most definitely the closest to being in the water I wanted to be. Even when we weren’t going through huge rapids I had a constant death grip on the rope and any other part of the raft I could latch on to.

Eventually we reached a point where the water was still, so we had a chance to just relax for a bit before the rest of the journey.

I was completely shocked when people were getting out of the raft and going for a swim in the brown, ambiguous lake. In fact, I was the only person who didn’t get out of their raft. During my relaxing float I still had a death grip on the rope because there was a good chance someone was going to flip my boat into the water, forcing me in. I made it clear that I was not a fan of the water and wanted absolutely nothing to do with going in. I already have a fear of fish and fish like creatures and I don’t like being in water that isn’t clear so why would I ever want to be in this brown water where only god knows what kind of strange river monster critter beings are. I had a lovely time floating. It was very peaceful I could have fallen asleep.

After all the boats had re-gathered, we started down the river again to an even bigger strand of rapids. As we were going through a set of rapids, I looked down at the current the raft was about to go through and all of the sudden my body became much more slippery and I flew into the disgusting water I wanted nothing to do with.

My third wrong assumption. If I fall out I’ll quickly be able to fling myself back into the boat before I realize I’m in the water. Nope. Not when you’re in the rapid.

So there I am, I would say floating but that sounds too pleasant. I was in the water going down the river through a little rapidy area low key, yet high key freaking out in a panic. As I’m floating under the pretty bridge I look up and see the workers recording me on their go pro camera and I just keep floating down the river because I had no idea what to do. At that point I thought I would just float until my raft caught up to me but then the workers started yelling and pointing to swim to the side where I ended up sitting on a slimy rock in the water completely caught off guard, and seconds away from full on panic.

The emergency kayak came over to make sure I was okay because I guess I looked like I was really struggling and then my raft came over and saved me. Getting onto the raft from the rock was simple; however made challenging because my whole body was shaking. After about a minute in the boat calming down, we continued down the rest of the way.

Honestly, if anyone were going to fall in it would be me because I am just unlucky like that, and I said that numerous times before. So I guess I kind of knew it was coming and it was more of a when rather than an if.

For being one of worst things that could have happened in my mind I’m not really sure why I was laughing after or how I can say I would gladly go white water rafting again, but Thailand has seemed to be having that kind of effect on me.

The entire journey was super fun!! I am still laughing about falling in to the river and floating away but then again, now I have another fun trivia fact about myself, I fell off a raft and floated through rapids in the middle of the jungle… That’s kind of interesting I guess.

As the rapid areas slowly went away, we came closer and closer to the end.

My fourth wrong assumptions, we would only be out for about an hour because it is only a 10 km trip. Nope. We were on the water for probably 3 hours and every second was incredible. Whether I was blown away by the beauty of where I was, or adrenaline coursing through my veins going through the rapids it was absolutely wonderful.

After having our post-rafting snack, we got back in our van and drove the 2 hours home. After about 10 minutes I was passed on and didn’t wake back up until basically we were at the hotel, which was nice. Now I am sitting in the hotel waiting to go to the Sunday night market to explore and eat some more incredible food.

Have an absolutely wonderful day!!!

 

Peace

Hannah