The Art of Travel: What to Do In San Diego


Last month, we headed west to San Diego for a long weekend trip — and ended the weekend plotting how we quickly we could move there, hah! I love the Spanish cultural and architectural influences and the balmy weather was a serious treat (especially since we avoided the snow back in Denver). A few of my favorite things? Tons of fresh seafood, all the desert, and of course, the ocean! Read below for some of the sites we enjoyed the most, and be sure to add your name and email to the mailing list below — you’ll be the first to know when we our San Diego map print is available!

amy zhang creative | san diego map illustration | san diego city guide
amy zhang creative | balboa park illustration | san diego travel guide


  • BALBOA PARK — You could easily spend an entire day (or three) just exploring everything that Balboa Park has to offer (seriously, it’s massive). It’s home to tons of natural and historical San Diego sites, including the zoo, several museums, theaters, and gardens!

  • MUSEUM OF MAN — One of the many museums located in Balboa Park, the Museum of Man is an anthropological museum with lots of interesting, interactive exhibits. Along with the permanent exhibits, we also got to see their current showcase on the history of cannibalism — spooky, but fascinating!

  • OLD TOWN — Although the park is pretty touristy these days, I think Old Town’s history makes it well worth a visit. The original settlement was formed in 1769 and was the first in California! Today, there are reenactments in the historic park, plus tons of restaurants and shopping in the surround neighborhood.

  • MORE — Coronado Island, Pacific Beach, Potato Chip Rock




  • PIGMENT — Chances are, you’ve seen this gorgeous store on Pinterest or Instagram — talk about some serious decor inspiration! Both locations carry a seemingly endless supply of fun goodies, and I love the pink mural outside of their North Park shop.

  • NATIVE POPPY — This charming shop, located inside Communal Coffee, is small but might! They’re one part florist, one part gift shop, and I love the mix of gorgeous blooms and fun books and decor pieces.

  • BENCH HOME — I’m kind of obsessed with this Kensington boutique, which carries a seriously lovely selection of home goods. Of course, I might be a little biased here — they’re our newest stockist!

  • MORE — Green Fresh Florals, Library Shop 

I can’t wait to get back to that sunny weather! I’d love to explore more of the surrounding areas of San Diego, especially some of the local beaches!  What are some of your favorite spots?



Girl About Town: My Favorite Denver Coffee Shop


As I mentioned last week, I love working from home — but I also try to work at a coffee shop at least once a week so that I don’t turn into too much of a hermit! It’s also a nice excuse to explore the city more, venture to new neighborhoods, and try out all the cute coffee shops around town. While I’m still constantly trying new places, Hudson Hill has quickly become one of my go-to locations in Denver. Not only is their coffee fantastic, but they also serve up small bites and cocktails for a fantastic happy hour. Even better? Their decor is seriously on point. There’s a sunny window corner with couches, cool bar seating, and greenery everywhere — including an herb wall!

amy zhang creative | hudson hill denver illustration

Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with your order at Hudson Hill, and their weekly specials are always awesome. I love that they’re all about crafting an experience, down to the cocktail and vinyl record pairings that they frequently share on Instagram. If you’re in the Cap Hill area of Denver, be sure to stop in for a visit, a drink, and a few photos, of course!



Studio Scenes: How to Create an Illustrated Map


If you follow our Instagram, you might have read about our partnership with Rocky Mountain Bride — their latest four issues (Idaho, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Montana) each feature an illustrated map by yours truly! You can also find a few extra illustrations in the Idaho and New Mexico issues, but today I wanted to share a bit more about the design process for creating an illustrated city map. I’ll be sharing specifics based on the map I created featuring Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but the process is typically the same for any location. Read on to see how everything comes together!

amy zhang creative | jackson wyoming map illustration | how to create an illustrated map

I always start by brainstorming a list of places from around the city to feature — museums, parks, restaurants, etc. At this stage, I’m focused on building a list, so I don’t worry too much about curating. Then, I create a map in Google so I can see how each place is distributed throughout the city and get a better sense of the overall layout. This is when I start cutting places, or searching for places to add in specific neighborhoods so that the final composition will feel balanced. Since we’re not going for an exact map (I’ll leave that to Google), I do give myself a little leeway in terms of spacing and placement.

Once I finalize the locations and layout figured out, it’s on to the fun part! I’ll pull reference images of buildings, landmarks, and any other specific icons I’ll be using, and then it’s time to start painting! I like to illustrate each element separately — meaning I create the map outline with the streets, the buildings, the trees, the location text, etc. as standalone pieces. That way, I have more control over placement, scale, and details on the final print. Plus, it’s much easier to update the map if if I ever want to change any of the featured locations.

The final step — and also the most fun, in my opinion — is to put everything together! I love this part, because I finally get to see the individual pieces come together and see my vision come to life. It’s also exciting, of course, because it means the illustration is ready to share with the rest of the world.

And there you have it! Honestly, illustrated maps are a long and complicated process, but they really are one of my very favorite things to create. So far, I’ve created several maps from the Rocky Mountain region, but I’ve got plans for many more! What cities are you most interested in seeing??



Girl About Town: 3 Things to See at the Denver Botanic Gardens


Welcome to our third and final (for now!) blog series, Girl About Town, which will highlight a place (museum, restaurant, shop, etc.) that we’ve been loving each month. It’s in the same spirit as The Art of Travel, but will be a more regular feature that dives deeper into specific sites. We’re starting off local with places around Denver, but will likely expand to other locations in the future!

This month is all about the Denver Botanic Gardens, which I FINALLY visited after living here for over two years. I’ll be a part of the Botanic Garden’s annual Winter Gift Market this year, so I figured that a visit to the gardens was long overdue. I expected  it would be beautiful, but the gardens really are breathtaking — and with 23 acres of plants, flowers, and sculptures, there’s definitely no shortage of inspiration to be found. Today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite spots and species from my visit, although I’m already planning another trip so I can be sure not to miss anything!

amy zhang creative | denver botanic gardens illustration | things to do in denver
amy zhang creative | denver botanic gardens | woodland mosaic | things to do in denver


Stepping into the Woodland Mosaic feels like entering into a secret garden — this charming, woodsy area is just the right amount of quiet and secluded. It also features my favorite structure in at Denver Botanic, the historic solarium, which also happens to be a beautiful and unique venue for a small wedding.  


I love pretty much everything about the Tropical Conservatory. It’s filled with hundreds of tropical plants, most of which are hugely impressive in both size and appearance. A few of my favorites — banana trees, giant philodendrons, and the coffee and cocoa plants! Plus, the architecture makes the entire experience even better.


Monet is one of my very favorite artists, and I love this reference to some of his most iconic work. The water garden is full of lovely aquatic plants, including cattails, cannas, and water lilies, of course. There’s so much inspiration to be found here — I going back soon so I can spend an afternoon by the pool with my sketchbook!

I’ve been doing tons of painting after our visit to Denver Botanic Gardens and will be adding some prints to the shop soon — check back soon, or sign up for the mailing list below so you can stay in the know!



The Art of Travel: What to Do In Nashville


I’m so very excited to bring you another new blog series this week! Traveling is one of my very favorite things, and it has hugely important in my life — I’ve done everything from spending my childhood summers in China, to studying abroad in Italy, to spending six months making my way down the east coast of the U.S. Plus, one of my big life goals is to eventually set foot on all seven continents (only two more to go!).

I wanted to start documenting my adventures with more than quick iPhone snaps — and what better way to do it than with one of my other favorite things, painting? So, I’m introducing The Art of Travel, a series where I’ll be sharing my travel sketches and illustrated city guides. First up: Nashville, Tennessee! I took a quick trip back in August and am officially in love with this eclectic, vibrant city — read on to see a few of my favorite neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, etc.!



amy zhang creative | illustrated map | nashville city guide | what to do in nashville | nashville editorial illsutration
amyz hang creative | cowboy boots illustration | nashville city guide | what to see in nashville


  • 12 South — This neighborhood is trendy in the best way possible — it’s full of hip restaurants and stylish boutiques, including Reese Witherspoon’s quintessentially southern shop Draper James!

  • Germantown — Germantown was one of my favorite areas in Nashville! While it is a historic neighborhood, these days the old is artfully mixed with the new — tons of chic, industrial, modern shops and restaurants.

  • Broadway — Sometimes referred to as “Honky Tonk Highway,” this bustling street is a must-visit for the fun bars, live music, and general country vibes. Sure, it’s touristy — but that’s half the fun!

  • MORE — Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, Belmont Mansion, Franklin, Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, The Gulch




  • Hattie B’s — Nashville hot chicken is a must-have while you’re in town, and Hattie B’s is a staple! I’m also now determined to be in Nashville on a Sunday so I can taste-test their chicken and waffles!

  • Five Daughters — I’m a self-proclaimed donut connoisseur, so one of the first things I look up when I’m research a new place is look up the best donut shops in town. Five Daughters came HIGHLY recommended, and for good reason — their specialty is 100-layer donuts in amazing flavors like hibiscus blackberry and chocolate sea salt!!

  • Biscuit Love — A delicious brunch spot and Instagrammer's dream rolled into one! I love the "Nashville" marquee lights, but I love the biscuit donuts (!!!) even more.

  • MORE — Barista Parlor, Pinewood Social, Acme Feed & Seed




  • Abednego — A light, bright, modern shop in Germantown with seriously beautiful clothing and home accessories. You know those stores where you walk in and immediately feel at home? This shop was 100% it for me!

  • Flora — I love everything about this greenery-filled space, from the abstract mural, to the awesome selection of cute planters, to the cozy green couch

  • Hey Rooster — A colorful, charming shop in Hillsboro Village (another great neighborhood to explore!) with an eclectic modern-meets-rustic vibe. Favorite find: The Pen is Mightier than the Penis, a feminist quote book. I’m also officially obsessed with the green floor!

  • Amelia’s — Seriously adorable traveling flower truck. While I couldn’t take any flowers home, I did pick up their adorable enamel pin (SO cute!!).

  • MORE — White’s Mercantile, Uncommon James, Draper James


Honestly, there were so many more places that I wanted to check out, but we only had about a day to explore — I have visited Nashville once before, so some of the places I talked above are from that past trip. I guess I’ll just have to save the rest of my list for next time! If you’ve been (or live in!) Nashville, what are some of your favorite spots??