Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
2. Make sure you get to the big shows at the three big stadiums at least 20 minutes prior to get the seat you want.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
- Old Town is full of restaurants and stores, and is quaint and charming with the buildings of Spanish architecture. There is also an historic park with many original and reconstructed buildings.
- Gaslamp Quarter is downtown and had many upscale restaurants and city-shopping. It seems like the perfect area to spend a day in the city.
- Coronado is an area south west of downtown and you need to take Route 75 to get there. This is a small island connected by a very large bridge where the famous Hotel del Coronado is located, which was beautiful, well-staffed, and luxurious. We meandered on the beautiful beaches here and enjoyed looking at the multi-million dollar homes on Ocean Boulevard. By the way, since no one took us up on our offer to buy us a place in Carmel, the offer is still open - if you want to buy us a home on Ocean Blvd in Coronado - we'd appreciate it!
We want to wish everyone a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING.
- By the way, instead of going out shopping on Black Friday, why don't you use our Amazon link (on the left) to buy, wrap, and send your gifts this year.
- Or perhaps try restaurant.com (also found in the left margin) - they have gift certificates available as well! As a Thanksgiving treat, restaurant.com is having a promotion: save 70% Off + $10 off a $75 purchase at Wine.com when you try the new coupon code "THANKS". It can be used on both of their most popular products, Dinner of the Month Club and their $25 Gift Certificates. This offer is now valid through November 30th!
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
- Drive Malibu Ocean Road to see the beaches and homes.
- Go on the Warner Bros. tour - we heard this was a great tour - much better than Universal.
- Rodeo Drive - we were there one evening, but the stores were closed. We meant to go again, but never made it.
- Go see the graves of some celebrities - there are a few cemeteries in the area, and you can see a lot of graves.
- Perhaps go to an award show
- Go to some more beaches, such as Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Downtown Disney is just outside Disneyland & California Adventure, and it's basically a mall with some Disney stores, some specialty stores such as The Lego Store, and also some typical stores one would see in any mall, USA, such as Baskin Robbins or Illuminations. At the other end of Downtown Disney is the Disney Hotel, so it basically connects the hotel to Disneyland & California Adventure.
We wouldn't recommend Downtown Disney as a destination in-and-of itself, unless you want to buy some Disney merchandise and you're not going into the parks.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So what can we say about Disneyland?
First, go off-season and on a week with no school holidays - we waited no more than 20 minutes for the Indiana Jones Adventure, and the rest of the rides were either walk-right-on or a 5 minute wait. We rode Space Mountain and Splash Mountain twice without any wait, and we both agree that they tie for our favorite rides so far.
At first we tried to find the "Adult" rides, but found that even the non-thriller rides were fun for adults, such as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan’s Flight. I don’t think we’ll be going on any of the “kiddie” rides again, but were glad to do it all once. It’s a Small World reopened after being closed since January for repair, and it was decked in a holiday theme. It was amazing – over-and-over again throughout the park, we were amazed at the attention to detail in the rides, the staff, and the park grounds themselves.
Food – there is a lot to choose from, and you can bring your own food, store in a locker (which rent from a low of $7 and have in/out privileges all day), but we decided to try the various restaurant at Disneyland – pasta for lunch at the Pizza Port and fajita tacos for dinner at Rancho del Zocalo. Both meals were surprisingly good, well-portioned, and reasonable priced for the portion sizes. Where Disneyland really earns it’s profit, food-wise, is the little carts and shops all over the place where you can get a soft pretzel for $2.75, a coke for $2.50, an (incredible) chocolate chip cookie for $2.75, etc…..
To end our day, we saw Fantasmic, which is a nighttime show of Mickey Mouse battling good vs. evil, which of course ended with some fireworks. If you want a front-row seat to this, be sure to get here early – we got here at 7:20 for the 7:30 show and stood in the back, but we could still see since Brad’s tall & Suzanne is squirrelly enough to finagle her way to the front row.
A couple tips:
1. Seeing Disneyland any time of the year is incredible, but seeing it decked out for the winter holidays brings it to an entirely new level.
2. The Citypass we used for Universal Studios also had a Disneyland/California Adventure 3-day park hopper pass – which included a Magic Morning pass, which is a pass to enter Disneyland one hour before opening on one of the two remaining days, so we’ll be setting our alarm clocks early and we’ll be at Disneyland at 7am on Saturday!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Today we went to Universal Studios Hollywood. This entertainment center is made up of two distinctive areas which include the Theme Park/Studio Tour and the City Walk. The City Walk area is an outdoor mall that gives you the feel that you are walking through a downtown area of a city. It is full of movie theaters, shops (themed by the Universal movies and TV shows) and restaurants. This area is located outside the theme park and is free except for parking. The positioning of parking requires you to walk through this area to get to the actual theme park and studio tours - very cleaver. Once in the park there are three areas to explore and experience: the Upper Lot (which is the main area), the Lower Lot (nestled amongst actual studios) and the Studio Tour (lower outdoor movie sets). To start, it's recommended to do the Studio Tour right away before the crowds grow too large. So that's what we did. The Studio Tour is a narrated tram ride that takes you through many actual outdoor sets like those used by Desperate Housewives TV show as well as the neighborhood airplane crash scene used in the movie War of the Worlds and many more. The tram narrator provided information and video clips about each set that made the stops that much more interesting. It was very interesting how the small scale of the sets is made to seem actual or larger size in the various movies or TV shows. The tram tour also includes specifically designed themed attractions like Jurassic Park and Jaws where the tram is rushed by dinosaurs or attacked by a robotic shark. The tram narrator hams up the these campy scenarios. These themed scenarios make up about fifty percent of what you will see on the tour.
After our tour, we explored the Lower Lot which has a handful of attractions and rides. We found the best ride in the park to be the Revenge of the Mummy. The other attractions were more like demonstrations on how special effects are done with one show devoted to the movie Backdraft. We got hungry, of course, so we ate at the Jurassic Cove Cafe which included a Panada Express chain restaurant. The food quality and portions were good and what you would expect from a fast food Chinese restaurant.
Stomachs full, we turned our focus to the Upper Lot. This area has more restaurants rides, attractions and outdoor shows like WaterWorld. Everything in all areas carries theme of Universal's movie and TV offerings. In general we were disappointed with this theme park. We found the attractions to be a little campy and fewer in number than expected. It seemed the number of gift shops and restaurants far out-numbered the actual attractions. We would not recommend this park unless you are a huge move and TV fan.
1. If you want Jay Leno show ticket (which are free), go to the Hollywood Ticket Outlet on the Upper Lot and ask if tickets are available for the current week's show. We went directly to this ticket office when we got into the park and were rewarded with our choice of two nights to choose from. They have a list of who will be appearing on the show which helped us choose a date.
2. General parking is $12, but you can purchase preferred parking for $20 which puts you closer to the entrance if needed. If you go off season and don't mind a little walk then $12 "non-preferred" parking lot is just fine.
3. Citypasses can be purchased in various locations, or you can find other discounted tickets for Universal. Check local tourist information, visitors guides, etc.. We purchased our Citypass for $219 per adult at Costco, which gives us admission to Universal Studios, a 3-day parkhopper to Disneyland & California Adventure, Sea World and Sand Diego Zoo. Costco seemed to have the best price in citypasses, we've seen them for the $270 range elsewhere.
4. Universal Studios dining accepts AAA discount and offered 10% off the price of food and drinks.
5. Sit on the left side of the tram tour - you'll see more and be able to take more photos without a bunch of heads in the way.
To finish out our day, we attended the filming of the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. We got our free tickets online at the Audiences Unlimited website. This was great way to see the filming of a sitcom. You can see the "behind the scenes" of how the director, writers, and actors work together. The actors film a scene, then based on the audience reaction to jokes and how the writers felt the script worked, it was rewritten and retaped. We got to see the dialogues tweaked several times for each scene. During the many pauses in the shooting to change the script, a comedian entertained and educated the audience, which was actually quite a bit if fun. We didn't even know this show very well, but still enjoyed our visit quite a bit.
Tip: We were surprised by the very few tourists in the audience - there were many locals and groups. We found out that groups can go to these free tapings for fundraisers, and each member receives $20. If you're in a group of 10 or more, when you make your reservations, you may be pleasantly surprised to make a few bucks, as well as have a few good laughs!
Monday, November 17, 2008
All of this sun may make you thirsty, so if you want to relive some of your college years (i.e. a place that smells of beer, has very loud music, and everything is somewhat sticky) or experience a very casual beach bar, then head to Cabo's, adjacent to Balboa pier on the sidewalk promenade. This place offers up-close viewing of the people passing by, as well as the beach and park at the entrance of the pier. We enjoyed a very strong margarita, beer, and some surprisingly very good nachos. Also in this area are several small gift shops and some non-college type restaurants.
On the other side of the peninsula is Newport Bay. This is an active harbor lined by expensive homes. There are several fee parking lots throughout the peninsula as well as metered parking ($1 for an hour) where you can park and get out and explore the homes, boats, and entire area.
Heading north on the Coastal Highway (Hwy 1) to Huntington Beach, you will find the quintessential California beach - full of surfers, sand volleyball courts and large beautiful beaches where you can walk for miles. The Coastal Highway offers great views of the ocean and there are several fee parking areas that are right on the beach.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Adjacent to the Kodak Theater is one the must-sees of this famous area and that's Grauman's Chinese Theatre. In the entry area of this 1927 pagoda-styled theater are the famous hand and footprints of celebrities in the cement. Here you will find hand and footprints from old Hollywood stars like Clark Gabe and Shirley Temple to the stars of today like Will Smith and John Travolta. The biggest surprise was to see how small John Wayne's feet and hands actually were indicating that he wasn't as large in stature as Hollywood made him out to be. Don't miss this stop so you can make your own discoveries.
Next, we really went all out as tourists and took a Hollywood Sightseeing van tour. The company we chose was ehollywoodtours.com which provided a two hour guided tour ($20 per person - be sure to get this price - everything was negotiable on Hollywood Blvd!!) of the famous streets like the Sunset Strip, Melrose Ave and Rodeo Drive, as well as the viewing of dozens of celebrities homes including the Playboy Mansion, Jay Leno, George Clooney, the newest couple in town - the Beckhams, and many more. Along the way the tour guide pointed out clubs where people got their start, as well as where celebrities were arrested, frequented, or died. Remember when Hugh Grant was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, well you'll see that corner and many other famous celebrity haunts too. Our guide was also constantly looking for paparazzi (signalling a celebrity was in the area) and watching the many very expensive cars that passed by so that we could get a glimpse at a celebrity. Unfortunately, we didn't have any celeb-sightings on our tour but understand it's very common. If you have an interest in seeing someone famous or want to see astonishing homes, then definitely take this tour, for it was ticky-tacky-tourist fun!
The restaurant where we ate - Clafoutis on Sunset Boulevard. This was in a nice location (parking in the rear for free, so don't pay to park.) and the food was quite good - unfortunately the same cannot be said for the waitress - let's just say arrogant, which is a shame, since she works for tips. Keep your eyes open around here as well, as celebrities frequent the restaurants on the Sunset Strip.
Time for tips:
1. Parking on Hollywood Boulevard - there are a few city-run parking garages, and if you purchase something in the area, be sure to get your ticket validated for a few bucks off the parking rate.
2. In front of the Kodak Theater there is a visitors booth - ask for "the elephant card" - this is a free card that offers discounts at the stores in the area. They also can give you discount coupons for tours, such as Kodak Theatre tours. Don't be shy - just ask what they've got - it seemed as whatever we asked, they offered some money savings.
3. You can get a free map of the Hollywood Walk of Fame from the Chamber of Commerce on Hollywood Boulevard - go to the second floor.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Some other places that might be of interest to you while in Solvang: the free Elverhoj Museum, dedicated to the Danish American experience and Danish ancestry; Old Mission Santa Ines; the free Hans Christian Andersen Museum; and the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum (admission $10 per adult).
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Because of all the grandeur, we felt one tour wasn't enough to see all that we wanted to see so we took Tour 1 - The Experience Tour first, which included an additional 45-minute movie about the making of Hearst Castle. We also took Tour 2, which included more of Casa Grande, the main house of the estate. Tour 1 is what most people take, and this was a tour of 55 people, which was a bit much. The tour takes you through one (of the three) guest house, the Neptune Pool, the indoor pool, and a few of the larger rooms of Casa Grande (again, the main house). There were a few too many people on this tour, although it was a good overall perspective. The second tour we took was Tour 2 - this included the Neptune pool again, the indoor pool again, and all of the rooms of Casa Grande. This tour was much more intimate - about 8 of us with one tour guide. We were able to ask questions of any sort, and get to know the castle and the man a bit better. This tour was more to our liking.
Here are a few tips we learned to make your day more enjoyable:
1. If you take more than one tour, book them at least 30 minutes apart if you want something to eat between the tours. We didn't do this at first, and had only 15 minutes between tours. However, we arrived at Hearst Castle early, and moved our first tour time up a bit earlier, and moved out second tour back about 20 minutes. This gave us enough time between tours to use the restroom and eat our picnic lunch.
2. There is (an expensive) cafeteria there, if you want to eat between tours. As mentioned, we brought a picnic lunch and went out to our car to eat - this worked out very well.
3. There are often announcements of open seats on tours that may be earlier than the one you reserved, so listen for these announcements.
4. If you take Tour 1, there is a movie of the making of the castle that comes with your admission price (which, by the way is $20/per person/per tour). You can see this movie before or after your tour.
5. You can reserve tickets early by booking online with ReserveAmerica. It is recommend that you pre-order tickets. Surprisingly, there's no charge for this service.
Check below the adsense for more - there are two posts today - the one below if about the Elephant Seals we saw!!!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tonight we figured it's time we get some good Mexican food while in California, so per a recommendation from a woman at the campground, we set out to find Chapala's Mexican Restaurant. The directions were.....go north on Main Street and the restaurant is in the 76 gas station. Yes, you read correctly - the 76 gas station. On the outside it is a gas station, but inside there are several tables and a nice casual decor. The chips and salsa were all freshly made and were terrific as our meals - Brad had the highly recommended chicken soft tacos, and Suzanne had the chicken fajitas. This was some of the best Mexican food that we've had in recent memory. The whole time there, we were fascinated that this mom (who does the cooking) and pop (who does the serving) joint served two purposes - gas and great Mexican food. Their menu indicated that they are open for all three meals of the day, so don't miss this place if you are in Morro Bay!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
- ► 2013 (147)
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- San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California
- SeaWorld ~ San Diego, California
- San Diego, California
- Santa Fe RV Resort, San Diego, California
- Last Day at Disneyland & California Adventure, Ana...
- Downtown Disney, Anaheim, California
- Disneyland & California Adventure ~ Anaheim, Calif...
- Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, & The Tonight Sho...
- Disneyland ~ Anaheim, California
- Universal Studios Hollywood and The New Adventures...
- Newport, Balboa and Huntington beaches, California...
- Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California
- Anaheim RV Village, Anaheim, California
- canoeing Santa Barbara harbor, California
- Santa Barbara's Old Town & more, California
- Exploring Santa Barbara's Bay Front & Farmers Mark...
- Solvang, California
- Rancho Oso Campground, outside of Santa Barbara, C...
- Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California
- Viewing Elephant Seals, San Simeon, California
- Morro Bay, California
- Morro Dunes Resort Campground & Chapala's Mexican ...
- Monterey State Historic Park, Monterey, California...
- Cannery Row, Monterey, California
- Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California
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