Archive for the ‘The States’ Category

For those of us who grew up west of the Mississippi, we are missing out on something essential: History. Yes we have missions, and stories of gold rush. But have you seen a Southern Califonia mall not made of terracotta or stucco? The Eastern Seaboard seems to hold onto the traditional look and history more aptly. And some of the buildings are much older than we realize. It has beautiful brick buildings, old churches, and our American history laid out in the streets. Places like Williamsburg, VA, go into great detail to bring to life colonial times. If you happen to be a New York denzien, and feel like getting a fresh dose of New England heritage try New London, Connecticut. It is maybe two hours up the coast by train, and a great picture of classic New England. It’s a seaside town, with really old, beautiful churches and cathedrals everywhere. You could go on a tour of just churches and fill the whole weekend. There are great little eats off the main road; nice sit-down coffee without the Starbucks’ emblem. It is the perfect place to just have a light and easy vacation. It’s a seaport town that is welcoming and cozy. You could even catch a traveling show as it comes through town.

Here are some spots to consider:

Muddy Water’s Cafe, 42 Bank Street. Great veggie options, along with the usual picks.

Bean & Leaf, 13 Washington Street. A coffee shop where you can enjoy your cup.

I recommend staying at the Radisson Hotel, 35 Governor Winthrop Boulevard

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Atlanta? Sure. Savannah? Why not. But, just for kicks, tryout Athens!

If you have ever wanted to relive your college days in a totally reasonable just-for-the-atmosphere manner, this is the place. The main thoroughfare is lined with bars and restaurants littered with kids from the University of Georgia, you are sure to have a good time. Ideally you can wade that time by selecting an age group. The locals seem to congregate by maturity. You’ll find bars filled with crazy undergrads enjoying their frat-filled youths, or you can find a yellow speakeasy type bar with the swank grad students. Either way you’re sure to find warm Southern hospitality and good eats.

There are of course more cultural options like the Classic Center Theatre which hosts varied touring companies, and offers VIP parties to meet the cast. There’s also the University itself, literally down the block, if you want to reminisce about the good ol’ days of living easy. If you’re feeling really adventurous though, you could make a trip northward to the Chattahoochee national forest. A truly beautiful place. With trees and waterfalls, and plenty of hiking to keep you in that adventurous state of mind.

Clearly everyone and their mother has an opinion on Jersey, wether it be the casino-crazed Atlantic city or the guido-infested Shore. Low and behold there’s a little more to Jersey than that. I previously touched on the wonders of suburban Jersey, Westfield and Milburn, but now I want to point out one of the state’s finest assets: Hoboken!

The thing that is just great about Hoboken is how cool it is. Yes, I said cool. If you happen to be a California kid than you will definitely appreciate the laid-back vibe and fun-loving atmosphere provided by this one square mile town. Washington street is lined with bars and restaurants galore. Heavily laden with Irish pubs–some of which are run by actual Irish people–and every type of foodie genre. People line-up around the corner for a muffin from the Cake Boss, and I say “Skip it!” It’s a muffin, move on with your life. There’s lots to be indulged in, and keep your eyes peeled for franchise favorites like the Melting Pot. Albeit overly priced, it does remind me of good ol’ Orange County, especially situated on a lovely park-like path along the river. About the length of the city itself, the river-walking area is a great site to visit. I’d even recommend bringing a date. That is if you can convince them to come all the way out to Jersey! New Yorkers seem to think it is light-years away, when in fact the PATH train can get you there in less than fifteen minutes for the same price as the subway. So do take the time to visit, and if you aren’t in the mood for an Irish pub, head a little further south (yes, into dreaded Jersey city) and hit up the beer garden, or catch a soccer match at the Newark stadium. You’d certainly be missing out if you didn’t at least investigate their annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities. So visit, have fun, and do misbehave.

Philadelphia or Pittsburg? Neither. Yes, neither. While each will surely be a great trip, we are going to talk about a great little place in the middle of nowhere: State College, PA. Smack-dab in the middle of the state, somewhere between the Eagles and the Steelers, lies a town built up around Penn State. It is a place to relive all the college mayhem you may have enjoyed, endured, escaped, or elluded from in your youth. With a million bars to chose from, I recommend the Phyrst. It is a cleverly-mispelled underground-dive that serves $5 pitchers of “Lager” (what we outsiders lovingly know as ‘yeungling’). It is certain to be a ridiculous night of debachery. Just remember to walk back to your hotel–As with the high spirits and low prices you will certainly find yourself in a stammering state in no time. When you do take the time to recover in the morning, consider heading out for cereal. State College also has a great little breakfast spot dedicated entirely to the magical world of cereal, not to mention plenty of breakfast diners, all geared towards you: the weary traveler. And if you happen to time it well, you could even catch whatever touring show is coming through town, and have a scoop of their ever popular ice cream (and rightly so). Just ask where to get ice cream on campus and I am sure they will point you in the right direction. If there’s no line, you’ve probably mistakenly headed to the Ben’n’Jerry’s.

The reason I chose “State of Being” as my title is because Delaware had a very particular feeling. It’s kind of like a nice Ocean breeze. It’s a great place to take a walk. I walked for miles. I walked to the store (like I often do), I found my way downtown (which was a little sketchy…). Regardless, Delaware is worth a stroll. I was in Wilmington. Certainly commutable distance to Philadelphia, New York, D.C., and Baltimore, it is not a city to be slighted. It is a comfortable place to live. The homes are nice, the people are friendly, and it’s refreshing. You can feel the hubbub of the city, while not being stressed and burdened by the things you ought to do. You can take the time to get your nails done or visit the library. They also have great hibachi, if you are in the mood for Japanese food. You could stop by the Delaware Theatre Company or some of their historic landmarks. Though technically a mid-Atlantic state, it is very similar to New England. Old brick buildings, lots of history in the streets. It is after all the very first state. That makes for a killer bumper sticker.

Let’s say you want to experience a city by the seat of your pants, which entails seeing as much as you can, in as little time as possible, you’re going to need a game plan. Whirlwind trips are not for wanderers. Or slow-moving people for that matter. The trick to making this a success, is by spending as little time traveling as possible. San Diego, albeit a beautiful destination, is rarely on the way to something else. It is not a drive through area, because it is at the very end of the country. But since it is a huge navy town, we do get a lot of sailors who are in town for any length of time, and since this fun idea came to me recently, I decided to see what you could do in a single day.

9 a.m. Arrive. Step one is always arriving on time, and early. If you are coming from the east, you will definitely have the clock on your side.

Café 1134 in Coronado is the perfect place to start your day. Their patio seating with a well-made latte is going to be a refreshing wake-up to start your adventure.

Head to the Hotel Del, it is only a couple blocks south of Cafe 1134, so you wont have to re-park. Walk through the Del, enjoy the ambiance and architecture, and make your way to the beach. Coronado beach is big, beautiful, and famous. There’s a reason the Travel Channel voted it #1 beach in the country.

11 a.m. Time for brunch! Head to Coronado ferry landing for a light brunch at Bay Beach Cafe, or grab a lighter fair and bring it with you onto the Ferry. Take the Ferry to downtown San Diego, and take a moment to enjoy the view. If the Ferry is out of commission take the 901 Bus to Downtown.

Noon Arriving in downtown can be really overwhelming, tons of shopping and restaurants everywhere! If you are starving, now would be a great time to eat. If you would rather wait to eat, hop the 7 Bus up to Balboa Park.

2 p.m. Hopefully you didn’t arrive too late to enjoy the museums. Since you only have a single day here, I highly recommend choosing one. The Japanese Friendship Garden, Museum of Man, or Reuben H. Fleet Science Center are some of my favorite. Not to mention walking the length of Balboa Park is practically a museum onto itself. If you haven’t eaten, you might consider venturing into the El Prado restaurant, or for a light snack, look for the soft-serve ice cream next to the Casa Del Prado theatre.

5 p.m. Venturing on foot out of the park can be tricky, so don’t be afraid to stop at the visitor’s bureau. Head across the Laurel Street Bridge or in the opposite direction to the Cactus Garden, and take the bus up towards Hillcrest (away from Downtown). Hillcrest is a fun and vibrant area of San Diego, it is also gay friendly. Stop in at City Deli for an amazing sandwich at 535 University Ave.

7 p.m. Nighttime Zoo! Back at Balboa Park, you can find the world-famous San Diego Zoo. During the summer it has later hours of operation, which is prefect for the weary traveler. There is certainly a lot to see at the zoo, but if you are fast-a-foot you’ll be able to see most of it efficiently.

9 p.m. 12 hours are up! Still alive? Here are two ways to end the night. Either head back down to Downtown. If you  have a car, and would prefer a quieter evening, drive up to La Jolla.

Downtown plan: Like any good city there’s plenty to do at night. And if you are young, excitable, and have nothing better to do with your life, go out and party! You will find almost every option a good one. I recommend avoiding places you’ve heard of (like Hard Rock) and places that are just strange. Otherwise, you’re good to go. The Old Spaghetti Factory is a great staple, if you are afraid to venture out. Dick’s Last Resort is fun-filled, though not for vegetarians. And new hotspots have opened up like Stingaree. Your best bet is to stay within ten blocks of the ballpark.

La Jolla plan: It is possible to get here via bus, but likely a car is better. Take the La Jolla Village Drive exit off the 5 and head to water! There will be lots of shops and restaurants, and breathtaking views of cliff side ocean. If this is summertime, you may have some light left, but otherwise you’ll notice the street lights do a nice job of illuminating where the modern world meets the ocean. This is certainly a more mature and relaxed evening. Definitely date material. But don’t worry, I wont call you old if you decide on this option.

2 a.m. Still awake? While it’s certainly past the whirlwind curfew, you can return to the safe haven of Coronado island. Either go to the Little Club or Night and Day Cafe. The only two places in town open past all night long. Certainly less alarming than staying in Downtown til all hours of the night, and not a shabby way to wind down.

Let’s Go Surfing Now

Posted: 1 September 2010 in The States, Western Bliss

Coronado, my illustrious hometown, may have won the travel channels vote for best beach, but sometimes I wonder what they were thinking. The one main drawback: the water is frigid! Yes, there is lots and lots of sand, but that means a really long walk to the water. Yes, you can take your dog to one part, surf in another, and lay under a cabana by the dell.  I learned a custom in Newport Beach, which has similar application. A tourist arrives, decked out in board shorts, too much sun block, and a surf board under their arm. You sit there and watch them run towards the water, eager to learn how to surf. And like clockwork you watch them run back not more than three minutes later, crying over their lack of a wetsuit. It may look warm in Southern California, but one should really pay more attention to coastal climate trends before embarking on your daily activities. Coronado does have a great perk though. You can walk around and do nothing all day long! There are places to shop, or eat. Great Mootime ice cream, and a plethora of parks and sandy alcoves. And aside from the “traffic” on Orange Avenue, it is an ideally quiet little town. Here’s what I recommend

Wake up: Start your day off waking up at the Marriot Coronado Island Resort. It used to be called Le Meridien, and has an idyllic view of the San Diego skyline.

Breakfast: Walk towards the ferry landing (can’t miss it), there’s a nice coffee shop with an ever changing name on the corner of first and Orange.

First activity: Walk to the Del. The Hotel Del Coronado, that is. It is just great to look at. The shops are more or less overpriced, but well worth a window shopping. And make sure you see the upside-down-hull ballroom, and of course the haunted room.

Next step: Beach or pool, either way you’re in for a first class treat, and both are ridiculously close together. It’s an island people, doesn’t take long to get anywhere.

Lunch: Firehouse restaurant back towards the ferry landing is tasty and reasonably priced. It also has a pet friendly patio. Orange Ave btw 1st and 2nd

After Lunch: Cafe 1134. They have great coffee drinks, and it’s on the way back to the beach. Orange Ave btw 10th and Church.

Sunset: You have to go to the beach. Even if you were already there. Make another trip. Ocean Ave off Church or 10th.

Dinner: Chez Loma is right around the corner from the beach, it’s quaint, but has existed in Coronado for as long as I can remember. They must be doing something right. On 10th… maybe. It’s close to 1 134.

Desert: Mootime! On Orange btw 10th and C (you’ll get used to it)

Real Desert: Try McP’s or the Brewery. They are on opposite sides of the island. And when it gets really really late, head to the little club. Or stop by the very landing, enjoy the night sky over San Diego’s waterfront, and back to sleep. McP’s Orange btw C and B. Brewery on Orange btw 1st and 2nd. Ferry landing on Orange and 1st.

Makes me miss home. What I do know, is that I’ve taken full advantage of what it has to have offer. Don’t discount Peohe’s or Miguel’s, they are also great places to eat. And Alexander’s pizza is awesome, especially if you have pizza lovers! Go explore! And don’t speed. You’ll get caught. No, really. You will.