Orange County Travel Guide

I love orange county so much! When I think of Orange County I picture sunny skies, sandy beaches, palm tree lined avenues, tropical smoothies and fruity acai bowls. Here’s all my favorites by city:

IRVINE 

FOOD

Il Fornaio – Easily one of my favorite Italian restaurants, their pasta is amazing. Dare I say maybe even better than some of the authentic stuff I ate in Italy. My top three favorites are shown below: Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese (pasta ribbons with traditional meat ragu & Grana Padano), Pennoni Alla Vodka (large pasta tubes with bacon, vodka-cream-tomato sauce & Grana Padano) and Conchiglie Al Pollo (shell pasta, chicken breast, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, pecorino cheese, roasted garlic & Trebbiano wine).  For dessert, my favorite is the spumone gelato (strawberry, chocolate hazelnut & pistachio gelato, folded together with cherries, chocolate chips & pistachios; served with raspberry & chocolate sauce)!

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North Italia – Another Italian favorite, tied with Il Fornaio above. Bolognese House Specialty is hands down my favorite. It’s traditional meat sauce, tagliatelle noodles & grana padano cheese, yum!

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Urban Plates – Grilled grass fed steak plate is my go to order. They have so many delicious sides like the roasted rosemary potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted brussel  sprouts with turkey bacon, macaroni and cheese and sesame broccolini (my favorites). Definitely prefer Urban Plates to Tender Greens, but both are amazing for great healthy meals.

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Stonefire Grill – Amazing generous family style portions, my favorites are the Stonefire’s BBQ chopped salad, tomesto pasta (marinara & pesto mixed) , garlic mashed potatoes and BBQ tri-tip. Quick and easy place to eat.

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Pressed Juicery – I love the freezes, my favorite over the traditional frozen yogurt places. I always get the vanilla freeze, which has a base made of filtered water, dates, almonds (pressed nuts), vanilla extract and sea salt. It has 4g of protein which is amazing for a treat.

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Gullivers – If I’m going for lunch I love the filet mignon medallions, which are thinly cut filet medallions with mashed potatoes and pepper cognac sauce. If I’m going for dinner, the filet, new york steak or prime rib are amazing! They’re known for their really delicious creamed corn too.

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Nekter – Not my absolute favorite acai bowl place, but definitely good enough to highlight and mention. I love the acai banana berry bowl (açaí, strawberry, blueberry, banana, and housemade cashew milk blended together and topped with hempseed granola, fresh strawberry, blueberry, banana, and agave nectar). For smoothies, my favorites are orange crush (orange juice base, strawberry, and agave nectar blended with ice) and pink flamingo (pitaya, strawberry, pineapple, agave nectar, and coconut water blended).

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California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) – Probably my favorite chain restaurant and definitely has my favorite salad. I love the classic original BBQ chicken chopped salad with avocado (black beans, sweet corn, jicama, fresh cilantro & basil, crispy corn tortilla strips, monterey jack and housemade herb ranch, topped with BBQ chicken, tomatoes and scallions). Also love the avocado club egg rolls, easily my favorite appetizer (hand-wrapped crispy wonton rolls filled with avocado, chicken, tomato, Monterey Jack and Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, served with housemade ranchito sauce and herb ranch). The spinach and artichoke dip is good too. Also a favorite is the bolognese spaghetti when I’m craving something simple. Favorite dessert is definitely the warm butter cake with vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Celebrated my birthday with the cute new sangria flight (Three 3 oz. pours of Orchard, Beehive and Red-berry Sangria – my favorite was the Beehive – sweet blend of white wine, Cointreau, Monin Lavender, Perfect Purée Strawberry, honey and lemon)

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BJ’s Brewhouse – I always order the BBQ chopped salad, my second favorite behind CPK. Their pizzas are amazing and probably my favorite deep dish even over the ones I’ve tried in Chicago. The sweet pig is my go to (Hawaiian pineapple & ham). Lastly the cookies n’ cream pizookie is amazing (chocolate cookie with the taste of Oreos, rich vanilla bean ice cream and a dollop of oreo mousse).

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Luna Grill – Just got introduced to this place and it’s quickly becoming a favorite for Mediterranean food. I love getting the chicken kabob and gyro plate with the delicious basmati rice and grilled carrots –probably my favorite part. Love!

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Paradise Bowls – 2nd Favorite acai bowl place in Orange County tied with Banzai. Similar to ones I’ve had in Hawaii which are the best I’ve ever had. I have yet to try a bowl here that I don’t love. The gaucho is incredible (blend – banana, strawberries, blueberries, acai, apple juice; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries, blueberries). The peach bum was great, but I always get it without the coconut shavings (blend – bananas, strawberries, peaches, acai, coconut milk; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries, coconut shavings). Also enjoy the guava sunrise (blend – banana, mango, peaches, acai, guava juice; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries, kiwi). Lastly razz party is another favorite (blend – banana, strawberries, peaches, acai, raspberry lemonade; topping – granola, banana, honey, strawberries).

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Churned Creamery – Cute place within Union Market at the District. Their ice cream is cute and I always get the sorbet. They have blood orange, mango, pineapple and strawberry. They’re known for their cro-creams (pictured below). Tasted like a croissant with ice cream and strawberries. Really want to come back to try their acai bowls and the color changing mason jar teas look interesting.

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Mochilato – I love coming here to get different flavored mochi ice cream. I grew up on mochi ice cream so the taste reminds me of childhood. Mochi ice cream is a confection made from Japanese mochi with an ice cream filling. Mochi is essentially rice cake pounded into a paste and rolled into round forms. To me, mochi tastes flavorless – the ice cream is what really adds the flavor to this sweet treat. Mochi has a gooey like texture.

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Tender Greens – Similar to Urban Plates, I get the backyard marinated steak with mashed potatoes and usually the tender greens (Scarborough Farms greens, sherry vinaigrette) or baby spinach salad (Scarborough Farms spinach, hazelnuts, goat cheese, cabernet vinaigrette).

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Dada Shabu Shabu – Shabu Shabu all you can eat buffet style, Korean hot pot. I always try to get the less fatty thinly sliced meat. Think I got the prime beef chuck top blade (meat #1 on the menu) which was great.  I’m in love with goma sauce too, delicious.

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Izakaya Wasa – Used to go to the location in Irvine Spectrum but I’m so sad it closed since this was my favorite Japanese food place. The combination plates were amazing and they had the best chicken and beef teriyaki and chicken katsu. Also came with miso soup and gyoza. They’ve turned it into Robata Wasa, which I haven’t tried yet.

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Mokkoji – Shabu Shabu bar, love the goma sesame sauce with the new york shabu meat. Super thin with very little fat, my favorite. Also always get the miso broth. One of my favorite shabu places.

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Krisp Fresh Living– Another favorite açaí bowl place, I always order the berry orchard bowl and it is delicious! The blend is made up of açaí, strawberries, bananas, blueberries and cold pressed apple juice. The toppings include strawberries, blueberries and bananas.

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Halal Guys – Favorite fast food Mediterranean. Always get the combo platter with chicken & gyro with the white sauce. Delicious, comes with rice and pita.

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Burntzilla – I first heard about the Burnt Truck food truck which served awesome sliders, then found out they made a permanent location combining the Burnt Truck and Dogzilla food trucks. My favorite slider is the fried chicken which has buttermilk fried chicken, garlic potato spread and country gravy. Also pictured below are the cheeseburger and fried cheese sliders with the fried chicken bacon loaded tater tots.

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SIGHTS

Irvine Spectrum Mall – Love this mall centered around a giant ferris wheel. Lots of my favorite stores and restaurants. Highlights for me include Drybar, Loft, Lululemon, Nordstrom, Sephora, Tender Greens, Pressed Juicery, Luna Grill, Javiers, Corner Bakery, CPK, Cucina Enoteca and Brio Tuscan Grille.

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Divine Nails & Lashes – My favorite and best nail salon I’ve ever been to. They do such a good job. I always love how my gel nails turn out and they last for weeks (usually 3-5 weeks before they grow out). I never have any issues with chipping at all. I typically opt for a french tip gel manicure.

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Huntington Beach

FOOD

Duke’s – The prime sirlon was absolutely delicious (double r signature ranch, miso brown butter, mashed yukon gold potatoes, roasted broccolini). Kimo’s original hula pie is one of my all time favorite desserts (chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, toasted mac nuts, whipped cream). Lastly I always have to get a Volcano drink when I’m here (blended coconut and strawberry virgin tropical drink).

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Banzai Bowls – Tied with Paradise bowls as my 2nd favorite acai bowl of the OC. I usually get the OG bowl (blend – apple juice, acai, banana, strawberries; top – granola, banana, honey) or Sharks Cove without goji berries (blend – apple juice, acai, banana, strawberries; top – granola, banana, strawberries, blueberries, honey, goji berries).

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Norms – The best fruit pancake stacks! I loved the strawberry and cinnamon apple. It was like having dessert for breakfast.

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SIGHTS

Huntington Beach & Pier – Prettiest pier in all of the OC. One of my favorite spots and it holds a special place in my heart. Where I went for my 21st birthday and had my 1st date with my boyfriend 🙂 I’ve seen the most beautiful sunsets while overlooking these waters.

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Pacific City Shopping Center – Another favorite shopping center. Lots of cool stores and eateries. They’ve got an Equinox, Sephora, Drybar, Hans’ homemade ice cream, Popbar, and Lemonade.

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International Surfing Museum – Cool to see once, history of surfing. Lots of neat surfboards and memorabilia. Closed Mondays and admission is $3.

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Surf City Half Marathon – My all time favorite half marathon race, the course is amazing and I love this city so much. Plus they had the best race expo and the coolest surf board medals.

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LODGING

Hilton Hotel Huntington Beach – waterfront resort and beautiful. Central location on PCH.

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach – another waterfront resort next to the Hilton. Perfect location central on PCH.

Newport Beach

FOOD

Bowl of Heaven – Decent acai bowl place. Ranks for me above Nekter. My go to is the North Shore Original Bowl (blend – organic acai, strawberries, banana, blueberries, 100% apple juice and Maq 7; toppings – organic hemp flax seed granola, banana, and honey).

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Javiers – Great Mexican food place. The tacos and quesadilla are really good! Super cool atmosphere.

Champagne’s – I really like the homemade chicken noodle soup, bbq tri-tip sandwich, club sandwich and the shoestring fries with garlic aioli dipping sauce.

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Great Maple – Cutely decorated, the fried chicken and donuts is yummy. I’ve had the prime rib dip which was good. The turkey bolognese was delicious. Really want to try the steak frites next time.

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Cucina Alessa – One of my favorite Italian places. I loved the pappardelle al sug d’agnello (ribbon shaped pasta slow cooked braised lamb shoulder and shaved ricotta salata).  The spumoni was an amazing finale!

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Lette Macaroons – My favorite macarons even over the famous Ladurée and Pierre Hermé of Paris.  The chocolate is my favorite, but I also love the passionfruit, raspberry, violet and blueberry lemon. The cookie is cooked perfectly and the filling is not too sweet which I love.

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Mama D’s Italian Kitchen – Great pasta and the pink sauce is so different. Usually I’ll get the penne, rigatoni or bow tie pasta with meat sauce, but the pink sauce is amazing. I really want to go back to try the stuffed shells of ricotta, yum! So much food that I definitely had leftovers.

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Dad’s and Sugar & Spice – Known for frozen bananas and balboa bars, delicious cute shops. I tried a frozen banana with rainbow sprinkles and a balboa bar with oreo topping. Next time I’ll try the everything topping.

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Gelato Paradiso – The best gelato place I’ve ever been, it’s so good it competes with my favorites from Italy. This place is amazing! I love all their flavors, but my usual go to is the mango, strawberry, lemon sorbet and chocolate gelato. Also love the blueberry chip gelato too.

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Atomic Creamery – All natural liquid nitrogen ice cream. We had the grasping at straws (housemade strawberry puree with local strawberries) and chocolate^3 (chocolate, brownie bits, oreos and hot fudge).

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SIGHTS

Fashion Island Mall – My favorite mall with the best shops, stores and atmosphere. My favorites include: CPK, Drybar, Gelato Paradiso, Gorjana, Kendra Scott, Lette Macarons, Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines, Loft, Lululemon, Nordstrom, Pressed Juicery and ULTA. Plus from the Macy’s side you can see the view of Catalina and the ocean.

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Balboa Island / Peninsula & Village – Cute quaint community with lots of docks with yachts. Fun to walk around and see the cute little houses. Super crowded though and hard to get around by car.

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Laguna Beach

FOOD

Splashes – Best restaurant experience in Laguna. Loved the table side beach views. We watched the sunset during dinner and it was one of the best moments. Located right on PCH. My favorite was the filet and the sorbet trio was amazing. Below is the view from our table, we were so close to the beach!

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The Cliff Restaurant – Gorgeous views of the ocean from the table (see below). Love Laguna so much! I had the prime rib dip sandwich which was great, but next time I’ll try the classic club or a wrap.

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Nick’s – Cute place right off PCH by Main Beach. We got the prime rib dip sandwich and buttermilk fried chicken. Both were delicious. Dessert was butter cake, which we loved.

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Tortilla Republic – Located right by Main Beach, down the street from Nick’s on PCH. The chicken flautas are amazing! The atmosphere of this restaurant is very hip, modern and cool.

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SIGHTS

Main Beach & Lifeguard Tower – Beautiful beach located centrally in Laguna. There’s a lot happening here between the volleyball courts, lifeguard tower picture spot, hotels galore lining the streets, etc. Right near all the restaurants so it’s perfect to watch the sunset from after dinner.

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Top of the World Hike – One of my favorite hikes, the views up here are beautiful. Gets pretty foggy if you go really early in the morning since it’s by the ocean. Parking is slim, but there’s a tiny parking lot at the park if you get there early.

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Heisler Park / Recreation Point – Some of the best views of Laguna. I love this cute little nature walk trail along the beach. It’s paved and easy to find metered parking. The scenery is breath taking.

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Miscellaneous OC

FOOD

Summit House Restaurant (Fullerton, CA) – Hilltop manor restaurant with city views, famous for roasted prime rib, yorkshire pudding & creamed corn. We also loved the filet mignon and dessert sampler plate (profiterole with belgian chocolate, lemon tarte, creme brulee, and chocolate torte).

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Hungry Bear Restaurant (Fullerton, CA) – Comfort food, grew up going to this place often. Family owned and super casual. I always get the stockyard steak with mashed potatoes and A-1 sauce. It comes with delicious garlic bread and their vegetable and chicken tortilla soup are my favorite.

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Jujubar (Costa Mesa, CA) – Favorite acai bowl place in California! The bowls are amazing. Superberry is my favorite (blend – raspberry juice, acai, strawberry, blueberry; topping – banana, strawberry, blueberry, kiwi, granola and honey).

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Maggiano’s (Costa Mesa, CA) – Famous Rigatoni D specialty pasta is my favorite. It’s herb-Roasted Chicken, Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Marsala Cream Sauce. It also comes with a classic pasta to take home, which I usually opt for the Taylor Street baked ziti or Mom’s Lasagna.

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Pacific Wharf Cafe (Costa Mesa, CA) – Favorite breakfast place when I’m craving a yogurt parfait. The vanilla yogurt with strawberries, blueberries and granola is delicious!

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Confetti (Costa Mesa, CA) – Cute little Italian ice and custard shop. Reminds me of a favorite in Riverside…Frostbite’s. There are so many cool flavors.

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Hawaiian Express (Santa Ana, CA) – Favorite Hawaiian food take out place in the Santa Ana Main Palace mall food court. Sadly I heard it closed, but I was in love with their Henry’s orange sweet noodles. So good with the bbq chicken and fruit smoothie.

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Istanbul Grill (Fountain Valley, CA) – Another favorite Mediterranean food place. I love the chicken shish kabob plate with rice pilaf and seasonal vegetables. They have the best service too, everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

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Birdie Bowl & Juicery (Fountain Valley, CA) – Another decent acai bowl place, can we tell I love acai? I get the classic acai bowl.

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Robeks (Brea, CA) – One of my favorite smoothie chains. Love it better than Juice It Up and Jamba Juice. My go to orders are usually the Strawnana Berry (Strawberries, Banana, Non-Fat Frozen Yogurt, Apple Juice), Big Wednesday (Peach, Strawberries, Banana, Orange Sherbet, Pineapple Sherbet, Papaya Juice) and Hummingbird (Mango, Strawberries, Banana, Orange Sherbet, Passionfruit Juice).

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Surf City Squeeze (Brea, CA) – Tied with Robeks as my favorite smoothie chain. Strawberry Banana is my classic favorite smoothie. It reminds me of Hawaii and the beach. This is the only yogurt like smoothie I love and enjoy.

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Fat Belly Grill (Garden Grove, CA) – The chicken katsu is absolutely amazing and tastes just like it from Japan. Still want to try the chicken and beef teriyaki and the miso ramen.

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Spice Thai Cuisine (Lake Forest, CA) – Delicious chicken satay, I love the homemade peanut sauce.

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Slice Shabu (Lake Forest, CA) – Great shabu place, love the miso broth with the black angus ribeye meat. I get the goma and ponzu with brown rice and udon or ramen.

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Miguels California Mexican Cucina (Lake Forest, CA) – Favorite fast food Mexican, it’s pretty heavy though so I can’t eat this all the time. Love the garbage burrito (shredded beef, spanish rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato and served wet style – tastes like an enchilada) and the chicken flautas (they are massive).

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Tacos Manuel (Anaheim, CA) – One of my favorites for taco Tuesday. I love the asada, al pastor, pollo and carnitas tacos.

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SIGHTS

Disneyland Theme Park (Anaheim, CA) – See my separate guide here!

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California Adventure Theme Park (Anaheim, CA) – See my separate guide here!

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Honda Center Duck’s NHL (Anaheim, CA) – Love to go see games because it’s such a fun intense atmosphere. My second favorite sport to watch. Love that their color is orange too.

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Angels Stadium MLB (Anaheim, CA) – Favorite sport to watch. Hoping Mike Trout never leaves the team because he’s so talented. Pretty much everyone goes to the games to see him play. Hands down has the best stadium food I’ve ever seen. My go to is always Chronic Taco and Dip & Dots.

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South Coast Plaza Mall (Costa Mesa, CA) – Lots of designer stores in this mall. Not too many eating places, but they do have Boudins (an SF favorite of mine) and Corner Bakery. Plenty of stores I love including Nordstrom, Banana Republic, JCrew, Kate Spade, Lululemon, Papersource, Madewell, Pandora, Nekter, Sephora, Ted Baker, Tory Burch and Williams Sonoma.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts (Costa Mesa, CA) – Love going here to see Broadway performances. Cute date night! Small theater but easy to get to (way easier than Pantages), which I love.

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Brea Mall & Downtown Brea Shopping Center (Brea, CA) – Second favorite mall with a lot of favorite stores and eateries. You can always catch me at CPK, Nordstrom, Sephora, Banana Republic, Lululemon, Lollicup, Pandora, Surf City Squeeze, Loft and Pink.

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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*

JW Marriott Desert Springs Palm Desert

The most beautiful hotel, it feels like Hawaii almost. Located in Palm Desert which is farther out from the main Palm Springs Strip with all the restaurants. I actually love Palm Desert more than the Palm Springs area. This resort has a golf course, amazing pool, Starbucks, boat track to take you across the resort to the restaurants, flamingos in the front and the cutest boutique shops. I loved the shop Queenie’s and even found my favorite blanket on sale – Barefoot Dreams

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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. Also liked the bolognese pasta

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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. My favorite pizza was the special limited edition Thanksgiving Dinner one.

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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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Señor Buzz Churros Stand – Disney always has delicious churros especially the original cinnamon sugar ones.

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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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Tropical Hideaway – My newest food favorite, this place came alive after the took out the Aladdin Oasis section. This is my other go to comparable to Bengal BBQ. The baos are delicious and the perfect snack. I loved the beef one and my second favorite was the chicken. I will definitely be coming back to try all the Dole Whip cousins. Pictured is the raspberry and pineapple dole whip, yum!

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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 or pulled pork sandwich! Super filing dinner choice located in New Orleans Square and conveniently located to the Mint Julep bar. Also the corn chowder is a favorite.

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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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Uva Bar Catal – Downtown Disney, loved the mimosa flight (pineapple, peach, cranberry & orange)

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Troubadour Tavern – the best snack in the park, bacon and sour cream stuffed baked potato

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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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Naples Ristorante e Bar – Newly renovated look, such a cute Italian restaurant in Downtown Disney. I loved the spaghetti with meatballs and meat 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.

Salt & Straw – Part of Downtown Disney, but they have the best ice cream! My all time favorite has been the peppermint bark cocoa Williams Sonoma collaboration from xmas. So delicious! My other go to classic flavor is the chocolate gooey brownie. Yum!

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Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beers – Located in Downtown Disney; super fun place serving classic foods (burgers & shakes). We had the Texan Burger with a potato roll, prime burger, bacon, aged cheddar, crispy onion rings, sweet baby ray’s bbq sauce, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Came with Idaho fries on the side. It was super filling. This trip wouldn’t be complete without trying a crazy shake, we got the Cookies & Cream Supreme with a vanilla frosted rim, crushed Oreos, cookies & cream sandwich, whipped cream and chocolate drizzle.

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*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 <3

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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

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 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

*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