Tokyo DisneySea Travel Guide

Love absolutely every Disney park but this was by far going in the books as one of my favorites. It felt like a hybrid of Epcot with the different cultural lands and California Adventure with similar familiar attractions. My expectations for this park going in were very low since I hadn’t heard too much about it, boy was I surprised how much fun I had. Mount Prometheus (shown above) is an extraordinarily gorgeous focal point of the amusement park. Wished I would’ve brought home a cute little Duffy bear souvenir key chain (guess I’ll have to go back).

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I came during Halloween time which was funny because it wasn’t as decked out in decorations like its counterpart Tokyo Disneyland. Only the front gate.

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The entrance to the park had a beautiful plaza equip with a globe (kind of reminded me of Universal Studios Hollywood). It was amazing! Made me get major wanderlust

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Next up you enter the beyond BEAUTIFUL Mediterranean Harbor (one of my favorites) I felt like I was whisked away to Italy. I definitely enjoyed the ambience of the romantic Southern European port town feel and of course always love Italian food MMM gelato and pasta yum! The architecture was spot on, so impressed Disney. It was so well done, even better than the Venetian in Vegas. Slightly sad the Venetian gondolas ride weren’t in operation during my trip, but I definitely took advantage of everything else. We ate at the cute Zambini Brother’s Ristorante for a delicious spaghetti dinner.

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Let’s move on to Mysterious Island which hosts the wonderful Mount Prometheus and center of the park.  This was an interesting land for sure. The only thing that stood out was the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride which took up 99% of the area as well as 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas. Two rides you’ll have to do at least once for the experience, but not to die for favorites in my opinion.

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We adventured to the American Waterfront, which was probably the most random themed land and the most like California Adventure Park. The highlight of course Tower of Terror Hotel HighTower (geez so much scarier than the one we used to have at California Adventure and the one in Florida’s Hollywood Studios). The tiki head voodoo doll things still give me the creeps and nightmares. Was fun doing Toy Story Mania (favorite of mine at California Adventure). We also rode the Electric railway which was awesome (better than Disneyland’s railroad for sure). The SS Columbia ship restaurant reminded me so much of the Queen Mary in Long Beach (brings back so many memories of high school prom). Oh and lastly the Cape Cod area……so adorable! Can I go visit dad’s dreamy Boston hometown? LOVE LOVE LOVE. Wish I would’ve got some pictures of this area, but I’ll have to visit the real deal right?

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Port Discovery was supposed to be like Tomorrowland with its futuristic vibe and center of weather control across the horizons of time. The StormRider was kind of terrifying not going to lie. It made me a little afraid of storms. The Aquatopia was a strange ride too, but I was never a fan of water rides to begin with. Haha my biggest memory from this land honestly was the ice cream we ate, so cute.

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Next land was Lost River Delta….based on the Central America jungles with the neatly done ruins of the ancient civilization. Was like a grown up Adventureland. By far my favorite ride was Indiana Jones Temple of the Crystal Skull. So much more fun LED lights and effects than in California. Other big ride in the area was Raging Spirits….don’t know what the trend is with this park and terrifying rides, but my goodness I thought this wooden roller coaster was going to give me a heart attack. I mean, just look at the thing. Gives me chills. Even the warning signs had me second guessing whether these fast passes were a good idea.

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We ventured to Mermaid Lagoon after that. Cute little land of rainbow colors, feeling very under the sea. All the rides were adorable just like Fantasyland. Very mellow. Flounder’s flying fish coaster was probably most popular. Just like the Toontown coaster at Disneyland. I couldn’t get enough of the Scuttle’s Scooters. We were moving in little crabs haha. The Mermaid Lagoon Theater…..please don’t miss this. So good! Too good! Couldn’t help, but sing along at King Triton’s Symphony Concert. Course visit the Triton’s Kingdom which is an indoor dark dimly lit room which really feels like you’ve entered Ariel’s grotto. The jumping jellyfish ride was just like California Adventure. I’d skip the whirlpool, but the Blowfish Balloon Race was way fun…..made me want to ride in an actual hot air balloon.

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Saved the best land for last, drumroll please…..Arabian Coast! Can we tell this was my FAVORITE by the sheer amount of photos I took? The details…so intricate and magnificent. Made me want to travel to the Middle East so badly. The architecture was just as good if not better than the European port earlier. Blew me out of the water. The Magic Lamp Theater show reminded me of the old Aladdin broadway production they used to do at California Adventure. The fact that my favorite though was the Caravan Carousel was too funny. Can every carousel have camels? And guys, it was TWO levels of fun! A little embarrassed by the fact that yeah I was the only one on the ride haha. Jasmine’s Flying Carpets were just like Dumbo, but better. Too bad I didn’t have my Aladdin riding with me to take a journey across the natural wonders of the world 😉 Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage was kind of strange….not the cute little storybook canal ride I’m used to from Disneyland. The Abu’s Bazaar and Agrabah Marketplace were so neat! Made me want to see the real Grand Bazaar someday in Istanbul. Whoever takes me to India will be my best friend ever.

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There you have it friends, alas you’ve made it to the end. Enjoy if you visit, this place is truly special! Shots curteousy of my good old point and shoot, pretty nifty knowing I got all these decent photos (OG camera days before the DSLR).

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Wonderful Disney adventures await you young travelers.

 

Disneyland Anaheim Travel Guide

In honor of many upcoming trips to the cheery land of Disney, thought I’d post my favorites of this magical place. Grew up coming here as a kid every year on my birthday so it will always hold special memories in my heart.

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*Tips & Tricks*

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  • Always dress smart with layers…Disneyland is in California the sunshine state, but it can still get chilly at night depending on the weather. Bring a light weight jacket and wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be walking around a lot all day.
  • Be prepared and take water if you can to stay hydrated throughout the day. Don’t forget snacks since Disney still lets you bring in food.
  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen if you go during the day to avoid sunburning.
  • Ride lines can also be a long wait so bring cards or download some fun phone app games to pass the time by.
  • Don’t forget a portable charger for your phone if you plan on using this in line ( we always bring a heavy duty data bank)
  • Take advantage of FAST PASSES – literally the key to trying to get on every ride in one day (very possible by the way if you have a strategy and game plan in mind when conquering the parks); Get MaxPass (new app that gives you digital fastpasses on the Disneyland App) the $10 is worth it and will save you so much time from not having to run around the whole park
  • MaxPass can also be used for unlimited Disney Photopass downloads from the day (such a fun souvenir) plus you can check all the attraction wait times as well as make dining reservations at select restaurants

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  • Celebration buttons are a must, cutest souvenir to remember your special trip (get these at the town hall for free) They have all different kinds from I’m celebrating to Graduation to Happy Anniversary, Happily Ever After, Happy Birthday, 1st Visit, etc.

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  • Send yourself a postcard from the park (they have mailboxes everywhere on main street) my favorite are the ones from WonderGround Gallery; don’t forget your postcard stamps before you come

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*Entertainment Favorites*

Main Street Electrical Parade – Love that they brought this back, the LED lights are spectacular…..the show is the same as the original, music and all. A must see before it disappears this summer of 2017

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Fireworks Show – Disney has their fair share of different variations of their firework spectaculars, each unique and special. One of my favorite parts of Disneyland is watching all the colors spark over the Sleeping Beauty castle. Also a fun way to see Tinkerbell fly across the night sky if you stand in front of the castle. I think the best spots to watch the fireworks are on Main Street, Rivers of America by Pirates of the Caribbean and from Fantasyland by Small World

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Mickey and the Magical Map Show – Cutest sing along show in the huge theater out front of Toontown in Fantasyland, fun to take little kids to, the singing and dancing numbers amazing (almost broadway quality)

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Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – The iconic landmark of Disneyland, love that they kept the sparkly roofing on the castle from the diamond celebration (such a beautiful touch). It’s always fun to walk through sleeping beauty’s castle, don’t miss it

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Disney’s Holiday FestivitiesPLEASE go to Disneyland during one of their holiday celebrations; I’ve personally been to every single one and the decorations alone all across the park are phenomenal (my all time favorites being Christmas and Halloween). The Haunted Mansion ride decked out themed Nightmare Before Christmas was a genius marketing move and so fun. Space Mountain is decked out as Ghost Galaxy. Love It’s A Small World Holiday when it’s all decked out in lights and Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle with the icicles is my absolute favorite. Always enjoy the Halloween parties….I mean any excuse to dress up as a Disney princess and you’ve got me, I’m in. Plus you’ll acquire so much candy from the adorable trick or treat booths spread all across the park. The special holiday treats you can buy throughout the park let alone are the main reasons I have to go every year.

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*Rides*

It’s A Small World – Arguably my favorite ride, who wouldn’t want to take a cruise around the world? Of course I’m always a little bias when it comes to representing my ethnicities and think that the Ireland/Scotland/England and Japanese areas are the best. The pastel colors, the dolls, everything about this ride makes me smile with pure joy (in Fantasyland)

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Peter Pan’s Flight – Can you blame me if I love Fantasyland more than any other? This ride though….first off, you get to fly in a pirate ship (who wouldn’t want to live this childhood dream?)…..and flying over little London town, so dreamy

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Dumbo – Looks like a cheesy ride if you’re not 5, but you get a pretty neat view overlooking the park (in Fantasyland)

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Indiana Jones – By far my favorite “big kid” ride…..love that you’re in a jeep four wheeling through some crazy scenes—the skulls, the snakes, the creepy Aztec looking tiki doll heads, the flaming fire, the huge boulder chasing you down a hole…..kind of wish the danger were real because that’d be a gnarly experience to battle through (in Adventureland)

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Storybook Land Canal Boats – Another cute fantasyland favorite, those miniature towns get me every time and the lit arch ways you pass under at night from Casey Jr.’s is so romantic (my favorite town is the new frozen one of course)

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King Arthur’s Carrousel – Everyone needs to ride on the Mary Poppins horse Jiggles at least once, it’s the best one with the glimmering gem stones and bells (the golden hoofs are a nice touch too) also in Fantasyland

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Mark Twain Riverboat – Love the casual stroll across the Rivers of America on this gorgeous boat that makes me feel like I’m strolling down the Mississippi river amongst New Orleans (in Frontierland)

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Matterhorn Bobsleds – Iconic mountain of Disneyland…..personally the ride isn’t the best with all the back and butt whiplash you experience, but the Swiss alps aesthetic keeps me coming back—love that it makes me feel like I’m in Austria especially with the workers dressed in the cutest costumes (in Fantasyland)

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Way fun roller coaster, love the scenery as it reminds me of Arizona or Utah because of the rock formations (In Frontierland)

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Lilly Belle Railroad Train Car – Newest favorite, look how gorgeous….the cool part is you’ll need reservations to see this beauty. Part of the back train car of the Disneyland Railroad which has stops on Main Street, New Orleans Square, Toon Town and Tomorrowland.

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*Eats*

Tiki Room Juice Bar – Two words “Dole Whip”….what’s not more refreshing on a warm summer day than pineapple soft serve (very iconic dessert) in Adventureland. Choose the soft serve (whip) or dole float (ice cream in pineapple juice)

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Bengal Barbecue – Must try the new tropical Jungle Julep drink, cousin of the Mint Julep. Super fruity smoothie/icee like consistency. Very delicious with hints of orange, grape, pineapple and lemon. The kabobs are a delicious snack too. My top favorites are the Safari Skewer (bacon wrapped asparagus), Bengal Beef Skewer (beef skewer in sweet zulu sauce) and Chieftain Chicken Skewer (chicken skewer in Polynesian sauce). Located in Adventureland across from Indiana Jones & Jungle Cruise

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Cafe Orleans – Mickey beignets are a must, super cute and always loving the NOLA vibes. Try the Monte Cristo sandwich, very classic New Orleans (grilled ham and cheese sandwich). In New Orleans Square

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Golden Horseshoe – Apparently the ice cream nachos are a thing, who knew? Is Disney on the secret menu phenomena kick like Starbucks? Also love their ice cream floats, try this cool new cherry cola one for the Fantasmic celebration. In Frontierland. The park rival of Gibson Girl on Main Street USA

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Stage Door Cafe – Funnel cakes in Disneyland are huge and amazing. The strawberry funnel cake is so delicious! They are huge so bring friends to share with.

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Candy Palace – Order a World of Color slushy off the secret menu, it’s almost too beautiful to drink. The best slushy. Right off the beautifully decorated Main Street USA

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Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor – Crowd favorite for ice cream and sundaes, the waffle cones are to die for. Also on Main Street USA

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Blue Bayou – Inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (not my favorite place and kind of pricey, long wait, plus annoying reservations but it’s next to the famous Club 33) in New Orleans Square; has similar food to Cafe Orleans if you’re looking for a not as expensive option with the same cuisine. I always order the Monte Cristo and they have the best chicken gumbo soup

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Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port/Alien Pizza Planet– Cute themed with Toy Story for now, but not sure how long this will be called Pizza Planet. Love the pastas especially the Count Down Chicken Fusilli (like fettuccine alfredo), Terra Nova Vegetable Pasta (has a slight spicy kick to it) and Mars-inara with meatballs; please pass on the pizza (tastes like microwave frozen stuff)….you can thank me later (in Tomorrowland by Space Mountain)

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Earl’s Sandwiches – Technically not in Disneyland, but this Downtown Disney favorite needed some recognition (the Hawaiian bbq sandwich is delicious)

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Tortilla Joes – Also in Downtown Disney and they have the best chicken flautas

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French Market Restaurant – Love the french dip sandwich! Super filing dinner choice located in New Orleans Square and conveniently located to the Mint Julep bar

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Mint Julep Bar – Yummy mickey mouse shaped beignets (sugary powdered doughnuts), they have peppermint ones during Christmas time

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Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen – Downtown Disney, the best New Orleans food besides the original place itself. Love the gumbo so much and the beignets. We got the bolognese ravioli, pasta jambalaya and grilled medallions of beef (filet mignon, mashed potatoes, green beans all in a nice rich wine sauce).

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Haagen Dazs – Another downtown disney location. This ice cream is phenomenal and one of my favorites. Pictured is the banana split dazzler – three scoops of vanilla ice cream layered with bananas, pineapples, strawberries and hot fudge.

*Souvenirs*

World of Disney – Downtown Disney shop that literally carries everything you can find in the parks. The one stop shop for all your Disney favorites. These mickey shaped gummies below are my absolute favorite candy in the entire world and I’ve only seen them sold at Disneyland & California Adventure.

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*Disneyland’s Half Marathons*

If you have a chance, put one of these races on your bucket list they are amazing! My favorite is the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, but someday I’ll go to Florida to run the Princess Half Marathon. The medals are amazing!

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Have fun enjoying the happiest place on Earth ❤

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San Diego Travel Guide

Hi friends! Since I’ve recently been requested to offer recommendations for San Diego, thought I’d post my guide here. I’ve had my fair share of adventures in this beautiful place having many family members originate from this fun part of socal. When I picture San Diego, the sights that come to mind are the crisp blue ocean, marine life, amazing Mexican food, and Spanish influenced architecture. Two of my most favorite memories were learning how to surf in SD when I was 10 at surf camp and running the 5K MLB All-Star color run for All Star Baseball Weekend . Some of my most frequented cities are La Jolla, Escondido, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Coronado, Del Mar, Torrey Pines, Temecula, San Clemente and San Marcos. Sharing my favorites below:

*Sights*

La Jolla Shores Park – Most beautiful beach in SD that I’ve ever seen, not as spectacular as OC beaches (yes I’m biased) but still a very fun place to go for a lovely run along the flat coast. It has cute trendy boutique shops and adorable little restaurants nearby. Go early because it gets really crowded and hectic with parking

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La Jolla Cove – Pretty neat place for an adventurous kayaking or snorkeling experience in the sea caves, lots of sea lions as well as birds and other wildlife. Also popular for cliff diving which I’ve never done

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Balboa park – See the Pond, beautiful ornate Spanish architecture of the buildings, amazing florals and watch a cool play at the Shakespeare’s Globe theater replica

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Petco Park-  Home of the SD Padres MLB baseball team, was lucky enough to get to experience watching a game in one of the club level boxes (a rare moment for a baseball lover and typically only enjoyed for corporate events –kept having fan girl moments the entire duration of the game at how amazing this was)

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Seaworld – Fun for little kids or people who really like marine biology and marine animals, got to pet a dolphin which was quite the experience

San Diego Zoo & Safari Park – My favorite zoo of all time, will forever love the panda bear exhibits & the safari park reminds me of what I assume Africa would look like. If you get the opportunity to feed the giraffes you must do it

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Legoland – Used to visit here when I was little, rides are kind of lame compared to Disneyland which is what I grew up with as a kid but the miniature lego built towns and landmarks are incredible and phenomenal

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Carlsbad Ranch Flower Fields – Only can be seen for about 10 weeks in the spring time (usually March to May) and has been open for over 25 years; these flower fields are over 50 acres of gorgeousness and right next to the Carlsbad outlets (hi Kate Spade and Tory Burch) how convenient right? Go early because parking is a zoo. Described as a hillside rainbow painted with a variation of 13 vibrant colors of millions of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers upon coastal farmland. When we went admission was $14 and hours were from 9-6pm

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Seaport Village – cute little area downtown with a beautiful marina, little trendy shops and fun hotel bars (pretty views of the sunset along the water)

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Coronado Bridge & Skyline – Amazing little  coastal beach town reminding me of my favorite city Newport Beach. Would make for a fun perfect short weekend getaway. We saw the cute tiny beach at the edge of the bridge with fleets of yachts and sailboats. Go to the Hotel del Coronado for gorgeous views and enjoy drinks on the patio or brunch at the restaurant. In the winter they even have an adorable ice skating rink. Literally one of my favorite places in San Diego, so many cute trendy shops and restaurants

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Gaslamp Quarter – trendy area right by Petco Park in Downtown; lots of cute restaurants, ton of cool rooftop bars and a short walk away from the metro station

Greetings from SD Wall – In North Park and a popular place for instagramers or bloggers for the iconic SD shot

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Sunset Cliffs Natural Park –  beautiful place to take photos and enjoy the exquisite wonders of nature

Wilson Creek Winery – Hands down the prettiest vineyards I’ve visited in Temecula Wine Country, you feel like you’re in Sonoma or Napa Valley, fun for wine tasting and go for a fun hot air balloon ride while you’re at it since the scenery is gorgeous. Also liked South Coast Winery as a second favorite

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Clue Avenue Escape Rooms – First time I had ever done an escape room and this one was super fun. Had the best team and the puzzles were pretty good, even a fun were quite challenging

*Eats*

Extraordinary Desserts – best dessert place I’ve been to, love the presentation skills of pure art and way fun industrial interior design (cute place to take your girlfriends for a girl’s getaway or birthday dessert celebration)

Hammonds Ice Cream – Located in North Park, known for their ice cream flights, just your average ice cream in the cutest little waffle cones, wish I would’ve went with enough people to get the flight of 30 since it looks crazy cool, but the flight of 6 was good enough since there was only two of us present

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Filippi’s Pizza Grotto – An Italian pasta favorite in Escondido, the amount of cheese they use on their pizzas is ridiculous

Bahama Bucks – Delicious refreshing shaved ice in a rainbow assortment of flavors. Perfect for a super hot sunny day. Went to the location in Temecula after wine tasting

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Unevolve Bowls – Create your own acai and pitaya bowls, I’m obsessed and liked this place because you can literally get all the different kinds of fruits and customize it to your liking. Went to the location in San Marcos

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Better Buzz – Cutest coffee and acai bowl place in San Marcos. Bowl was amazing and ordered the Best Drink Ever which was pretty great iced coffee if I do say so myself. Plus the packaging is very creative

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Island Pasta – Favorite in Coronado, lovely pasta dishes and the cutest outdoor cafe style location adjacent to Hotel del Coronado…I enjoyed the shells with bolognese sauce yum!

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Chito’s Mexican Food – In Escondido, little hole in the wall Mexican food take out. So yummy! Love their rolled tacos meal with Spanish rice and beans

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Rita’s – Delicious frozen custard, I got the gelati vanilla custard with blood orange and mango sorbet Yum! Such a fun treat on a hot sunny day

There you have it, good old San Diego at its finest!

See pictures below from the color run…..and you can see why I’ll never run this race ever again (got owned with all the colors, definitely was hit more than most people and my skin was dyed pink for the entire weekend)

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Oahu Hawaii Travel Guide

Hi friends, this weekend I finally had the time to write up my guide on Oahu Hawaii. This is one of my favorite islands and had a blast both times I’ve been here. Hawaii reminds me of beautiful beaches, rainbow sunsets, sea turtles, dolphins, fruity pineapple drinks, palm trees, Hawaiian luau bbq, tiki torches, leis, hibiscus flowers, hula dancing, bamboo forests, tropical smoothies, Polynesian culture, rainbow shave ice and sea cliffs. Below are just a few of my favorite sights and food places: Enjoy!

Sights:

Hanauma Bay – Beautiful place to go snorkeling; clear blue turquoise waters, go early before 7am to avoid crowds and admission fee

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Hike Diamond Head – The view from the top is stunning overlooking the city buildings and beaches; trail is partially paved and very non-strenuous .08 mile hike

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Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail & Tidepools – Such a gorgeous scenic hike; slightly steep but non-strenuous paved road 2.5 miles in length; Lighthouse was roped off when we went due to high tide watch; Got to see the tidepools from afar which was cool, but some brave travelers hiked to the bottom to swim in them despite the warning signs

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Lanikai Beach – Bright blue waters gave the feeling of tropical island paradise; Iconic two pillar rocks out in the distance; Great place to go kayaking or canoeing b/c the water is very calm with not a lot of waves

Pearl Harbor – Very historic, but somber place; Good to see once in your lifetime

Waikiki Beach & Shops – Very touristy; Good area for shopping and dining but super crowded and not my favorite place to be due to the mass crowds

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Dole Pineapple Plantation – See the cool pineapple plants; Watch the pineapple cutting demonstration; Check out the large gift shop and eat a dole whip…yum!

Waimea Bay – Cute little bay; super windy and cold when we went but neat lighthouse

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Pali Lookout – Gorgeous overlook into the valley

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Punchbowl – Best view of Waikiki from the Main Office Overlook spot in the national cemetery; Don’t miss the famous memorial statue out front

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Food:

Banan Food Truck – BEST acai bowl i’ve had in my life….well technically it’s more like banana soft serve but very similar concept (wish I could eat one of these every day for breakfast); Probably hands down my favorite thing I tried in Hawaii

Matsumoto Shaved Ice – Not the best shaved ice I’ve ever had but a cute iconic famous shaved ice shop on the island; tons of flavors and cute gift shop; just your classic flavored shaved ice

Lanikai Juice – Delicious smoothies

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Chuck’s Steakhouse – Ended up here by accident b/c Duke’s was way too crowded; Dinner ended up being amazing and the ocean front Waikiki sunset view off the balcony was to die for

Duke’s – Hula pie is AMAZING! Check out my OC travel guide for more details on this restaurant 🙂

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Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha – Second favorite shaved ice place we went to on the island; amazing and unique take to a traditional shaved ice with real fruit toppings (didn’t taste artificially flavored). We ordered Classic rainbow, Strawberry Dream & Tropical Delight….all wonderful!

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Honolulu Cookie Company – Favorite cookies on the islands; Had to bring some home to all of my friends; My favorite is the kona coffee flavored ones dipped in dark chocolate

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Cheese Burgers in Paradise – Pretty good burgers off the Waikiki strip right by the beach

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Leonard’s Malasadas Bakery – Best malasadas on the island; Portuguese donuts. Cinnamon Sugar & Original were my favorite.

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Musukawas – Ton Katsu and Original spam misubi was a tasty snack

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Island Vintage Shaved Ice – Hands down best shaved ice i’ve had in Hawaii. So delectably yummy! Heavenly Lilikoi was my favorite!

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Nordstrom Gelato Bar – who knew Nordstrom in Hawaii had a gelato bar? We definitely don’t have this back home so sure was a treat to get Lilikoi sorbet

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Lodging:

Loved staying at Luana…it is right on the Waikiki strip with all the shopping and restaurants, but far away from the beach where you won’t get all the noise and tourists. We had a gorgeous suite room that made me feel like I was in tropical paradise. The customer service here was amazing!

 

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Transportation:

I recommend renting a car since everything is pretty far in proximity. Hawaiian license plates are too adorable. Wish ours were as pretty.

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We flew on Hawaiian Airlines….I’d say this is the best way to get to Hawaii! They give you meals onboard fit with Hawaiian flair. I liked getting the guava and POG juice. I loved their marketing safety video that showed you all the landmarks of Hawaii (made it easier to pay attention). Plus there’s an option to have a lei welcoming which is so special. Always appreciated the Aloha spirit of the staff. It was so fun to take the transfer to island hop.

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On my next visit I’d like to do the Koko Crater Hike, Lanikai Pillbox Hike, Crouching Lion Hike and Stairway to Heaven Hike (once it becomes not illegal).

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Hawaii truly is the state of rainbows!

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Mahalo!

 

Washington DC Travel Guide

Hi fellow readers! Thought I’d introduce to you my favorites from our capitol DC today. Such an iconic city enriched with so much history. Love this country I live in and our patriotic pride. Check out my recommendations below, Happy travels friends.

SIGHTS

The Smithsonian Museums:

American History Museum (First lady’s china sets/dresses, Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown, Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear, Wizard of Oz ruby slippers, star spangled banner gallery)

Natural History Museum (Hope diamond necklace, rotunda superdome)

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Smithsonian Castle

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National Portrait Gallery

Tour of the White House (oval office, resolute desk)

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President’s Guest House – Blair House

Capitol Building/Capitol Hill (house/senate galleries, monumental canopy frieze under dome)

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The Supreme Court Building (Old Senate Chamber, can buy a gavel at the souvenir shop, great hall, grand corridor, courtroom lecture, john marshall statue) *Front of building was being refurbished when we went*

National Mall:

Lincoln Memorial/Reflecting Pool (Martin Luther King I had a Dream Speech spot)

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Jefferson Memorial/Tidal Basin (can rent paddle boats)

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National World War II Memorial (absolutely beautiful)

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

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Holocaust Museum (very depressing)

FDR Monument

Georgetown University (cute college town, lots of shopping, expensive row houses neighborhoods, Healy building, red bus circulator)

National Archives (Declaration of Independence, Magna Carta, US Constitution, Bill of Rights, emancipation proclamation)

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Washington Monument (Climb to the top) *They were rebuilding this when we went*

Library of Congress (Jefferson’s books, do the tour so cool, Gutenberg and mainz bibles)

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Newseum (Berlin wall pieces, World trade tower fragments, Pulitzer price gallery)

George Washington University (cute college town, lots of eateries)/John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts (shows, beautiful view of the Potomac)

Ford’s Theatre & Museum/Petersen Boarding House (Lincoln’s assassination site)

Washington Navy Yard/Nationals Park (Washington Nationals MLB game)

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Washington National Cathedral

George Washington’s House Mt. Vernon (beautiful house & grounds, burial site, sit on back porch and watch the Potomac)

Union Station (kind of like their version of Grand Central in NYC)

Pentagon (can tour, far from metro stop) See below in the distance from Arlington

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Arlington National Cemetery (Kennedy’s gravesite & eternal flame, Arlington House, Iwo Jima statue, changing of the guard/tomb of the Unknown Soldier)

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US Botanic Garden (super beautiful)

Bureau of Engraving and Printing (do the tour to learn about how they make money, super fascinating, can buy shredded bags of money as souvenirs afterwards)

Department of Treasury

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Embassy row (cool to see all the different country flags)

George Washington masonic memorial

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Gadsby’s tavern museum

Monticello Jefferson’s home

Tudor place

Old Post Office

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EATS

Georgetown Cupcakes

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Founding Farmers (Georgetown, soooooo good! Must go to this one)

Good Stuff Eatery (On the hill, burgers & shakes)

We the Pizza (On the hill, pizza & homemade sodas)

Firehook Bakery (On the hill, Paninis and soups, cookies)

Sweet Green (On the hill, healthy salads)

7th Hill Pizza (On the hill, authentic Italian pizza, Nutella calzone)

Ted’s Bulletin (On the hill, old fashion diner)

La Madeleine (Georgetown, French cuisine, crepes, baguette sandwiches)

J. Paul’s (Georgetown, restaurant)

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Baked & Wired (Georgetown, cupcake competitor of Georgetown cupcakes)

Café Bonaparte (great crepes)

2 amys pizza (Tenleytown, authentic Italian pizza)

Afterwords (dupont circle, in kramer’s bookstore, cute little café)

Pasta Mia (Adams Morgan, amazing pasta, cash only)

Ben’s Chili Bowl (U Street)

RANDOM NOTES

Use the metro transit system (get a weekly pass card)

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Go to the Smithsonian’s earlier in the day if you want to avoid the crowds

If you have time visit the Lincoln & Jefferson Memorial both at day & night (amazing different experiences/fireflies come out at night and everything is lit)

Pentagon City stop on Metro has a large mall

Can take the metro to do side trips easily to Boston, Baltimore, Philly, etc.

Alexandria Virginia [One of my favorite places on my trip] is a stop at the end of the blue line on the metro and is the most gorgeous waterfront town with amazing restaurants, darling cafes, art galleries and shops on King’s street, lots of character and charm with the brick and cobblestone—trolley rides are free (Chadwick’s was my favorite restaurant=amazing!, Old Fashioned Pop’s Ice Cream Company)

Hotel in Alexandria Virginia – Embassy Suites Old Town (super close to metro; beautiful rooms)

There you have it! Enjoy our nation’s capitol and all of its beauty!

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Chicago Travel Guide

When I picture Chicago I think of deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, jazz/blues/house/electronic music, Lake Michigan, city living, tall skyscrapers, unique architecture, Joffrey ballet, Dunkin Donuts, L train, Garrett popcorn, Great Lakes and The Loop. Here’s my favorites:

Skydeck/Willis Tower/Sears Tower

Really cool view of the city. We went at night to see all the city lights

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SkyDeck Chicago / Trench Coat – Banana Republic

Giordanos or Lou Malnati’s 

My favorite places to get deep dish and thin crust Chicago style pizza

Shake Shack

The midwest In&Out, super delicious burgers and the best crinkle cut fries

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Wrigley Field Cubs / US Cellular Field White Sox

Not a huge cubs fan, but definitely a huge MLB fan. This stadium is so historic and amazing. We had a ton of fun at the game

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Chicago Riverwalk / Water Taxis – Architecture River Cruise

Probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in Chicago, the architecture of the skyline is gorgeous. We took the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 1.5 hour tour and loved it, super beautiful on a sunny day

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Grant Park / Buckingham Fountain

Beautiful fountain located past Millennium Park. There are water fountain shows at night during the summer

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Millennium Park / Cloud Gate / The Bean

Iconic site of Chicago

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Arts Institute of Chicago

My favorite museum I’ve ever been to, this competes with The Met (NYC) and The National Gallery (London) for me. My favorite is the Impressionism paintings…love Monet & Van Gogh. featured my top 2 favorites at the bottom. The top 3 most famous artwork are American Gothic, Nighthawks & A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

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Navy Pier

Cute pier with beautiful views, unique storefronts and wonderful restaurants. During the summer they have firework performances at night which was a fun date night experience.

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The Original Rainbow Cone

If you go to Navy Pier, please try one of these iconic rainbow cones. Each layer is a unique different flavor, but of course my favorite was the top layer of orange sherbet. The stacking of the ice cream is so unique, I got it in a cup this time but next time I’ll try the cone.

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Chicago Theater

Beautiful theater with rotating performances

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Magnificent Mile / Michigan Ave.

All the major mall stores on one giant street

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Joffrey Ballet

Would love to see a performance if I’m in Chicago during Swan Lake or The Nutcracker usually during October and December. Probably my favorite ballet company besides ABT in NYC.

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St Charles

Small charming town with beautiful nature and picturesque views

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Transportation – L’Train

Super easy to navigate and get from place to place in the city. Wouldn’t recommend using at night due to safety, but easy to use during the day

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Next Time Must Do’s:

Lincoln Park Zoo & Conservatory

360 Degrees Chicago (John Hancock Observatory)

North Avenue Beach/Oak Street Beach

Shedd Aquarium

Jazz Club

Downtown St. Charles for Dinner

Joffrey Ballet Swan Lake Performance

Lou Malnati’s Italian Ice

Eat Garrett Popcorn – Garrett Mix Flavor (cheese & caramel)

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Chicago Waterfront / Pullover – Vineyard Vines; Khaki Pants – Banana Republic; Boat Shoes – Sperry Top Sider

Hope you all enjoy the windy city as much as I did!

Big Island Hawaii Travel Guide

When I picture this part of Hawaii, what immediately comes to mind is black volcanic rock and craters, green farmland with ranch style homes, grazing cows and goats, coconut palm trees, tiki torches, a rainbow array of hibiscus flowers, bright sunsets, farmers markets, beautiful beaches and sea cliffs. The Big Island truly is a statement of its own and unlike any other Hawaiian island. You will have to experience this treasure for yourself. All of my favorites during my stay are listed below. Aloha!

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Sights:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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  • My number one must see. We started at the Keanakako’i Crater overlook outside the Jagger Museum (wow I was not expecting to see bright red lava like I did, what a treat–the ranger told us that this was not a normal occurrence and usually visitors only get to see the steam being released from this crater)
  • Drove Crater rim drive to the Kilauea overlook and Kilauea Iki Crater overlook, which were both neat to see; lots of black volcanic rock and craters

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  • The second highlight was the Thurston Lava Tube–this was pretty interesting (it was lit inside which made the cave less scary to walk through–no flashlights required, be prepared to get a little wet because it was a bit damp in there, short non-strenuous trail through the rainforest and cave)
  • We did not do any hiking trails, but if I had more time these looked pretty awesome especially the Devastation Trail; we did hear that they take some time to complete however, but were informed that the views are totally worth it
  • The Chain of Craters Road was closed during our stay due to the hurricane Madeline & Lester watch unfortunately
  • Skip the steam vents and sulphur banks if you are short on time–these were not as thrilling or exciting as the rest of the volcano festivities
  • Do not miss the Kilauea Visitor Center to learn about the history of the park from the rangers; pick up a trail map and do not forget to get your national parks stamp to show you were here

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  • [Notes]: there is an entry fee of $20 per vehicle when I went (it will allow you a 7 day entry pass), some areas of the park may be closed due to safety reasons so check the website for updates on closures beforehand, wear closed toed shoes and comfortable clothing, bring a wide angle lens if you have one for your camera to capture the best shots, the park is open 24 hours so catch the volcanic activity during the day and night for different experiences

Akaka Falls State Park

  • Arguably the best waterfall on the Big Island–quick easy less than a mile (.4 mile loop) hike to a huge streaming waterfall 422 feet high amidst a tropical rainforest
  • Circle loop trail is non-strenuous, short, paved and has hand rails; slight incline but nothing too difficult; more of a walk than hike
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Top – Zella; Shorts – Nike

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Hapuna Beach

  • Crystal clear blue waters, gorgeous white sandy beach, lush green palm trees; not very crowded either…perfect tropical paradise — also waves are pretty still (not the best spot for surfing, but good for skim boarding or snorkeling)

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Waipi’o Valley Lookout

  • Beautiful green valley; super windy lookout point of the side of a cliff (there’s also a black sand beach at the bottom if you walk down the trail) see if you can spot the waterfall in the distance as well

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Kealakekua Bay

  • Beautiful bright blue bay among lush green hills and a rocky beachfront
  • Historic park outlining the Hawaiian and Westerners past and arrival of Captain Cook in 1779
  • Can see a tiny glimpse of Captain Cook’s monument (white spire) from across the bay and also Hikiau Heiau, which is a religious site
  • This is a great place to see dolphins swimming and other wildlife viewing; also good for snorkeling and boat tours however the tide seemed rough and rocky when I went so be careful about the ocean currents and high surf
  • Driving down to this place is a little scary; reminds me of driving in the mountains as the road is very winding so be careful and turn with caution

Captain Cook’s Monument

  • An ominous site, but filled with rich history (major landmark on Kona coast)
  • Accessible only by hiking or by boat/kayak (can not drive down to the monument base) look into options if you are considering seeing it up close–I did not do this and chose to admire it from afar instead since it seemed too eerie to me

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Hulihe’e Palace

  • Located in historic Kailua village of Kailua-Kona; Historic vacation home for Hawaiian royalty across from the 1st church
  • Beautiful museum showcasing Victorian artifacts; museum was closed when I went but I was able to take in the amazing architecture from the outside
  • Great view of Kailua Bay and the pier from afar

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Moku’aikaua Church

  • In historic Kailua village of Kailua-Kona across from Hulihe’e Palace; Hawaii’s 1st Christian Church and the oldest on the Hawaiian islands
  • Open to public to view inside (it was a lot more spacious then I imagined)

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Quick little drive through Hilo…it was pouring rain in this town so we didn’t do much here

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49 Black Sand Beach Mauna Lani

  • Gorgeous private black sand beach; beautiful, black sand felt hotter to walk on than normal beach sand

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Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory

  • Did the walking tour around the plant, ate a bunch of the samples of all the different flavors, cracked open a macadamia nut, saw the orchard trees (Their packaging though was just the cutest)

King’s Shops Maui Divers Jewelry Store

  • Picked our own oysters to get pearls….classic! Ended up with a twin set of beautiful pink pearls

Food:

Big Island Grill

  • Kailua Kona; had the best plate lunch I ate on the entire islands. Order the mixed plate with chicken katsu and teriyaki beef steak with rice and macaroni salad. The katsu was very lean and delicious. The teriyaki beef was thinly sliced, lean and the sauce was to die for. Also ordered the traditional mudpie for dessert…yum, love kona coffee ice cream. So good we ate here twice during our four day stay.

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One Aloha

  • Kailua Kona; amazing shaved ice because this place uses organic homemade syrups that taste very flavorful and juicy, but not artificial. Not the most visually appealing shaved ice because of the light coloring naturally from the fruits, but the taste is spot on. Sort of difficult to find this place off the street but use Google maps to guide you as it is in a strip mall. Get ice cream inside the shaved ice–their vanilla and kona are amazing (very rich and milky in flavor; some of the best ice cream I had on the island)

Anuenue Ice Cream & Shaved Ice

  • In the town of Waimea; got the POG, guava and lime and the ice was huge

Lodging:

I would highly recommend staying in Waikoloa. Overall, I felt like Waikoloa was one of the nicer areas on the whole island that was newly renovated and gave me the big paradise resort feel that I was looking for when booking my labor day vacation. Waikoloa was a great choice because it is centrally located where we could easily drive into Kona, Hilo and all the other major cities in a short amount of time. Waikoloa was also close to all the most beautiful beaches.

Marriott Resort Waikoloa Beach

Loved staying at this resort, could not recommend it enough. Hands down amazing!

Benefits:

  • Has private pathway access to Anaeho’omalu Bay, which is stunning and gorgeous at sunset but only open until 7pm nightly
  • Steps away from the King’s shops and Queen’s Marketplace shops (also has shuttle)
  • Offers fun cultural activities such as lei making, hula dancing, bamboo stamping and historical walking tours
  • 24-hour pool and fitness center usage/Tennis courts & table tennis areas
  • Luau dinner reservations
  • Continental breakfast at the daily island orientation (presentation by the in-house local expert Expedia team going over sights and things to do on the island, giving recommendations, assisting with dinner reservations/excursion activities, etc.)
  • Kona coffee shop in the lobby terrace
  • Resort restaurant and bar lounge overlooking the pools and bay (great drinks & smoothies)
  • Shell necklace greeting at check-in
  • Gift shop for convenience open until 11pm
  • Close to Waikoloa Beach Resort Golf Course (36 holes of fun)
  • Daily snorkel and stand up paddleboard rentals at Anaeho’omalu Bay; also morning yoga
  • See the ancient fishponds in front of the Anacho’omalu Bay

Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort

I didn’t stay here, but this would be my second choice on where to stay. It is absolutely beautiful and located right next door to the Marriott Resort, offering almost the same amenities. I had the opportunity to walk over to this resort during my stay and it was just as lovely.

  • Has unique Dolphin Quest program where you can experience a hands on encounter with dolphins and other marine animals (habitat seemed very tiny however so I felt a little bad for the dolphins)
  • Tram to take you into all the different areas of the resort; almost reminded me of Disneyland
  • Keep in mind that this place is massive; they have their own private beach access and it takes some time to get from place to place in the resort
  • The architecture of this place is very elaborate and almost too gaudy at times (lots of Grecian like pillars, white tall horse statues, Asian inspired fixtures and Indian Buddha monument)

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Flight:

I flew into Kona International Airport and it is absolutely beautiful. The airport is primarily outdoors however so if it is stormy or raining hard, this is probably not the best place to be. It happened to be a nice sunny day when I landed so I was able to take in the gorgeous nature that Hawaii offers. At first glance, you will see these cool tiki like thatched roof huts that act as the terminals for each of the airlines. The airport is rather tiny compared to what I am used to on the mainland. However, the beauty just left me awestruck. Everything from the palm tree lined surrounding streets to the bright blue hued ocean water to the thick black volcanic rock runway tarmacs was unreal.

I highly recommend flying Hawaiian Airlines since I had the best experience. They offer an inflight complimentary island inspired meal for domestic flights flying from the mainland to the islands and it was pretty decent in terms of airline food. We even got a Honolulu Cookie Company cookie, which are my favorite cookies on the island. They also served POG juice, which I love and is a Hawaiian local favorite. The staff was so adorable dressed up in their Hawaiian shirts and attire, which added to the whole Hawaiian ambiance and aloha spirit. The airplane was equipped with inflight entertainment and had mini television screens on the back of each chair. You techies are in luck; they even had a charging port on the right side of the back of the chairs. Plus on a side note, their safety instructional video was the best I have ever seen, the views of Hawaii in the background kept me attentively listening and interested even though usually I zone out when the flight attendants give the live demonstrations. Such a good marketing idea, I was super impressed. You can also purchase a lei greeting when you arrive at the islands, which I think is a pretty cool unique add-on and makes for a fun souvenir. They also pass out really helpful pocket maps during the flight, which can be instrumental when planning your vacation itinerary because it specifically highlights all the iconic landmarks of the island.

Honorable Mentions:

Things I did not have time to see, but will visit on my next trip since I have heard these were must see sights.

Pu’uhonua O Honauna “City of Refuge”
Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory
Rainbow Falls
Punalu’u Beach Park (Black Sand Beach)
Pu’u Mahana (Green Sand Beach)
Mauna Kea Beach

Thanks for reading friends. Stayed tuned for the next guide and my latest adventures. Mahalo!

Los Angeles Travel Guide

The hustle and bustle of the city brings limelight to Los Angeles. LA is amidst sunny California filled with palm tree lined streets, beautifully landscaped beaches and artistic trendy places to eat perfect for any foodies out there. Since LA is the hub for television and movie production sets, if you are lucky you may even spot some celebrities as you explore this golden city.

Below are my best recommendations on must see sights and eats in Los Angeles:

*Sights*

Museum of Ice Cream – Most adorable museum I’ve ever seen, the backdrops were amazingly cute. The photos alone made the admission fee totally worth it. The sprinkle pool was so much fun, but tinnier than I had imagined. My favorite ice cream we got was the strawberry vanilla oreo cone at the end. Loved the gummy bear, popsicle and banana rooms.

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LACMA-Go here to take Instagram photos in front of the tall white iconic lamps display called ‘Urban Light’; showcases some of the most interesting artwork

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Griffith Observatory-The views here are stunning; check out the beautiful architecture of the observatory building; also can see the Hollywood sign in the hills at a distance (best time to go is at sundown)

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Getty Villa– Gorgeous property in the hills of Malibu; houses some of the most intricate European style artwork; beautiful gardens can be viewed year-round

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Manhattan Beach & Pier -Famous surfing spot and home of beach volleyball

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Santa Monica Beach & Pier -Cute little amusement park & iconic ferris wheel at the end of the pier (way better to see during the day than night)

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Malibu Beach & Pier -Lovely little town and beautiful sandy beach

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Hollywood Sign Hike-Hike to the top to see the back of the sign, I recommend Hollyridge Trail; there is a fence that will block you from being able to go up to the sign closely; go early in the morning to avoid crowds (take Mt. Lee Summit .3 mile hike to the back of the sign)

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Pantages (Broadway Shows)-If you love broadway shows like me you must see a production here (I’ve been to Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Lion King, Cinderella, Mamma Mia, Matilda & The Sound of Music; all amazing)

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Runyon Canyon Hike-Might be closed for awhile due to safety, but this hike offers amazing views of the entire downtown skyline. There’s so many cool trails to choose

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The Grove-The best shopping center in the area; filled with trendy popular stores and delicious restaurants

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The Point – Cutest trendy shopping center in El Segundo. They’ve got all my favorites…Loft, Kendra Scott, Sugarfina, North Italia, Lululemon, Lou & Grey and Pressed Juicery.

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Broad Museum-Three words “Infinity Mirrored Room”. Incredible, mirrored room with LED lights surrounding peninsula platform surrounded by water. Yayoi Kusama’s installation is on view as well as another second mirrored exhibit. Other highlights of the museum are the multi-colored tulip structure, Under the table exhibit (life size table & chairs) and the blue balloon dog art structure. Such a fun unique mid-century modern museum

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Knott’s Berry Farm Amusement Park – Not a huge fan of the rides, but we used to go every year during Christmas for the Snoopy on Ice show at the Charles M. Schulz theatre which was a favorite

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Universal Studios Hollywood-Just opened the new Harry Potter World

Dodger Stadium – My favorite sports team in the entire world; go early to batting practice to snag a baseball; check out the clubhouse during a tour to walk the field, sit in the dugout and see the club’s trophies; get a chocolate malt during the game and you won’t regret it; Dodger dogs in my opinion are the best in the nation but again I’m biased; One of my favorite memories was eating at the Stadium Club before a game!

Staples Center-Most go here to see the Lakers basketball games, but I’m an NHL fan so “Go Kings”; spend a night watching ice hockey at it’s finest (Got to see the Stanley Cup in person)

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LAX-LA’s main international airport hub; the largest airport in California

*Eats*

Bottega Louie-Get macaroons here (my favorites were the raspberry chocolate and earl grey) ; aesthetically beautiful interior design; known for their decadent desserts; the packaging alone is to die for

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Urth Caffe-Best brunch spot besides Toast Bakery Cafe; try the artistically crafted coffee drinks (you can get a bear or swan drawn on the top of your latte with the cream, so neat)

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Toast Bakery Cafe-Located in Beverley Grove, the place that started the avocado toast trend; amazing for brunch (my favorite was the berry wonderful french toast)

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Lemonade-Known for their lemonades of course; I love the blood orange it’s my absolute favorite but have tried them all and you cannot go wrong with any; Food is delicious as well but served cafeteria style

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In&Out Burger-Iconic California burgers; order the Neapolitan shake as well; a staple for even the locals because it’s just that good (the “animal style” burger and fries are highly loved among most; get the protein style burger to replace the buns with lettuce for a healthier take)

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California Donuts – These are just too cute to eat, no shame but I got these because I kept seeing them all over instagram and pinterest

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Diddy Riese– Home of the ice cream cookie sandwiches; unbelievably cheap and delicious; so many flavors to choose from; parking is bad here in downtown Westwood so be forewarned go early or be prepared to stand in line for awhile (I love the snickerdoodle cookies so much)

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Rawberri – Amazing acai bowls in Santa Monica; love the palm leaves interior design aesthetic plus the bamboo egg chairs are super fun

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Sprinkles Cupcakes– Overly hyped cupcakes but you’ll need to try at least one during your visit; check out the cool cupcake atm in Beverly Hills. They even have Sprinkles Ice Cream Pop Up shops all over too. My all time favorite Sprinkles cupcake was the limited edition royal wedding cupcakes for Prince Harry & Meghan Markle shown below which were lemon elderberry yum!

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The Strandhouse– Located in Manhattan Beach straight up from the pier I first stumbled upon this place at the LA Kings Stanley Cup Parade; best for brunch on the weekends get the chicken & waffles or the belgian waffles; make sure to request to sit on the upstairs level across from the bar to soak in the gorgeous views of the beach as you enjoy your meal

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Alfred Coffee & Tea Room-Beautiful coffee house that attracts locals alone on merely the decor; the new take on Starbucks

Houston’s Steakhouse – My favorite are the BBQ ribs and Filet Mignon (always cooked to perfection)


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King’s Hawaiian Bakery – It’s a tradition to get the King’s Hawaiian Paradise Cake on my birthday; perfect fluffy light chiffon cake with whipped cream frosting, yum! Plus the colors alone are to die for

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Sugarfina – Champagne Gummy Bears are seriously amazing! The bubbly bears are my favorite along with the peach bellini and apple frogs

Gelato Lounge – Located in Manhattan Beach and just a short stroll away from the beautiful pier; love all the delicious sorbet and gelato flavors

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Malibu Farms – Delicious healthy salads, amazing Swedish mini pancakes and the organic fresh squeezed juices are terrific. Plus gorgeous views of Malibu Pier