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!

Road Trip Series: Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana the second stop on my 2018 Road Trip Series of my “Road to 50” bucket list item. I was on the road for about 2 hours from Louisville, Kentucky before I arrived and checked into my hotel for 2 nights at The Westin. I haven’t put much thought into Indianapolis or about the city, all I knew about Indianapolis was the Indy 500.

After checking into my hotel, I waited for my friend Johnny to drive 4 hours into town from Michigan. When he arrived he told me that Downtown was “poppin'” but the brief moments I was on the streets of Downtown Indy, I thought otherwise. Indianapolis is unlike any major cities, but it does have its charm. Regardless of Indianapolis being on the list of 10 most dangerous cities, I felt relatively safe in downtown since it was heavily patrolled by cops.

Accommodations: All of the events and fun is in Downtown, either on Mass Ave or inside Mile Square. I stayed at The Westin in the Wholesale District, a big area with restaurants and walking distance from all the main attractions.

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I recommend staying at The Westin since the rooms are affordable, clean, and convenient. The only complaint I had about it was our toilet was pretty weak (it took a while for the toilet to flush) and parking at the hotel is very costly, which leaves me with my quick tip (ok, maybe I had 2 complaints).

Tip: Street parking in Downtown Indy is convenient and will save you money from expensive hotel parking fees.

There are meters only in operation from Monday through Saturday from 7 am to 9 pm. Since we got in a little late, we only paid for the meter for about an hour right across the street from our hotel. In the morning, we would feed the meter for a couple of hours until we were ready to leave and explore the outskirts of Indianapolis. If you didn’t want to physically go to your car, you could also download the app and pay on your phone for your parking spot. This only cost me about $6-7 to park overnight until noon instead of $45 The Westin was charging.

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There are a number of cars that park on the street and I didn’t have any problems with any car theft. Just remember to hide your stuff and bring all of your valuables inside the hotel with you!

Transportation: If you don’t have a car readily available, most things are accessible on foot, but there are ride share services available throughout the city.

Night 1

After dropping off our luggage and finally reuniting after a year, on our first Friday night, we ventured out to have some fun and explore the nightlife of Indianapolis. Two places we were told to visit: Mass Ave and the Mile Square area. We started our journey to Mass Ave on the first Friday night, which felt a lot further than we thought.

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We passed by Monument Circle and noticed there was a car event going on. It was actually the Crown Rally!  There were many muscle and exotic cars to admire around the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

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When we got to Mass Ave, it was calmer of a Friday night than what I am used to. My first impression of Indianapolis is that it was weird AF. Mass Ave is a very chill street, calm and nobody turning up, yet I still found people throwing up on the side of the buildings and still having a good time. 

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We ended up at The Eagle for a drink, which I’m told has great food. Drinks in Indianapolis are very affordable and one thing I noticed is that guys here have no shame in ordering the girly drinks. So cheers to the dude who got the “Bubbles” drink!

We tried for a Jazz bar next but skipped it because of a cover charge. Instead, we decided to go grab a drink at World of Beer. Of course, we had to order some beer, drinks, and wings!

Here, we met some cool Indianapolis locals that we actually spent the rest of the night with. Our new friend thought Johnny looks like Jet Li. (Strange).

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World of Beer decided to close down 30 minutes before it’s actual closing time and we decided to take our party elsewhere to Goodfellas Pizzeria! We grabbed some pizza in the front and brought it to the speakeasy tucked away in the back. Wiseguy Lounge is not hard to find or well-hidden by a door or a secret password, but if you aren’t looking for it, you might not stumble upon it. 

Wiseguy Lounge is quiet yet classy with a business casual, upscale vibe. The lights are dim and the couches are comfy. The bartenders are awesome and the cocktails were great. Here, you will find a wide selection of bourbon, beers, and other beverages available. Sometimes they will have hard to find bourbon, like Weller 12!

Afterwards, we were offered a ride back from our friends and ended our first night (Yay! We didn’t have to pay for a Lyft back).

Day / Night 2

The next morning we dropped by Mass Ave again for lunch at BRU Burger that had pretty sizable burgers that left me feeling so full at the end. The burgers are affordable, priced from $8-13, but does not come with fries (most importantly). We got the Bru Burger and the Melt Your Face Burger. The Bru Burger is their standard burger, with cheese, bacon, tomato jam, caramelized bacon, chopped lettuce, and mayo. The Melt Your Face Burger is their spicy burger. I could always appreciate when a restaurant has a spicy option because I do like a spicy burger, even though this burger did not “melt my face off”.

Mass Ave is also known for all of the artistic things, so make sure to look around for sculptures or art displays.

Mass Ave Sculptures

Also how cute are these fire hydrants?!

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These “ndy” signs where you are the I is spread across town. Make sure to look up the locations where they place them.

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After lunch, we decided to explore the outskirts of Downtown Indianapolis since we had a car to get around.

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The first stop was Newfields: 100 Acres Art and Nature Park (4000 Michigan Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46208). There are several art displays located inside the park. It’s also a great place to get your morning jog in or to explore.

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This popular area for all ages to horseplay is called Funky Bones. You can climb on top of these platforms and jump from bone to bone.

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It wouldn’t be a park without the swings! The swings at 100 Acres is artsy, looks like you are swinging from a tree.

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Even the benches are art displays!

Head deeper into the center of the park, there is a little lake where you can seek tranquility.

After we were done with the park, we headed over to the Broad Ripple area. We were informed that this was a hipster area with a laid-back indie vibe.

Upon arrival, I have to admit that I was a little lost. There wasn’t a strip of stores or anything for you to wander. Everything’s a bit spread out, so if you don’t have a destination planned, you might get lost. But have no fear! Take some time to explore. The things you find will make your experience just that much sweeter!

Whenever I am in a new town, I like to grab a beer at the local brewery like Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company.  Here, you may get food to pair with your beer. I got the Trail Runner which is a Session IPA and the tasting notes were “Easy drinking, melon, tropical fruit” but… it was definitely not an easy drink. I would suggest to avoid this specific beer and try their other 9 beers available. The beers here are very reasonably priced (under $5 per pint).

Afterwards, we took a small stroll to see what other stores the Broad Ripple had to offer. There was a nightclub, comedy club, and vintage stores.

We got a little hungry and were told that the best wings are over at Chatham Tap. Off we go! Chatham Tap is a British pub filled with a wide variety of different beers from all parts of the world. The Prince Dean’s Angel wings are the ones everyone is ranting and raving about. In my opinion, the wings are good but they aren’t the best I’ve ever had. It is definitely worth a try though if you are looking for a snack!

Did you know Indianapolis has a Canal Walk?

The Canal Walk is a 3 mile-loop, perfect for a calm and casual stroll after a large dinner, walking the dog, biking, or paddling through the canal. Even though Canal Walk is in a residential area, there are still a few restaurants and attractions to check out.

City Market

Another place you can take a walk around is at the City Market. The best way to describe it would be an indoor farmers market with rows of food booths and other products. Unfortunately, when we got there it was closed down for a private event. However, it should be opened Monday through Saturday from as early as 7 AM until 9 PM.

Afterward, I stopped by to pick up a lavender cold brew at Pearings, which was recommended to me by a local. There are other items that are offered here like frozen yogurt, acai bowls, and smoothies.

Downtown Indianapolis has so much history every corner you turn. There are also plaques to inform you of what each statue represents and the history that took place there.

After wandering around the streets of Downtown Indianapolis, it was time for our dinner reservations at St. Elmo Steak House, which is rumored to be the best restaurant in Indianapolis and should not be missed.

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This restaurant was JAM PACKED, filled with people from all over the country and different walks of life. It is recommended to make reservations beforehand, otherwise, you will need to wait around for a very long time. The Baltimore Ravens were also in town since they had a game the next day and also had their dinner at St. Elmo’s that night, so you know it’s good!

While you wait, there is a speakeasy bar upstairs called 1933 Lounge. Here, you are able to order their famous shrimp cocktail and a drink, if you can find a seat. We got an old fashioned at the bar while we waited for our table and sat outside since it was impossible to find an area to claim.

When we finally got to our table, we ordered their World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail, Caesar salad, lobster bisque soup, and steak with drinks and wine.

While at the bar, talking to other patrons, they highly recommend the shrimp cocktail. Honestly, when I had it I thought it was just not for me, but if you love horseradish then you will definitely enjoy it.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal and set to paint the town red for my last night in Indianapolis.

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There aren’t many clubs or bars that were “poppin” in the Wholesale District, even on a Saturday night. The club scene at Indianapolis is not anywhere up to par with the ones in the major cities like Los Angeles. We hopped from place to place to find music that we enjoyed listening to, but there weren’t any to be found. All we stumbled upon is mainstream, radio hits songs blaring through the speakers of every bar and club.  

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We first went to Social since it was recommended by a friend that lives in Indianapolis. It was pretty empty but there was no cover charge. There was also bottle service here, which I found it to be kinda strange. The DJ was spinning in the corner with not more than 10 people on the dance floor. We also saw a bride and groom party it up here after their wedding. Drinks were about $10 each and they aren’t made very well here, so I suggest just getting shots.

We then left to try our luck at Revel Nightclub and we were told cover charge was $5, but then once we got inside they changed it on us to $10 a person (what?). The employees that we dealt with seemed pretty disrespectful as well. The drinks inside were cheap (about $5 per a small plastic cup), but the music was not very good. Actually, it was really bad. We were there for less than an hour and decided this wasn’t for us. The inside of Revel reminded me of a high school dance party; bad music and awkward dancing. It just didn’t feel like a proper nightclub to me. I would not recommend going here and wasting your time unless you’re into Top 40s.

We decided to make our way back to Mass Ave to try and redeem our busted night out. We went back to Goodfellas to grab a few slices of pizza, ate it, and made our way down the street to find an open bar. We were recommended by an employee to go to Mass Ave Pub but didn’t make it there. Instead, we ended our night at Ralston’s Drafthouse and got some MORE food and beers. The bartenders were super nice and awesome. The food was decent and the beers were good! I would definitely recommend this place for a casual night out.

Indianapolis is a cute, quaint town and great company can make wherever you are so much better.

Day 3

After checking out of our hotel, we went to grab breakfast/lunch at Mesh Restaurant.  

We ordered a bunch of appetizers along with main entrees such as chicken and waffles and chilaquiles. The best thing we had there was surprisingly the calamari. The other dishes were just okay but nothing to write home about. The dinner menu looks better and would recommend having dinner here rather than brunch.

After lunch, went to White River State Park to walk off our meal. Keep in mind you will need to pay for parking here even if the pay machine is broken! I saw a few cars get a parking ticket here thinking that they did not need to pay if the machine was broken. We just paid for an hour of parking to take a stroll around.

This area is filled with the usual park activities such as bike riding, running, and picnicking but also there are several photo opportunities available. When I was researching on places to captivate the charm of Indianapolis, I saw many engagement and family photos taken here. When I visited, it was also no different. There were many photographers spread throughout with their clients for headshots, family portraits, and wedding photos.

The sense of community in Indianapolis was on display when I spotted a cute community library where you take a book and leave a book.

Aside from the many Indianapolis outdoor events such as concerts that take place here, there are other permanent attractions that are available at White River State Park.  There is an IMAX Theater, Indiana State Museum, NCAA Hall of Champions and Indianapolis Zoo, just to name a few, all of which require admission fees to visit.

Final thoughts: The amount of time I allocated to visit Indianapolis was enough for me to see what the city had to offer. There were a lack of great ice cream stores and ethnic foods but everything was pretty affordable. I enjoyed my time here but was ready to move onto the next location, St. Louis, Missouri.

Get Weird in Portland, Oregon

You can feel the Portland vibe as soon as you take a look around you. Everyone has their own ways of presenting themselves and their own way of doing things. When I landed in PDX and walked out of the airport, I inhaled my first breath of fresh air. With Portland having a million trees, it may be one of the freshest breath of air you’ve ever had, if you’re coming from smog city, Los Angeles. Next, you’ll soon notice that people here are not caught up to the newest fashion trends, or have any sense of fashion at all. The way to best describe it would probably be “Hot Topic” fashion.

Places to See and Do

Admire Multnomah Falls

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Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon and the most popular natural attraction. You can view the waterfall from the parking lot or you can hike up to the bridge and view it from the top down. This place is CROWDED and packed with tourists, you might have trouble finding parking. Multnomah Falls is about 40 minutes from downtown so you would need a car to get there.

James Woodhill Park at Rocky Butte

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Opened from 5 AM to midnight, this is a nice romantic place to view the city lights below.

Go Shopping at the Nike Factory Outlet

I came to Portland with the impression that the outlet stores will have major discounts but when I dropped by here, I was pretty disappointed. The prices were the same as any other Nike Outlet stores I’ve been to, the only positive thing is that there is no sales tax!

Ride the Brewcycle

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Portland, Oregon has the largest brewery scene of any city in the world. With so many breweries and microbreweries, it is difficult to choose which ones you want to go to. I went on the Brewcycle, which is a fun way to tour the breweries and have means of transportation from place to place without the worry of driving. We went the Old Town route and had a great time, our guide was more than pleasant. All of the breweries we went to were fantastic. My favorite was Fat Head‘s Brewery where I got to try the Honey Blueberry Ale.

Go Brewery Hopping

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If you love beer as much as I do, Portland would be beer heaven. One of the more popular breweries is Deschutes Brewery. I remember picking up a 6-pack at my local Bevmo that was brewed by Deschutes Brewery, so it was cool to actually be visiting it. In Pearl District, there is an abundance of breweries that you should check out. A couple of them are Hopworks Urban Brewery, Rogue Distillery and Public House, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, and Upright Brewing just to name a few. There are breweries spread out all over Portland, it’s just a matter of which district you would like to visit and brewery hop in.

Stop by Vista House at Crown Point

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After your hike, make a stop to Vista House to catch a beautiful view of the Columbia River Gorge. There are restrooms here!

Hike to Wanchella Falls

If you’re anything like me, low risk, high reward hikes are my sort of thing. I will not hike 10 miles just to see a waterfall that I can hike 1 mile to see elsewhere. As you can guess, Wanchella falls is a short and easy hike (about 22 minutes) with a waterfall awaiting at the end. Best of all, nobody is around to bother you!

Forest Park

As the name should already describe it, Forest Park is a very LARGE and GREEN park filled with trees. Portland has a reputation for having trees all over and this park is no different from that. There is an abundance of hiking trails you can do but I thought the most interesting ones are Ridge Trail, Witch’s Castle and Wildwood Trail (which should be hiked in different parts).

Smell the Roses at the International Rose Test Garden

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Portland is full of nature, it’s no surprise here. Aside from the trees and the waterfalls that Portland has to offer, Portland also contains a lot of roses. In fact, one of the nicknames is the “City of Roses”. Close to Forest Park, this garden is full of rose bushes you can walk around during the bloom months. It is free to the public and best of all, free admission. Worth checking out! I was amazed by how many roses and different varieties there are.What a site to see! After all, you should stop and smell the roses.

Lan Su Chinese Garden and Portland Japanese Garden

It doesn’t just stop at International Rose Test Garden for all of the gardens in Portland. No, there is a handful of them but they are not free admission. Lan Su Chinese Garden and Portland Japanese Garden are both near the International Rose Test Garden and cost $10 and $15 per adult respectively. If you are a student, there is a reduced student admission price.

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade

School your friends in video games or play retro arcade games. Reminisce your days of growing up with pinball machines and throwback 70s-90s games. Do what you were not able to do as a child and knock back a few drinks while challenging your friends, as Ground Kontrol is a barcade.

Strip Clubs

Alongside breweries, Portland is known to have a crazy amount of strip clubs, the most per capita in the great country of the U.S. of A. It is arguably said that Portland even has the best strip clubs in America. There is literally a strip club for any types of people. Next door to Voodoo Donuts, I stumbled into Kit Kat Club. It wasn’t like anything that you normally see in Las Vegas or the like. They actually have a lot of talent and strength. It was more like a show than a sleazy strip club with perverted men. There are some strip clubs that you can have a steak dinner inside, such as Acropolis Club.

Places to Eat

Portland Oregon

Breakfast

The Waffle Window

Looking for a quick breakfast? Do you like waffles? Head over to The Waffle Window where you can choose savory or sweet options. Daily specials are also available aside from their main menu. There is indoor seating available or you can take your waffles to go. Opens at 8 AM daily.

Pine State Biscuits

If you don’t like waffles, maybe biscuits are more your thing. Pine State Biscuit is one of the popular breakfast joints in Portland, so expect to be waiting in a long line. They are serving up fluffy biscuits and gravy at 7 AM daily.

Screen Door

Very, very busy restaurant! I had this place on my itinerary but we were unable to wait for a table here. Word on the street is, this place has some BOMB chicken and waffles!

Blue Star Donuts

If you eat donuts for breakfast, head on over to Blue Star Donuts to get artisan flavored donuts. Aside from the famous Voodoo Donuts, Blue Star Donuts is a Portland native that has made its way to Los Angeles and has multiple locations. Blueberry Bourbon Basil is one of the most interesting and popular donuts they have. If that doesn’t sound appetizing to you, there is a good variety for you to choose from. Be expected to pay about $3 a donut though. I went a bit crazy the first time I came here and thought the donuts were just “okay”. But I think I chose the wrong flavors.

Tasty n Sons

Tasty n Sons, another cool and hip restaurant to get your day started. They also are serving up dinner as well, since they are opened for over 12 hours of the day. The Burmese Red Pork Stew seems to be a popular pick amongst patrons.

Lunch / Dinner

Pok Pok

If you haven’t heard of Pok Pok before, you haven’t done your research into the food scene of Portland. This Thai cuisine establishment was made popular through the fish sauce wings being “the best wings of Portland”. I had lunch here with my friends when I visited and we had quite a wait. Truthfully, we thought the only decent thing was the wings and even that, we thought was a bit too salty. Maybe we had it on an off day, maybe not but we weren’t too crazy for the food.

Pok Pok, another Portland native that tried to venture out to Los Angeles, unfortunately, did not translate well to the diners of Los Angeles and eventually closed.

Nong’s Food Cart

Food carts are all the rage in Portland. One of the more popular food carts is Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which is known for its Hainan chicken. There are multiple locations so it’s a greater chance that you will be nearby one to have for lunch. Also, check out neighboring food carts to get the food tasting tour experience.

Cartlandia

Similar to the previous recommendation of Nong’s food cart, Cartlandia (8145 SE 82nd St.) is a place where food trucks meet. There is also a beer garden where you can sit and have a brew with the food you purchased. One of the interesting things there is the lobster mac and cheeseburger from Melt it! Aside from Cartlandia, there are a LOT of food carts to choose from in Portland. Check out this link for more.

Por Que No? Taqueria

I’m not sure how Mexican food tastes in Portland, but I would give Por Que No? Taqueria a try if I was craving some tacos. All taquerias should serve agua frescas and when they do, it’s a plus in my book. In addition to that, Por Que No? is serving up some tasty margaritas! There is also happy hour here from 3 – 6PM daily!

Bollywood Theater

Bollywood Theater first sounds like somewhere I can watch some Bollywood, but no it’s an Indian restaurant serving up Portland’s Indian burrito called “Paneer cheese Kati roll”. THAT looks amazing, along with their other dishes.

Podnah’s Pit BBQ

Get your Frito pie here at Podnah’s Pit BBQ! If you’ve never had real BBQ before, Podnah’s would be a good beginner but I was no rookie to BBQ so I thought Podnah’s is, unfortunately, skippable. My friends and I were running around town finding a place to sit down and eat dinner as soon as possible. Podnah’s was the only place we didn’t have to wait 1 hour to be seated. The service was great and the Frito pie was alright.

TILT

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Great place to grab a burger and a beer. TILT has a fun mechanic theme with shop towels instead of paper napkins to save trees. Don’t leave without grabbing a slice of their delicious pies.

Little Big Burger

Little Big Burger is a chain burger joint with multiple locations in Portland. The burgers are a small size, about 2-3 bites worth, but they are BIG in flavor. In order to be full, I think I would need to eat 3 burgers worth. Good to try, pretty tasty but can get expensive. Little Big Burger reminds me of In-N-Out due to its very simple menu and similar pricing. However, one thing different is the cheese is pepper jack instead of American cheese. If I had to pick though, I’d choose In-N-Out burgers any day. The truffle fries, on the other hand, beats In-N-Out fries. Be sure to give Little Big Burger a try and remember to get the truffle fries with catsup and fry sauce.

Cruzroom Taco Lab

Infused vodka flights?! COUNT ME IN! Happy hour is available every day of the week except Sundays.

Lardo

Get your sandwich fix here! Lardo is a solid place in Portland for you to enjoy your choice of meat between two slices of bread. Be sure to pair it with some dirty fries, as they are a hit here at Lardo.

Toro Bravo

If tacos aren’t your thing, maybe some Spanish cuisine is? If so, check out Toro Bravo for dinner as it is a tapas bar! Small place so seating is extremely limited. My friends and I tried to get a seat here for dinner but the wait was extremely long and we were extremely hungry so we decided Toro Bravo would maybe be best for another time.

Apizza Scholls

I have never met anyone that hated pizza, nor would I care to. At Apizza Scholls, you can build your own pizza or select one of the house pies they created. It is a New York style pizza joint with the best ingredients to make your pie a delicious one. So what are you waiting for? Head on over to share a pie with your friends.

Dessert

Salt & Straw Ice Cream

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Salt & Straw has been so widely popular that it began to open locations in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, still, a good place to try different flavors of ice cream.

Fifty Licks

If you want to go a different route for ice cream besides Salt & Straw, try Fifty Licks. This place has more of the original flavors as well as different, interesting flavors such as Lavender Mint Chip and Thai Rice!

Happy Hour

In my opinion, Portland lacks a nightlife unless you are into Strip Clubs, so your best bet to having a night out is just hanging out at the bars. Perhaps catch some late night happy hour specials while you’re at it. Here are some happy hours I’ve noted while planning my itinerary:

The Observatory

Happy hour is available here from 10 to close.

Slow Bar

Happy Hour is available here from 12 midnight to 2:30 AM

Victory Bar

Happy hour is available here from 5 – 6 PM (daily) as well as 11 PM-Midnight (Tu-Sat)

Mother’s Bistro and Bar

212 SW Stark St.

Happy Hour is available from 3 – 7 PM (Tu – Fri) with $3.95 plates when you purchase any beverage.

If you have any questions or believe that I missed something major, please leave it in the comments below!