Arizona Travel Guide

Since I just came back from a trip to Phoenix with a bunch of my friends, thought I’d finally post my Arizona travel guide. Got to see a ton of cactus, orange dirt, red rock and the fascinating solar eclipse. Here are my favorites:

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*Sights*

Grand Canyon/Petrified Forest & Painted Desert/Sedona– The beginning to my love for nature and visiting national parks. Went here when I was super young, hence why there aren’t many pictures to post, but I remember the Grand Canyon was beautiful and one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen as a kid. Hoping to go back to see it soon now that I’m older.

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Antelope Canyon – Very neat, did the lower canyon tour with Dixie Ellis which was pretty cool to see all the intricate rock formations. Will have to climb down and up some narrow metal staircases, not handicap friendly. Pretty short trek with a tour guide explaining the history.

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Horseshoe Bend – Short less than a mile hike to the beautiful horseshoe bend lookout point. Gets really hot out in this desert area so try to go early or bring lots of water and sunscreen. The rock reminded me of the grand canyon with all the array of colors. I highly recommend staying overnight in Page which is a cute quaint town about 10-15 minute drive to both the bend and antelope.

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MLB Spring Training Festivities – Baseball is my favorite sport to watch so I love getting to see the spring training games and staying in Scottsdale. I always head to Camelback Ranch since I’m a loyal Dodger fan. They share a stadium with the Chicago White Sox. It’s an excellent way to get to meet the players and if you’re lucky you’ll come home with a bunch of signed autographed balls.

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Lake Mead & Hoover Dam – See my Las Vegas post for more details and pictures because this place is stunning.

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Top Golf – This place is so much fun, it’s like a driving range for golfing except it kind of works a lot like bowling where you are put on teams to challenge each other to see who can get the most points. Their are flags and hole where you can score more points than others based on how easy the hole is to hit. Each team will rent a bay to hang out in and they have great food and drinks too!

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Diamondbacks MLB Game – Chase Field is wonderful, one of the top stadiums on my list because it has a covered dome which is perfect for the hot days and nights in Phoenix. They even have seats with a jacuzzi. And of course can’t forget that now they have our ex-Dodger pitcher Zach Greinke.

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*Eats*

Bobby Q’s – The best bbq I’ve ever had. Every time I come to Arizona I try to make it to this place. Their meat is amazing and I’m in love with their bbq sauce. I like to try a bit of everything so I recommend ordering the Whole Hog Heaven family meal. You can order two types of ribs, two types of meats (always order the brisket and pork yum), three sides  (i like the mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and roasted corn) and cornbread. Also their dessert Miss McGee’s Mud Pie is delicious. On your way out you’ll get mini cinnamon little donut rings too.

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Raising Cane’s – These are a chain and they have these everywhere, but I first ate here in Arizona. It’s simple to order, I like the box combo which comes with four chicken fingers, crinkle cut fries, texas toast, coleslaw and the amazing cane’s sauce which distinctly kind of reminds me of chick-fil-a sauce.  Goes perfectly with their homemade lemonade as well. Definitely my favorite chicken fingers.

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Cafe Rio – Another chain fast food found everywhere as well, but I first had this on my trip in Arizona. Delicious Mexican food, I always order the same thing every time I come. Corn tortilla taco plate with shredded chicken, cilantro lime rice, pinto beans, lettuce, cheddar jack cheese, guacamole and sour cream. It’s delicious….and do I dare say my favorite over Chipotle even too.

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Flying out of Phoenix airport is quick and easy!

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STILL ON MY BUCKET LIST TO SEE

  1. Lake Havasu
  2. Vermilion Cliffs
  3. Meteor Crater

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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 ParkMost 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 parkSee 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

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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 and walkway, little boutique shops and fun restaurants/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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My two favorite shops in town – Seaside Papery & Charisma, everything was so cute! I couldn’t leave without another Jellycat to add to my collection.

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Gaslamp Quartertrendy 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

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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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San Diego Civic Theatre Broadway – Located Downtown, such a fun place to see Broadway performances. I absolutely loved seeing the Waitress. Sara Bareilles is an amazing talented songwriter.

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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

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*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)

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Wailua Shave Ice – Fun shave ice place by Ocean Beach, we tried the lava flow (pineapple & strawberry w/coconut float) and love potion (strawberries & cream)

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Northside Shack – Large customizable acai bowls near Point Loma; acai is more of an acai sorbet and a lighter more ice cream sorbet like take than traditional acai bowls; they also have a large variety of fruits you can choose from and offer 50/50 acai & pitaya bowls which is neat

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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

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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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Akai Hana – My favorite Japanese food in San Diego; located in The Plaza (16769 Bernardo Center Dr #11, San Diego, CA 9212). My go to’s are the chicken teriyaki and beef teriyaki entree plates. Comes with delicious miso soup, rice and salad. The plating is beautifully done.

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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

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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!

 

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 Chicago (Willis Tower) / 360 Degrees Chicago (John Hancock Tower)

Spectacular beautiful views of the city. Go at night to see all the city lights and enjoy the magnificent city scape view of the buildings during the day. My personal favorite was 360 over Skydeck because of the beach views, but both were terrific. Skydeck has the cool photo opportunity with the glass ledge which was a highlight.

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Giordano’s & Lou Malnati’s

My favorite places to get deep dish and thin crust Chicago style pizza. Personally Lou’s was my favorite for deep dish over the two, get the Malnati Chicago Classic (sausage, cheese, tomato sauce on butter crust). Also tried the Chicken Marsala Pasta at Lou’s which was amazing. Lou’s also had Italian ice which we tried lemon and strawberry – lemon being my favorite. If you go to Lou’s eat at the Gold Coast location, the area is super trendy. Giordano’s had my favorite thin crust pizza, so delicious.

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Shake Shack

The midwest In&Out, super delicious burgers and the best crinkle cut fries. Also the black & white shake is delicious!

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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. Seeing the ivy wall was exciting since usually I only see it on television. We had a ton of fun at the game. Take the L Train there.

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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. The Bean is beautiful and it’s cool to see your reflection in it amongst the city scape. The area all around is extremely crowded and very touristy.

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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. Super pretty all lit up at night.

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Magnificent Mile / Michigan Ave.

All the major mall stores on one giant street. I loved staying near this area, super convenient for souvenir/gift shopping and lots of restaurants to select from.

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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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Lincoln Park Zoo

One of my favorite activities we did in the city. The zoo & conservatory are both free admission to visit. We saw so many unique animals, my favorite were the giraffes and zebras. They even had a dippin’ dots stand – love the banana split flavor. Lots of fun exhibits and a great place to learn about all these crazy animals.

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

Right next to the zoo is the conservatory, which has a lot of neat plants located in a greenhouse. My favorite room was the orchids. Felt super peaceful.

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North Avenue Beach/Oak Street Beach

Personally think these are my favorite beaches in the city. You can see them both from the 360 degree observatory deck. Both are great, but Oak Street beach is the smaller of the two. My favorite is the North Avenue Beach which has the hook like peninsula. You can see the most spectacular close view of the city scape from this beach. Oak Street beach is near one of my favorite cities to stroll around, Gold Coast.

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Garrett Popcorn Shops

If you’re ever in Chicago you have to try Garrett’s popcorn, official popcorn of the Chicago Cubs. They sell this popcorn in the stadium and all over the city. My favorite is the Garrett Mix which has both the cheddar cheese and caramel corn – perfect savory sweet combination. Eat it quick or it’ll become stale.

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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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Conrad Chicago (Hilton Hotel)

We stayed at the Conrad Chicago in the city off of the West Loop. Super easy to get to from O’hare by taking the blue line from the airport. Highly recommend this hotel, it’s gorgeous, the rooms were really really nice. It’s pretty central and located near all the shops on the magnificent mile.

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Next Time Must Do’s:

Downtown St. Charles for Dinner

Joffrey Ballet Swan Lake Performance

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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!