Humor Travel Life
All I Want For Christmas Is Deals: Your Guide To Shopping In Los Angeles This Holiday Season (and any time of the year!)
It's the weekend before Christmas and all through the house, everyone was stirring...because they gotta go Christmas shopping!
Have you gotten your shopping done yet? Don't worry, Humor Travel Life has you covered. Unfortunately, I'm not Santa and can't cover the entire world, so this post will focus on where to shop in Los Angeles. Technically, this blog post can apply all year 'round, so feel free to reference back anytime.
The first thing to know about Los Angeles is that it is rather annoyingly spread out, which means that shopping can greatly depend on where in LA you're located. The good news though, is that there is plenty of shopping almost everywhere in LA, so let's break it down by neighborhood.
If you're in...
The Grove /Farmer's Market
The Grove is also a major tourist spot, so be aware of that. It's a beautiful outdoor shopping destination and is one of those LA places where it also feels like people go to be "seen" - mainly because it's also a spot where you're more likely see a celebrity. As far as shopping goes, it really doesn't have a ton of stores to choose from and tends to cater to more expensive brands. However, there are stores like GAP and Barnes and Nobles there as well, so there is some budget variety. The coolest part of The Grove, however, is the farmer's market next door. This is a great spot to get locally-made gifts like popcorn and candies.
The Beverly Center
The Beverly Center is set up like a traditional mall. The good news is that it's not nearly as busy at The Grove and offers more shopping. It's got both the fancy brands and the budget-friendly brands. The worst thing about The Beverly Center is that it can be confusing to navigate but other than that it's a pretty good shopping experience.
Melrose Trading Post
This weekly event happens every Sunday from about 9AM-5PM in the parking lot of Fairfax High School. It's costs roughly $3 to get in, and it's a great local flea market in the heart of WeHo. This is a perfect LA spot to shop for original, unique gifts that you won't find in regular malls. Plus, you can venture over to the local stores along Melrose Avenue once you are done.
Hollywood & Highland
If you actually live in LA, you're less likely to do your shopping at Hollywood & Highland. The biggest reason being that it is also the epicenter of Hollywood tourism. Nevertheless, there are plenty of residents who actually live in Hollywood and might prefer to stay nearby. This mall features popular stories like American Eagle, Forever 21, and GAP. Fun fact: it's also connected next to the Kodak theater, which is the home of the Academy Awards ceremonies.
I'm no aficionado when it comes to shopping in Beverly Hills, but it's true that Rodeo Drive is the main street for shopping in this famous Los Angeles neighborhood. If you have the budget for it, this is where you'll find those designer brands.
Westfield Century City
Another confusing outdoor mall, but the Century City mall offers popular chains like H & M, Banana Republic, and an Apple Store.
3rd Street Promenade
You're probably sensing a theme that there's a lot of outdoor shopping in Los Angeles...and you would be correct. The 3rd Street Promenade is no exception. It's another popular tourist spot because Santa Monica is a top tourist destination in LA, so be aware of crowds. However, the shopping here is fantastic. Bonus points for being right off the ocean.
Burbank Town Center
Bubank is located in what's known as 'The Valley', which basically refers to the LA neighborhoods over the hill. It's a literal valley, go figure. The valley's not so bad really, and it seems to have more of a suburban feel to it. Don't be fooled by the suburban demeanor though - it's also where major movie studios like Universal, Warner Bros, and Disney are located. The Burbank Town Center is a traditional type of mall located in downtown Burbank, which is a cute neighborhood to hang out in. This mall is great for those regular chain stores we all know and love. There's also more shops outside the mall in the downtown center as well, including an Urban Outfitters.
Starting at the cross street with Laurel Canyon, you'll find stores located along the busy Ventura Blvd. Plenty of popular chains like Urban Outfitters, Banana Republic, and GAP offer clothing varieties, but there's also local spots to pick out more unique items as well.
Glendale Galleria/Americana at Brand
Technically, these are two different shopping centers, but since they are right across the street from each other, I'll combine the two. The Glendale Galleria is a massive indoor mall with plenty of great shopping. Just across the street is the Americana at Brand. It's an adorable outdoor shopping space designed just like The Grove (without the tourists).
My Top Pick:
When it comes to shopping in Los Angeles, my top pick is....the Glendale Galleria/Americana at Brand.
Ironically, I didn't go there often because I never lived in Glendale and that traffic through Los Feliz can be brutal. That being said, when I did visit, it was awesome. The fact that you have two very different malls right next to each other means that this shopping space offers more than the majority of LA shopping centers. Plus, the Galleria is HUGE. That mall seems to go on and on and has every store imaginable. I felt like the Galleria offered everything, and if it didn't, just hop across the street to the Americana.
Well, that marks the last Humor Travel Life post for 2018, but I'll be back in 2019 with plenty of great travel tips and funny stories.
Coming up in 2019: Ireland, Chicago, and much more! Stay tuned.
Thank you for stopping by the site to check out the final entry in the Humor Travel Life Diversity Series. I've been so happy to be able to share these amazing, inspiring travelers. This series has been about celebrating and featuring travelers of diverse backgrounds, and thank you again to my friends and fellow travelers who have been a part of this series.
Meet Kyle Jarrett!
1. Where is your home base?
Los Angeles, CA
2. What is the last trip you went on?
A 7-day Alaskan cruise aboard the Norwegian Pearl
3. What is your favorite place that you traveled to?
Spain. I had so many amazing experiences walking El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and the people, food, history, and harrowing escapes will stick with me for as long as my human memory will allow.
4. Least favorite?
China. The history is extraordinary, but the air and water were filthy. Babies were pooping on the street through holes in their pants. People were not especially friendly. We were with a tour company, and they made sure we went to every tourist trap. Glad I went, but probably won't go back.
5. What was an important life lesson you learned while traveling?
Time abroad is precious. In some ways, the more you try to see in a limited time, the more you cheat yourself of the experience of a place. As I've started to slow down my travels, I've been grateful to have more time to enjoy the spaces I'm in, rather than constantly checking the clock to ensure I'll have time to see the next.
6. What would you like to see more of in the travel industry overall?
I would like to know more about cultures upfront. Manners, slang, traffic laws... So much of the travel industry is geared toward food and activities (because that's where the money comes from), but when I go to a place, I want to know how to relate to the people with whom I will be interacting. I wouldn't mind also knowing what preconceptions about Americans I'm walking into.
7. Where do you want to travel to next?
I'll be in Texas over Labor Day weekend. Never really "done Texas." I hear great things about Austin lately. Bat bridge, square dancing...
8. What is your craziest travel story?
The Route Napoleon is the first, mountainous leg of the Camino Frances portion of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. In summer, it is lovely, both scenic and challenging. In winter, you just don't take it because people die. Starting El Camino alone, I made sure to ask as many people as I could just out of St. Jean Pied-de-Port to guide me away from the Route Napoleon and keep me on the street route, because they split from each other just out of town.
So I went on my way as the sky got cloudy and rain began to sprinkle, until I came to the village of Huntto, which I recognized from my research of weather along the Route Napoleon. I was crestfallen to discover that I was now 10K up the Route Napoleon in early March with a storm brewing. My only options were to go back 10K and start afresh, or trudge along and try not to die.
As the rain intensified, a group of six French ladies appeared with their hiking sticks and day packs, heading over the Route Napoleon. With my two sentences worth of French, I asked them if I could go with them sur la montagne. They agreed, and though we could not communicate much, we did share a great deal of exclamations. "Ooh!" "La niege!" "Tres beau!" And so on. We trekked up high into the mountains, at times post-holing in the deep snow, looking down on the vultures circling beneath us. The ladies shared their lunch with me, as I had foolishly started walking on Sunday when the stores were closed and I had no food supplies. Not today, vultures!
We descended into Roncesvalles in late afternoon, and the ladies kissed me on each cheek, piled into their taxi, and headed back home. It was my first miracle of the Camino.
9. Can you explain what The Bill Beaver Project is?
The Bill Beaver Project started as a way to get over a boy and to get off Facebook. Originally, I just went out taking photos of my 20-year old stuffed beaver, until I discovered the California historical landmark system and decided to photograph Bill the Beaver in front of all 1,111 of them.
I completed that quest in 2016 and am working on quests to see all the national parks and monuments, and the 7 wonders of the world. Last year, I raised funds to replace a historical landmark plaque that had been destroyed, and I'm working on a second one (fundraising is the worst). At its core, the Bill Beaver Project is an excuse to learn more about the places I visit, and a chance to add some whimsy to my travel experiences.
10. What's your favorite part of the travel experience?
I love the experience of arriving a place I had heard about for years and finding that it was nothing like I expected. For instance, I had no idea of the size of Gettysburg, the sea of monuments stretching for miles, and where, in relation to the battlefield, the Address had been delivered. I'd never expected the Nebraska panhandle around Scotts Bluff to be so gorgeous in the spring time with the yucca blooming against ancient eroded monuments. The feeling of awe and dread setting aside the camera to watch the last 30 seconds of the 2017 solar eclipse... I prepare a lot, but it's the beautiful moments I hadn't planned for that make travel so addictive for me.
11. What do you wish the public understood more of when it comes to the travel experiences for people in the LGBTQ+ community?
LGBTQ+ travelers are as diverse as anyone else when it comes to traveling. Some like adventure, others want to be pampered, still others want to take in as much art and culture as possible. Some just travel to humor their significant other. Pretty standard mix.
12. Do you have any suggestions for ways that the travel industry can be more inclusive for LGBTQ+ travelers?
Show us, write about us, normalize us. But at the same time, don't just show two guys and a rainbow, or make a sex joke, and call it a day. LGBTQ+ travelers need to be seen enjoying their travel in as natural a way as their heterosexual counterparts.
Welcome and thank you for checking out the third entry in the Humor Travel Life Diversity Series. This series is about celebrating and featuring travelers of diverse backgrounds. Travel is about experiencing the world, and as we all know, our world is beautiful - and most importantly, diverse! I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate that in the travel blogging industry. Thank you to my friends and fellow travelers who have agreed to be a part of this, and I look forward to celebrating you and your experiences as travelers.
Meet Steven Ma!
Steven Ma, pictured here with fellow teachers during his time teaching at a local high school in Kenya
1. Where is your home base?
2. Where have you traveled to so far?
Canada, Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, China, Philippines, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji.
Born in Vietnam.
3. I know that a lot of your travels have been with nonprofit work. What have those experiences been like and what was the work you were involved with?
I’ve been involved in a variety of nonprofit work, including construction, teaching, photography, and youth sports programs. On a personal level, they’ve been challenging and humbling. In most instances of volunteer work, it’s often in a developing country or in a community with high levels of poverty. There’s the physical discomfort of sometimes not having certain amenities that you’re used to - air conditioning, paved streets, running water - even if it’s only for a brief time. There’s the social dynamic of trying to interact with the community you’re trying to serve. And you have to wrestle with existential questions like, “Why was I born into privilege while they were born into poverty?” or “Am I even making a difference?”
It’s challenging, but it’s an experience that I believe everyone needs to have. It not only develops a much greater sense gratitude for you have, but can also ignite a greater sense of purpose for where you fit into the world.
4. How would you encourage people to travel more for volunteer and non-profit opportunities, rather than just vacationing?
I think a lot of people see travel as either vacationing or volunteering, but they’re not mutually exclusive. It’s really easy to do both. You can either volunteer formally through an organization that helps plan out your trip, and then takes you on a few days of sight-seeing. Or you can plan our your own vacation, then contact local organizations to see if they have volunteer opportunities. In many cases, there are an abundant amount of opportunities if you’re willing to look and nonprofits are more than happy to have your help, even if it’s for a few days or a few hours. I wrote another article that lists a few websites where you can connect with volunteer opportunities while traveling: https://intrinsicstyles.com/blog/volunteer-youre-traveling-abroad/
If you’re short on time, consider just asking for a tour of the nonprofit to learn more about it, then make a monetary donation.
5. What is your favorite place that you have traveled to?
My favorite place “naturally” is Fiji. The sunsets on the beach every evening were unbelievably picture perfect, and the rivers, jungles and waterfalls that you can tour are the epitome of exotic. In terms of cities, it’s Paris. I love the rich architecture on every street corner, the walkability of the city, and how you can see people everywhere just sitting, reading, drinking coffee, or napping.
6. Least favorite?
I would have to say China, at least in the major cities like Beijing or Shanghai. It’s very crowded and the air quality isn’t the greatest, as you can imagine.
7. Where would you like to travel to next?
I’ve always wanted to go South America, specifically Peru and Chile. Another region is Southeast Asia, like Thailand, Cambodia, or India.
8. In your opinion, what is the best part of travel?
The best part of travel is the human interaction. Getting to see the perspective of people on completely different worlds is eye-opening. You realize just how much your upbringing and culture have shaped your views, and hopefully, you’re open enough to realize that your perspective may not be the right one. But you also realize the common humanity of everyone. Wherever you go, you can always share a cup of coffee, jump in on a pickup game of soccer, or show each other pictures of our families. You realize there is so much more that connects all of us than separates us.
9. What is your biggest pet peeve, if you have one, when it comes to other travelers?
I hate when tourists trash a place. Visitors sometimes have this mentality that it’s the responsibility of the people who live their to pick up after them. When you travel, you’re visiting someone’s house - respect it. Just learn to throw your trash in a trash can.
10. Is there anything you'd like to see more of in the travel industry overall?
Traveling is mostly good for everyone. It grows economies and brings in revenue for communities. But it can also be harmful for the environment when natural habitats get stripped away for hotels, or for people when they get displaced or exploited. I’d like to see greater social responsibility from companies involved in the travel industry, but that has to come from travelers demanding it.
11. What is your biggest piece of advice to fellow travelers?
When you travel, go to learn. Read up on the history of the place you’re visiting. Go a few blocks away from the main touristy places and eat at small family restaurants. Have conversations with people who live there and learn about their lives.
Welcome and thank you for checking out the second entry in the Humor Travel Life Diversity Series. This series is about celebrating and featuring travelers of diverse backgrounds. Travel is about experiencing the world, and as we all know, our world is beautiful - and most importantly, diverse! I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate that in the travel blogging industry. Thank you to my friends and fellow travelers who have agreed to be a part of this, and I look forward to celebrating you and your experiences as travelers.
Meet Raul Tafur!
Instagram: @vlogeandoando & @acouplethattravels
1. Where is your home base?
I'm based in Los Angeles.
2. How long have you been living there?
About 5 years. Prior to it, I lived in Vegas for 10 and before that in Lima, Peru.
3. What inspired you to start traveling?
Curiosity is in my nature. I've always wanted to see the world. My mom tells me that when I was a kid I would always say "I'm gonna get me a job that lets me travel the world. I'm gonna see everything!" For a while, I lost that vision and for years, I battled with my weight and for a while with anxiety and depression. I was so focused on "making more money" that I let myself go for a while. Once I was able to beat my anxiety, I decided to change my life little by little. First by moving to LA and doing what I really wanted to do and find a perfect balance of personal and work life and swore to never do things for money and to eventually have more countries than my age. At the same time I started getting more into food, different cultures, etc. So one day, I took a short trip to mexico, then a little further, and further and further and now traveling has become part of my life.
4. How many countries have you visited?
MMMMM...Great question...Over 25 countries, 100s of cities and airports too!
5. What is your favorite travel destination so far?
Asia. Japan is definitely on top. The country's versatility and uniqueness is out of this world. You can submerge yourself into Tokyo's modern life, or head out to Kyoto and explore a more traditional experience. And the food...oh the food!!! And don't even let me get started on the hospitality, harmony and culture!
6. Least favorite?
None. Everything, bad or good have given me a memory and no trip have ever left me such a bad taste that I can call it "least favorite" it's like friendships. They are all different, some more intense, some just for the weekend and in groups but all of them priceless and memorable. ALL trips teach you something. Bad or good, always something.
7. What is the craziest travel story that you have experienced?
Oh there are soooo many but the latest may be one for the books. Let's start with this: I love soccer and Have never been to a World Cup. After 36 years, Peru, my home country made it to Russia 2018. So for 18 days, with no hotel reservations in hand and with just a backpack and my dreams I went through Russia following every single Peru game. I barely slept, drink a lot, cried as much when sang my national anthem, screamed "GOOOOOL" and lived the most incredible adventure ever. P.S Thank you Russia for the hospitality!
8. Where would you like to travel to next?
The wife and I have the rest of the year on lock! San Francisco, Tokyo & Okinawa, Mexico city & Peru.
9. What's the best piece of travel advice you'd give to others?
Don't get intimidated by cost and the "what ifs" Go ahead and do it. Stay in hostels, eat at markets, use layovers to your advantage, learn traveling tricks and how to get the most for your money. No one wants to go with you? Don't let that hold you back! Can't take a long trip? Start small. Take short trips and build up confidence and knowledge. Last but not least RESEARCH!
10. How do you document your travels?
I've been vlogging for over a year every single day. I edit them myself and post on FB and YT. Additionally, I have two Instagram accounts: One for me and my photos and the other to document our travels as a couple.
11. What is your biggest peeve pet (if you have one) of the current state of social media as it pertains to travel?
No pet peeves actually. I feel that Social media opened the doors (and eyes) of lots of folks that have been wanting to travel and didn't think they could either afford it or do it. Also, a lot of hidden gems are being shared with the world and it's positively impacting some countries economy. If social media is doing something good is actually helping young (and old) folks across the world that you all can do it and that the planet is worth being seen!
I am so excited to share the first entry in the Humor Travel Life Diversity Series. This series is about celebrating and featuring travelers of diverse backgrounds. Travel is about experiencing the world, and as we all know, our world is beautiful - and most importantly, diverse! I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate that in the travel blogging industry. Thank you to my friends and fellow travelers who have agreed to be a part of this, and I look forward to celebrating you and your experiences as travelers.
First up, meet the lovely and awesome Dynasty Huckleby!
1. Obviously as a travel blogger, you are a citizen of the world, but where is your home base?
I love the phrase “citizen of the world” that definitely represents so much of my aspirations. As far as my home base it is Los Angeles, California.
2. How long have you been living there?
I am originally from Detroit, Michigan. From there I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan for undergrad. After finishing college I moved to LA and have made this my home for 4 years now.
3. In addition to travel blogging, are you involved in any other work or social media influencing?
Well that’s always the biggest question for me. I have my hands in quite a bit of pots and I always feel, why not! Along with travel blogging I also have a model event staffing/management company, I am in my last year of my psychotherapy grad program, and I am an actress and writer, which is the main reason I am based out of LA.
4. What inspired you to start blogging about travel?
It’s kind of funny but I basically fell into travel blogging. It is the most recent of my things that I focus on and it really just began out of my love for exploration, meeting new people, and wanting to know more about other cultures and customs. I feel as if travel is something that not enough people do and I try to inspire others to experience it because of the impact it has had on my life.
5. How many countries have you visited?
As I stated I am still pretty new to the travel world so not as many places as some of my travel role models. But, in the past two years or so I have been to 10 countries, which sounds like a quite a bit in 2 years but somehow I always feel like I could be traveling more.
6. What is your favorite travel destination so far?
That’s pretty hard for me to say because I find so much joy in every place I visit. It’s amazing to experience different cultures and discover all of the unique aspects that individualize each place has. I can say the place I keep wanting to go back to and explore more of is Thailand, which happened to be my first overseas journey.
7. Least favorite?
I don’t have a least favorite in regards to destination. I will say that I have discovered that I’d much prefer to be in nature or small towns as opposed to a big city.
8. What is the craziest travel story that you have experienced?
Ha, I’m not sure how everyone else defines their crazy travel stories but I’ve had a bunch of experiences that could possibly make the list. First Pattaya, Thailand - enough said. On another occasion I remember being in a small village of norther Thailand, stepping out of a car in a clear space with trees surrounding the clearing. A friend and I get out of the car just hoping to find a monkey. I have a bag of nut for the monkey meeting and we are so hopeful just to see at least one monkey when we start to hear a rustling of leaves and as we look up there over 100 monkeys swinging from the trees and running straight towards us. Now this plan was not looking like the smartest idea any longer, but as we are immediately consumed with fear the monkeys run full speed straight up to us then stop about foot away and hold out their hands. This was such an amazing experience to watch all of them interact act trick each other for the nuts while each one would just come up and hold out their hand asking for another. In hindsight I know now to be more careful in regards to dealing with wild animals but after seeing what I saw, I don’t regret a thing.
9. Where would you like to travel to next?
Goodness where wouldn’t I? I'm always down for any trip but, honestly feel as though it’s toss up between Ireland, Morocco, or The Philippines. I get inspired by those around me and these destinations seem like they would be right up my alley!
10. What’s the best piece of travel advice you’d give to others?
Have no expectations, just be ready for the experience.
Photo Credit: Twitter
Statement: Humor Travel Life is meant to focus on combining humor, life stories, and information all under the umbrella theme of travel. That being said, sometimes it is necessary to change gears a little in order to bring awareness to important issues. This is not a topic of politics; It is about humanity and how necessary it is to help those in need. Human trafficking may seem like it has nothing to do with travel, but in fact, the two intersect more often than we realize. And no, this is not some sort of Liam Neeson-action film reference; This is life and real human beings are being abused and trafficked around the world every day. Please take a moment to read about an organization whose work to fight human trafficking inspired me to write this article.
On January 29, 2018, the i-5 Freedom Network held its second annual Big Cheese auction in San Clemente, a coastal suburban community in California’s upscale South Orange County. The i-5 Freedom Network is a training and advocacy organization that aims to bring together the community and business leaders to actively engage in the fight against human trafficking. Although local to San Clemente, the organization reaches out to other cities throughout Orange County and California. By focusing on specific goals that include community awareness, training, corporate engagement, and legislative advocacy, i-5 has helped highlight an issue that far too often goes unnoticed, along with active steps to help combat it.
An additional key component of i-5’s mission is survivor empowerment. Brenda Wells, founder and executive director of i-5, was made aware of the human trafficking epidemic in Orange County, and while she learned a lot from research and meetings on the issue, she felt that these meetings provided no real-world tools or opportunities to actually make a difference. Wells, who is also an instructor with Dale Carnegie’s Orange County division, believed that the skills acquired through Dale Carnegie’s training program would not only help her create a successful organization to fight human trafficking but also be effective in helping survivors. The Big Cheese auction’s focus was to raise money to sponsor survivors to enroll in the Dale Carnegie program. Wells stresses, however, that the courses do not substitute as therapy but instead are aimed at enabling survivors to become strong communicators and establish goals for themselves. Another part of the training includes delivering presentations, as many survivors express interest in sharing their story with others through motivational speaking. One such survivor, Jaimee, was a speaker at i-5’s auction and was one of the first to go through the Dale Carnegie program after coming out of human trafficking. Jaimee, who has created her own initiative to support fellow survivors, spoke of the success she found through this collaboration between Dale Carnegie and i-5. Dale Carnegie Orange County CEO Geri Cerkovnik, who was also a guest speaker at the auction, added, “It’s so hard to get them out of that world that it’s important to give them the skillsets that make them successful and not afraid.”
Visiting San Clemente, without much knowledge of the statistics of human trafficking, it would seem surprising to discover that this small, affluent community would also be a location disposed to such a problem, but Wells emphasized that it exists throughout the United States wherever the demand may be. People who are willing to purchase and take part in human trafficking include those from all demographics and incomes.
While most people may associate trafficking for sex-related purposes, labor trafficking actually represents a major portion of this underworld. Many times, people may hire someone to do housework through an agency, without knowing that the agency is actually sending trafficked laborers. In the United States, 80 percent of trafficked labor is foreign nationals, while 80 percent of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens, many of which include minors.
Because trafficking victims may travel frequently, airline employees have been in training for signs and behavior to be aware of. The work of i-5 intends to extend that awareness and training to the hospitality industry, where they can also regularly encounter trafficking victims. Wells also suggests specific ways the public can aide in helping the fight against human trafficking. One of those is to add the hotline number 888-3737-888 into your phone, so that when you see something suspicious you can quickly report it. Other ways include using your consumer dollars to support fair trade companies who do not engage in trafficked labor, as well as checking in with hotels in your area about their knowledge on the issue as a call to action to compel them to be better trained in this.
Human trafficking is vastly overlooked in our society because much of it is under the radar. The truth is that it is all around us in our communities, even places you’d least expect. The more we are conscious of it though, the better the chance we have to prevent new victims from falling into this world and helping to get current victims out of it. For the people who are fortunate enough to make it out though, it is also just as important to give them a chance at empowering themselves for a better life ahead. For more information on the i-5 Freedom Network visit there official website at: https://www.i5freedomnetwork.org/
A perk of the east coast United States is access to some really fantastic historic cities. Case in point: Philadelphia.
A mere 2-hour bus ride from New York City, this city is probably the most historic in relation to the Founding Fathers and the beginnings of the United States as an independent nation. Because of this, it makes for a fascinating trip, especially if you enjoy history. Personally, history has always been a favorite subject of mine since school, so I knew Philadelphia – or Philly – would be an exciting visit.
I took the Megabus from New York City bright and early at 6:50 a.m. and was in the heart of Philly by 9:00 a.m. Another perk? The trip only cost me $14 round trip! Budget travel for the win! If you are taking a bus to Philadelphia, make sure to book the route that drops you off and picks you up at Independence Hall. That’s the heart of where all the tourist sites like the Liberty Bell, Declaration of Independence, etc. are going to be.
After getting off the bus, I walked over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the famous Rocky steps are. If you’re familiar with the iconic film Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone, then you’ll recall him running up those stairs to the “Gonna Fly Now” tune. And yes, you can bet there were plenty of tourists running up those stairs. One guy even had the music to accompany it. The Rocky steps are the only major site that is not in the main area. It’s a bit of a walk – but totally doable – from Independence Hall. I’d say somewhere between 1 and 2 miles. When you get there though, be mindful of people standing around offering to take pictures of you. Sometimes this can be a way for people to try and snatch your phone or demand money for taking your picture. If you are traveling on your own, try looking for another group of tourists to take your photo. There’s also a Rocky statue next to the museum as well that you can get photos with.
After snapping a few pics at the Rocky statue, I walked back to the Independence Hall neighborhood. Like in Washington D.C., Philly offers travelers a lot of free things to see and do. I kid you not, the only thing I spent money on that day was a Philly Cheese Steak (more to come on that later…)
Once I was back near Independence Hall, I went over to the Liberty Bell first. There’s a short line and you go through security, but it’s pretty low key. If you can, try to see Philly’s historic sites on a weekday, especially if you go during the summer. Even on a Thursday, which is when I went, there are locations that can get busy.
After the Liberty Bell, I hit up Independence Hall. This building was built in the 1700s and is the location where Congress was first held. It is also where the Declaration of Independence was signed and is now on display. Insert your Nicolas Cage jokes here.
Although Independence Hall is free, the part of the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed requires ticket reservations. Note: you do not need a ticket to actually see the Declaration of Independence though. The document itself is in another area at Independence Hall. Needless to say, I did not know about the need for tickets. The good news is that even if you do not get a ticket beforehand, you can still see other parts of Independence Hall and come back around 4:45 p.m. to get in line to see where the Declaration was signed. At that point tickets are not required. As it turned out, a lot of people forget that whole ticket thing. When I came back later in the day to line up, it ended up being an hour and a half wait to finally get in the room. It was worth the wait, but if you want to avoid long lines, get a ticket.
Tour guides are also at Independence Hall to tell you about the history of what went down there, which makes the experience all the more interesting.
Other spots I saw during the day included the Betsy Ross House and Benjamin Franklin’s grave. You do need to pay to get inside the Betsy Ross House, but you can still see the outside of it if you don’t feel like the paying. The same goes for Ben Franklin’s grave. His grave is visible from the street, but in order to enter inside the cemetery, you need to pay.
Next to Independence Hall are a bunch of other historic – and gorgeous – 18th century buildings. I went inside New Hall, which was the first headquarters of the U.S. military after gaining independence. I also went inside Carpenters’ Hall, which was the meeting location for the First Continental Congress in 1774. The first and second banks of the United States are also cool to check out while in the area. The layout of this area of Philadelphia is absolutely stunning. A beautiful park space surrounds these historic 18th century buildings. If you need a quick break, go sit on a bench and enjoy the scenery. It’s especially pretty on a warm, sunny day.
Now about that Philly Cheese Steak…
This is the one food item you have to try when you’re in Philadelphia. I went over to the Old City area, which is right near Independence Hall. It’s a neat place to walk around. This is the part of Philly that features cute coffee shops, stores, restaurants, etc.
I was determined to have a Philly Cheese Steak for lunch and decided on a local spot called Fezziwig’s Sweet Shoppe on 3rd Street. Don’t let the title fool you though. While they indeed have great desserts, they also have a terrific Philly Cheese Steak. It’s costs $9.50, but with tax is just over $10. It’s a big sandwich too. I couldn’t finish the whole thing, but two people could easily share just one Philly Cheese Steak. The best part though is the service. They are really nice!
Philadelphia is the perfect day trip, because you can easily conquer the city in one day. I definitely gave myself more than enough time. By 7 p.m. I was basically just trying to kill time – in the form of recording myself doing the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rap. I think I had waited my whole life for that moment…
This might seem like the silliest, most mundane idea for a travel blog post, but in the name of practicality, I realized that it might, in fact, be a great topic to discuss.
When it comes to travel blogs, we’re all looking for places to see and where to stay, but the truth is that when we’re actually out in the world traveling, we’re also trying to stay hydrated and connected. To put it bluntly: we will inevitably need to pee and/or charge our phones.
Right?! RIGHT?! We’ve all been there. You’re in some city you don’t know enjoying the day and instead of heading back to your hotel, you end up looking for somewhere you can use the bathroom or charge your phone for a bit without having to spend a bunch of money.
New York City is one of the busiest travel destinations in the world. As a writer who frequently works in coffee shops, which is usually a go-to option for travelers in need of a bathroom or an outlet, I’ve discovered some useful information along the way.
I’ve been residing in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan, so these locations will be near Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen, which is right near Times Square as well. Hey, there’s like a thousand coffee shops in Manhattan alone. I can’t reach them all!
Here’s my breakdown of places where there’s a (free) bathroom or outlet for you to charge your phone.
First up: Starbucks
This international coffee chain is not only a symbol of over-priced coffee (no joke, prices jumped again), it’s also a beacon for bathrooms and outlets. What’s important to remember is that not all Starbucks are alike when it comes to outlets, bathrooms, and seating.
Starbucks at 8th Ave & 52nd St. (Times Square/Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown)
What they offer: outlets, good seating, and bathrooms
Starbucks at 57th & 10th (Hell’s Kitchen)
What they offer: lots of seating, outlets, and a bathroom
Starbucks on 57th St. between 9th & and 8th Ave. (Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown)
What they offer: outlets and bathroom, but very minimal seating
Starbucks at 53rd and 6th (Midtown)
What they offer: No outlets, bathrooms, or seating. Basically, it’s just a pit stop to get coffee.
Starbucks on 53rd near Madison Ave. (Midtown)
What they offer: bathroom and good seating, but no outlets
Another place for free bathroom access near Times Square is the Macy’s store at 34th St. between 7th & 6th.
That’s it for now! If you find yourself in NYC, use this small but handy guide, because to quote the great Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Even though it’s a coastal city, New York tends to be more known for giant skyscrapers and larger-than-life Broadway shows than it does for beaches. In the summertime though, there’s access to many different beach spots like the celebrity-filled Hamptons, Brighton beach, and Jones beach. However, if there’s one iconic beach spot that you have to head to when visiting New York, it is definitely Coney Island.
Coney Island is located on the southwest tip of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The good news is that it is easily accessible too. From Manhattan, take the Q subway train all the to the last stop, which will be Coney Island. From there, just exit and walk over.
Coney Island features a beach, boardwalk, amusement park, food, pier, and aquarium. I’m happy to report there are also plenty of bathrooms there too.
When it comes to the amusement park portion of Coney Island, the ride you have to go on is called the Cyclone. It’s the most famous ride. In fact, the baseball team The Brooklyn Cyclones were named after it! It’s $10 per passenger, and they do take credit cards. It’s well worth it too! The ride is really fun and features a lot of dips.
Food! OK. So, when it comes to food obviously there’s lot of choices. Don’t go to Coney Island thinking you’re going to get some sort of organic chicken salad; it’s traditional park food. The famous spot to head to for a bite to eat is Nathan’s hot dogs. Eating a hotdog from Nathan’s is a Coney Island rite of passage. A regular hot dog from there will cost about $5 with tax (officially $4.75).
The two biggest annual events at Coney Island are the Mermaid Parade and the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The Mermaid Parade takes place in June, while the Hot Dog Eating Contest happens on the Fourth of July. It’s safe to assume those guys eating hot dogs will be passed out or throwing up by the time fireworks roll around. Yikes!
Thankfully my trip to Coney ended with just a mild sunburn, as opposed to an overdose on hot dogs.
Catch you on the beach!
That’s right. I finally found it: the best place in the entire United States to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. Are you ready? Hold your firecrackers kids, because this is where it’s at.
The best place in the U.S. to watch fireworks on the 4th of July is…
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.!
Yes! The iconic location where Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech. The place immortalizing one of the greatest U.S. Presidents. A place of protest and celebration of democracy. This is one of America’s most symbolic landmarks.
You might be reading this and wondering, 'What about the White House, Capitol Building, or the Washington Monument?’. Good question!
Certainly, those are also famous U.S. landmarks, but here’s where the Lincoln Memorial outdoes them: the view
Not only are you getting a personal firework show, but you are looking out onto the Washington Monument and reflecting pool in front of you as you watch one of the best fireworks shows in the nation.
You can even sit right on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial too as you enjoy the show.
There’s no need to worry about getting there super early either. I managed to still find a great spot where I could sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a mere 10-15 minutes before the fireworks started.
So, if you ever get a chance to be in the capital city of the United States on Independence Day, head to the Lincoln Memorial.
A word of advice though: PUT AWAY YOUR PHONES! Take a few photos and then put them away for crying out loud. We get so focused on documenting everything we forget to live in the moment, and let me tell you something, experiencing a 4th of July on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is something to remember.
Jill Zwarensteyn is a television producer, writer, and comedian who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com