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

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:

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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!

Wolf Mountain Sanctuary

Channel your inner Taylor Lautner, wait is he even relevant anymore? Whether you’re Team Jacob or Team Edward, there’s a Wolf Sanctuary in Lucerne Valley, California, east of San Bernardino.

 

Perfect for an offbeat day trip in Southern California!

How to Get There: By car. It is a little difficult to get to since there are roads that are less traveled and a hidden dirt path. You can’t enter in the address into Google Maps since you will most likely lose reception and the place is not easily found. Instead, follow the GPS coordinates provided to you after you make your reservations.

Tip: You can download Google Maps ahead of time and use it offline when you lose signal.

What You Need to Do: Aforementioned, you need to call and make reservations. More information about your visit on their website here. There is a $25 mandatory donation fee to help provide and maintain the wolves. You can also bring treats for them as well, we brought carrots.

What to Expect:

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  • Meet and greet the wolves. Cameras are highly encouraged (just remember to turn off flash!)
  • Learn the history of the Wolf Mountain Sanctuary
  • Tour the Vicinity

My Experience:

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Judging by the reviews online, I got to see both sides of the experience. On the surface, it’s great if you want to interact with wolves but also I can see why people call it “Wolf Mountain Scamtuary”.

After a 2 hour drive from Orange County to Lucerne Valley, my friend and I arrived on time to our appointment, checked in, and was told to wait by the chairs. We sat around waiting for others to join us and began to just observe everything that was happening around us. Aside from the wolves, there were other animals on site too, such as a cat.

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We started off our 1 hour tour with meeting the wolf and taking turns petting it and taking pictures with it. The other party in our group got to go first and had such awesome photos with it. However, when it was our turn, the wolf was uninterested and decided to lay down and fall asleep. You never know what type of mood they will be in so prepare for all outcomes. I suggest trying to go first if there are other people in your party. I didn’t get the photos that I wanted to take but I had to make do.

 

After about 20 minutes or so, we moved onto the tour. The tour around the vicinity was like walking around a zoo, looking through cages at the wolves, with a tour guide to tell the story behind each wolf. Most of the wolves are saved from after Hollywood movie productions or from people who tried to raise and domesticate wolves illegally.  These wolves had to find refuge somewhere and Wolf Mountain Sanctuary is their new found home. 

 

The overall experience took about an hour, give or take. The experience is unique if you want to get up close with a real wolf but can be a little disorganized. Every visit is a mixed bag, you will never know which tour guide you will be getting and the quality of the experience.

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How to decide whether or not Wolf Mountain Sanctuary is worth the visit for you:

If you like the zoo and you love wolves, give Wolf Mountain Sanctuary a visit.

If you are sensitive about animals and believe that animals shouldn’t be locked up in cages even if they will be helpless and die out in the wild, avoid Wolf Mountain Sanctuary at all costs.

Happy Adventuring!

 

6 Things You Must Do When Visiting Orange County, California

Orange County is the chillaxed surfer brother of the busy and overcrowded Los Angeles. Often times, Orange County is mistaken to be Los Angeles due to Los Angeles’s popularity. Although the O.C. is just south of L.A., the vibes, people, traffic, and parking situations are in their own world.

Here are 6 things you must do when visiting Orange County:

 

1. Slurp up Pho at Pho 79

As Orange County is one of the highest Vietnamese populated areas, Vietnamese food here will be some of the best you’ve ever tasted. The competition for Pho, especially, is very stiff as there are Pho shops at every corner of the Bolsa area.

For those who aren’t familiar with pho, it is a Vietnamese noodle soup, typically made with beef stock broth, noodles, and meat or chicken. On top, Vietnamese herbs and bean sprouts are usually added.

You can’t go wrong with most of the Pho restaurants in the Westminster area, the one that is most frequented is Pho 79 and is personally my favorite place to get a steaming hot bowl of Pho. Be warned though, there is regularly a wait, but if you take a look around you, there are mostly Vietnamese people waiting. You know you’re in the right place if you see people of that cuisine to happily wait for something they can get elsewhere.

Pho 79 is the first pho restaurant to be recognized with a prestigious James Beard Award. 

 

 

 

2. Bite into Spring Rolls at Brodard

All spring rolls are made equally, right? Wrong. Brodard spring rolls take it to another level with their Nem Nuong rolls and their delicious secret orange sauce. Their Nem Nuong spring rolls are filled with fresh herbs, pickled daikon, and carrots, perfectly grilled pork sausage, and finish it off with a crunchy fried onion eggroll. Leveraging off of the #1 on this list, Vietnamese food in Orange County is SO DELICIOUS. It would be such a shame to visit without trying at least a bowl of Pho, Bun Bo Hue, or the famous Brodard spring rolls.

Brodard used to be unassumingly behind Fortune Mall but now has made its way to a restaurant next to Miles Square Park. It is typically always busy here, despite their constant increases in prices. It may not look like much but it is packed with flavor, crunch, and savory goodness. I would recommend calling before and ordering for pick up if you are in a hurry.

 

 

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3. Eat Tacos at Just About Anywhere

Within Orange County lies the city of Santa Ana, highly populated with Hispanics. There is an abundance of taquerias, taco trucks, and taco stands to satisfy every taco craving. Not all tacos are made the same. There are differences in the tortilla, meats, size, how it’s cooked and seasoned.

I’ve traveled across the nation and I can say with confidence that Southern California is one of the best places to get legit tacos.

Some of my favorites are Tacos Manuel, Taqueria Los Olivos, and Taqueria Escalante. Check out my Orange County Tacos post for suggestions.

 

 

 

4. Visit Disneyland

Everyone should expect “visit Disneyland” to be the top of every Orange County list. After all, it is the biggest attraction to lure tourists into Orange County. There are no other theme parks that have such a large cult following, demand, and hotels built surrounding a theme park, as Disneyland does.

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Disneyland, a household name, is an empire infamous for its marketing on an intangible item that everyone is living their lives for, happiness. With the catchphrase of Disneyland being the “Happiest Place on Earth”, who wouldn’t dream about going to such a place?

Disneyland

Being at Disneyland is more than being at an amusement park, it is a place where kids can live their childhood while the adults can relive theirs. The Walt Disney Company has many cartoons, tv shows, movies, and characters that just about anyone could recognize.

 

Every day is a new day and a new experience at Disneyland to create your own adventure. It celebrates the most major holidays and has many new activities and seasonal events that only those who buy into their never-ending ticket price hikes can enjoy.

Paradise Pier at Disneyland
RIP Paradise Pier

Disneyland is always finding new ways to adapt to everyone’s interests. There are constant changes and renovations to make the park more exciting and up to date with the current hype. The food scene in Orange County is huge and Disneyland is continuously creating new food items to lure the foodies into their parks as well. The dining experience is interactive with a variety of culinary experiences and chances to meet your favorite Disney characters. 

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The possibilities are endless! Whatever your interests may be, you can’t say you’ve been to Orange County if you’ve never stopped for some rides and a churro at Disneyland.

 

 

 

5. Sunbathe with your Beaches

Granted, the Pacific Ocean isn’t as warm and the color isn’t as clear as other bodies of water, but it’s nice and peaceful to look out at the ocean and feel the sand between your toes.

 

It’s true, it’s (almost) always sunny in California! With Orange County being situated along the West Coast (best coast), it’s hard to avoid those warm summer beach day weather. The beaches are plenty. The best beaches to visit are Corona Del Mar, Crystal Cove, Thousand Steps Beach, and Laguna Beach. For Surf City and bar hopping next to the shore, go to Huntington Beach.

 

 

 

6. Indulge in a Double Double at In-N-Out

I do realize that most of the things on the list is majorly comprised of places to eat. Though, I don’t see a problem here. To no surprise, the last item is …. another food recommendation!

With the never-ending “best burger” debate set aside, In-N-Out is a burger joint you have to try when you are in California. It is California’s very own family-owned American burger chain filling the stomachs of hungry Californians and tourists. Here, you will expect to have a delicious meal at a great value.

The menu is short and simple, expect a quality meal cooked with care. You can customize it any way you like it, such as how you’d like your onions cooked: grilled, whole grilled, or raw. There is also “secret menu” items if you are tired of the 3 choices of hamburger, cheeseburger, and Double Double. Everything is fresh and made to order. No microwaves! Just make sure you eat it while it’s hot.

Although I am obsessed with In-N-Out’s burgers, I can’t speak much about their fries. These can be customized as well, with less/more salt, lightly fried, or well-done. All I can say is, don’t expect much from it, but they’re fresh! In-n-Out will always have a special place in my heart. #fightme

Look for the “X” shaped by palm trees to locate California’s state treasure.

Happy Exploring!

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Beautiful Open Plains of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Calling all weekend warriors!

At a quick glance, Anza-Borrego Desert Park may look like just a desert and open terrain, which it is, but like any place, you can find beauty in a hopeless place.

Anza-Borrega

I am always looking for a nearby adventure to get away from the hustle and bustle of work-life, away from the daily consumption of technology, and to see the nature that surrounds us. Anza-Borrego Desert Park was the perfect day-trip getaway because it is different and undiscovered territory only over 2 hours southeast from me.

In order to fully appreciate Anza-Borrego and the fun adventures it has to offer, you will need an All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicle. I can speak from experience that my friend and I were limited on what we could get to without a Jeep or a 4X4 vehicle. It wasn’t until after visiting Anza-Borrego and previously being stuck in a snowstorm that I decided my next car will have to be a 4X4.

What you will need for a day visit to Anza-Borrego:

  • A 4X4 vehicle and a spare tire
  • Plenty of food and water for the dry air
  • Sunblock to protect yourself from the blazing sun
  • Toilet paper, there will be no nearby restroom facilities

We departed on our adventure in March, during the Desert Super Bloom, so there were crowds of people and high traffic. In order to avoid the masses, consider visiting close to April but there might not be much left to look at.

Who knew gorgeous sceneries of yellow wildflowers would bring so many people?

When driving towards Downtown Anza-Borrego there are large areas of land covered in spring flower blooms. Since we arrived a little later than anticipated, we went straight to our first stop on our itinerary and did not stop for any pictures along the way. I would definitely recommend going to Anza-Borrego during the Springtime to see the beautiful flowers. Remember: With flowers, comes great crowds of tourists and Instagrammers.

To see the bloom, check out Borrego Badlands, Borrego Palm Canyon, and HellHole Canyon. Be sure to check the status of the wildflowers online before you go. If you get lucky, you will also have the chance to see Wild Bighorn Sheep!

Once we left the carpets of flowers behind and headed towards our hikes, the masses of people eventually dispersed, and we were left with barely anyone in our perimeters.

Downtown Anza-Borrego

A small town vibes with few shops, motels, and restaurants.

For food and gas, Downtown Anza-Borrego is your place. There are limited restaurants and shops to grab a quick bite to eat. But if you haven’t eaten, be sure to get food here, otherwise you won’t be finding any food when you are out in the desert. Also, make sure you fill up on gas and put air in your tires before heading to the park, otherwise you might get stuck out there without any help for a while.

The Slot

Slot Canyon is a fun and easy .8 mile hike, great for all ages. You can get to the trailhead just fine without a 4X4 vehicle, I even saw a Prius there. The parking may be limited since it is a popular attraction. The hike is mostly flat land with a few climbs over some rocks, but nothing to be worried about.

When visiting Anza-Borrego, make sure The Slot Is on your itinerary. It is fun and the scope of The Slot is enormous. You will feel so insignificant while walking through it as it massively towers over you. Although I am claustrophobic around people, I did not have the “walls are caving in” feeling with the rocks. It was fun to slide through the caves rather than sliding into the DMs for once.

Fish Creek, Badlands, Font’s Point

We had a few different other sights bookmarked to see but when we tried to drive towards there in our Mazda sedan, we realized there was no way we could get there without constantly worrying about our tires popping. We attempted to see Font’s Point but after halfway through, we encountered large rocks and the fear of the car getting wrecked. Forcibly, we turned around and headed back to the paved roads.

Anza-Borrega

Since we were not driving a 4X4, we made vows to come back once we had access to one so we can one day overcome these rocky terrain roads and discover other lands that our sedan was not able to handle.

On the way to some of the points of interest, we got lost so we took in the views of pure desert and wildflower blooms.

Anza-Borrega

Borrego Springs

Sea Dragon

Located in Borrego Springs is Galleta Meadows, home to many larger-than-life metal sculptures scattered around the area. When you get up close and think about how much work, time, and detail it takes to make each one, you will agree that they are works of art. You need to drive from each sculpture as they are too far apart to walk to each one. There is a map with the locations of each sculpture and which animal you are interested in seeing.

Be sure to grab a map at the city center or find a map online of where each one is located, otherwise, you will be driving around aimlessly.

Before the sun sets and the desert darkness took over, I was able to drive by and look at a great number of these works of art. My favorite were the elephants and, of course, you can’t leave without stopping by the most Instagrammed Sea Dragon.

Sea Dragon

Happy Exploring!