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

 

The Best of Corona, California

Corona is a city located in the Inland Empire area of California.  It is home to residents who love the 91 freeway and sitting in traffic for over an hour to commute to work every day. In all seriousness, Corona is the best place to live when you are trying to own a big home but can’t afford to pay Orange County prices (as it is just east of Orange County).

Located in Riverside County, Corona is transforming its agricultural community into a suburb. The last of the cow farms are getting driven out to make way for new residential areas. While newly built homes are being developed sporadically, the city is still continually trying to catch up with the development of restaurants and entertainment to appease its residents.

Finding great places in Corona can be tough due to the lack of options but I have found some great places that I am willing to share with you! I will also share my experiences with places that fell a bit short for me. But don’t let that deter you away from giving these places a chance and trying them for yourself.

Tried and True

Restoration Roasters

One of my favorite places in Corona!

Restoration Roasters is a coffee shop located next to a church. It has blessed Corona with their crafted specialty coffee and teas. This is the best option to get your caffeine fix and has a variety to satisfy patrons running on low energy.

Some of my favorite items are the blueberry matcha, Mexican coffee, and the cold brew flight. The cold brew flight comes with 3 different types of cold brew with a sparkling water to cleanse your palette for only $5! What a steal!

Mojo’s Express Coffee

Mojo's Express Coffee

Not your average coffee shop, Mojo’s Express Coffee is a small shack in the middle of a parking lot. There is no inside area where you can sit and sip your coffee as it is simply a drive-thru. Think Starbucks Coffee drive thru without the Starbucks lobby and the mediocre coffee.

Mojo’s has everything from your typical coffee and tea to specialty drinks, such as their delicious Banana Foster Ice Blended drink. There is a small selection of pastries and food, which makes Mojo’s a great stop for your breakfast needs.

Southern Maid Donuts

When I am in Corona craving for a donut, Southern Maid Donuts is the only place I will go. Arguably better than Krispy Kreme, but given that there isn’t any Krispy Kremes nearby, Southern Maid Donuts is safe to stay. The original glaze, when it’s fresh and eaten right away, is delicious. The blueberry and strawberry flavors are skippable as they taste very artificial but the cinnamon roll donuts should be added to every dozen.

Be mindful of their store hours as they do close early!

Taqueria 2 Potrillos

Corona is generally pretty diverse with all of the cuisines available to somewhat satisfy your basic cravings. However, one can feel like the taste falls short compared to other foodie areas. While I am originally from Santa Ana, I was weary about how Taqueria 2 Portrillos will fall among my taste test. Surprisingly, I am a fan!

Menu at Taqueria 2 Portrillos

Taqueria 2 Portrillos feels and tastes authentic. They offer a variety of items including tortas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and combination plate along with a variety of meats that include asada, adobada, carnitas, chorizo, birria, pollo asado, chicharron and buche (see above for part of the menu).

Salsa bar at Taqueria 2 Portrillos

The food is only part of what makes up a great taqueria. The other part is based on their salsa bar! Taqueria 2 Portrillos does not skimp on this. Just take a look at their offering above! It is equipped with different salsas, onions, cilantro, carrots and jalapenos for you to choose the right amount suitable for your tacos.

Tacos at Tacqueria 2 Portrillos

I recommend trying all of the meats they have to offer, especially the Al Pastor! Make sure to get one of their agua frescas, it’s delicious and refreshing!

Taqueria Los Arcos

A small restaurant with freshly cooked meats that aren’t sitting in silver tins under a heat lamp. If you dine in, you get free chips and salsa while you wait.

I got the al pastor and asada tacos. The tacos were priced fairly and the meat was very flavorful. The place is fairly new but it is definitely worth a try. The only downside is that there is no salsa bar, so they add the salsa on top of your tacos already for you. While the asada was good, I’d recommend the al pastor over the asada. I never got around to trying the other meats but I will certainly be back!

Norco’s Best Burgers

Norco's Best Burgers

A typical burger joint, before the time of fast food burgers came to life. You order at the counter, listen for your number to be called, sit down and eat! Norco’s Best Burgers is a tier above fast food restaurants and a tier below gourmet burgers. The price also lands somewhere in-between but the portions are HUGE! The Pastrami Burger and fries are probably enough to split between 2 people.

Baker’s

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A fast-food chain only available in the Inland Empire. Baker’s has been serving up burgers since 1952 and is a great alternative to the average McDonald’s and other national fast food chains. What sets Baker’s apart from McDonald’s is that they claim to be “America’s First Twin Kitchen”, meaning they serve both American and Mexican food.

They have a large menu to choose from whether you’re feeling burgers and fries or burritos. I always get the Papa #1 when I go and power size it to get a larger drink and fries. Then I take the fries and dip it in their spicy ketchup, which is not actually spicy. Quick and affordable for those who are on the go!

TAPS Fish House and Brewery

TAPS is another chain restaurant in Southern California and the Corona location is the second restaurant opened within the chain. There was something about this specific TAPS location, the service, and the food that made my visit a great one. Everything coincides with each other so well and so precisely. Happy hour is also offered here and the food is fantastic for a fair price. After you are done with your meal, there is a small lake outside that you can take a relaxing stroll with the breeze in your hair.

Punjabi Tandoor

Punjabi Tandoor in Corona, CA

The highest rated place to get Indian food in Corona. There is a lunch express option, even available on the weekends! There are different levels of spicy curry that you can choose from and the naan is made fresh and from scratch. One combo is enough to share between two people but if you are riding solo be prepared to have some delicious leftovers for dinner.  I was craving Indian food so this was good enough to satisfy my cravings.

Curry House Express

Now, I’m no Indian food connoisseur but I did enjoy the Chicken Tiki Masala and the Malai Kofta I ordered at Curry House Express. The cherry on top of my lunch was the garlic naan to dip with curry. DO upgrade your naan for $.50 extra to the garlic naan! You won’t regret it!

Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar

Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar

Bordering Corona and Riverside, Anchos Southwest Grill and Bar should not be missed. As you walk in, you are greeted with a homey feel, like you just walked into a restaurant in another country.

It is recommended to try one of the fajitas or combination plates. The food is delicious and Anchos gives you a massive portion. Be prepared to have leftovers if you order a plate for yourself. The food comes out piping hot and sizzling on a hot plate! So you know for sure that the food is made to order.

While Anchos specializes in fajitas, the real magic lies in their handmade tortillas. These hot and fresh tortillas are made with love and are surely the showstopper of the meal. The service was also top notch. As I celebrated my birthday here, they gave me strawberry ice cream and had other employees come out to sing for me! I always feel awkward when I am getting sung to but it was a sweet gesture.

The service was attentive and friendly. The atmosphere was clean and bright. What more could you want? Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar is the perfect package for a pleasant dining experience.

Sons of Liberty

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Sons of Liberty is located in Norco and is 1 out of 3 breweries in the area, as the rest of the breweries are located in Riverside. I’m puzzled why there aren’t more breweries in Corona.

Sons of Liberty is tucked away in a business center in a small space with tables and chairs available to drink. It has a relaxed atmosphere with its quietness and small candles that dimly lit the place. The design in the brewery goes very well with the theme with nice decor. The beers were refreshing and it was convenient that they had beer flights, which came in a fun beer holder.

Okay, but not great.

Super Taco

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Not your average size street tacos. These are bigger tacos, perhaps… super tacos? Since the tacos are a larger size, the price is about $2 per taco but it is more bang for the buck considering the amount of meat you get. Per usual, I ordered the asada and al pastor tacos and an all meat burrito. When they mean “all meat”, they mean “all meat” and nothing extra. The meat was a little on the dry side and was not very flavorful like I hoped. They do have a salsa bar but it was very difficult to grab things from it and the salsas were a bit lacking in spice and flavor. Great value if all you’re trying to accomplish is to get full. Okay, but not great.

Seven Seas

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Thai food is always a hit or miss and unfortunately, Seven Seas was a bit of a miss for me. The food and the service were lacking. I got the chicken wings, Pad Thai, Thai Boat noodles, larb and Roti Roti for dessert. All of which was standard to mediocre and was lacking the spice that the Thai cuisine is most known for. Seven Seas did not have an authentic, traditional Thai food taste that I was looking for. It wasn’t as flavorful and lacked the aroma of Thai chilis.  You are able to choose on a scale of 1-10 and at a level 8 spice level, the spice was very nonexistent. Okay, but not great.

Badlands BBQ

It is very difficult to find a great place for BBQ in California as the craft has not yet been perfectly mastered. Badlands BBQ takes a commendable stab at providing Norco with brisket, ribs and other meats. The brisket was made right as it was soft and almost butter-like melt in your mouth taste. The Jalapeno Mac n Cheese was the most favorited meanwhile, the other items were just average. The BBQ sauce was provided to adjust it based on preference and there is a Habenero BBQ sauce available (not spicy). Okay, but not great.

The Hot Dog Shoppe

The Hot Dog Shoppe is a popular place among the Corona community with its “Homewrecker Big Dog Challenge”. This consists of three 0.8 pounds of all beef Angus dogs covered in chili cheese, pepper mix, and habanero salsa for $25.99. If you complete the challenge, you win a t-shirt, your own hot dog creation on their menu, and your picture on their “Wall of Fame”. Do you have what it takes?

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I didn’t, so I just ordered a hot dog from their menu. There were just so many different hot dogs to choose from that it eventually became overwhelming. The employees are welcoming and will help you with your decision. The one I randomly chose didn’t feel like it combined well together, but rather a large array of different flavors on a hot dog. I was told that the Hot Dog Shoppe had great mac and cheese. Luckily, I was able to sample it to determine that it wasn’t for me. The texture was rather mushy and soft than held together, as I prefer.

If you’re looking for a hot dog joint with bold topping combinations, The Hot Dog Shoppe is your place.

Tip: Sometimes they have Groupons available so check for it if you want to save some money before going.

Black Horse Tavern and Grill

1406-2018-01224696810231064.jpegThere is a lack of restaurants that serve happy hour daily from Monday – Sunday. Black Horse Tavern and Grill fortunately does! There are drink and food specials from $3 – $5.50 served from 3 – 7 PM Monday – Friday, 11 AM – 4 PM Saturday, and all day Sunday. Although these prices are hard to beat, the food was very average. This was a prime example of you get what you pay for.

There is a bar in the center of the restaurant with tables surrounding. It is definitely a place you could drop by to a have a drink with some friends. Although happy hour missed the target, I would definitely recommend trying the main entrees aside from their appetizers to get a better idea of what Black Horse Tavern and Grill has to offer.

Mouthful of Kyoto

Kyoto is known as the City of a Thousand Shrines and is certainly an appropriate name for this city. It takes a motivated individual to be able to visit all of the temples and shrines that Kyoto has to offer. Luckily, there are several of sights and activities fit for everybody’s interests. I’ve compiled them and put them in a list for you below. Let’s begin, shall we?

Yamazaki Whisky Distillery

Japan’s famous distillery, Suntory Yamazaki, is heaven to all whisky drinkers. This is a MUST if you are a whisky aficionado because you can buy full sized bottles and goods straight from the factory at a lower price. Stores outside would charge a higher price for the same bottles for a profit and also due to other costs such as shipping and inventory. At Yamazaki Whisky Distillery, you can see the process of whisky and how it is made through a tour of the facility with a tasting at the end. Admission prices range from free to ¥2,000 depending on which type of tour you are interested in. Highly recommend!

Iwashimizu Hachimangu (Shinto Shrine)

An old grand shrine between Kyoto and Osaka. If you are taking the train from Osaka to Kyoto or vice versa, this would be a nice shrine to stop by on the way prior to visiting the City of a Thousand Shrines. 

Fushimi Inari Taishi

 

A very famous tourist attraction featuring a long line of torii gates placed next to each other. It feels like an endless tunnel of orange gates. Although it is opened 24 hours, it is recommended that you go early in the morning (before 10 AM) or later in the evening when the crowds die down. Otherwise, you will be herded along like cows through the narrow path of shrines. If all fails, make your way up the mountain because the higher you go, the fewer people are around. The hike to the top and back is about 2-3 hours but you are welcomed to turn around anytime your legs feel like they’ve had enough.

Kiyomizu Temple

At the Kiyomizu Temple, there is an Otowa waterfall with 3 streams to drink from representing different things: longevity, success, and love. Whichever stream you drink from, the fortune you will receive. You can visit the Kiyomizu Temple during the day from 6 AM – 6 PM or during the night for Illuminations at 6 PM – 11 PM. There is an entrance fee of ¥400.

Taiho-An Tea House

1-5 Uji-tougawa Uji City, Kyoto

If you love matcha as much as I do and are looking for a legitimate tea ceremony, Taiho-An is one of the many tea houses in Kyoto you can visit. At this particular tea house, you will be able to see how matcha is made in front of your eyes and be able to taste the tea as it is freshly stirred and served. There is an entrance fee of ¥500.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

 

When most people visit Kyoto, the two attractions everyone visits are Fushimi Inari Taishi and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. At this hot spot, you will find rows and rows of bamboo along both sides creating a walkway as you make your way through the bamboo forest. This is known as the path of bamboo, “Chikurin-no-Michi”. Like skyscrapers, the stalks of bamboo towers over you making you feel insignificant. The magic and beauty of this bamboo forest will make it difficult to resist capturing a photo. So go for it, take out your camera and take a million photos of the vast collection of bamboo trees.

Although the bamboo forest can get a little eerie feeling at night, Arashiyama is available for visit 24 hours of the day. Plan your trip accordingly as the only source of light is from the sun, making you feel closer to Mother Earth and all of her nature.

Jishu Jinja Shrine

1-317 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

This shrine is dedicated to love. It is believed that closing your eyes and walking from one love stone to another will bring true love… just don’t run into other things or people. There are many young people who come to this shrine to try their luck at love, so it is recommended to come as early as possible to avoid crowds and have fewer obstacles that may deter you from your goal. Hours: 9 AM -5 PM (gate open)

After you accomplish your wishes, walk through the Ishibe Alley to get to the Kodai-ji Temple. 

Kodai-ji Temple

Another temple in Kyoto that is often overlooked by tourists and surrounded by various gardens, such as rock gardens and Tsukiyama style garden. Not only are the museums and temples charming to look at, even the paths that connect the buildings are delightful, such as the bamboo groves, Chikurin-no-Michi, that pave the way. Kodai-ji Temple is available for visiting from 9 AM – 5:30 PM during the daytime. There is also a special entrance for Illumination from sunset to 9:30 PM. The entrance fee is ¥600 (Kodaiji and Sho Museum) / ¥900 (Kodaiji, Sho Museum, and Entokuin).

Maruyama Park

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This is the oldest park in Kyoto and a gorgeous place for a perfect view of the cherry blossoms. Food stalls with tables and chairs are available to admire the beauty of the seasons. There is no entrance fee and opened 24 hours for viewing.

Shoren-in

In Higashiyama, near downtown areas of Kawaramachi and Gion, grounds are lit up for Illuminations. There is an entrance fee of ¥500 for 9 AM – 5 PM and ¥800 for seasonal evening illuminations.

Gion Tatsumi Bridge

For the most picturesque place in Gion and a popular area for cherry blossom, Gion Tatsumi Bridge is the place to go! 

Nishiki Market

 

Nicknamed Kyoto’s Kitchen. You can go shopping for a variety of things here, mostly food-related items. You can buy groceries to take home or fresh seafood to eat on the spot.

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Everything is locally produced and procured so you’ll be able to taste the wonders of Kyoto all in one spot. The area is crowded with locals and tourists so it can get pretty busy from time to time. The hours are 9 AM – 6 PM.

Eat ramen at Ippudo Nishikikouji

653-1 Bantoya-cho, Higashinotoin, Nishikikoji higashi iru, Nakagyo-ku

I was so in love with the Ippudo in New York, I had to try the Ippudo from Japan. Only a  block from the Nishiki market, you can slurp ramen from 11 AM to 2 AM at Ippudo Nishikikouji, if you haven’t had the chance to in Fukuoka. Try the Akamaru New Ramen (¥800) or the Shiromaru for a lighter Tonkotsu broth.

Nijojo (Nijo Castle)

There is no shortage of areas for you to view cherry blossoms during the month of March and April. One of which includes the Nijo Castle, where there is a dedicated cherry blossom area. The hours are 8:45 AM – 5 PM and there is an entrance fee of ¥600 to enter.

Tetsugaku-no-michi (Philosopher’s Path)

 

Take a tranquil stroll through Philosopher’s walk to gain some wisdom and to view the cherry blossoms. It is a path runs goes along a canal and is filled with hundreds of cherry blossom trees. When the trees are in full bloom you will be able to see a series of cherry blossom trees so be prepared for the crowds when the time comes.

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Pay attention to the beauty around you as you are on your journey to your destination, there is elegance everywhere you turn.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Nakamura Tokichi Honten

10 Uji Ichiban, Uji City, Kyoto

Love matcha? Love dessert? This is the perfect place for you! Here you will find all things matcha including tea, noodles, and ice cream. Get the cold Matcha Zenzai, which is matcha jelly with matcha balls.. the perfect Japanese dessert! Also, the matcha parfait is very popular and delicious.

Hours: Tea Shop 10:00-17:30 / Cafe 11:00-17:30 (last order at 17:00)

Eat at ALL the McDonald’s!

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One of my FAVORITE things to do while I am traveling to another country is trying the local McDonald’s to see their offerings. I’ve had some pretty surprisingly delicious things at McDonald’s, so don’t just overlook them next time you go traveling abroad. Pop in and check one out to see if they have anything unusual yet intriguing to try! (Post for another time the various items I’ve had at different McDonald’s locations.)

More Shrines and Temples:3004-2018-1026116910321538832.jpeg

  • Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
    • Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
    • Entrance fee: 400 JPY
  • Shimogamo Shrine
    • Hours: 5:30 to 18:00 (summer) / 6:30 to 17:00 (winter)
    • Entrance fee: Free
  • Kibune Shrine
    • Hours: 6 AM – 8 PM
    • Entrance fee: Free
  • Kurama-dera Temple
    • Entrance fee: 200 JPY
  • Chion-in Temple
    • Entrance fee: Free
  • Tenryu-ji Temple Arashiyama
    • Entrance fee: Free
    • Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM

Other Recommendations:3004-2018-1029116913113650204.jpeg

  • Read Japanese comic books at Kyoto International Manga Museum
  • For a legitimate wagyu beef experience, go Hafuu Honten for lunch or dinner. There is also a tasty take-out wagyu beef cutlet sandwich available.
    • Address: 471-1 Sasaya-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-city (located on Fuyacho-street, and Ebisugawa-street to the north
    • Hours: 11:30 – 1:30 PM lunch / 5:30 -9:30 PM dinner – closed Wednesdays
  • Make sure to grab small snacks wherever you go, even if they look funny.
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  • See the Geishas at the popular Gion Street
  • Sip on some tea at the Tea House at the summit of Mt. Yoshida

HAPPY TRAVELING AND EATING!