Santa Barbara Travel Guide

When I picture Santa Barbara I think of a cute charming coastal town with Spanish colonial revival architecture, Moorish inspired decor, Santa Ynez mountains, red tile roofs, palm tree lined streets, pristine beaches, Mediterranean influences, wine country and American Riviera. Here’s all my favorites:

State Street

Main shopping street in downtown Santa Barbara; has super nice boutique/souvenir/mall shops (Paseo Nuevo), outdoor plazas, fine & casual dining, bars/nightlife, cultural venues & entertainment (parking is plentiful with structures & street parking) goes straight to Stearns Wharf

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Santa Barbara County Courthouse 

National historic landmark with the most gorgeous panoramic view of the city in the open air clock tower; love the Spanish architecture, red roof tiles, beautiful gardens & grounds and mural room (located on 1100 Anacapa Street)

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Old Mission Santa Barbara

Beautiful and historic monument known as the “Queen of Missions”; overlooks the Pacific ocean and city, take the quick tour and see the pretty rose gardens (located on 2201 Laguna Street; 4 miles from downtown/wharf area)

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Stearns Wharf

Wooden pier at the end of state street where the dolphin fountain meets filled with lots of restaurants and shopping; cute place to watch the sunset and enjoy the amazing views of the beach

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The Harbor

Lots of restaurants overlooking the waterfront beach, city and mountains, located just a stroll past Stearns Wharf, loved seeing all the different boats

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West & East Beach / Chase Palm Park

Located to the left & right of Stearns Wharf, prettiest views of the water and conveniently at the end of state street

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Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

Located right at the end along the beach close and within walking distance to state street; beautiful hotel with stunning views of the ocean

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The Douglas Family Preserve Hiking Trail

Fun short hike with the prettiest ocean views, this trail is also dog friendly. We ate lunch at a restaurant right at the bottom of this trail. Trail starts up higher in a residential mountain area and descends down towards the beach

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Holdren’s Steaks & Seafood

One of my favorite filet mignon’s I’ve ever had. The steak dinners are amazing and the presentation is beautiful. The portions are perfect and steak dinners come with a salad or soup (loved the vegetable soup) and a potato style side dish (try the twice baked potato or the garlic mashed)

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Finch & Fork 

Cute place for brunch & mimosas! We got the peach and grapefruit mimosas and loved them plus there’s so many fun breakfast options from caramelized banana french toast to pork belly benedict

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Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach

Gorgeous panoramic ocean views and perfect for seaside drinks with friends or a fun date. Serves upscale seafood and brunch

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SB Wineries

We went to Paradise Springs Winery on State Street and Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearns Wharf. Loved Paradise Springs winery the best out of the two and my favorite wine was the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon (layered flavors of granny smith apple, asian pear, and subtle tones of brioche) and the 2016 K 3 Santa Ynez Valley (bright red fruit notes with cranberry and bing cherry). We ended up doing the $15 tasting flights so we could try all the different whites, reds and rosés

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Blenders In the Grass

Smoothie chain all over Santa Barbara; my favorites in order are Strawberry, Blue Apple, Red Orange, Original and Red Pineapple (of the ones I tried), can’t wait to try more when I come back

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Garretts Old Fashioned Restaurant

Located on State Street this cute diner is perfect for brunch, their homemade blueberry pancakes are some of the best I’ve ever had; this place is always so crowded in the morning (best variety for breakfast options)

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Backyard Bowls

My go to acai bowl place in SB, my favorite is the berry bowl with açaí, banana, strawberry, apple juice base, topped with granola, banana, strawberry, goji berry, blueberry and honey (located just off State Street)

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McConnells Fine Ice Creams

Saved the best for last of food – this ice cream is famous in SB made from scratch since 1949 and has some of the most interesting unique flavors; my favorites are the wild berry chip and eureka lemon and marionberries

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List for Next Time:

Butterfly Beach & the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito

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Palm Springs Travel Guide

This summer was my second time to Palm Springs and it was so much fun! The weather was sunny and hot, but it made for the perfect summer getaway weekend.

Palm Springs in a snippet – desert oasis, palm trees, Coachella vibes, bohemian flair, tropical drinks, Rosé, floppy straw hats, sunnies, pineapple fusion, flamingo pool floats, flower crowns & beaded headbands, sunshine, bright colors, cactus, mid century modern architecture, mineral springs & spas, stylish boutique hotels and cute little shops lining Palm Canyon Drive.

*Accommodation*

Hyatt Palm Springs

This resort hotel is beautiful and in the perfect location downtown within walking distance of all the cutest shops and fancy restaurants. The rooms were suites and felt very luxurious. The 24 hour gym on level 2 was a cool perk too. Our room was in the inner portion of the hotel which was great because if our room would’ve been on the outside it would’ve been too hot. We stocked our room with all our favorite snacks for the weekend. The lobby was super nice. My favorite was the view from our room overlooking the pretty pool and mountains. Located at 285 North Palm Canyon Drive. Parking is valet only and $25 p/night, but there’s also free short term parking.

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*Sights*

Saguaro Pool Party

The funnest summer event, the Saguaro Hotel hosts a DJ pool party that you can attend by purchasing wristbands if you’re not staying at the hotel. There are a lot of bachelorette parties present, but it’s an awesome atmosphere. Super instagram friendly with all the bright neon bold colors. The furniture and decor is very hip. Rent a daybed with umbrellas if it’s super hot and they’ll also provide hot pink towels. There’s a ping pong table in the lobby. Also they allow you to bring in your own pool floats and even have a generator pump to blow them up with by the pool. It was cute seeing all the unicorns, flamingos, intertubes, etc. many that I’d seen from Target. There’s also fire-pits for bonfires late at night when it gets dark.

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Zelda’s Nightclub

Didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did here. The music was great, lots of House & EDM style electronic dance tunes. They have platforms with poles if you’re brave. Our group brought in glow-sticks which were super fun and made it easy to spot our group in the group. Other groups had balloon strands that they danced with (the kind that you make balloon animals from). They have a huge bar in the back and plenty of bar top tables to sit out. The jello shots and jello test tubes were a hit among the crowd.

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Palm Canyon Drive Shopping

So many cute boutique shops down this pretty palm tree lined street. Take a stroll down this lane with a nice Starbucks in hand.

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*Food*

El Jefe

This Mexican food is terrific. El Jefe is a bar inside the Saguaro Hotel. We had the grilled cheese sandwich with white cheddar, bacon and tomatoes which also came with french fries. Also had the pork carnitas tacos. Yum! The poolside frozen drinks we tried were the That Frozen Strawberry Drink and Strawberry Banana Swirl. Both were super sweet and strong and not my favorite, but we also tried the Banana Piña Colada frozen drink was amazing!

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Lulu California Bistro

The cutest retro brunch spot. It has such a fun and funky flair inside with the modern furniture and light fixtures. They have everything, the menu has such a great variety. I got the chicken filet sandwich for lunch which had grilled chicken breast, avocado, swiss cheese, bacon, tomato and mayo with a mixed field greens side salad. The mimosas are tasty. If you’re celebrating a special occasion they’ll provide a huge glass filled with delicious cotton candy to toast with.

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Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar

I’ve been to the Tommy Bahama Restaurant before, but never the Marlin Bar. The guava glazed baby back pork ribs were delicious. Half rack jerk rubbed mango guava bbq slightly spicy with a side of island slaw and fries. I’ve had their world famous coconut shrimp appetizer which is pretty tasty. The painchiller pineapple, orange, cream of coconut and nutmeg drink is always my go-to favorite.

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La Bonitas

The best Mexican food I had in Palm Springs. Their burritos are amazing! I had the California Burrito which had shredded chicken, pinto beans, monterrey cheese, french fries, salsa, sour cream and avocado wrapped in a large flour tortilla. So delicious! It came with Mexican rice and beans on the side.

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Lappert’s Ice Cream

Come here for the best pineapple dole whip. Tastes just like the one from the Dole Whip farm in Hawaii and the famous one from the Tiki Room at Disneyland.

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Next time I Need To Try:

Lulu California Bistro – Strawberry Belgian Waffle

Spencers – Grilled Chicken Breast

Jakes – NY Steak, Filet Mignon, Sorbet Flight

Ice Cream & Shop(pe)

 

Boston Travel Guide

Definitely a west coaster by nature, but an east coaster at heart. Dad’s hometown is beautiful! Loved visiting the place he grew up in and called home. From the historic brick and brownstone architecture to the rich history to the cobblestone streets to the long tall row houses to the gas lanterns, New England I love all your charm.

Here’s to my Boston favorites:

Freedom Trail 

There is so much to see and so much to do, but don’t be fooled while I thought this would be a short 3 mile walk it ends up being close to over 12 miles and took us all day to complete. Super neat, but I would suggest biking it or maybe even taking the hop on hop off bus or even utilizing the T subway system. The trail is marked with this cute red brick road that you follow the entire way. All main stopping sights are marked with this golden symbol below. Use the fun interactive iPhone app to find your way or you can pick up a paper map at the visitor’s center.

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Boston Common and State House

First stop along the freedom trail is Boston Common and State House. It is magnificent. Boston Common is the nation’s oldest public park originating in 1634. The State House overlooks Boston Common and its gold roof glistens under the sun in beauty. Park Street Church is the next stop and right down the road but it was under construction and closed when we were visiting.

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Granary Burying Ground 

Third stop of the Freedom Trail. The cemetery next to Park Street Church (second stop) closed during the time of our visit. John Hancock, Paul Revere, James Otis, Samuel Adams,  Robert Treat Paine, Boston Massacre victims and Franklin’s parents were among those famous buried in this ground.

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King’s Chapel and Burying Ground

Fourth stop along the Freedom Trail. King’s Chapel was the first Anglican congregation in Boston and has one of the most elegant Georgian church interiors of the colonial era.

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Franklin Statue and First School Site

Fifth stop along the Freedom Trail. This statue of Benjamin Franklin overlooks the first site of the Latin School, the oldest public school in America established by Puritan settlers in 1635. Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock all attended.

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Old South Meeting House 

Sixth stop along Freedom Trail. Largest building in colonial Boston in 1729. In the days leading to the American Revolution, citizens gathered here to challenge British rule, protesting the Boston Massacre and the tea tax.

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Old State House 

Eighth stop of the Freedom Trail (seven was the Old Corner Bookstore which I did not see). Old State House was built in 1713 as the seat of colonial and state governments as well as a merchants’ exchange. A cobblestone circle under its balcony marks the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre when British soldiers fired into a crowd of Bostonians.

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Faneuil Hall 

Ninth stop of Freedom Trail. Old market building on the old town dock where there used to be town meetings in 1764. Also right by the Tea Party Museum and Ship.

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Paul Revere House 

Tenth stop of Freedom Trail. Boston’s oldest residential neighborhood the North End built in about 1680. Paul Revere and his family owned and occupied it most of the time from 1770 to 1800.

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Old North Church

Eleventh stop of Freedom Trail and Boston’s oldest church building. Memorialized the start of the Revolutionary War and the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”.

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Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Twelfth stop of Freedom Trail. Another famous burying ground.

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Bunker Hill Monument

Thirteenth stop of Freedom Trail and one of the coolest things I did in Boston. The view is incredible! (note featured image for this travel guide) It is a 221 feet obelisk commemorating the Revolution’s first major battle. I climbed the monument’s 294 steps which definitely kills your legs afterwards but the view is so worth the pain.

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Charlestown Navy Yard / USS Constitution

Fourteenth and final stop of the Freedom Trail. USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.

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Architecture

Not really a site, but there is so much charm in the architecture of Boston. Please don’t forget to admire the beauty and craftsmanship of the buildings and homes. I love the ornate stone work and brick work, amazing! The BackBay neighborhood was my favorite to stroll through.

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Mike’s Pastry’s Boston Cream Puffs

Best known for their cannoli’s which are round tube like Italian pastries with cream cheese filing. These looked amazing, but I could not pass up the Boston cream puffs which are my favorite. We went to the North End location which is the cutest, but there’s also one in Harvard square.

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B. Good’s Kale Smoothie 

Hands down the best Kale smoothie ever. Kale Crush was life changing. Thank you Boston Marathon for introducing me. I never even liked Kale before. Tried about a 1,000 bad kale smoothies after this, nothing compares. Whenever I’m in Boston I’m going to get one of these every morning. Still dreaming about the wonderfulness.

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JP Licks Ice Cream 

I don’t even remember what flavor this was, maybe chocolate cookies n’ cream. But it sure was delicious. The cutest little ice cream shop.

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Atlantic Fish Co. 

So if you know me, you know I don’t like seafood and on most occasions won’t eat any fish. But when in Boston, one must eat fish and chips and clam chowder with oyster crackers. I definitely didn’t regret my decision. Best fish and chips I’ve ever had, sorry London. Nobody does fish better than New England. Was also trying to find some corn chowder but had no luck, next time.

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Boylston Street & BAA Half Marathon

So the real reason I was in Boston was to run my biggest bucket list race…the Boston Half Marathon. It was so much fun and it’s a race I will remember for the rest of my lifetime and never forget. Glad I was able to check it off the list. Running through the Emerald Necklace is tough – lots of hills, greenery, basically one giant hilly forest-like park intermixed in a residential area. But the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) running culture is unlike any other and some of the best world class athletes run in this race. Boylston Street is the street of the Boston Marathon finish line as well as home to the Boston Marathon Adidas store front where I picked up all my racing gear and legendary finisher’s jacket.

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Charles River

The view of the skyline & marina were spectacular and we could see the Harvard crew team practicing, which was neat.

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Fenway Stadium Home of the Red Sox

This stadium tour blew me away, it was so historic and neat especially for major baseball fans. It truly is one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums ever. This is one of my favorite memories on the trip. They have their own growing garden even. Got to sit in the famous Green Monster chairs. There are special sections in the stadium where you can sit in the old navy wooden seats. Got to see the press room. The view of the Boston skyline from the stadium is amazing! The red seat marks the longest HR ever hit in Fenway. The museum at the end of the tour showed the stadium seating over the years, memorabilia from opening day at Fenway and Babe Ruth gear. Bought the coolest unique souvenir in the gift shop – MLB authenticated and bottled Fenway field dirt.

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Boston Public Gardens

Easily the prettiest most beautiful park in Boston. The Central Park of Boston. So serene and so magnificently beautiful. Hoping I can come back during the summer one day to ride the Swan boats in the lake. The duckling statues are so cute.

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Loved being in Boston during the fall! Can’t wait to go back soon. Next time I’m definitely going to see Cape Cod & the Islands (Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket).

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Disney California Adventure Travel Guide

The sister park to the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim. Listed are all of my favorites, enjoy!

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*Attractions* 

Frozen Live at the Hyperion – cutest broadway like performance of Frozen, if you adored the movie like I did the theatrical interpretation of the animated film is amazing. I do miss the Aladdin show though since it was just as wonderful (In Hollywood Land)

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World of Color – get a fastpass it’s one of the neatest outdoor shows Disney puts on every night before the park closes, looks just like the Bellagio fountain experience in Vegas but Disney themed. The colorful dancing water sprays and water screen showcases the beloved Disney and Pixar film scenes coordinated with music and fire/fog/water/laser effects

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Soarin’ Around the World – used to be Soarin’ over California which I absolutely loved, however love this rendition just as much. It’s so awesome hang gliding over all the international landmarks, monuments and famous landscapes (In Grizzly Peak)

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Carsland Radiator Springs Racers – the cutest land in the park, auto race in Lighting McQueen through the Cadillac Mountains desert landscape

Guardians of Galaxy: Mission Breakout! – super fun even though I miss the old Tower of Terror ride, Rocket is adorable plus you’re on the coolest free fall adventure to rescue the Guardians from the Galaxy from the Collector’s fortress (In Hollywood Land)

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Jumpin’ Jellyfish – cutest little kiddie 40 foot parachute drop in the beautiful colorful jellies (In Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier)

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Toy Story Midway Mania – cannot wait for the new Pixar land to make its debut, fun 4D Midway inspired experience where you challenge your car to a series of various action packed carnival games. Sister ride of the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters in Disneyland (In Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier)

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Games of the Boardwalk – win the cutest Dumbo stuffed animal, isn’t he adorable? (Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier)

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Animation Academy – receive step by step instructions to draw your own character sketch, usually a 30 minute session and makes for a cute souvenir to take home (your own masterpiece) In Hollywood Land

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Pixar Pal-A-Round – previously Mickey’s Fun Wheel. Ferris wheel with the most amazing sky view overlooking the entire park, the swinging gondolas are pretty scary but I enjoyed the outer standing baskets (In Pixar Pier previously Paradise Pier)

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Incredicoaster – previously California Screamin’ this roller coaster is one of my newest favorites. It’s so much cuter with the Incredibles theme and I love all the character sitings throughout the ride. Located on Pixar Pier

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*Eats*

Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta – part of Paradise Pier by the Jumpin’ Jellyfish and Silly Symphony Swings, loved the chicken sundried tomato pasta yum

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Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill – in the Pacific Wharf SF themed section of the park, I always order the chicken tamale plate with rice, beans and guacamole. Not authentic tasting Mexican food, more like Tex-Mex

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Flo’s V8 Cafe – located in Carsland and super cute route 66 inspired diner with neon light signs, get the beautiful secret menu Neapolitan shake

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop – another favorite on the pacific wharf, they even give out the Ghirardelli square chocolate samples at the door. My favorite is their banana split, it’s delicious

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Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company – Most adorable ice cream stand off paradise pier, I hope they don’t get rid of this when Pixar Land takes over because the soft serve is a huge Costco portion. *Update* they did get rid of it, but there’s a super cute Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats hut which serves new lemon soft serve.

Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats – New to Pixar Pier, previously the Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company. The Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait is my favorite (shown below). It’s the non-dairy lemon soft serve mixed with blue raspberry icee slush. Delicious!

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Schmoozies – In hollywood land, get the Malibu Mocha smoothie off the secret menu it’s a great refresher on a hot day (note not a strong coffee taste more chocolate like)

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Cove Bar – The secret menu drinks are beautiful! My favorites are the Neverland Tea and Pina Colava. The Mickey’s Fun Wheel is a classic and looks very cute, but beware because the alcohol taste is strong. And the tri tip nachos were delicious. Part of Paradise Pier soon to be Pixar Pier. Heard that these drinks are available at the Alfresco Tasting Terrace while the pier is under construction. *Update* – they got rid of this place when Pixar Pier opened now it’s Lamplight Lounge

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Cozy Cone Motel – The chili cone queso always hits the spot on a cold chilly night, everything in these cones are adorable, curious to try some of the others like the bacon mac & cheese

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Lamplight Lounge – The newest addition to the dining in the park. Super cool with the animation studio touches like the menu sketches. This took over where the Cove Bar and Ariel’s Grotto restaurant used to be. Located on the new Pixar Pier.

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Disneyland Parks are definitely the happiest places on Earth. Always a treat to spend the day here! Looking forward to my next visit.

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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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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

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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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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)

 

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

 

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!

 

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!