Humor Travel Life
I just moved to New York.
I’m officially a New York writer and loving every second of my nerd-level Carrie Bradshaw vibes. I completely get it. New York City is the greatest city in the world. I love it. It is absolutely magical. Yes, rent prices are high but the pizza is dirt cheap. We all make sacrifices.
Coming from LA, where the magic is all about Hollywood, New York has a different kind of energy. While yes, there are many artists here following their dreams, the history and symbolism of New York City is unlike no other. I couldn’t think of a better spot to visit first than the Statue of Liberty. However, it was easier said than done.
Los Angeles is full of tourists, but normally, they are confined to Hollywood Blvd, a few beach spots, and a theme park or two. Here in New York, they are everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love tourists and meeting people from other countries, but I'm not a fan of a big crowds. It's even worse when those crowds get pushy, and then I turn into George Costanza. I know what you might be thinking: Why did you move to one of the busiest cities in the world then? First of all, I'm complicated. Second of all, people walking about in the city is one thing, but being shoved by 6ft tall German women is not my idea of a weekend well-spent. As it turns out, the Statue of Liberty is one of the busiest tourist attractions in the world. It’s the Mount Everest of tourism. If you can make it through that crowd, you can do anything!
On the Saturday of this year’s combined Passover and Easter weekend, I made my way on the 1 train down to Battery Park where you can catch the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I made the mistake of not listening to my own advice and did not purchase a ticket ahead of time. I was naïve. It was a holiday weekend and a beautiful, sunny day. Crap.
I finally get there. The line just to purchase a ticket is around the building and then some. Mind you there is also a separate, super-long line once you have your ticket to get onto the ferry. I was almost to the ticket counter when I heard it; A man announced, impressively in 5 different languages, that they were no longer selling tickets for that day. I was not amused. Thankfully, I could still buy a ticket for the next day, but that would mean I would have to come back to Battery Park, and at $2.75 a train ride, it’s not exactly cheap. I bought my Statue of Liberty ticket for the following day, which would be Easter Sunday. Not wanting to waste a subway trip though, I decided to walk over to where the Staten Island Ferry is and take that over the harbor to see a bit of Staten Island. Fun fact, the State Island Ferry is free. Wahoo! Unfortunately, it seemed that everyone else who didn’t get a ticket to the Statue of Liberty had the same idea.
I was waiting near the entrance to get onto the ferry in a sea of people, pun intended. I thought I might lose my mind. First of all, it felt as though everyone near me had at least 6 inches of height over me (I’m very short). Then all of sudden the doors opened, and we started to move. But not a calm move. We were like a live reenactment of what was happening on the Titanic, only instead of looking for lifeboats, we were trying to get back on the ship. I remember saying out loud “People, calm down. It’s Staten Island, not Disneyland.” Though I don’t think anyone understood me, I figured now would be the perfect time to start becoming a tough New Yorker. Yeah, I still have a lot of work to do.
The great thing about New York is that when you take these ferries, especially on a nicer day, you get beautiful views of Manhattan and the harbor. It can get quite chilly on the top of the ferry though, so be mindful to dress extra warm.
After getting off the ferry at Staten Island, I wandered around a bit into a very low-key borough that didn’t seem to have much going on at all. In fact, it felt kind of creepy. That ferry was packed, and then all of sudden it was like "where did all the people go?". Stephen King, if you ever somehow read this blog, it might make a good book. I can totally see it: The Staten Island Disappearance. Seriously though, where did all those people go!?
Since my phone battery was low, I didn’t venture too far onto the island. Last thing I needed was to get lost in New York, battle a couple of quirky thieves, have my mom finally find me at Rockefeller Center and... Oh wait, wrong plot. OK, so all in all, the fact that the ride was free and that I can cross Staten Island off my New York bucket list made it a satisfactory day of exploration.
On the next blog post, hear about the following day when I finally made it to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island!
This blog is all about travel, and I want to make sure that I aim to include topics that readers of different backgrounds can relate to. Since I am not a parent, the subject of traveling with a baby is one that I am not familiar with, so I enlisted the help of an experienced traveler who also happens to be a new mom to an adorable baby boy. I interviewed my cousin Betsy, a Southern California-based teacher, all about her experience flying with a baby.
1. PB (pre-baby), what was your travel background?
For work, I used to travel internationally about 6-7 times a year. In the last few years since being married, we have travelled about 1-2 times internationally for pleasure and usually a road trip (camping, skiing, beach etc) every other month. We love to explore new places - from busy urban cities to remote landscapes and national parks!
2. Where have you traveled to with Emerson?
Temecula Wine Country (When he was a month old), Michigan (when he was 2 months old), California Coast/Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles (when he was 2.5 months old), Bay Area (when he was 3 months old), Michigan again (when he was 3.5 months old).
3. Have you taken any solo trips with him?
My first trip with him back to Michigan I traveled alone and flew with Emerson on my lap when he was just under 2 months old. It definitely was really intimidating at first, but it’s very doable. The younger they are, the easier. I was fortunate to fly Southwest and have very helpful neighbors who would hold in my son’s pacifier while I changed him on my lap.
4. What are some things you brought with you while traveling with a baby that have helped you?
Travel light, make sure everything you take is multi-use and very versatile. For example, instead of bringing heavy blankets for my son to lay out on if there was an empty seat for him next to me, I put down my sweatshirt or jacket. Instead of taking burp cloths, take napkins that you can throw away or a small blanket that can double up as a burp cloth. Bring a couple of the disposable pads (like the one the’s they put under you at the hospital or under the baby when they weigh him) and use those for diaper changes or mopping up any spills. Taking 2-3 pairs of clothes, plenty of diapers and wipes are a must but only enough to last you for a day of travel (buy some when you arrive to your destination). I checked the stroller until our final destination so I brought a baby carrier which allowed me to use the restroom on layovers and I always had a place for baby to sleep on the plane/while walking about.
5. What are some things you realized you didn’t need to bring with you when traveling with a baby?
A lot of clothes/shoes for our little one, bring a couple sets to last you a day, but then just do laundry…you have enough other stuff to bring with a little!
6. How much extra time do you allow yourself at airports now?
Maybe about 30 mins extra for pumping and a diaper change.
7. Now being a mom, have you noticed any ways airports help accommodate new parents?
YESSSSSS! Thank you to those thoughtful airports that have nursing rooms (inside security)! These are places where moms can go to nurse/pump and to change their little one’s diaper. Many have a nice seating area, tv, changing table, restroom, and sink! Some of the smaller airports have nursing rooms outside of security which is kinda annoying but better than none! Also, if you’re flying with small children you can as the airline for a gate pass so a family member/friend can help escort you to the gate even though they themselves are not flying. This was a huge help when I was traveling alone so I could have some down time before boarding!
8. Have you dealt with any rude passengers?
Not yet, flying Southwest is the best because people choose their own seats. Family boarding occurs towards the beginning and then the remaining passengers to board can choose to sit by a baby/child or not! So, people that like kids choose to sit next to you!
9. What are some suggestions you think airports and airlines can do to help parents traveling with a baby?
More family restrooms/nursing rooms for moms. A separate security line would be nice!
Based on true events
I can remember the time vividly. It was the 2000’s. We were a nation in mourning over the break-up of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Tanning, extreme highlights, and lip gloss were fashion staples. To this day, I’ll never understand the appeal of the Jersey Shore look. But from the dark corners of the airline CEO offices, a new threat was emerging; One whose repercussions would go on to shape the future of airplane boarding decorum as we know it. That threat, my friends, is when airlines started charging for checked bags.
Yes, there was a time when major U.S. airlines did not charge for a checked bag. In fact, there was even a time when you could get a meal included on your flight to Cancun without having to be in First Class. That era was the 90s, and if only we could see that reboot actually happen...
You see, by charging passengers for every bag they want to check, it made more and more travelers opt out of checking bags altogether. The people fought back in the only way they could: by literally putting everything into a carry-on. Hell hath no fury like a budget traveler.
With more and more people accessing the overhead bin area for their carry-ons, we began to realize that there just aren’t enough spots for everyone, and thus began the never-ending battle for overhead bin space. Nowadays, if there’s not enough room, they will just check your bag for you to your final destination. But then, what if you don’t want that bag checked? You’ve got a 5-hour long layover in Houston, and you need access to your carry-on!
You are waiting in the terminal. You are Boarding Group 4. Oh, this could go either way. You look over at those stuck in Group 5 with pity, secretly grateful you aren’t there with them. They have no choice. But you? Well, you have to wait it out. You roll your eyes at the big wigs in First Class and Premiere Access. Oh, look at them all special getting to board the plane right away with plenty of overhead bin space and even a welcome cup of white wine after arriving on-board. You now see Group 2 and Group 3 start to board. Your nerves get the best of you as you see that literally everyone has a carry-on with wheels. Oy.
You begin to strike up a conversation with the middle-aged woman in front of you holding her Pomeranian. You express, extra loud so others will hear, your hope that more people will be kind enough to put their smaller bags and purses below the seat in front of them. But seriously though? Who are those jerks that put their small stuff in the overhead bin area? That’s important space that can be used! Where’s the consideration for your fellow passengers? You channel your inner George Costanza and declare this is Thunderdome.
It’s time! They just called Boarding Group 4. Being the neurotic traveler that you are, you are already toward the front of the line to make sure you have a better chance of getting your bag on that plane. You panic. The gate agent just started counting people to see how many spots they have left before people have to check their carry-ons. It looks like she kept counting past you. Good! You eagerly walk up to the gate agent, boarding pass ready. You’re through! Ok, to the plane now.
You are boarding behind people. They are tall. You can’t quite see ahead if there’s space. And then, as if in a slow-motion dream sequence, they begin to sit and you see it, an open spot! You hustle to it and throw your bag up there with strength you never knew you had since you mainly do cardio. But you made it! Your bag is up! You sit in 27A, relaxed, and ready to check out the same Hemispheres magazine you saw on your last flight. All is right with the world. Just then, you hear the sound of two 18-year-olds approach you, “Um, excuse me, would you mind changing seats so my boyfriend and I can sit together?”
Oh, come on!
Whether you’re traveling throughout the United States or taking an adventure around the world, there are many films that incorporate both the magic of travel and the beauty of the areas they highlight. Here are some that have inspired me over the years. If you have suggestions of films that excite your travel bug, definitely add your suggestions in the comments section.
Eat Pray Love
A film that is all about travel and self-discovery, Eat Pray Love has something for everyone and features gorgeous locations including Rome, India, and Bali. If you’re a foodie, there are numerous scenes where Julia Roberts is unabashedly enjoying delicious Italian pastas and pizza. Yum! Spiritual yoga and meditation are also core themes, but the main draw of this film is the very relatable story of finding happiness again. So, if your trip speaks to your desire for inspiration, definitely catch Eat Pray Love.
This romantic comedy stars Amy Adams as an American woman who hires a ridiculously attractive Irish innkeeper to help get her Dublin so she can propose to her boyfriend. However, as luck (pun intended) would have it, she falls for the Irishman instead. The film was shot in Ireland and features much of the beautiful, green countryside there.
National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation
Obviously, there are plenty of films centered around a trip in Las Vegas, many of which involve high consumption of alcohol, but you can’t go wrong with a classic Griswold family outing. It’s a really fun comedy that gave us the infamous alias ‘Nick Papagiorgio’ and features classic Vegas staples, including Wayne Newton and the Hoover Dam.
La La Land
This love letter to Hollywood echoes the classic musicals of the entertainment capital’s golden age but also captures the modern-day vibe of the city and fun inside jokes for LA locals. If you are fan of classic Hollywood in particular, this movie is the one to see before visiting Los Angeles. It features beautiful locales around town, including the famous Griffith Observatory, my personal favorite spot in LA.
Sex and the City: The Movie
Ok, yes, technically you could watch the series Sex and the City to get excited for New York, but if you need something a bit more condensed, the movie is perfect prior to a trip to the Big Apple. The film, like the series, was shot around New York City. Just make sure to have a signature Cosmopolitan while you watch this one. Please completely disregard Sex and the City 2 however.
Midnight in Paris
The opening credits alone will have you excited to see this iconic city. Midnight in Paris stars Owen Wilson as a frustrated writer who magically goes back in time each night at Midnight and converses with famous artists who had resided in Paris during the 1920s. It’s combines both the romanticism and artistic history of 1920s Paris with epic shots of the city today.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones is famous for his escapades around the world, but with the addition of Sean Connery as Indy’s dad, this is easily the most fun entry in the film’s franchise. This is a great film to get inspired by if your trip will be focused on adventures and excursions. And I mean, Harrison Ford, come on! He’s the best.
This 1953 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory was shot on location around Rome. With classic Hollywood film stars, a sweet love story, and exciting sites around the city like the Spanish steps, this is a great film to enjoy before visiting Rome. Audrey’s timeless style may also inspire some great clothing options for your trip.
Shakespeare in Love
This film pays homage to one of the city’s greatest contributions, the theater. It’s a story centered around a young William Shakespeare who falls in love with and is inspired by a woman named Viola, played by a pre-Goop spokesperson Gwyneth Paltrow. It also heavily features the Globe Theater, which if you do visit London, is a working theater and reconstruction of the original one associated with Shakespeare and his works.
Let's face it, sleeping on airplanes can be one of the hardest aspects of travel. We are tired as is, and for most of us, we don't have the budget for the fancy 1st class beds. So what's a person to do? Well, for me, a glass of white wine is a big help to feel relaxed enough to eventually dose off to sleep Heaven. Another tactic I learned in preparation for a 13-hour long flight to Australia was to stay up the night before, so that once I was on the plane the next day I was exhausted enough that I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Though these tips work for me, I don't have all the answers, so I reached out to fellow travelers to share their best tips for sleeping on an airplane.
"If it's an overnight flight, take the middle section of the seats and sit in the 2nd seat from the aisle. If you sit on the end people will wake you up to use the bathroom but if you take the 2nd seat, the person on your left will ask the other side to get up to use the bathroom. Don't sit too close to the bathroom because there is a constant coming and going of people who will talk, plus the flushing of the toilet." - Francesco, Italy
"I get jet lag flying to Europe west to east. For a night flight I go to bed a half hour earlier each night for a few days so I will fall asleep after dinner on the flight. I stay away from caffeine for a couple of days before leaving. I use a sleep mask to make it dark." - Jaclyn, California
"Put on your earmuffs, sleeping mask, and hoodie. Pull your arms in from your sleeves and tuck your knees up into your hoodie in a fetal position. Let your body roll and rest wherever it may fall, even on the stranger next to you. You’ll feel like you’re right back in the womb. Only works for short people, so if you’re tall, you’re not sleeping" - Steven, California
"To get a good night's rest on the plane, I would actually take a blanket and a pillow or two blankets. I would also take a set of ear plugs and/or earbuds. Then I would say that the day that you're getting ready to fly, you want to look at the time zone that you're flying to and then adjust the day of the flight so that you start preparing yourself for the new time zone. This might mean you need to get up earlier in the morning so that you allow yourself to quickly get onto a new time zone. Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water." - Geri, California
You thought I was going to write about Detroit? For Michigan? Come on, that’s too obvious. The city I’m highlighting is none other than my home city of Grand Rapids. It’s the second biggest city in Michigan behind Detroit and is rapidly (pun-intended) growing into an exciting place to be. Back in the day, downtown Grand Rapids didn’t exactly have much going on. Now, everything has changed. From arts festivals to local breweries to music venues, it’s hard to keep up with everything going on in GR but alas, I shall try.
It makes sense that Grand Rapids would receive a title such as Beer City USA. Beer seems to be a staple beverage of the Midwest, and GR has numerous local breweries for a growing city. Many bars around town make it a point to serve local beer, so when you visit Grand Rapids make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to try excellent, local brews. My personal favorite is the Rubaeus from Founder’s Brewing Co. It’s a raspberry ale, so it has a sweeter flavor if you’re into that. My favorite place to grab a beer in Grand Rapids is The Winchester over in East Grand Rapids, but another great spot is the Founder’s Brewing Co. venue where they also have live music.
East Grand Rapids!
Speaking of East Grand Rapids, back in the day this part of Grand Rapids was known for two things: Yesterdog and fancy houses. Now there’s a whole lot more going on, but of course Yesterdog and the fancy houses are still there. If you live in LA, you go to Pink’s for a hot dog, but if you live in Grand Rapids, you go to Yesterdog. Don’t get discouraged by the tiny waiting area and the chaos of trying to order from here, the hot dogs are well worth it. Also, in East Grand Rapids is the Wealthy Street Theater, which is home to concerts and other local events. If you need some breakfast, hit up The Wealthy Street Bakery or Wolfgang’s Restaurant. And no, it’s not Wolfgang Puck.
Most people think of Madcap for a cool place to grab coffee downtown, but personally if I wanted to receive unenthusiastic service from beautiful hipsters in a space with very limited seating, I’d go to Silverlake. When in Grand Rapids, I prefer to hit up Bigby Coffee instead. My favorite Bigby location is the one on Monroe Center in the heart of Downtown. Another great local coffee spot I recently discovered is Lyon Street Café.
One of my favorite qualities of Grand Rapids is the arts scene. If you’re into bigger musical productions you can see touring shows come through with Broadway Grand Rapids at the DeVos Place, but personally, I prefer to support the local theaters, especially as I know how incredible the GR theater community is. For local musical productions, you can catch performances at the Civic Theatre and Circle Theater, as well as shows from the universities like Grand Valley State and Aquinas. Other theater venues include Dog Story Theater, Jewish Theatre, Actors’ Theatre, and Heritage Theatre. Every year Grand Rapids is also home to two major arts festivals: The Festival of the Arts and ArtPrize. Festival of the Arts is held in June, while Art Prize happens during the early Fall. Additionally, the Grand Rapids Art Museum provides a year round spot to see great art while in Grand Rapids. GR also has it’s own ballet company, opera, and symphony. One of my favorite activities is to see a Grand Rapids Ballet performance of The Nutcracker, which they put on each year during the Christmas season.
Other places/activities to check out
- Frederik Meijer Gardens (themed gardens and outdoor music venue) *year round but best in the Summer season
- Grand Rapids Public Museum and Planetarium *year round
- Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum *year round
- Van Andel Arena (national music tours and hockey games for Grand Rapids Griffins) *year round for music, Winter season for hockey
- Fifth Third Baseball Park (home to the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball team) *Spring and Summer seasons
- 20 Monroe Live (music venue) *year round
- John Ball Zoo *Summer season
- Grand Haven (beach and coastal city on Lake Michigan) *Summer season
- Rosa Parks Circle (ice skating) *Winter season
So if this blog has talked you into visiting Grand Rapids, you’re probably wondering when the best time to go is. Well, another great aspect of Michigan is that it actually has all four seasons. Yeah, Los Angeles, 75 degrees in January is not winter. I would say the best time to visit depends on what you want to do and how well you can tolerate the cold. If you’re visiting from outside of the United States and want an authentic American experience, definitely come visit this amazing Midwest city. And if you are in the United States and looking for a fun vacation, come to Grand Rapids. We can even claim the title of hometown to a United States President, and don’t worry, it isn’t Donald Trump. See you in the Mitten!
If you’re from GR and have some additional suggestions for places to see or things to do please comment below. Cheers!
I have been going to the city of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico for the last 20 years. Don't freak out; I've also traveled to other places during those 20 years as well. I even lived in PV briefly during college. Puerto Vallarta has certainly changed over the years, but it also remains the same in many ways too. I've seen new businesses built up and beloved old ones go away. I've seen once-cherished beach spots become overrun by 20-something hipster tourists. But then again, I guess me saying I knew it before it was cool makes me a hipster too right?
After 20 years though, you'd think I had seen all there was to see in Puerto Vallarta. That's when you realize that sometimes father really does know best. This past December, I met up with my folks down in Puerto Vallarta. They came from Michigan, and I came from LA. So, shout out to my dad for providing me with some new experiences this last trip to Puerto Vallarta. That, and he insisted on getting credit. Humility comes and goes in our family.
So for those who think they've seen it all in their travel destinations, I am here to tell you that even after 20 years of visits, I was able to have new experiences and discoveries in this wonderful city.
New Discovery #1: Lo De Marcos
The furthest up the coast from Puerto Vallarta I had ever ventured to was Sayulita, so when my Dad suggested a tiny beach town called Lo De Marcos, which is just about 15-20 minutes north of Sayulita, I was intrigued. He had been there before and spoke so highly of it, plus it was somewhere I had never been and I was craving something new. Coming from Old Town Puerto Vallarta however, it was almost 2 hours via bus to arrive in Lo De Marcos, but when we finally got there, it was well worth the trip. To say the town was small would be an understatement; You saw more street dogs around than you did residents. For someone who craves a local experience though, it was perfect. With only just a few others along the beach, it was clear that Lo De Marcos had yet to be overrun by tourists, though I fear the hipsters and surfers will soon catch on. Shhh. Don't share this blog with them! Ok. I'm just kidding. Well, maybe...
The beach and ocean are also way better than in the city of Puerto Vallarta. With no rocks at the shore and big waves to play in, I had a blast swimming in the ocean that day. Just be mindful that sometimes people on horses come through there, so keep your eyes peeled when walking through the sand. We had to shout after a young woman who almost ended up stepping in horse poop with her bare feet. Not all heroes wear capes...
New Discovery #2: Jungle Hiking
Another fun adventure my dad showed me was the hike from Boca de Tomatlan through the jungle to Las Animas beach. Boca de Tomatlan is to the south of the city and is where you can go to catch water taxi boats to the more secluded beaches down the coast. Instead of taking a water taxi though, my Dad and I hiked along the trail through the jungle. The trail can be somewhat strenuous, so if you are new to hiking in the heat I might suggest building up for that hike before you do it. It's a fun challenge though and an absolutely gorgeous route. You get to hike through a beautiful jungle and look out onto the ocean at the same time. Plus, the waters down the coast of Puerto Vallarta are much more of a pretty blue color. If you need a break along the way, or just a really great photo op, stop at Colomitos beach, which is about half way into the hike. It's a cool, small beach spot and the water is a really pretty emerald green color. Finally, when you get to Playa las Animas you can enjoy a refreshing Pacifico beer at a local restaurant and even encounter a talking parrot there. I kid you not.
After 20 years visiting Puerto Vallarta though, this hike had some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen in the area. It's absolutely worth it.
New Discovery #3: Live Jazz Music
Over the years I've been exposed to different music while in Puerto Vallarta. There's the live Mariachi band performing along the Malecon boardwalk or the Salsa band at La Bodeguita del Medio. And there's even the nightclub that plays nothing but techno while you sit and pray for some Beyonce to come on while fending off drunk male tourists. From my knowledge, Puerto Vallarta hadn't really been much of place you go to listen to jazz. My father, a lifelong professional musician and music teacher, has more recently gotten involved with the local music community in Vallarta. It's through this that my parents met a trumpet player originally from Havana named Josvani. They suggested we go watch him perform with his group at a new venue along the Malecon called The Jazz Foundation. You don't always get many opportunities for live music around town there, so to see a new venue that not only has frequent live music performances, but also in a style not commonly performed there, was actually quite cool to see.
I'll have some more fun blog posts coming up in the new year, but for now please feel free to catch some of my published articles for Matador Network, Thought Catalog, and GoMad Nomad. Have a warm and happy holiday season and see you in the new year. Don't forget to keep in touch on Twitter and Instagram. Happy Holidays!
My apathy towards the city of angels known as Los Angeles has allowed me to occasionally forget that I also happen to live in one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the world, though I would gladly trade the poop-covered, smoke-filled streets of LA for the majestic beauty of the Scottish countryside or the sparkling streets of Paris. Contrary to any perceived images of LA, we are not dancing and singing with joy along the 405 Freeway, nor having a romantic, yet technically illegal, date at the Griffith Observatory after hours with a Ryan Gosling look-alike. Seriously, where is that LA?
OK. Back to reality. Our brand of tourism here in LA is very specific. It's called Hollywood. Our claim to fame is that timeless, transcendent industry that brings thousands of tourists each year in hopes of seeing famous stars like Julia Roberts or Denzel Washington, or YouTube stars that anyone over the age of 25 has never heard of. So naturally after residing in this hub of Hollywood for some years now, I thought it only fitting that I share some insight into my own local tourist destination.
If you're the Hollywood fan...
Alright. Well, even if you aren't so much into Hollywood entertainment, you can't come to LA and not experience at least some of our famous industry. The first must-see is Hollywood Blvd. What you need to see on Hollywood Blvd. is the hand and footprints at the Chinese Theatre, followed by the Hollywood Walk of Fame which has all the famous stars on the ground with the names of various celebrities. Warning: Do not, I repeat, do not at all lay on the ground or put your hands on the ground to take photos with the actors' stars. Most people do not realize that there's a lot of people who go to the bathroom or their pets do all over the streets of this city and Hollywood is no exception. The germs you will be touching make me cringe simply thinking about it. Just please don't do it. Another spot on Hollywood Blvd. to see is the Dolby Theatre, formerly known as like 3 other names before that because this place keeps getting bought out. This is where the Academy Awards are held now every year. You get to walk up the same stairs as the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Then of course there's the Hollywood sign. What they don't tell you is that the hike to this is pretty rough, so if you're into hiking, then give it a go. If not, there's plenty of spots around Hollywood to get the sign in your photo. If you come to LA you'll also see lots of Hollywood tour vans and buses driving tourists around town. Because LA is annoyingly so spread out, this is a way to see lots of sights around the city without paying hundreds of dollars in Lyft rides or hours on our unreliable public transportation system. I'd recommend maybe renting a car while you're here, but the drivers here will make you go grey earlier than necessary...
Universal Studios Hollywood is a fun theme park attached to the famous movie studio, which also offers a really fun studio tour as one of their rides. Other studios like Warner Bros and Paramount offer tours of their lots as well. You can also check out television show tapings here in town. From talk shows with Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Kimmel to competition/game shows like The Price is Right and Dancing with the Stars, we definitely have plenty to catch while you are here. The good news is that these shows need full audiences, so tickets are usually all free. If you somehow find a way to actually get tickets to The Ellen Show, consider yourself super lucky as these sell out really quickly....and please feel free to bring me along.
If you're into a good view of the city...
My favorite spot in Los Angeles is the Griffith Observatory, made famous in the iconic film Rebel without a Cause. It also happens to be a great spot to get some nice shots of the city. You can even get some photos of the Hollywood sign up there as well. James Dean fans in particular will appreciate this site, which includes a monument dedicated to him.
Another spot to get views of the city is Runyon Canyon just north of Franklin St. in Hollywood. Here's where many 20-something model/actors go to exercise, but more so to be seen. The cool thing for tourists though? You may actually catch a celebrity hiking around here too.
If you're into expensive shopping...
I can tell you in full honesty that the only thing I have ever bought near Rodeo Drive is a slice of pizza. But for those of you on a much different budget than me, this is where you can find that famous high-end shopping. You may even catch celebrities over on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I once saw Mischa Barton on Rodeo Drive, but then again, I also saw her in a Kinkos as well so you never know.
If you're into the beach...
Alright. Let's get this out of the way. Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Yes, you should absolutely see them. The Santa Monica Pier and the Venice Beach Boardwalk are some of the most iconic beach spots in the world. That being said, they aren't necessarily the nicest. So, if you have the time and really want to experience the California surfer lifestyle or some of the nicest beaches Southern California has to offer, take a Metrolink or Amtrak train down to Orange County. Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Dana Point. These are all very beautiful beach spots. The thing about LA is that it's not kept clean, which is frustrating. These beach areas in Orange County are especially nice for families visiting as well. Salt Creek beach near Laguna is gorgeous. I was there this summer and it's a really pretty spot to visit.
Last but not least...
Get out of LA! Seriously though. Come to LA, but then get the hell out. California is one the most beautiful places on Earth. While I'm not crazy for Los Angeles, the state of California is stunning. The Redwoods, Yosemite, Big Sur, San Francisco, San Diego. These are all incredible places to visit if you come here. San Diego has the awesome zoo and safari park. San Francisco feels like a slice of the east coast here in California and has lots of great sights of its own, like Chinatown, Fisherman's Warf, and of course the Full House house. My biggest advice for visiting San Francisco is to go over Thanksgiving weekend when they do the Christmas tree lighting. It's really fun and will get you into the holiday spirit. Then of course there's also Disneyland down in Anaheim. The original Disney theme park in fact!
All in all, LA is definitely worth seeing. When my bitterness of this city gets to me, because let's face it, I'm a Midwest girl living in a very shallow environment, I have to check my attitude and remind myself that I'm also in the same city where they made I Love Lucy and then all is right with the world.
My next adventure will be international. But where? Well, stay tuned! Coming soon...
Since I'm 1/2 Dutch via my Dad's side of the family, heading to The Netherlands always feel like coming home. It also helps that I still have family over there, which means I get to share with you a bit of the local Dutch experience.
If you're into cool attractions...
Obviously Amsterdam and those 'coffee shops' tend to be popular items on one's bucket list when visiting The Netherlands, but there's actually a lot more to the country than that. On my most recent trip, my family over there took me to a site called Madurodam. This is hands down one of the most unique attractions you will ever see, plus it's a great way to see the country if you don't have the time to actually see the whole country. What I mean by this is that Madurodam features numerous exact, tiny replicas of Dutch cities and sights. This place is so cool that even the replica for the airport has tiny planes moving around the miniature airport. As John Hammond of Jurassic Park would say, "Spare no expense." They also feature live shows highlighting the history of The Netherlands, as well it's influence on the establishment of New York City.
If you're into food and drinks...
I could go on for days about all my favorite Dutch foods, but the number one food you should experience is Herring. It's a popular fish in The Netherlands. For any first timers out there, I'd recommend a Herring sandwich. However, if you're the adventurous type, visit the local food market in Rotterdam and try some Herring by the tail. And yes, it's exactly as it sounds. For drinks, the local brand of beer is Heineken, so after having some by-the-tail Herring, wash it down with an ice cold Heineken at a local bar in downtown Rotterdam.
'Til next time!
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, 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