Mouthful of San Diego

San Diego, a city in Southern California, is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches and delicious seafood. The most southern city in California, its culture is in-between the busy Los Angeles and the laid-back Orange County. It is a perfect vacation destination to feel the ocean breeze and the lively nightlife.

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In every major city, there is a list of the best tourist attractions. San Diego is no different. Here, I will highlight the top tourist attractions that are found on almost every website and tell you if it is worth visiting.

San Diego Zoo

The best thing to do with the family in San Diego is to visit the San Diego Zoo. In fact, San Diego Zoo is one of the facilities that is AZA Accredited on taking care of animals, fewer than 10% of the nation’s zoos and aquariums meet this standard. This zoo is one of the best and largest zoos in the world with a huge variety of animals and insects you can view and interact with. There is just so much to see and do that you will need the entire day to look at everything!

In the past, you could view the cute pandas as they munch on their bamboo. Now, they have platypuses! The zoo is either a temporary or a permanent home to many diverse animals. Whichever your favorite animal might be, the chances of you seeing them there is pretty high. 

Feeding the giraffes at San Diego Zoo

You can purchase cookies to feed the giraffes, go on a guided tour, watch the otters swim, or pet the sheep in the petting zoo. The possibilities are endless at San Diego Zoo!

Is it worth a visit? Yes.

Admission fee: Yes, purchase tickets online or at the gate.

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Balboa Park

The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park. Balboa is a big, free community park that is home to several theaters, museums, and gardens. Every winter, you can watch the performance of the popular story of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss at The Old Globe Theater.

The San Diego Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, Air & Space Museum, Museum of Man, Timken Museum (free!) and Automotive Museum, just to name a few, are all found at Balboa Park. Within each Museum, they periodically have new exhibits such as the Cannibals and Post Secret Exhibit at the Museum of Man. For nature’s beauty, you can choose between the free Botanical Building, Desert Garden, and 1935 Cactus Garden or pay for admission to the Japanese Friendship Garden. 

Balboa Park is also a place where people can congregate in the open space and explore the halls and culture within the perimeter of Balboa Park. Take a stroll to the Spanish Village or see the House of Pacific Relations, UN Association, and International Cottages. Not to mention, there are recreational facilities such as an Archery Range and a public Municipal Gym, as well.

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The park has many attractions with an assortment of cafes to eat and drink, gift shops, and centers to showcase performing arts. You can easily spend an entire day here.

Is it worth a visit? Yes.

Admission fee: No, but you must pay for individual entrances to several museums, gardens, and performances.
*Bonus: For local residents, certain museums are free every Tuesday!

SeaWorld
Photo courtesy of Julian Ames

SeaWorld

SeaWorld has been one of the most controversial theme parks to open, but if you set that aside and take it for face value, SeaWorld is a neat place to witness sea life that you would normally never witness outside of SeaWorld.

SeaWorld
Photo courtesy of Julian Ames

At SeaWorld, you get exposure to observe penguins, beluga whales, walruses, sharks, and my all-time favorite, otters! Take a glimpse at your favorite animals close up through the aquariums and exhibits. You can meet and interact with the sea life at Explorer’s Reef, ride the several thrill rides such as Journey to Atlantis, or watch the animal performances.

There is a lot for you to discover as you start your voyage to explore marine life.

Is it worth a visit? Yes, if you love aquatic creatures.

 Admission fee: Yes, purchase tickets online or at the gate.
*Bonus: If you plan to hit both San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, there is a package deal for the admission tickets!

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Japanese Friendship Bell

On Shelter Island, there is a bell that the Japanese gifted San Diego for a sign of their friendship for opening the port to them.

Is it worth a visit? If you’re in the area, but not worth going out of your way.

On Shelter Island, there is a bell that the citizens of Yokohama, Japan gifted San Diego as a  token of their friendship and relationship between the two sister cities. Take a moment to reflect and observe the bell, feel a sense of peace and calmness. It is a perfect place to set this symbol, as it is away from the hustle and bustle of other busy tourist attractions.

While you are there, cruise along the shore and take a deep breath to inhale all of the clean, crisp air.

Is it worth a visit? If you’re in the area, but not worth going out of your way.

Admission: Free

Gaslamp District

Gaslamp District

If you want to truly experience the nightlife in San Diego, visit the Gaslamp District! There are restaurants, clubs, speakeasy’s, and bars for you to choose from for your perfect outing. Regardless of the occasion, you will find an excellent spot to celebrate anniversaries, girls’/guys’ night out, birthdays, bachelorette/bachelor parties, and other festivities.

Whether you want a tame night to enjoy drinks and dinner, or a wild black-out drunk outing, Gaslamp District has got you covered. 

Is it worth a visit? Yes, if you like food or drinking.

Admission: Mostly free, some places require a cover charge.

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Old Town

A historic tourist attraction that is reminiscent of the early frontier era, similar to cliche ghost towns like Calico. Unlike ghost towns, there is a lot of foot traffic from tourists that often times it becomes crowded. 

Old Town mainly consists of shops and restaurants of the Mexican heritage and culture. Its alleys of outdoor shopping and markets are filled with vibrant colors and live entertainment. You can find pottery, trinkets, clothing, food items, decorative pieces, and many more souvenirs here. There is no shortage of historical buildings and festivities to remind you of the past that took place here. The main square of Old Town typically shuts down relatively early, when the sun sets. 

If you plan on having after-hours fun with a spiritual experience, you stay at one of the old hotels in Old Town, such as The Cosmopolitan (no, it’s not similar to the one in Las Vegas). There are the haunted Whaley House and a ghost adventure tour that takes place here to recount and seek out ghouls and hauntings at graveyards and other known areas with sightings and activities. 

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After your ghostly experience, you can rejoice with another type of spirit. There are several bars and restaurants, such as Oculto 477 and Cafe Coyote, that serve delicious, massive margarita and fresh handmade tacos.

Is it worth a visit? Maybe. It’s a bit of a tourist trap but you could find great places to eat and see. 

Admission: Free

OC Fair 2019 Recap

Wow, I haven’t been to OC Fair in so long! The last time I remembered was when there was a threat of OC Fair ceasing to exist, fortunately, it is here to stay!

Not much has changed but it is surely a much different experience when you are an adult versus when you were an adolescent. The main contributor to this difference? Money! You now have money to spend on all the food and everything that may tickle your fancy.

BravoCado!
Many people in Orange County, California gather at the OC Fair & Event Center every year during mid-July for a month until mid-August to attend the OC Fair. Not everyone has the same agenda and the OC Fair caters to everyone’s main objectives. There is a lot to do at the fair and may include, but are not limited to, drooling from all of the fried food, thrilling over carnival rides, eyeing enormous plush doll prizes, enjoying entertainment shows, seeing the farm animals, and SO much more!
I attended the OC Fair on Saturday of the last weekend the OC Fair is opened. I loved my experience because I felt a sense of community, oddly enough. Everyone that I encountered, whether it be employees or other fairgoers, was super friendly, I did not encounter any issues for the venue or the people. Having partners and friends to split food with is key to a good time.

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Tip: There is free parking at OCC (right across the street from Green Gate) on the weekends!

FOOD

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Food is a great motivator for people to go anywhere. As long as there’s tasty food, people will come!
The term “fair food” consists of all the things bad for your health: fried, greasy, and enormous portions. Every year there are new food items invented that many fairgoers feast on. I typically like to go in bigger groups so I can sample many things, rather than getting full on 1 item.
Here are a few items I tried this year:

Papi’s Puffy Tacos

New to the OC Fair 2019! One of the better things we got at the fair because the puffy tacos had pretty good flavor. Two tacos will set you back $11.76, with your choice of meat. We got 1 Asada and 1 Al Pastor. You can see the taco shells fried in front of you. As you bite into the taco, the taco shell gives you a crunchy texture while the meat and pico de gallo give you a fresh and savory flavor. The two together are a perfect combination of a taco.

Pignotti’s Pasta

Lasagna nachos! The inventiveness is there. However, they sounded better than what it actually was: tortilla chips, marinara sauce, ricotta cheese and they ran out of parsley. Sadness. $14.

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I would skip the Lasagna Nachos and try one of their other food items like the fried ravioli on a stick or spaghetti donuts.

Tasti Burgers

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Pictured is the Green Acres Fire Burger which is supposed to be an “all-natural Harris Ranch beef, ghost-pepper cheese, lettuce, jalapeños, spicy mayo and avocado on a potato knot bun”. However, it was not really spicy. Not bad, but nothing special. $12

Chicken Charlie’s

Known for their ridiculous fair food creations that are intended to stop hearts. Our pick? The Triple Decker Cheeseburger, which is a triple cheeseburger sandwiched between 2 Krispy Kreme donuts. The verdict? Hard pass. They do not go well together and both of them tasted very separate. The patty was obviously a low quality, frozen one. $10.99

Dippin’ Dots

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With the tagline, “Ice cream of the future”, I always have to get Dippin’ Dots every time I see it. I don’t know what it is but it is always good, anytime and anywhere! At the fair, there are multiple flavors, this time I got Moose Tracks. For a small, expect to be spending a little over $5.

Juicys

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Oh man, for big appetites, stop by Juicys! Here, you can get a footlog hotdog or corn dog. These are “Texas-sized” portions that are not only big in size but also big in flavor. Delicious hot dog that did not disappoint and is literally the size of your arm.

Fresh Frys

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The Blooming Onion is a staple as far as fair food goes. The Blooming Onion is essentially an onion cut into a flower-shape and then deep-fried. You can get the fried onion by itself, starting at $9.28 or with toppings such as cheese, chili, and more fries for an additional cost.

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Not a fan of onions? There are other items such as fresh frys, ranch frys, cheese frys, monkey frys, chili cheese frys, garlic parmesan frys, deep-fried green beans, and chicken tenders available.

Chuckwagon

Brisket Mac ‘n’ Cheese Sandwich
To end our night, we got the Brisket Mac ‘n’ Cheese Sandwich, which we were surprised by how tasty the meat and the ingredients went well together. Meats are supposedly smoked for 8-10 hours. $12.76

Other Options

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There is an abundance of food stalls and food areas to find unique dishes you can try. Here are a few others to note:

Bacon-A-Fair

Eat all of the bacon to your heart’s content! One of the newest food item for 2019 is the bacon pupusas, which is a Salvadoran dish made of masa and cheese.

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Australian Battered Potatoes

Love potatoes? Get a whole bucket of it here! Top it off with your favorite sauce, cheese, sour cream, or ADD BACON!

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Dutchmen’s

Churros, lemonade, and funnel cakes. Any of those sound good to you? If so, you’ve come to the right place! You can start with a regular churro or a basic powdered sugar funnel cake and then get creative by adding on different toppings and flavors such as whipped cream, strawberries, Nutella, or Oreos. Change the batter to red velvet or try their newest Nilla wafer banana creme flavor!

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Squeezers

Wash down all of the fair food with an old fashion lemonade!

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RIDES

Feeling that adrenaline rush? There is a whole area full of rides you can hop on for a spin. Most fair rides often try to make you end up throwing up, but that’s what makes it fun … right?!


For those like me and aren’t adrenaline junkies, there are other rides such as the ski lift ride and Ferris wheels that are more family fun. You can oversee the fair lights and view everything from a bird’s eye view.

CARNIVAL GAMES

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Test your skills at these rigged carnival games and convince your significant other to win you an enormous stuffed animal to show everyone how loved you are. In my honest opinion, a big waste of money and space but hey, if that’s your thing, go for it!

ENTERTAINMENT

There are several shows that are scheduled throughout the fair day. One of which is the comedy hypnotist, Mark Yuzuik. Whether or not you are a believer, it is surely entertaining to watch. I have seen the show several times and still have fun watching it every time. Other entertainers include dancers and martial artists.

FARM ANIMALS

Interact and pet farm animals at the fair! When there is a fair, there will be animals. Although they may smell, it is fascinating to see a cow in real life. There is a petting zoo as well as demonstrations such as cow milking!

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The fun doesn’t stop there! There are also pig races throughout the day. Yes, you heard that right. Pig races! They are cute little pigs that run laps around the track. Catch a show with your friends and have a little friendly bet amongst each other!

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CONTESTS

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The fair is not just about animals and food, the competition is also fierce here! There is a contest for just about anything! From homebrewed beer to artworks, it is truly interesting to see the creativity of everyone in the community. There are also contests on who can grow the biggest vegetable as well as who can create the best looking cake or table setting. Walk around the promenade to get a glimpse of all of the winners!

… SO MUCH MORE!

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The possibilities are endless! There are different promenades for your shopping needs, whether you’re looking for candy, hot sauce, household items, beds, etc there is something for you to sample or look at. My friend purchased some olive oil while I was shooting the shit with the ADT guys in the next booth, they were such awesome guys (shout out to Mike and Matt).

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Feeling like you want to get a little loose? There are alcohol stands for you to get beers or cocktails such as margaritas. Feeling lucky? There is a CA Lottery stand where if you spend $20, you can spin the wheel to win more money!

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Want to interact with butterflies? There is a tent area to take those Instagram photos with them.

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The OC Fair is truly a fun experience if you go with the right people, you can spend a whole day there! I was only expecting to spend a few hours but ended up staying until almost closing time. In total, I was there for 7 hours and I felt like I could’ve been there longer!
There is just so much to see and do. I can’t wait until next year!

HAPPY OC FAIRING!

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Alas, the time has come and the most anticipated event since the park opened its doors in 1955 has arrived! One of the biggest cult followings in today’s pop culture and has nerds screaming their hearts and dreams out with excitement.

Still don’t have any idea of what I’m talking about yet?

Well, it’s none other than …

DUHH DUHHHH DUH

DUH DUH DUHHH

DUH DUH DUHHH

DUH DUHHH DUHHH DUH DUH …

STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE!

Also lazily known as “Star Wars Land”

Doors to Happiness

Reservations

There are strict terms to follow before this grand opening. Galaxy’s Edge allowed cast members to take the first peek at the new land but since the land has not officially opened, no pictures were allowed to be taken. Afterward, those with reservations until June 23rd are able to go in increments of 4 hours. Only those registered on the reservations are allowed to attend.

During the month of June reservations, if you don’t have an annual pass, guests are to cough up $150 for a 1 day, 1 park ticket. Thus, if you and one other person go, you are looking to spend $300 plus $25 for parking. That is just to get you inside the park. For food and merchandise, be prepared to spend a total of at least $500 for 2 people.

I made reservations for Galaxy’s Edge on Thursday, June 13th from 5:00 – 9:00 PM and thought this was a perfect time, seeing the best of both worlds, the land during the day and night.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Bonus: Take photos of the Millennium Falcon in the day with great natural lighting and at night with the lights turned on!

After June 24, 2019, reservations will no longer be needed and thus anyone with a Disneyland ticket can get inside without having any time restrictions.

Journey to Batuu

Since the reservations are at 5:00 PM and you are able to only check-in 2 hours prior, I spent the time prior to browsing other lands and going on other rides. During the month of June, Disney Parks are at a moderate level of busyness because people are anticipating the official opening of Galaxy’s Edge to visit the park.

Around 4:45 PM, I went to Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland and made a dash towards Hungry Bear restaurant for my 5:00 PM reservation time. I forgot it was on the other side of the park so the walk felt like a long journey to get to Batuu.

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When you first enter through the Hungry Bear entrance, you will be first greeted by the Resistance Supply and some photo opportunities. My initial reaction was, “Is this it?”. I omitted these things and headed straight to the center where there are a few small shops called Merchant Row.

Merchandise

In Merchant Row, you will find shops with various knick-knacks such as: 

Toydarian Toymaker

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Come collect cute plush dolls of your favorite characters and toys. The ones in my hands are priced at $19.99 each.

Creature Stall


Adopt and take home a pet creature like the ones in the movies. Some vibrate and move while the adorable Porgs can flap its wings and open and close its mouth!

Jewels of Bith

0607-2019-0502369789048399214.jpegMainly apparel and little trinkets such as pins, patches, magnets, and key chains.

Black Spire Outfitters

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A clothing store with outfits and robes so you can fit right in with the people in Batuu.

Aside from the little merchant stands, there are other shops you can spend your “credits”: Ondar’s Antiques, First Order Cargo, and the aforementioned Savi’s Workshop and Droid Depot.

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Even if you don’t build a droid, you can take a peek at the 25,000 credit life-sized R2D2!

Food

At the end of the Merchant Row’s walkway is a quick-service eatery, Ronto Roasters where you can order a Ronto Wrap for $14. This is deemed to be the best thing in the area but I feel as though it is overpriced for what it is, even for Disney prices.

Food in Batuu is at a higher price level than other lands inside of Disneyland. If you want to get the full experience then go ahead, go crazy and buy all of the foods but if you are on a budget, I’d suggest eating elsewhere. Besides Ronto Wrap, there is:

Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo for a full meal,

Kat Saka’s Kettle for the special spicy and sweet popcorn

and the Milk Stand for blue and green milk.

Tip: For reservations dates, if you have a group of friends going, make sure to split up so a couple of friends run to Oga’s Cantina and the other 2 can get a reservation for a hand-built lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop.

During the beginning of the reservation, everyone SPRINTS to the Oga’s Cantina line to put their name on the list for a call back to get inside this exclusive club. This new waterhole is the first of its kind in Disneyland Park, aside from the ultra-exclusive Club 33. Oga’s Cantina is the only thing that fills up and closes any additional reservations. In this case, you snooze, you lose.

Also for the lightsabers, only a certain amount of Jedis are able to design and build their own lightsaber. Once it fills up, it fills up and you will need to come back another time and spend your $100 at that time.

Since I was too slow, I was unable to get into Oga’s Cantina, build a lightsaber, and create a droid at Droid Depot. Thus, leaving me to only be able to walk around and go on the ride, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. With only so much I was able to do left, four hours seemed more than enough.

However, when there are no longer reservations needed, I would assume you would be able to do Oga’s Catina and build a lightsaber easily.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run can be up to a 60-minute wait initially, but wait a little while and the queue will start to dwindle down to a mere 25-minute wait.

My thoughts of the ride are that it is pretty cool and the best way to describe it is to think “interactive Star Tours”. In the beginning, you are given a brief instruction on what to do and then you are given the role of a pilot, gunner, or engineer. The best role would be a pilot because you steer the ship and have the most interactive part, so try to be that if you can! The gunner will shoot and the engineer is supposed to fix the mistakes of the pilot and gunner.


The ride is a little difficult to enjoy what is in front of you because you will be so focused on the buttons next to you and what you need to press. After all, you don’t want to let your crew down!

The Land of Batuu

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The amount of time and effort Disney put into Galaxy’s Edge is shown through the details and experience guests get when visiting the land. Everywhere you look there are things to remind you that you are on another planet. The landscape and views are works of a masterpiece and out of this world. Just take a look around you and notice the various props you might have seen in the movies.


Wandering around and immersing into the land of Batuu, I cannot imagine how crowded it will be once the land is opened to everyone. The walkway through Merchant Row and through the center of everything will be too crowded to fully enjoy the experience, I’d imagine.

Characters


I thought there were going to be interactive things you can do, aside from downloading the app, in addition to the Star Wars character interactions. When I was there for the whole reservation time, I only saw Rey, Stormtroopers, and Chewbacca roaming around.

May the Force be with you!

Orange County Study Spots

As I am studying for my certification, I am constantly in search of a place to rest my book and occasionally form study groups. Beyond your Starbucks, there are several other great places in Orange County for students studying for classes or to further their education. It’s difficult to decide whether or not a place is fit for you until you actually arrive and scope the place out.

Fortunately, I have already done the hard part for you and here are a few places I would suggest you check out:

 

Huntington Beach Public Library

Best things about libraries are that they’re free, a place where silence is golden, the library is the choice to hit the books and study. There are many areas of seating based on how you best study and what you are trying to accomplish. There are divided sections where you can eat, group study, and areas where it is ultimate quietness.

Volume Level: Low, it is a library

Seating: Very easy to find as there are multiple seating arrangements available. There are study carrel desks for independent, no distraction study as well as open desks for group study

 

Contra Coffee & Tea 

Coffee shop near Chapman University with a variety of coffees and teas on tap. Great place to get good drinks, however, there are no outlets available and the Wi-Fi is extremely slow and spotty. It would be ideal if you went old school and studied with a textbook, notebook, and pen.

Volume Level: Medium

Seating: Pretty limited as there is a community seating area in the middle with pairs of desks facing each other.

 

Phin Smith

A busy Vietnamese cafe located on Main Street of Garden Grove with delicious, high-quality and highly caffeinated coffee drinks brewed to fuel your study sessions. A shop you would not mind staying at for long hours at a time, but cannot because there is no food available to rejuvenate your energy. The customer service is top notch, as the baristas are welcoming and ensure you have a phenomenal experience.

Volume Level: Medium to Loud

Seating: Plenty of tables and outlets, however, it can get pretty packed during the afternoons and weekends

 

O.C. Mix 

Located in Costa Mesa, it is strange that I would recommend a shopping center as a study spot. However, O.C. Mix is a space with retailers, such as eateries, boutiques, and cafes. Portola, a seriously good coffee roaster, has several open tables and seating outside for you to enjoy your cup of coffee. There are also tables sprinkled throughout the building to rest your legs, eat, and study. Charge your laptops prior to coming because there are no outlets available to plug your computers.

Volume Level: Medium to Loud

Seating: Abundance of tables but can get really crowded

 

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

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Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL) is similar to Starbucks by the layout of their coffee shops. The offerings are similar but CBTL, in my opinion, is less basic, better tasting, and less crowded. This makes CBTL a better contender to get work done without too much of a distraction if you were to go to a bigger coffee shop chain.

Volume Level: Medium to Loud

Seating: A few tables and chairs with a few outlets available

 

Old Quarter Coffee 

A new coffee shop in Garden Grove that serves as an excellent study spot. Old Quarter Coffee has a peaceful atmosphere (sometimes with questionable music choices), great seating, outlets at every table, free Wi-Fi, and FREE PRINTING!

Volume Level: Low to Medium

Seating: Plentiful, although lately there seems to be a lot of odd characters that come here

 

Milksud

With chairs and tables filling up the entire space, Milksud is a fine contender for a decent study spot. This drink shop specializes in unique draft coffee and tea. For whatever your social needs, the table, and chairs are designed as a lounge to catch up with friends, play board games, enjoy your beverage, and study.

Situated in a plaza, parking is easy to find and the shop is not extremely crowded or loud.

Volume Level: Medium

Seating: The tables for group study are limited, but the individual study seats along the perimeter are plentiful.

Disclaimer: This place might be closing soon.

 

Know any awesome study spots? Leave them in the comments below!

 

Tips for Coachella Music Festival

Coachella is just around the corner… actually it’s HERE for all you Weekend 1 festival goers! Here are just a few tips and reminders to make your experience a more pleasant one:

Besame Mucho

1. Stay hydrated!
Water is essential for life. Make sure you drink lots of it because the sun and the dancing can take a lot out of you. Bring a CamelBak or water bottles to fill up, there are several free water stations spread throughout the festival grounds.
Bonus: Tip a chill bartender and ask if you could fill your water pouch with ice (YMMV).

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2. Be shady!
No, I don’t mean be untrustworthy, sneaky, or backstabbing. What I mean is bring a hat to shield yourself from the sun and sunglasses so you can see when it’s bright outside.

3. Keep your body temperature low
The temperature will increase during the peak hours, you can seek refuge and free air conditioning at the tents such as Heineken House (21+) or the Antarctic Dome. Also, bring your own fan or spray bottle to keep yourself from overheating, especially if you are day drinking.

4. Sunblock is your best friend
It gets hot in the desert (obviously) and you want to enjoy the weekend without burning and peeling of your skin because that’s not cute.

5. Bring a bandana to cover your mouth and face
Winds in the high desert can pick up an abundance of dust. Bring a bandana to cover your mouth and face from it, you don’t want to end up getting sick with black snot.

6. Wear comfortable shoes
You will be on your feet most of the time, dancing and walking from stage to stage. Make sure you wear shoes that you can walk all day in and don’t mind getting dirty.

Coachella

7. Pack a blanket
The Polo Fields is an actual field (surprise!) and is great for a picnic or laying down on the grass. It is relaxing to sit down and gaze up at the clouds while your favorite music artist is playing live music in the background. This part was a highlight of my Coachella experience. Weekend 1 typically will have grass but come Weekend 2, there is only dirt. Regardless, having a blanket to set on the floor and claim as your little area is nice to have. You can lay down or sit with friends without having to worry about bugs and dirt.

8. Keep an eye on your belongings
Phone thieves are at large. Make sure you store everything safely and tightly. It is best to keep your items in your front pockets if you don’t have a fanny pack or a bag. You don’t want your stolen items to ruin your experience.

9. Locate the flush restrooms
One thing I hate about festivals is the dreadful porta potties. Luckily, there are actual restrooms on site with many stalls and flushable toilets. HALLELUJAH! The bathroom facility is next to the Do Lab.

10. Germs and hygiene are a real thing
Nothing is worse than getting sick. When there are a lot of people congregating together, it is inevitable for germs to spread rapidly. Bring wipes and hand sanitizers because it can and will get dirty out there, especially if you are using the porta potties and sitting on the ground.

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11.Set a meetup spot and time stamp your texts
If you lose your friends or part ways, set meeting spots and times to catch up with them later. The reception will be spotty so make sure you time stamp your texts when checking where they are.

12. Purchase a battery pack and a cellphone charger
Your phone will drain battery life quickly with all of the photo taking and video recording. Make sure you have back up battery juice to meet up with friends and post your photos on Instagram (if you can get reception). If you don’t have a power bank, purchase one, it is a good investment. There are also outlets placed throughout the festival for you to recharge your electronics, but make sure you bring your wire.

13. Don’t forget to recharge
Often times you can get carried away at events that you forget to eat. This is important to keep yourself from fainting and feeling weak. Remember, Coachella is a marathon, not a sprint. Plus, the food at Coachella is actually pretty tasty (shout out to Crab Fries!).

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14. Let yourself be flexible
Don’t get too caught up with your schedules on who you want to see that you end up missing things that are happening around you. There are small surprises (such as special guests) that are sprinkled throughout the festival.

15. Be mindful of others
If you see someone in trouble, help get medical attention. After all, we are all human and we should look out for one another.
16. Most importantly, HAVE FUN and GET HOME SAFELY!

Coachella

Catch Flights, Not the Cold to the Windy City, Chicago

When you think of the largest cities in the United States of America, what comes to mind? If you thought of either New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago, you named one of the top 3 most populated areas of the U.S. These cities are on the top of everyone’s travel list. Each location has its own character and major iconic landmarks that everyone is aware of, as well as an abundance of things to see and do. Each city has its own characteristics and unique food scene.

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Before You Start Planning

Chicago experiences all four seasons, so be mindful on which type of weather you are most comfortable with. For me, great weather is when it is nice and sunny with temperatures in the 70s. However, I visited Chicago in February, which was 7 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing, the polar opposite of what I am used to.

Caution: Falling Ice

This made my experience a little tougher to enjoy. As a Californian, I have never experienced cold like that before and I know it can get worse. Make sure to check the weather before planning your trip. You don’t want to be caught in the Snowpocalypse like I did.

How Many Days is Recommended?

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All of the tourist items in Chicago are located in the Chicago Loop and can be finished within a day. The other days that you spend there can be used by being immersed in the culture and dining experience. Depending on how many restaurants you have on your list, I would say 2-4 days would be enough to experience Chicago.

Transportation

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There is public transit such as the trains called the ‘L’ and buses, which you can use to maneuver around the city. Having a car would be helpful but not necessary, it could also be a hassle due to parking. There are rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber, and also taxis available to take you to places outside of the city center if you do not rent a car.

Hotel Accommodations

For accommodations, there are many choices depending on what you are most comfortable with and where you want to stay. Hotels, Airbnbs, and hostels are spread throughout the city and can accommodate all budget types. I would suggest staying in the city near all of the food and entertainment so you can walk rather than drive or take a taxi everywhere.

On my trip, I purchased a packaged vacation for Southwest Airlines and the DoubleTree hotel located in downtown, central to everything.

Eat the Iconic Chicago Style Food: Deep Dish Pizza and Chicago-Style Hot Dog

First things first, food! The two most popular Chicago style foods are the deep dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dog. They are different than the average pizza and hot dog you have anywhere else.

You can’t go to Chicago without having a slice of a deep dish pizza. It is jam packed with cheese, not suitable for the lactose intolerant. The experience in it of itself is a food  awakening. The venues are dimly lit with tables seated close together, making it an intimate dining experience. The deep dish pizza is a process to make and requires time for preparation, thus it is necessary to allocate enough time to assemble. Pizza in Chicago is a table dining experience rather than a grab-and-go like other pizza hubs across the nation.

The two main competitors of the Deep Dish pizza are Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s. Lou Malnati’s, not to be mistaken as Illuminati, is only available throughout Chicago, whereas Giordano’s has expanded across the nation. It is often argued that Lou Malnati’s has a buttery crust whereas Giordano’s is soggy. Try both and decide for yourself which one you prefer!

The typical hot dog consists of a bun, hot dog link/sausage, ketchup, and mustard. The Chicago-style hot dog, however, comes with an all-beef Frank encased in a poppy seed bun with tomatoes, pickles, sport peppers, sweet relish, yellow mustard, and celery salt. I can eat these all day!

The Chicago-Style Hot Dog is available throughout the entire city, great for lunch, dinner or a quick snack. Some places you could get your hands on these delicious dogs are Superdawg, Gean & Jude, and Portillo’s which can be found throughout the country. The hot dog chain, Portillo’s has a ridiculous Chocolate Cake Shake that is for the fatties at heart, with a secret, unexpected ingredient… mayonnaise! There is an abundance of hot dog stands and shops that you can even do a Chicago-style hot dog crawl to deem which hot dog trumps the rest.

Don’t leave Chicago without trying these food items!

Shuffle and Fist Pump to House Music

“I must of went to house heaven… because nothing is that divine” – Divine by Jamie Antonelli

Chicago House Music

The birth of Chicago House, or simplified to House music, was right in the city of Chicago after the disco era. This gave rise to the nightlife and changed the sounds of dance music.

Nightlife in Chicago is similar to the nightlife in large cities like Los Angeles. There are clubs throughout the city where they let you in free of charge, all you need is their secret “password”. These are similar to being on the “guest list” in other parts of the country.

During my time in Chicago, I went to The Mid, which has the atmosphere of a warehouse party and Sound Bar. Unfortunately, I got wind that The Mid closed its doors in 2019. There are clubs and bars that still have their doors opened such as Stereo Nightclub.  

Chicago Loop

South of the Chicago River, the Chicago Loop is where most tourists flock.

Millennium Park

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With Chicago not having many places to sightsee for tourists, Millennium Park has been the center of tourist attractions. There are several art displays and statues you can stare at and try to make sense of what it is supposed to be. 

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate

Other than the Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago’s most iconic landmark, referred to as “The Bean”, is Cloud Gate. It is an art sculpture that turned into the most visited spot in the city. When you look in it or take a picture of it, it reflects the beautiful Chicago skyline of tall buildings. Go under it and take a look at your warped reflections.

Ice Skating 

 

During the winter season, a section of the park is turned into an ice skate rink. You can truly get into the spirit of the season by gliding around in the natural cold weather. Admission is free and open to the public. If you don’t have any ice skates, you can rent them on the spot for $13-15.

Crown Fountain

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A very silly fountain located in the vicinity of Millennium Park. It is an art display consisting of LED screens with the illusion of different people spewing water out of their mouths.

Buckingham Fountain

“Love and marriage, love and marriage. Go together like a horse and carriage.” Does this theme song sound familiar? It should! But for those unfamiliar, it is from the television show, Married with Children.

Not to be confused with the Buckingham Palace, Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world and has a cameo in the Married with Children title sequence. Just a stone’s throw away from Millenium Park (about a half mile walk), is another great opportunity to take another one of Chicago’s treasured architecture.

Willis Tower (Skydeck Chicago)

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Formerly known as the Sears Tower. If you ask any of the locals, they will point you to visit this. The Skydeck is most famous for the “The Ledge” where you can take photos of yourself sitting or standing on top of a glass that overlooks the city. 

Skydeck

To get here, you must buy admission tickets to go up the elevator that takes you to the 103rd floor. Once you get there, it is free to sit on top of the glass and take a photo. Worth a visit since the views are spectacular!

Navy Pier

Similar to many piers across the United States, Navy Pier is your typical pier with your average Ferris wheels, rides, and entertainment. However, it is on a much larger scale than Santa Monica Pier and the like. The Navy Pier also holds restaurants and the movie theaters. It is also large enough to host concerts and events.

Above and Beyond at Navy Pier

During my time in Chicago, I was able to purchase last minute tickets to see Above and Beyond, well-known Trance duo.

Chicago River

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Chicago is divided into 2 parts, North and South. The Chicago River is the body of water that divides the city. During the winter, the river is frozen and walking by it will make the wind feel like ice daggers.

Magnificent Mile

For all of your shopping and fashion needs is the Magnificent Mile, just north of the Chicago River.

John Hancock Tower (360 Chicago)

In lieu of the Willis Tower, you can view the city from the observation deck of the John Hancock Tower called 360Chicago. It is a shorter wait time and cheaper admission prices. For an extra cost, you can experience Chicago with a thrilling “ride”, TILT. This experience will tilt your body outward so you are at a 30 degree lean above the city. The only thing preventing you from falling is a glass window and the metal bars you hang onto on the side.

There is also a way around paying for the observation deck if you just go to the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor to grab a drink or dinner. Please be advised that the prices are a bit pricier due to the location and the cost of the view.

Chicago Water Tower

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Located in the Magnificent Mile neighborhood, the Chicago Water Tower is an interesting stop. This historical architecture is best viewed in the day time to capture its style and elegance. On the outside, it will probably take you a good 5 minutes to look at it and take a picture of. It is no longer used as an actual water tower but rather as a gallery to hold the photographs of the Water Tower.

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab 

Located in Magnificent Mile, Joe’s Seafood is one of the highest rated restaurants, where you can get surf and turf dinners. As stated in their name, they are known for their stone crabs. It is an upscale, fancy restaurant so don’t come in wearing shorts and sandals.

My experience was that it was nothing different from other steakhouses, it is similar to Ruth’s Chris and the like. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized that Joe’s Seafood has restaurants located in Las Vegas, and Washington D.C. as well. If you frequent Las Vegas and Washington D.C., I would save Joe’s Seafood for those cities and explore another restaurant only available in Chicago.

Devon Seafood Grill

Upscale seafood restaurant with an amazing happy hour! The oysters are only $1 and the fresh appetizers such as calamari are at very reasonable prices.

 

River North

The Purple Pig 

All pig dishes. All pig parts.

If you love eating pig, this is your place! If you don’t, like me, you will have trouble finding things to eat. They have all of the pig parts you can think of: pig ear, pig head, pig liver, etc. This is a tapas style restaurant where you should order multiple dishes and share them amongst your party.

We didn’t have any reservations before entering but was able to be accommodated. But as always, if possible, make reservations beforehand!

Bavette’s  

When you dim the lights to restaurants, that’s when you know they are fancy right? Bavette’s has the dimly lit, fancy restaurant feel. Not only that, the atmosphere and ambiance take you back to the old school, Chicago mob-life days. Bavette’s is designed as if you are in a speakeasy during the Prohibition era.

It is known as a steakhouse with all of its usual fixings such as steak, seafood and crab cakes paired with aesthetic cocktails you can enjoy. Bavette’s is one of the highest rated restaurants in Chicago and has recently opened another location in Las Vegas.

Eataly

An Italian marketplace where you can find Italian food and drinks. Eataly has your favorite Italian dishes such as pizza and pasta. And yes, there’s gelato! You can find a majority of your favorite Italian products here, whether you want to eat it in house or take it home to cook yourself. There are several locations available throughout the nation as well as worldwide. Nestled in large cities, Chicago is 1 of 5 locations in the U.S.

Five Faces Ice Cream Shop

To my disappointment, this place is not an actual ice cream shop. Five Faces Ice Cream Shop made up my disappointment by offering some of the best late night snacks. You can get a Chicago-style hot dog or some chili to help warm up the cold weather. The employees there are friendly and will joke around with you despite having to work graveyard shifts.

Fulton Market District

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The Fulton Market District is another gentrification story added to the history of the city of Chicago. When you are here, it is evident of what it used to be, meatpacking, industrial district. You will get a sense of the old and the new coming together to make it a more modern area filled with trendy restaurants such as Girl & The Goat, Little Goat Diner, Duck Duck Goat, and Au Cheval. It is rumored that the double cheeseburger at Au Cheval is something to rave about. But let me know if you think it is overhyped. As an added bonus, check out the Mcdonald’s new headquarters in this area!

The Publican

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Grab breakfast or brunch at The Publican. It is one of the modern restaurants located in the Fulton Market District with community style seating — meaning one very long table with seats facing each other. I had brunch here and personally it felt a little overpriced for what you get and our toast was burnt.

Make sure to grab reservations if you can as it gets extremely crowded during the mornings.

United Center  

Home of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks. Perfect for if you are a basketball or hockey fan. If there isn’t a game happening, you can still visit the United Center and pose with the statue of the apparent “best basketball player in history”, Michael Jordan. Also, you can see other statues of legends in hockey.

The Fun Doesn’t Stop Here

(Other Recommendations):

  • Dine at the Michelin-starred Alinea, a most well-known restaurant and sought after seat in Chicago

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  • Grab a late night snack at Jim’s Original, great hot dogs for when you have the drunchies. Not a Chicago-style hot dog spot, but a hot dog nonetheless.
    Bonus: All sandwiches come with fries!
  • Fan of the show “Shameless”? The Gallagher’s house is located in Lawndale, Chicago but it is in the bad area of town so if you truly need to visit, take your picture and GO! Do not linger around.

Oysters

  • Get happy hour oysters at Shaw’s Crab House

 

Road Trip to Las Vegas

It’s about the journey, not the destination.
If you are like me, you appreciate a good road trip. Although you could cut your time by 3/4th through flying, the fun is in the journey and the experience. Flying sometimes becomes more of a hassle than it’s worth due to security checks, lines, and waiting at the airport. It makes me want to throw everything into the trunk, take off, and feel the wind breeze in my hair. When you have time to spare and a driver, consider taking the car rather than a plane. It is a cheaper route of travel and you can just sit back relax.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is a popular vacation destination for those who are living in the neighboring state California. From Orange County, it should take about 4 hours on a good day. With Friday traffic, it could take a lot longer (almost double the time), sometimes you get a little restless and want to get out to stretch your feet and some fresh air. Here are a few interesting roadside attractions that you can stop at on your way to Sin City:

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368


Free to visit and serves as a great stop on the historic Route 66 on the way to Vegas, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is a unique art display made with recyclables.


Sometimes Elmer, the owner, will come out and talk to guests and tell them the history of items and how the Bottle Tree Ranch became to be. Be sure to say hi!

Barstow Station

1611 E Main St, Barstow, CA 92311

A popular rest stop for travelers on the I-15.

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As soon as the Greyhound buses, tour buses, and minivans park their vehicles, the doors begin to open, and floods of people make their way to the bathrooms and eateries to replenish their energy.

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Barstow Station, designed like a train station, serves as a stop for the hungry tourists with several fast food options available, McDonald’s, Panda Express, Subway, Wetzel’s Pretzels, and eateries. There are several of tourist shops with trinkets, candy, clothing items, souvenirs, novelty, and liquor store items as well to take a break from the road.

Peggy Sue’s 50 Diner

35654 Yermo Rd, Yermo, CA 92398

Signs plastered everywhere on the billboards on the way to Las Vegas, it is no surprise that Peggy Sue’s Diner is popular, watch out for the crowd! A 50’s themed American roadside diner serving American cuisine such as burgers, sandwiches, salads, and milkshakes, giving you a different experience than your average fast-food drive thru.

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Peggy Sue’s Diner serves as both a food stop and a road trip attraction. There is also a dinosaur display in the back, perfect for kids and the young at heart!

Calico Ghost Town

36600 Ghost Town Rd, Yermo, CA 92398

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Calico Ghost Town is a historic Western-themed mining town catered to kids and the cowboy enthusiasts. It is a true Ghost Town since no one actually visits but remnants of history that occurred in this area still remains. You pay when you enter through to the frontier with your vehicle to park.
Admission Fee: $8 per person.
Another good stop for the kids and to walk around to stretch your legs.

Eddie’s World

36017 Calico Rd, Yermo, CA 92398


A clean quick stop for everything you need. Drinks, ice cream, snacks, candy, and food. There’s an abundance of clean bathrooms, making it a comfortable rest area to rejuvenate.

 

Alien Fresh Jerky

72242 Baker Blvd, Baker, CA 92309

Alien Jerky

Beef jerky is a great road trip snack. You can get it on a quick stop in Baker at Alien Fresh Jerky. Alien Fresh Jerky plays on the gimmick that the beef jerky is actually made from “aliens”, which led them to great success. It used to be a small shack and grew due to its popularity, the store got a makeover by sprucing up their exterior, making it a pleasant road trip attraction. Alien Fresh Jerky is outer space-themed, selling novelty items based on aliens.

Alien Jerky

Inside, they sell chamoy flavored candy, nuts, hot sauces, novelty items, and of course, beef jerky. There are over 10 different types of beef jerky flavors to choose from.


My favorite is the Colon Cleanser, which is the spiciest beef jerky they carried. However, when I visited, it was nowhere to be found , except in Filet Mignon, which costs more.

Smokey’s Jerky

56383 Mojave Pointe Rd, Baker, CA 92309

Smokey's Beef Jerky

Smokey’s Jerky is Western themed with the logo of their store being a man with a pipe. I noticed the sign for Beef Jerky to Smokey’s on my drive to Alien Jerky.


Since Alien Jerky did not have my Colon Cleanser and the prices increased, I decided to check out Smokey’s instead. There are samples available and I got to try most of the flavors I was interested in.

Ghost Pepper Beef Jerky

I walked out with Ghost Pepper which is spicy but still tasty. I would recommend stopping by Smokey’s Jerky since it is a tad cheaper than Alien Jerky with different flavors and chilis.

Seven Magic Mountains

S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89054

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Colorful stacked rocks that you can see from afar before entering into Las Vegas territory. Seven Magic Mountains is a public art display, perfect for those Instagram photos. The parking and admission are free and is just a small walk on a rocky pathway from the parking lot.

Please respect the art and leave no trash behind to allow future visitors to enjoy them as well.

Happy Roadtripping!