A Travellerspoint blog

Vancouver, Canada with the kids

I have been planning to visit my cousin in Vancouver, Canada for the past two years. I keep on delaying it because of pregnancy and bad weather and expensive flight tickets. Finally, I found a travelzoo airfare deal that's under $300 for each of the adults. Raphy had to pay adult price since he's over 2 years old but, Audrey gets to fly free :) I've had the kids passport ready since they were couple of months old so I didn't have to do any last minute preps on that end. Alejandro found North Vancouver hotel as a good place with free breakfast and wifi (and bike rentals, too!).

It was our first trip outside of US with the kids so we were curious on what it will be like. Fortunately, Vancouver is a great city with lots to offer. Soon as we drove out of the airport, the first thing we noticed are the green mountains with some ice on the top. The streets are filled with beautiful trees and the houses are interesting and nice. We spent the afternoon at Kitsilano. They have a huge and such a wonderful community garden - everywhere! The kids love the playground and walking through the gardens, checking out different kinds of interesting plants (most I've never seen before in my entire life) and vegetables and garden art. It was a great afternoon to start our trip. We even got couple of jackets from the Salvation Army store. I got a 2010 Olympics jacket and Alejandro got a Dickies outdoor jacket he's been looking for a while. Alejandro got us a take-out chinese food for dinner and brought it at the hotel. It was delicious! Best chinese food we've had!

It was rainy the next morning, so we decided to spend sometime at Vancouver Gallery store. The kids are not quite that ready for the museum. One thing I didn't like with Vancouver is the pricey parking! When the sun came out, we started walking around. There was a group that's setting up for a rally for #BringBackOurGirls. I asked for a shirt so I can wear it in US for awareness. They're nice enough to give me one. I had Alejandro wear it and take a picture with Audrey in front of the gallery. Put it up at change.org to sign the petition. From the gallery, we walked to the library and had lunch on our way back from a ramen place. Kids love the noodles and teriyaki chicken with rice. We went back to the car and drove around downtown, following the map to check out other spots. We decided to park by the Olympic Torch and walk around the Village. Couple of Princess Cruise are docked there and they're huge! We had couple of good samaritans help us down the stairs with the strollers. Elevators are not easy to find around here. Our best stop is Mink Cafe - best mocha ever!!! It was so pure and so tasty that you'll be satisfied to not have chocolates for a while.

Next day, we meet up with my cousin, Dianne, and her hubby, John, at Lynn Canyon suspension bridge. Kids love it! Great free outdoor place. They have a cafe but it's close for the season. We had a huge breakfast at Tomahawk Restaurant. They have big servings and I really enjoyed their Canadian bacon. We drove to Science World and walked to the boat launch to Granville Village and pretty much spent the whole day there. They have a huge market place that has the yummiest food but the kids play area and stores are not that great. They enjoy it outside by the dock more, where they can run around and chase birds. We stop by the Queen Elizabeth garden. The dome was closed but we enjoyed the scenic view of Vancouver from up there and the garden was bursting with different, pretty shades of colors. Our last stop was at the China town to grab dinner to go. Can't wait until we see them again on our next visit.

We started our 3rd day at Crema Cafe in North Vancouver. Great coffee and selections of pastries and desserts!. There was a new playground few blocks from it that we found and it's right next to the train tracts. It was the best playground I've ever seen and great for all ages. It's right next to the water, which makes the location even better. They have several sand boxes with pirate-ship looking structures. They have xylophones for kids to make music. They have differetn obstacle structures for the older kids. They have a big swing and all the fun stuff to keep the kids entertained for hours. We drove to Stanley Park and tried to find the zoo but it's closed. Anything else they have there is for a fee. It's a great place to run or if you just want to lay in the grass but there's nothing much there. So, we head out to Maplewood Farm - our favorite spot for the kids. It's a bit of a drive but the kids love all the barn animals. It's not too big that they'll get tired walking. They have all kinds of barn animals to pet and watch. Raphy loved riding the tractor for kids and he even started talking to the horses. He loves petting the goats, bunnies, and guinea pigs. On our way back, we did a short hike to the Light House and even stoped by another market place. Unfortunately, most of the shops were closed.

On our final day, we started our day trying more delicious chocolates and awesome coffee at Thomas Haas. It's next to a trail that we get to walk the kids at the trail a bit to a look out before heading to Capilano Suspension Bridge. Capilano is a great place to spend a whole day with your family. They have a lot of nature activities. We get to walk on the tree-top bridges and the skywalk and the suspension bridge! They have nice shops and beautiful grounds. The kids got tired exploring and walking and just fell asleep on our way to the airport.

Posted by jptablante 16:07 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Utah & Arizona 2010

Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon

It was my grandma's 85th birthday in Las Vegas that brought us to Nevada in July. I was expecting desert heat and getting trapped indoor with blasting AC. Fortunately, it was a mild summer and we were able to visit Zion National Park and Antelope Canyon.

We drove from Las Vegas to Zion National Park in Utah. The hike to Angel's Landing was amazing! It's a really memorable hike that's moderate but not for someone who's afraid of heights. Hiking through the cliffs while hanging on the cable holds gives the hike an edge but, it's definitely not as dangerous as half dome in Yosemite. We also hiked a bit of the Narrows. It was my first time to hike in water that goes up to my waist, which would have probably gone deeper if we would have gone further. We would definitely want to complete this hike one day when we're more prepared and have more time to spare. Here's a really good guide to read for visiting Zion National Park: http://www.philarmitage.net/zion_hikes.html

It was in Peter Lik's gallery studio in Las Vegas that I first saw images of Antelope Canyon. It seems like a magical place from all the amazing hues and colors from his photography. It's during our visit that I realized that all this magic really only happens through the lens of the camera. We were amazed with how all the vibrant colors in the canyons came to life only in the pictures. I can't see the same magnificent colors with my own eyes. It's almost like magic! We also did a little bit of hiking to the horseshoe bend and to the local reservoir. We were fortunate enough to find this beautiful restaurant by the water after a nice day of swimming at the super clear, warm water.

Posted by jptablante 15:22 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Mazatlan, Mexico: winter break


Friends from work and I decided to start the new year right by flying to Mazatlan, Mexico. I've been wanting to soak in the sun and enjoy a warm weather so it was a perfect get-away. We stayed near the Zona Dorada area, which has many interesting shops. I found a 3-floor high miniature pyramid ruin and decided to climb it for fun. The steps are very narrow and I was scared but, it was just what I needed for some cheap thrills. I love the Sea Shell City store, which also has a small museum on the 2nd floor. They have many types of sea shells and dried water creatures that I've never seen before. I got a couple of seahorses and cross sections of sea shells, which I'll make into pendants. I really liked the restaurant, across the street from it and at the end of a line of shops. It has a nice outdoor ambience right on the waterfront.

We frequented our favorite Rico's cafe and Panama restaurant and bakery. They have really good food, at least much better and cheaper than at the hotel. There's also this really good and super cheap taco Pastor near front of Holiday Inn and they're just delicious! They're cooking them right on the street so it's easy to find. We had some tortilla soup, which was really good but a little salty for my taste. I also like the Michael's art gallery and all the handmade crafts they sell. They're very unique and colorful, a little pricey but well worth it.

On Sunday, we took the bus to downtown and visited the town's cathedral. We did our own walking tour and stopped by the mercado central, the plaza, the Catedral de la Purisma Concepcion, Teatro Angela Peralta, the diving cliff, and the beautiful historic downtown. I wasn't able to hike the Lighthouse, visit Valentino's castle (although we drove by it), or do some island hopping just so we can relax more at the resort. A lady gave us a boogie board as she was leaving but when we went out to swim, there were signs of jellyfish warning. We even found couple of small dead jellyfish washed out to the shore. It wasn't worth the risk so we just hang out at the hotel's endless pool, which is right on the beach. The beach is quite a scene. You see mariachi musicians walking with their guitars, vendors selling toys, food, and souvenirs, and tourists trying on water activities. In the morning, I saw divers snorkling and diving by the shore for some fresh lobsters. There's so much to do in Mazatlan that I wish we could have stayed longer.

Posted by jptablante 02:30 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Hawaii - Big Island and Honolulu

Big Island - Kona, South Point, Volcano National Park, Hilo, Puna, O'ahu / Honolulu - Waikiki and Diamond Head Trail

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View Hawaii on jptablante's travel map.

We flew to Hawaii in February while airfare is still low, although it's supposed to be a peak season. Hotels are still reasonably priced at this time, too. I booked my flight through expedia.com and got a direct round trip flight to Honolulu (about 5 hours each way) for $420. Citibank was giving away a $50 credit for new card members so I was able to get the flight for less than $400. It got even better. It took a while for the bank to approve my credit card application and by the time I got my card, expedia will not credit me with the $50 offer. Citibank was offering bonus points through thankyounetwork.com but instead, I decided to accept the $100 hotel coupon that expedia was offering. The coupon got us a free one-night stay at Kona Seaside in Big Island. It's a great 2-star hotel and right in the busy town of Kailua-Kona. It's a walk to all the great shops, restaurants, bars, library, grocery store... everything and only a few miles away from the airport. They even allowed us to stay past our check-out time. You can check out as late as 5PM if there is no reservation made to that room that day.

In Honolulu airport, we took the free Wiki-Wiki bus to the inter-island flights waiting room. Our inter-island flight through Go! was about $80 per person. There are also direct flights to the Big Island (Kona or Hilo) from San Francisco but they're a hundred or more expensive than our indirect flight. The terminal has a night courtyard garden but it's a little chaotic and disorganized. We were all lined up in gate 34, as directed by this lady who checked our tickets. Then, there was a guy in the intercom who keeps on telling us to go to a different gate number. Everyone was confused and has this puzzled look in their face. Eventually, we were able to board from the same gate. One guy shook his head and said "Only in Hawaii...". And he was right. In Kona, a storekeeper asked us to come back later because she's going out to lunch with her friend and her dog (I think they were about to go surfing). When we came back later that afternoon, the store was open but she wasn't there so we waited. Another customer came and said the same thing - "only in Hawaii...". Gosh, this is such a laid-back town - it's sooo cool! Anyway, while waiting for your flight, do not miss out on the free magazines and booklets they have, which have coupons and lists of things to do and places to check out for each of the islands - Maui, Kawaii, Oahu, and the Big Island. My favorite was the "101 Things to Do" magazine. I remember how I picked one up in Napa, CA and I still have it to this day. I found some really cool tips and offers in this magazine. This is where I found out that we can check out the Manta Rays in Hilton hotel at night during their feeding (across the Crystal Lounge balcony). Also, we found a discount offer for our snorkeling gear at Boss Frog's in Kona with a 2-for-1 discount, which amounts to $4.50 per person for one week. We only had it for 2 days but it was cheaper than the daily $2.50/day regular rental. The magazine also has lots of coupons for tours like helicopter tours or Glass-bottom Catamaran tours.

Kona airport is very serene and pretty with its hut-like terminals. Our 3-day car rental with Budget costed us about $100. We were glad that we turned down all the extras that they were offering us and decided to go with the basic economy car. We actually got an upgrade maybe because they overbooked their basic economy car. They tried to get more money from us by charging us for gas (even though we opted out of it and refueled the car ourselves) but after disputing the receipt, we were able to keep our savings. One thing you need to watch out for in Hawaii is your speed. Police cars are unmarked and getting a ticket is very expensive and can be a big headache. The speed limit in the main road is usually 35-55 mph that sometimes what takes 10 minutes here can take 20 minutes to drive just because of posted speed limit. Plan ahead if you're planning to take the bus that runs from Kona to Hilo and back. There are no marked bus stops and no one knows what the bus schedule is like but there's supposed to be a bus every half hour until about 6 pm.

We booked our first night at Manago with a room and a shared bath ($25/person/night) and had dinner their. Their fried fish was delicious and they serve it with sides (macaroni, lima beans, and coleslaw). It's an old hotel so it's just right for sleeping. The next day, we got our snorkeling gear and headed to Hilo. On our way, we checked out the Southest part of US at South Point, which is 12 miles off the main highway. Afterwards, we stopped by Hawaii's famous Punalu'u Bakery (the southernmost bakery in US). I love their taro bread and their apple pecan bread pudding! There are a lot of must-see spots along the way. We checked out the Black Sand beach and watched the green turtles (named after the color of their meat) lazily sunbathing near the shore. The tiny, black sands that cover this area is just amazing! I was planning to take some sand with me but beware! There was a belief that taking any rocks or remnants of the lava from the island brings bad luck that there are several people who actually shipped back the rocks they took and pay high-postage stamps to break the curse. So, I decided to just take more pictures. Our next stop was the National Volcano Park. Here, we checked out the steam vents, sulfur build-ups, lava tubes, and several craters along the Chain of Craters road. We saw a full rainbow that ends in a crater near us. At first, it appears like an illusion but then another rainbow starts to form on top of it! This is probably the only place on earth where you can see full, endless rainbows - stacked in doubles! There was no live lava flow that day. We were able to get a glimpse of some of the gleaming lava during a night hike. At the end of Highway 37 is a dirt road and a small park covered with cooled, black lava. At night, cars can enter until 8PM and the park closes at 10 PM. After a 10 minute hiking in the dark with headlights and flashlights, we were able to see the orange glow of smoke and lava as the lava hits the ocean water. I think that if you really want to see a live lava flow, the helicopter tour will be your only option since they close most of the roads to protect the people. Unless one of the craters becomes active again during your visit, your chance of seeing one inside the park may be slim.

The weather in Hilo side is really unpredictable with several outpours of mild rain. After a while, we stopped running after the umbrella for every sign of rain and instead, we learned to just wait for a few minutes until the rain stops and the sun comes out again. In Hilo, we stayed at an international lodging place called Arnott's Lodge for ($20/person/night). The room is inside an apartment-like area with shared kitchen, bath, and living room (with an extra bed). This place is so lively with people from different places, age groups, and language. You can even camp for $20/night/tent in the front lawn area. This is also a good place to buy discounted tours to Mauna Kea or helicopter tours. Definitely check out Hilo's Saturday local Farmer's Market. I was in tropical fruit heaven with all the chicos (pear-like but sweet!), papaya, starfruit, rambutan (lychee-like), mangoes, and guyabanos I can eat! The have a lot of good food and fresh tropical flowers in banana-leaf covered pots. Hilo is great because it's where you can really be in the local scenes. Not far from the farmer's market is the Banyan Tree park and the Japanese garden where you can bring all that good food and enjoy a little picnic. In Puna, we passed by the lava trees park on our way to Isaac Hale State Park where watching surfing pros can be as thrilling as soaking in its hidden hot spring. The hot spring was small but very nice and warm. Facing the ocean, it's in the right side of the pier across the beach area where locals surf. There's a much bigger hot spring (looks more like a public pool) in another park not far from this park but the water there was not warm and it's more crowded, too. We tried snorkeling in this part of the island as well but the waves were rough and the underwater lava rocks can be sharp. But, it's definitely a good place to see the green corals (I even found a bright pink/red one).
We drove by the small town of Pahoa to get something to eat before we headed back to highway 11 and north towards highway 19 to head back to Kona. In the map, you'll find Saddle Road, which can take you up to Mauna Kea (the world's tallest mountain by measure, taller than Mount Everest - the higest mountain above sea level). Mauna Kea's summit houses the world's largest observatory and it's usually covered with snow in winter. Driving in Saddle Road is difficult and rental companies does not allow rental cars to be driven along this road. So, the best and safest road to drive between Kona and Hilo is highway 11 in the south and 19 in north. Highway 19 can be very rainy and foggy at times but the best route to catch a view of tall, lively waterfalls in your left and the beautiful coastline in your right.

Kona is the best place to snorkel and for beginners to surf because of its calm water. My most unforgetable experience here will be swimming with the Spinner Dolphins by Kelakekua Bay/Captain Cook monument for free! It's a little scary at first because the water keeps getting in my snorkeling mask and the water is a little cold in the morning. Also, the sea floor is bare - no tropical fish or anything, maybe a few corals and some rocks. I finally found courage when I saw a lady head out with her underwater camera. I forgot all the fears and worries after I saw a group of spinner dolphins swimming underneath me. I started following them around to take pictures. It's kind of hard to take pictures with a disposable camera when you're snorkeling because of its small view finder and the snorkel mask that keeps on getting in the way. Fortunately, I got some great shots! By the way, if you happen to have problems with your mask, just make sure it's really tight and keep pushing it towards your face to maintain some kind of vacuum and good seal.

The nightlife in Kona is wonderful. There's a lot of places to go dancing, such as Hugo's, and eat! I love the Monte Carlo sandwich I tried at Quinn's (next to Kona Seaside hotel). It's a turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich deep-fried in batter and served with confetti sugar and fries! Another food to try in Hawaii are the yummy Malasadas. We got some in Crisy's Bakery along highway 11 but the best ones are at Leonard's (a chain bakery). I tried some in Honolulu and the Malasada puffs stuffed with pineapple custard was the best! Before we flew back Honolulu, we decided to take a coffee plantation tour at Mountain Thunder. There we watched how hard and dirty making coffee can be. We tried some of the cherry-red coffee buds from the plants and they were a little sweet!

In Honolulu, we had some drinks at Duke's and listen to the outdoor live band as we watch the sunset. Unfortunately, there were some clouds and we didn't get to see any green flash. On our last day in Hawaii, we hiked the Diamond Head Trails (park entrance was $8/car) to get to the summit. It's an interesting hike along dirt roads, steep stairs, up to a spiral staircase and out to this narrow opening to the top of the tower. The 360-view up there was amazing. It has a great view of Waikiki and you can even see a part of Molokai. There is tram that goes around Honolulu that can take you to this park. Finally, we wrapped up our trip by hitting all the ABC stores along Waikiki beach. They have the best, cheap, and good-quality souvenirs and macadamia nuts! Surf board rentals in Waikiki is about $20/hour and it goes up with lessons. A lot of people just soak under the sun and enjoy people-watching and playing in the sand. There is also a zoo a few blocks away from the beach. There are so many more of Hawaii to explore that it gives you more reasons to go back and catch more rainbows!

Posted by jptablante 12:54 Archived in USA Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Living La Vida Loca - California-dreamin'

Best places and hang out spots around and near California

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The bay area is just so interesting. Each city offers so many different things to see and do. If you want to find great places to visit, eat, check out, etc - Yelp it! Go to yelp.com and see what other people has to say before you hit the road or open your wallet. Here's my own yelp reviews: http://jocel.yelp.com/

Other places to check out is the 2008 Webby Award Nominee: http://weekendsherpa.com/archives/. Find your next weekend adventure! For international travel or out of state travel, check out the newsletters at http://www.away.com/

Here are some of my favorite spots in the bay area:

  • North part, there's Napa and Sonoma - Cornerstone Gardens, Jack London's house, COPA and downtown Napa, shopping outlets.
  • By the coast: Fort Ross, Mendocino, Fort Bragg, Bodega Bay. I love the campsites at MacKerricher State Park, where you can go tide-pooling and whale watching. The Samuel Taylor campground is also nice and closer to Point Reyes and it's where you can actually see salmon swim upstream. Tomales Bay is the perfect place to go clamming and watch manta rays and tiger sharks swim.
  • Hike to Alamere Falls and jump into the Bear Lake on your way back to cool off.
  • Best places to surf are at Pacifica Beach, Bolinas, and Santa Cruz.
  • On the Marin County side of Golden Gate: Sausalito (bike and ferry to SF), Corte Madera's Ring Mountain, Muir Woods, and downtown Mill Valley.
  • Bike route from San Francisco Ferry Bldg to Sausalito - I look forward to sunny days when I can hop in and Bart to San Francisco and bike my favorite loop/route in the city. Get off Embarcadero and bike towards the Ferry Bldg, where you can shop their farmer's market and arts and crafts booths on Saturdays. Head to Fisherman's Wharf from here. On your way, you'll see Coit Tower and there are steps/stairs trails that can you lead up there. The steps start near Battery Street and across Levi's Museum square. Coit Tower marks the end of Lombard Street. If you decide to drive up to Coit Tower, follow Lombard Street and it'll take you to the some of the favorite spots in SF. The Crooked Road is actually part of Lombard Street, which eventually leads you to the Golden Gate. Just before getting into Golden Gate, you can get off Lombard and check out the Fine Arts, Exploratorium, Crissy Field beach, and the rest of Presidio. My bike route actually passes to this area. Anyway, when you get to Fisherman's Wharf, you can check out the sea lions (which migrate in July-August) and the classic arcade Museo Mechanique and hear the fat lady laugh! Behind this museum are other museums that exhibit submarines and torpedoes. After you get your clam chowder, bike past Ghirardelli towards the marina area where you'll find this small hill. On the other side of the hill is Fort Mason and from here, you can see the Golden Gate bridge. Head towards the Golden Gate bridge. Soon, you will see the Fine Arts' dome and exploratorium across the street and Crissy Field beach on your right. Follow the road adjacent to Crissy Field (entrance to the Presidio). Crissy Field is a good place to rest and watch dogs play as well as windsurfers launch. There's also a good view of the Alcatraz from here. If it's too cold outside and you want to get some coffee and be indoor and still be able to enjoy the view of the water, check out that little museum near Crissy Field (and next to Sports Basement - which I think is the best place to shop for outdoor stuff (backpacks, gears, etc) plus they have a ping pong table where you can play while you wait for your friends to finish shopping). From here, you can continue biking towards Golden Gate bridge (just follow everyone else). There's another hill that you need to climb up to get to Lincoln Avenue where you'll find the trail to the biking area (left side of the bridge) to cross the bridge. Once you cross the bridge, it's all downhill to Sausalito, which is on the other side of the freeway. Enjoy the rest of the day in Sausalito. The last Ferry, where you can take your bike with you back to the Ferry Bldg in SF, leaves at 5PM so make sure you don't miss it and always check the time schedule as soon as get to Sausalito so you can plan your stay around it.
  • If you feel like taking the Bart and Cable car to Fisherman's Wharf from Powell and Market, don't forget to check out Bloomingdale's fancy food court (across Briston Farms) and Westlake Dome at the top floor. Across the street, catch a 3D movie at Metreon and check out the waterfall in the garden and the Jewish Art Museum. Each year, they also have great car shows and exhibits at Moscone Center. Yerba Buena is fun - Ice Skating, Bowling, and more!. There's also outdoor ice skating at Embarcadero andUnion Square during the holidays. Bayanihan Cultural Center (6th and Mission) is the place to go in November for their free holiday lantern workshop. Powell and Market is where you'll find group of people (young and old) playing chess.
  • Inner Richmond: Irish bakery and European food market (as well as Russian Cinderella restaurant) off Geary. Yummy dumplings at Clement St. Philippine Consulate home is just around the corner.
    Golden Gate Park: California Academy of Sciences, top floor of De Young Museum (by the other gift shop), Legion of Honor, Japanese Tea Garden pagoda, and Stow Lake.
  • San Francisco Zoo and the Great Highway - Cliff House and the remains of the bathhouse
    San Mateo Convention Center, surfing at the Museum, South San Francisco target shooting range, El Camino Real Filipino restaurants, and Tanforan mall.
  • Glen Park
  • Daly City Lucky Chances Casino
  • SF Nightlife: 1984 CatClub, sfclubs.org, Mehjool at mission and 20th St. Broadway St. in SF. Boot-town /Little Italy. China town and Japan Town.
  • Eastbay (Concord/Antioch/Walnut Creek): Black Diamond Mines Regional Park, Waterworld, Mt. Diablo, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Heather Farms, downtown Walnut Creek, Vasco Road caves. For kids, take them to Pixie Land (amusement park) and the Jungle. Indoor rock climbing at Diablo Rock.
  • Berkeley Indian Rock and Rose Garden, Tilden Park and Brazil Bldg.
  • Lake Chabot, Chabot Planetarium, Oakland Zoo, Mormon Temple, Jack London Square, Rockridge, Lake Merritt Boat Club, El Cerrito Plaza and Pool.

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  • South Bay - Hayward to Carmel
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  • iFly, Union City and all the Filipino food (Gerry's Grill)
  • San Jose - Santana Row and Winchester Mystery House. They're right across each other. Santana Row is the perfect place to hang out (but not to shop). Enter Valencia hotel and proceed to the 2nd floor lobby. Next to the elevator is a narrow hallway. On the right side of the hallway is a really nice lounge/bar with a balcony that overlooks the streets of Santana Row. On the left side is a beautiful courtyard with patio seating and outdoor heat lamps. There are also fire pits to keep you warm. The lighted water cascading falls are awesome at night. Then, grab some delicious desert at Cocola (a block away) and challenge your friends to some outdoor chess by the wine bar in the center isle and move that gigantic 2.5-feet pawn with your two hands across that huge floor chess tiles. There are so many places to check out around here, such as the Saturday farmer's market and pet parades.
  • Also, Rosucrucian Egyptian garden and museum (Naples Ave. - couple of blocks from the Rose garden and not far from Santana Row).
  • Nightlife in downtown San Jose - Spend the day at the Tech Museum and the Modern Art Museum and party all night club-hoping and bar-hoping at all these awesome clubs and bars that downtown has to offer.
  • Citybeach, Fremont - the place to be if you want a sporty-gym where you can play sports indoor with family and friends. Try your skills in rock climbing, volleyball, basketball, ping-pong, bouce or just lay back with playing pool/billiards, air hockey, foosball, and another one of those gigantic, floor chess. They also have a grill/bar where you can recharge with some delicious food and drinks.
  • Skyhigh, Santa Clara - trampoline/exhibition gym anyone?
  • Great America and Raging Water
  • Gilroy Garlic Festival
  • Santa Cruz - Lighthouse Beach (best surfing - W. Cliff Dr.), Boardwalk, Mystery Spot, Seabright Beach bonfires.
  • Carmel downtown, Mission Carmel, and the 17-mile road to Pacific Grove and Monterey.
  • Yosemite and Mono Lake
  • Bear Valley and Alpine Lake - outdoor rockclimbing.
  • Also, Saratoga Mountain Winery and Turtle Creek. Gold mining at Sonora. Dead volcanoes and caverns at Volcano, CA
  • Snow is just few hours away at resorts like Boreal, Heavenly, Alpine Lake, Bear Valley, and NorthStar. Then, cross over to Nevada and check out Lake Tahoe and casinos in Reno.

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  • On your way to LA or just outside LA:
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  • Santa Barbara (Old Spanish Days Festival), Pismo Beach
  • Hearst Castle in San Simeon (along highway 1), San Luis Obispo, and Solvang
  • Mission San Fernando, Mission Hills (north 5/405 intersection)
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Dana Point whale watching (75 milles south)

    Some of my favorite spots in LA (other than Disneyland, Hollywood, and Universal Studios)

  • Getty Museum in town off 405 (free admission). Cool Tram Ride and great view and gardens!
  • Getty Villa in Malibu (reservations). Also in Malibu, Zuma Beach, Paradise Cove, and Malibu Creek State Park for camping
  • Malibu ocean kayaking (also at Mothers beach - Marina del Rey)
  • Santa Monica 3rd St. Promenade, Boardwalk Pacific Park and Rides, Muscle Beach, Point Dume Beach. Cheap eats at S.M.
  • Segway rentals at Segway L.A. on 1660 Ocean Blvd. Santa Monica, Horse back riding (in the Santa Monica mountains)
  • Venice Beach (you can rent bikes), street performers, muscle beach
  • Beverly Hills Park at end of Rodeo Dr., the City Hall, Beverly Hills Hotel, Polo Lounge
  • Trolley tours of star homes Hollywood or downtown, Baldwin Hills or get a $5 map of star homes (Beverly Hills Rodeo Dr.)
  • Griffith Park and Observatory (reservations now required). The new Oschin Planetarium show is the best!
  • Near that area: Greek Theater, Bird Sanctuary, Los Angeles Zoo (parking site for Griffith Observatory/Hollywood Bowl)
  • Gene Autrey Western Museum + Travel Town (railroad museum)
  • West Hollywood, Walk of Fame/Stars (3 ½ miles round trip), Graumin’s Chinese Theater, and Hollywood Bowl concerts (arrange parking first)
  • Ford’s Theater (across the 101 from the Hollywood Bowl) smaller shows than the Bowl
  • Hollywood Wax Museum and Kodak Theater tour, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum (across from wax museum)
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Hollywood Park Race, Forum, horse racing, and casino.
  • Haunted Hollywood Tour
  • Museum of Tolerance
  • Hollywood sign hike and pics, L.A.pics
  • Paramount Pictures Tour (9AM), Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Walk of Fame
  • Studio tours: Universal/City Walk or Warner Bros., NBC, Disney, Dreamworks
  • La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum on Wilshire @ Fairfax
  • Farmers Market at the Grove. Go to Charley’s Café in the Farmer’s Market. Go the closest booth at Fairfax and W. 3rd.
  • Exposition Park Rose Garden (USC)
  • MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and LACMA
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall (downtown)—stunning architecture!
  • Downtown L.A.-Lummis house, Angels flight
  • China town, Korea town (karaoke), Little Tokyo
  • Dodger stadium baseball game, Home Depot Stadium
  • Lakers Basketball at the Staples arena
  • Huntington Beach Surfing and Surf Museum (they spend a lot of time and money on constant activities)
  • Foose Auto Design (See Overhaul’in TV Show) and Huntington Beach boardwalk
  • Petersen Auto Museum (car “rallys” from Huntington Beach - see the stars cars and the Ferrari collection)
  • Huntington library and gardens (San Marino)
  • Volley ball and tournaments (Huntington Beach)
  • USC and UCLA football, LA Coliseum or Rose Bowl
  • Redondo Beach and Pier
  • Orange County
  • L.A. barhopper mystery bus, L.A. Open at Riviera Country Club, L.A. Equestrian Center
  • Big Bear skiing
  • Palm Springs golf and tram ride
  • River Walk and L.A. River Gardens
  • Citadel Outlet Mall (Commerce, CA)
  • Commerce Casino Club (Commerce, CA) and Bicycle Club Casino (Bell Gardens, CA.)
  • Cerritos Titanium Library
  • Disneyland (Anaheim)
  • Knotts Berry Farm's roller coaster rides, 6 Flags/Magic Mountain
  • Water parks-hurricane harbor, soak city, raging rivers
  • Long Beach: Aquarium of the Pacific and Queen Mary (haunted ship/hotel)
  • Catalina Island, catamaran to Avalon out of Long Beach or Newport beach, concerts and the casino - service now available out of Marina del Rey (Helicopter Service $150. now available out of San Pedro)
  • Hike up Mt. Lee and visit Bronson (Batman) caves
  • Rose Parade in Pasadena
  • Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena)
  • Santa Anita race track, and L.A.. Botanic Gardens -Arcadia, CA.
  • Mt. Wilson observatory-(UCLA astronomy-Cal. Rt #2))
  • Gondola ride at Naples Island (Alimitos Bay)
  • Renaissance Festival
  • Rockwalk at the Guitar Center
  • Graumans Egyptian Theater
  • El Capitan Theater
  • Dominator ship wreck hike
  • Tilmann Japanese garden (San Fernando Valley)
  • San Bernadino Route 66 classic car show (Sept.13-16)
  • Descanso Gardens (La Canada)
  • Brand Park/Glendale library
  • San Antonio and Temecula winery tours
  • Lake Arrowhead

    Other places to check out or for dining:

  • Beach bonfire—monthly specials (free wood and hotdogs)
  • Helicopter tour of L.A, indoor skydiving
  • Fashion district-(11th St. + Santee), L.A. Fashion week (bargains)
  • Melrose Trading Post (Saturdays only)
  • Eat at Pinks, Pinkberry, or In-and-Out Burger. Pink Hotdogs is very popular with all different combinations.
  • Bob Morris’s Paradise Cove Café, Sunday Morning Brunch (North of Malibu maybe 5 miles—look for Paradise Cove signs)
  • Spago in Beverly Hills, great Wolfgang Puck restaurant. You might meet Wolfgang
  • Ivy, Kitson (on N. Robertson), Hotel Marmont,
  • Club at Hyde, Area, Teddy’s, Priviledge, Les Deux, Parc, Mood, Skybar, Roxy, Tryst, Whiskey (a-go-go), The Spyder Club, The Viper Room, House of Blues.
  • Beverly Hilton, Trader Vics, Sparkles
  • Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf + Tito tacos (Culver City)
  • Eat at Mr. Chow’s or Koi or Yamashiro
  • Fred Segal (this is mostly for women and gay guys I guess)
  • Papa Christo’s Thursday Greek Dinner (pico/normandie) - Real Store with restaurant attached. This authentic experience including belly dancer and classes for the ladies won’t last in it’s present shape too long as it is sold out on Thursdays. It’s inexpensive and Chrys’s Daughter graduates from business school next year and if she has any sense will turn this into something bigger. Make sure to make reservations for the Big Fat Greek Thursday Dinner and not just plain dinner.
  • Mel’s diner (Hollywood and highland)
  • Bob’s Big Boy—Toluca Lake-Riverside Dr.-(Friday nights only 5 to 10:00)
  • Marina Del Rey Dinner Cruise-Hornblower Co.
  • Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles Diner
  • Canter’s Deli or The Pantry
  • Eat at Mortons (Pam is closing at the end of the year)

  • u
  • Trips I'll always Remember:
  • /u

  • El Paso Texas and New Mexico: White Sands, NASA Space Center, Rosswell UFO Center
  • Las Vegas and Grand Canyon: free shows and themed sights at Cesar's Palace, Bellagio, Paris, Venitian Hotel, Wynn, and mardi-gras like shows at Rio. Check out the Lion habitat at MGM, the flamingos at Flamingo's, and the tropical fishes and sea horses at Caesar's Palace. The best rides are at New York New York roller coaster and Stratosphere's XScream.
  • Tour of West Grand Canyon: skip Skywalk and head out to Guano Point (see previous blog on Grand Canyon). Camp and see Angels Bright trail in South Grand Canyon.
  • Washington: Tacoma's Glass Bridge and Chihuly's Glass Museum, Seattle's Pike's Place and Smith Tower in the Pioneer Square, Mukilteo Lighthouse and Boeing Tour, Tulalip Resort and Casino by Seattle Outlet stores.

Posted by jptablante 11:27 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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