Tag: Food

The Un-Planner’s Guide to Surviving San Diego Comic-Con (When You Don’t Have a Ticket)

Q: What do you do when you accidentally take a trip to San Diego during one its busiest events of the year (i.e. San Diego Comic-Con)?

A: You use all your Un-Planner skills to find out ways to have fun, even without a ticket.

Free SDCC Shenanigans

Even if you don’t have tickets to San Diego Comic-Con, there’s still a ton of fun stuff to get into downtown. Plenty of the entertainment networks and companies that are hosting events inside of the convention center also are hosting activities outside for free!

Me, gazing adoringly upon one of my favorite no-nonsense TV characters, Captain Holt.

They had plazas with giveaways and games to play, a karaoke bus, an axe-throwing club, stand-up comedy shows and more! It all just depended on what you wanted to to and how long you were willing to stand in a line.

Tips for More Fun and Less Frustration:

  1. If you hate crowds or waiting in line, this is uh… probably not for you. Organizers seem to have this down to a science though, because the lines move pretty quickly.
  2. If you want to do an event or activity that has limited hours, they’re not joking when they tell you to show up early. We showed up to something at noon that was already booked until it was closing THREE hours later.
  3. If you want to avoid steep parking fees and traffic, rideshare/cab your way downtown. Or, if you are driving, use a parking app to pre-pay for parking downtown. If you don’t mind walking an extra ten minutes toward the convention center, the parking garages and lots are basically half the price of those closer.
  4. Maybe this tip is obvious, but if you’re meeting people downtown, don’t make them try to find you in the crowds. I thought the Coin-Op Game Room bar and arcade was a pretty good meeting place for those 21+. It was easy to find and being farther away from Comic-Con made it way less crowded.
  5. This is less of a tip and more of a helpful suggestion for food, especially in the packed Gaslamp Quarter. Cafe 21 has plenty of seating and killer happy hour (just look at this precious fondue board).

If you find need a break from all the fanfare, may I suggest these activities/places:

The Balboa Theatre

If you enjoy the theater (or even funky architecture – the building was built in 1924!), check out what’s going on at the Balboa Theatre. We saw a live podcast show here and it was both an entertaining and relaxing end to our day.

Convoy Street

About 15 minutes from downtown (without traffic), in the Kearny Mesa area, there is an amazing cluster of Asian restaurants and shops along Convoy Street. Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese food – you name it, it seems to be there.

Tip: Once again, parking can get kind of dicey here. So either rideshare/cab it to the area or if you’re driving, you might have some luck parking in the complex that Mitsuwa Marketplace is in and then walking from there.

Here are a couple popular places that I visited that I really enjoyed:

Mitsuwa Marketplace

I wish we had a Japanese grocery store like this in Arizona! In addition to Asian grocery and beauty items it would be hard to find in most stores in the U.S., they also have five little restaurant/food stands inside.

We grabbed some tasty ramen bowls at Santouka Ramen – there were a ton of different options and combos to choose from. I got my usual Shoyu.

Tip: This stand is cash only.

Somi Somi/Sul & Beans

Somi Somi and Sul & Beans are two excellent Korean dessert establishments in one building. We ate Somi Somi, which has soft serve and taiyaki (a fish-shaped cake with filling). Or you can go nuts and get the soft serve IN the fish-shaped cone with a filling.

Matcha and black sesame soft serve in a goldfish waffle cone with Nutella filling. Honestly, can you believe this thing?

Hillcrest Farmers Market

If you really want to wind down your weekend, it’s worth taking a trip out the Hillcrest Farmers Market.  The market is open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Normal Street. Here you can take in some live music, check out the craft stalls and of course, enjoy a wide variety of food from their many vendors.

Veggie dumplings and BBQ pork bun from House of Bao.

See? Even if you don’t make it into Comic-Con, there’s plenty to do! (But maybe next time, I’ll plan ahead. Maybe.)

Until We Meet Again,
Katie

In My Humble O-PIN-nion

Food Finds: El Chullo, a Peruvian Delight

Greetings, hungry explorers! It’s another segment of Food Finds, hot out of the oven. If you haven’t joined us at the table before, this is our guide to great food (usually local to Arizona). Today, we’ve got the scoop on El Chullo, Peruvian Restaurant and Bar.

El Chullo

If you read our last Food Finds about cozy Cambodian restaurant Reathrey Sekong, El Chullo is even cozier. This little Peruvian place is tucked into the corner of 7th St. and Virginia Ave. in mid-town Phoenix. The tables and bar seat MAYBE 30-ish people max., so if you’re bringing in a larger party (or really any dining party, especially on a weekend), call in and make a reservation.

For such a tiny tavern, they have a pretty wide variety of appetizers and entrees on their menu, so if you have questions (and had never tried Peruvian food before like us newbies), just ask your server. I’d also ask about their beverages that have a Peruvian twist, like Inca Kola. Honestly, this golden soda was a little intense on the flavor scale for me – but if you’re a fan of lemon verbena (it’s main ingredient), this is the cola (or Kola) for you.

I’d describe these dishes as comfort food, both hearty and warm. They also definitely don’t skimp on the portions. But, if you do still have room after these generous plates, don’t forget about dessert!

We tried the alfajor – a cute little cookie with a creamy dulce de leche center. It’s one of the desserts they are known for!

So if you find yourself in Phoenix, give El Chullo a try. We also heard that they might be opening up a second location not too far away on 7th Ave. sometime soon, so it’ll be even easier to sample some of this Peruvian goodness.

That’s it for this week’s Food Finds, but don’t be stranger – we have more on the horizon!

Eat Well,
Katie

Food Finds: Arizona Mead Company

Happy Monday! We’re here to help you kick off the week with another segment of Food Finds – leading you to tasty food and beverages one post at a time. And on this occasion, our tastebuds led us to the…

Arizona Mead Company 

Mead is an alcoholic beverage, that’s not quite a beer and not quite a wine, and made from fermented honey and water. You don’t see it very often on a restaurant menu and it might be pretty hard to find in your local grocery store, BUT don’t fret! Because right here in Chandler, Arizona, the Arizona Mead Company makes their very own craft mead.

They have a variety of different meads to choose from, and if you can’t make up your mind, try the flight – you get a sample of four. Check their website to see what they have on tap currently.

If you want to give mead a chance, you better put it down on your calendar because Arizona Mead Company has pretty exclusive hours: open Fridays 5-9 p.m. and Saturdays 3-9 p.m.

Their tap room is small, so if you’re worried about not fitting in (literally), you might want to visit earlier rather than later. Or if it is full, you could always take a bottle home with you instead!

And if you’re not sure WHERE the tap room is, just look out for this sign:

And this door:

That’s it for Food Finds! If you’re looking for other recommendations, check out our first Food Finds post here. Also, if you’re absolutely terrible at directions like me, there’s a handy map for the Arizona Mead Company below.

Thanks for visiting!

xo,
Katie

Food Finds: Reathrey Sekong and Novel Ice Cream

Hello again, travelers! Welcome to a new segment of Nightborn called Food Finds. We love checking out new places, supporting local businesses and of course, eating tasty treats, so we figured we share them with you, too. Today’s finds are dinner (or lunch) and dessert (or, as I’d like to call it, anytime food) at Reathrey Sekong and Novel Ice Cream.

Reathrey Sekong

Reathrey is a cozy Cambodian restaurant tucked into mid-town Phoenix. Inside you’ll find a smattering of tables and booths – a perfectly-sized space that, even when it’s full, doesn’t feel crowded. (If you have a larger party, you might want to call ahead to see what the dining situation is like. Take-out is an option, too.)

I’d never had Cambodian food before, but it wasn’t too unfamiliar, with some element of the dishes reminding me of a combination of Vietnamese and Thai food (which might make sense, considering that Cambodia is sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand).

I’m definitely coming back for this ginger tofu stir-fry.

The menu isn’t large (nor does it need to be), but it has a variety of dishes. Between my companions and I, we got a beef skewer dish, steak and vegetables, catfish and a ginger tofu stir-fry. Re: the catfish, check with your server to see if it’s available to order. For you vegetarians out there, I think there’s a noodle dish you can request as a vegetarian meal, and my ginger stir-fry was originally a beef/chicken dish that I subbed with tofu. But, I’m not sure if the sauce is vegetarian, so you’ll want to ask about that too.

Did I mention that staff was very nice and accommodating? Well, I have now.

Next time I stop by, I think I’ll try to be more adventurous with my choices and get something different (although that ginger tofu was REALLY good).

Steak and veggie dish with a tasty sauce that had a surprising kick.

Novel Ice Cream

Novel is little ice cream shop on the fringes of downtown Phoenix in the historic Grand Avenue arts corridor. You’ll find it across from the Grand Ave. Pizza Company, nestled in the ThirdSpace plaza.

The shop itself is small, so if it’s busy, you might find yourself squeezing inside to order, but no worries, you’ll get your turn and there’s plenty of seating outside. The staff is friendly, passionate about their ice cream and encourages you to try the flavors – so, try!

Are you WAFFLE-ing about what flavor to choose? Good news – you can pick more than one!

They’re well-known for their doughnut and waffle ice cream sandwiches (yes, you read that right), but if you’re feeling like a simple scoop, they’ve got a cake, sugar or waffle cone with your name on it.

The doughnut is absolutely as good as it looks.

That about wraps up this installment of Food Finds. Come back soon for more! (Or keep reading if you’re trying to find the perfect chai in Phoenix.)

Eat Well,
Katie

The Un-Planner’s Guide To Montreal

Welcome, welcome, readers, travelers, and internet wanderers to another chapter in the official Un-Planner’s Guide (accept no substitutes!). Today I bring to you a brief list of notables from a quick family jaunt to Montreal this summer.

It is by no means a) a complete or b) professional list because I have been there exactly TWO times. Nevertheless, if you find yourself visiting America’s Hat with no idea what to do in Montreal, perhaps this will help.

Things to Do

Mount Royal Park

Mount Royal is exactly what you would think, a small mountain (or large hill) that is also home to the sprawling Mount Royal Park, just about 10 minutes from downtown Montreal. There’s quite a bit to do and see here, whether you want to take a leisurely walk around the lake, have a picnic lunch or check out plenty of interesting sculpture work throughout the park. If you’re feeling a bit more motivated, you can take a half-hour walk up to the chalet where you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.

The Village

A historic LGBTQ neighborhood and great place to stroll comfortably, especially in the summer when Rue Sainte-Catherine essentially becomes a pedestrian mall in the area. If you’re visiting around the third week of August, you can celebrate Montreal Pride Festival, culminating in its Pride parade just one street over on Rue Rene Levesque! Pro tip: on the weekend, stop at Saloon Bistro Bar for an egg-cellent brunch.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

For folks that love art (and also want to be inside during the humid summer or cold wintery days), The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts boasts quite a collection, plus a number of engaging pieces just outside for the public to see (and an underground tunnel leading to different buildings, which is fun in itself). Plus, admission is free for visitors 12 and under for all exhibitions and most of their collections (minus major exhibitions) are actually free to for ages 13 to 30.

Things to Eat

Crepes at Spanel

Sweet and savory, the crepes at Spanel were a delicious, breath of fresh air for us travelers coming straight from the airport, bleary-eyed from our red-eye flight and smelling of airplane stink. Pro tip: if you order a side of bacon, you’re gonna get your money’s worth.

Ramen at Yokato Yokabai

No matter where I go, I’m probably going to eat ramen there. So it’s no surprise that we ended up at Yokato Yokabai. In addition to providing a tasty and authentic ramen experience (yay Tonkotsu!), they have veggie broth and veggie options for all of our vegetarian friends out there. Pro tip: They don’t take reservations and the main dining room is kind of small space, so plan accordingly! We went on a Sunday in the early afternoon and that seemed to be a good time.

Bread (I’m Serious) at Premiere Moisson, Atwater Market

Atwater Market is charming public market chock full of goodies, from floral, to fruits, to cheeses and most importantly, BREAD. If you’re in the mood for impeccably delicious fresh-baked bread, you’re gonna want to pick up a baguette or 10 are Premiere Moisson.

Other quick notes:

  • If you’re driving, I say this with so much love, Montreal, but geez, good luck with that. Parking in the city proper is rough (especially Old Montreal) and definitely factor in rampant road construction if you’re trying to get to places in a timely manner (I am not joking, construction is so frequent in Montreal that they have souvenirs of traffic/construction cones).
  • Knowing French is a plus, as it’s Montreal’s official language. Most folks will be speaking French and most things (signs, menus, etc.) will be written in French.

I think that’s all she wrote. Thanks, as always, for stopping by and enjoy your future (or current) stay in Montreal!

If you’re looking for other Un-Planner installments, fear not, there’s more from when I visited New York in two parts.

xo,
Katie

Eat Your Way Through L.A.: Places to Try

I visited Los Angeles for New Year’s shenanigans and proceeded to eat my weight in, well, basically everything. I’ve listed a few of the places I liked the most – give them a try the next time you’re in the City of Angels.

Disclaimer: I’m 99% sure that I’ve got the locations right, but I don’t travel to L.A. much, so maybe double check their Yelp/websites/social media pages before you go.

Quick Breakfast

Sam’s Bagels

Location: Main St., Santa Monica

If you love bagels (and really, who doesn’t?), then you’ll be a fan of Sam’s Bagels. Even though it’s along Main St. in Santa Monica, it’s a bit of a hidden gem, tucked between a tavern and a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Its own sign is pretty high up on it’s brick wall that you won’t notice it and the window signs won’t really help you either. You’ll know it’s Sam’s when you walk in and there’s a just a strange, inexplicably large bagel on the wall for decoration and not much else.

In case you thought I was lying about the large wall bagel.

Bagels are big and toasty, schmear is excellent (I got a strawberry spread that was perfect) and the place is small and quiet.

Extra perks:
1) It’s a stone’s throw away from the beach.
2)  Window seating to bask in the morning/afternoon sun and people-watch.

Not-So-Quick Breakfast (Or Brunch)

Nick’s Coffee Shop

Location: Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson

Breakfast is 100% my favorite meal of the day, so obviously Nick’s is my pick for best place. What you’re looking at here is a delicious waffle combo.

I would move to L.A. for this place, I’m only half-joking. I only had breakfast at this diner, but it was SO good. And the people were so nice – surprisingly jovial in the aftermath of New Year’s Eve and always checking to see if we were happy with our food and needed anything else. They seemed to know and have a great relationships with their regulars and the walls look to be chock full of “celebrity” diner portraits, even locals.

It’s not a big establishment, being a diner, after all. So if you’re thinking about dropping by, you can actually call ahead an ask to hold a table.

Extra Perks:
1) A few outside tables if the weather is nice or if you have a furry companion.
2) Perfectly crispy hash browns.
3) Did I mention that the staff is lovely?

Lunch/Dinner

Tatsu Ramen

Location: Sawtelle Blvd, Little Osaka (other location available)

Their Old Skool ramen with Tonkotsu broth – ’cause you can’t go wrong with a classic.

Little Osaka has a TON of restaurants in the area. Even the complex Tatsu is in has like four or five of them packed in there. But if you’re in the mood for some tasty Ramen, go to Tatsu.

Portions are generous, especially if you order extra noodles for just a couple bucks more. Space is limited, because of the small size of the restaurant (even with the extra seating outside) and because of Tatsu’s popularity. You won’t have to wait to order, thanks to the tablet ordering system out front, but you’ll most likely have to wait for a table. Just give your number to the hostess and they can send a text when your table is ready, meanwhile, you can pop into the other little shops nearby.

Extra Perks:
1) A true vegan/vegetarian ramen bowl for your veggie/vegan friends.
2) I say lunch or dinner, but this place is open until 2 a.m. (sometimes 3 a.m.) for your late-night ramen cravings.

Dessert

Honeymee

Location: Sawtelle Blvd., Little Osaka (other locations available)

You definitely won’t BEE sad when you eat this ice cream.

Once you’re done with ramen or some other savory goodness in Little Osaka, stop by Honeymee for a sweet treat. Not only is their ice cream swirled into a perfect dessert, it’s accompanied by a delicious little honeycomb from a local bee farm.

Extra Perks:
1) After you’ve had a heavy meal, it’s a great light dessert.
2) Particularly picture-worthy (I’m looking at you, food bloggers).

For the Trip Home

Bibi’s Bakery and Cafe

Location: Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson

Bibi’s is a great place to stop for reasonably-priced neighborhood baked goods for the drive (or plane ride) home and to take back to family, friends and co-workers.  Gentleman working the register was extremely helpful/patient as I figured out what I wanted and then inevitably came back to buy more, and seemed to be the bakery’s owner, Dan – which is always a good sign.

This chocolate rugelach might be TOO good. I bought three of these to share… and I ate most of them myself.

Extra Perks:
1) Kosher!
2) Also excellent bagels and schmear.

Well, I think that’s enough for you to chew on. Can you tell that I love to eat?

Bon appetit,
Katie

The Un-Planner’s Guide To: New York City (Day 2)

Hello, wonderful person! If you’ve made it here, that means you’ve made it to the second and final part of  Un-Planner’s Guide to New York City.

I hope my itinerary, and I use that term VERY loosely, for Day 1 serves you well. Now, let’s get the show on the road for Day 2, we don’t have much time to waste.

Day 2:

Herald Square

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  • Plan to meet up with family for breakfast, but start your day off a little bit earlier so you have time to wander.
  • Realize that you’re a block from Herald Square and its Macy’s of Miracle on 34th Street fame. Use store as a landmark to return to because it’s impossible to miss, considering it takes up an ENTIRE city block.
  • Pick a completely random direction to go in and enjoy strolling at your own leisure while watching sleepy businesses open and traffic buzz by.

Koreatown

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  • Be lucky that Koreatown is close enough to Herald Square that you can stumble upon it by accident.
  • See a street sign for Korea Way. Follow the sign.
  • Decide that Korean food would be an AMAZING breakfast. Meet up with your people and tell them so.
  • Find that there’s an abundance of Korean (surprise, surprise) places to eat that you know nothing about.
    • We interrupt this guide for the Un-Planner’s Mini-Guide to: Selecting a Restaurant (A guide within a guide. Guide-ception.)
      1. Yelp it.
      2. Be indecisive.
      3. Walk up and down the street looking at menus.
      4. Wonder how you ever make any decisions in your life.
      5. Say “to heck with it” and just walk into a random place.
  • Fortune smiles upon you and the restaurant you’ve chosen is New Wonjo, a popular Korean BBQ eatery that also happens to serve a really dope breakfast.
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This beef and kimchi soup was as delicious as it was enormous. Pictured in the background are all our side dishes or banchan, plus some excellent fried veggie dumplings.

  • Be thoroughly stuffed, but it’s fine, because you’ll need all those calories for all the walking you’re about to do.

American Museum of Natural History

  • Take your first subway trip of the day.
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For this iconic blurry subway train picture, I stood just a little too close to the platform edge and got the breath sucked out of me as it went by extremely quickly.  100% DO NOT RECOMMEND. Seriously, take your blurry photo from a distance.

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KNOWLEDGE.

  • Buy the Super Saver pass because you want to do all the things and then realize you may have made a mistake because you have roughly three hours and 5 floors of museum. TRY TO DO IT ALL ANYWAY.
  • Run around from floor to floor ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at things, but mostly getting lost because seriously, how is this place so large.
  • Pause to watch a planetarium show about the universe. Or more accurately, watch two minutes of the show and fall asleep because the chairs are comfy, the planetarium is just the right amount of dark and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice is really soothing.
  • Spend the rest of your time enjoying the dinosaur exhibit the most because they are GREAT.
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SO MAJESTIC.

Central Park

  • Morning has somehow quickly bled into afternoon. Head over to Central Park, which happens to be just across the street.
  • Walk through Central Park while thinking, “I think I’ve seen that in a movie.”
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I can’t tell you what part of Central Park this is, but you’ve probably seen it in a movie.

  • Keep walking a find yourself amidst a lot of hubbub you don’t understand. Tourists are standing in a circle and taking photos of the ground (and of themselves and the ground).
  • Make it to a break in the circle and it suddenly all makes sense. You wandered into Strawberry Fields, an area paying tribute to late Beatles member, John Lennon.
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Imagine all the people… trying to take a photo with this mosaic. It was a lot.

Chelsea Market

  • It’s time to regroup with the rest of the family, so back to the subway you go.
  • Really experience the ride. People watch. Read the poetry that the MTA has put up in the cars, or the other fascinating literature other passengers have left behind.
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Uh, where exactly is this train going, again?

  • Decide on Chelsea Market because your group cannot agree on dinner. Thankfully, the market is a block long and chock full of a variety of restaurants and shops.
  • Let the smell of french fries take you to the Creamline for a burger and fries that you practically inhale. Then for dessert, the mini-donuts that your brilliant father has gotten from the Doughnuttery.
  • Roll out of Chelsea Market.
  • Struggle to find the right train station with machines to refill your metro card.
  • Arrive at correct station.
  • Zombie walk to hotel because you’re full of a combination of sun, food and exhaustion.
  • And finally, sleep.

That’s all she wrote, folks. Thanks for joining me for this brief and devil-may-care tour of NYC!

Happy Un-Planning,

Katie

The Un-Planner’s Guide To: New York City (Day 1)

Welcome to the first installment of the Un-Planner’s Guide, a wholly un-serious and unusual approach to travel itineraries.

I’m Katie, and I’ll be your host through approximately one-and-a-half days of New York City, NY.

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Yes, this hat is part of our required tour guide uniform.

 Trip Pre-work:

  • Know about the trip, in my case, AT LEAST a year in advance.
  • Book your flight accordingly, apparently for domestic flights the magic number is 54 days for cheapest fares.
  • Have ample time to pack and let that dwindle down to months, weeks, days and mere hours before your trip.
  • Go out to dinner with friends and/or family the night before your flight.
  • Struggle to pack within the window of 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. (Stop mid-packing to justify your procrastination.)
  • Sleep for 2 hours.
  • Wake up to leave for airport and hate yourself a little bit.

Day 1 (or Day 1/2):

Getting There

  • Be at airport.
  • Go through security rigamarole.
  • Fly.

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  • Land and realize you lost half your day because of time changes. Curse.
  • Rideshare from the airport to your hotel and get stuck in traffic. Learn your lesson and take the subway for the rest of the trip.

Ice Cream Break

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It has to be soft serve. From a truck. No exceptions.

  • Wrangle large group of Filipinos (who are your family so it’s okay) and proceed.

Oculus – World Trade Center Transportation Hub

  • Take subway to get to the Oculus, which is the World Trade Center’s transportation hub.
  • Exit train and enter Oculus. Be impressed. Take a moment to admire the architecture.
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The structure of the Oculus was like being inside the skeleton of great beast.

National September 11 Memorial

  • Cross the Oculus, meaning just walk straight across it and up a flight of stairs, and you’ll find yourself back at street-level and able to walk right over to the National September 11 Memorial. There’s a museum there, as well.
  • Visiting the memorial, as you would imagine, is a truly sombering experience. But beautifully moving, too, if you take in not only the construction of the memorial but the fact that they place white roses next to the names of the people being remembered on their birthdays.
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The day we visited, there were two birthdays.

One World Observatory

  • Check out One World Observatory. It’s just a short trip across the street. The building itself if stunning, but it also offers you 360-degree views of the city from 100 stories up.
  • The trip up to the observatory does require admission, so expect to pay about $30+ for a single person.

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If you were to ask me what part of the city this way or what any  of those buildings were, I couldn’t tell you. They had these tablet thingies for purchase that you could point out at the city, like a virtual tour guide, but I was more keen on just looking.

Chinatown (And Little Italy, Sort Of)

  • Find that after all the subway riding and walking you are famished, as one ice cream alone cannot hold you down.
  • Fumble through the subway with your herd and somehow make it to Canal Street.

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  • Arrive late enough that most of the shops are closed, but just in time for the restaurants to be bustling with business.
  • Let your dad pick the place, though his relationship with Google is tentative at best, and then let him lead the way (???).
  • Walk into an unfamiliar neighborhood almost to the point of concern until you reach Shanghai Asian Manor. Note that this restaurant only accepts American Express or cash.
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Eat delicious food and not realize until later that this is actually a really popular place.

  • Leave and enjoy the light sprinkles of rain as you walk. Let your family make ill-advised hat purchases at a souvenir shop about to close.
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Pass up Little Italy (sad-face) because majority rules to go to Times Square.

Times Square

  • Arrive in Times Square and be baffled by the fact that the city is still buzzing at 11:00 p.m. on a Wednesday. Assume that maybe all the huge electronic billboards are making people think it’s still daylight.
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SO BRIGHT. MY EYES.

  • Be horrified by the discount store-looking nightmares that are parading around as notable characters. Pull your unsuspecting aunts away from a particularly disturbing Minnie Mouse and Woody.
  • Decide you’ve had enough of these shenanigans and decide to turn in so you can get up early for more exploring tomorrow.

Well, that’s it for the first part of The Un-Planner’s Guide to NYC! Come back next week for part deux.

Your Humble Host,

Katie

 

A Weekend in Bisbee: A Three-Day Itinerary for Nature and Culture in Southern AZ

Bisbee is a former mining town (current artist colony) south of Tucson near the AZ/Mexico border. It is the perfect place to experience historic, small town America.

Starting Point: Phoenix, AZ

Day One: Travel to Bisbee

The drive from Phoenix to Bisbee is about 3.5-4 hours depending on traffic.

Take your time driving down to scenic, little Bisbee.

If you leave in the morning or early afternoon; Tucson is a great place to stop by on the way.

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If you have time, the Mission San Xavier Del Bac or “White Dove of the Desert” is peaceful and great cultural stop in Tucson.

Day Two: Exploring Bisbee

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Can we tell you a little secret? 7 a.m. is prime strolling time around downtown Bisbee – not much is open, but the weather is wonderful and you get to walk around before the crowds.

 

If you are up for a morning stroll, walk up OK Street which will lead to the base of Youngblood Hill and will take you by some adorable Bisbee homes.

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You can a nice view of the town from either hill.

For strong hikers, there is also a trail at the end of the street that climbs up Chihuahua and Youngblood Hill. This path is steep, narrow and slippery, however, so hike at your own discretion. Be safe.

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There’s a shrine up on Chihuahua Hill that is definitely worth seeing. However, these are tributes to people’s loved ones so we cannot stress enough that the site needs to be treated with the utmost respect.

After going for a walk in the cool morning, head over to Lowell’s Bisbee Breakfast Club (http://bisbeebreakfastclub.com/locations/bisbee) for a diner experience, complete with massive portions.

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These pancakes are delicious and as big as your head – we’re not joking.

Head back to downtown Bisbee for a tour of the Copper Queen Mine (http://www.queenminetour.com/), where you will get to ride a little train into the heart of the mountain and learn about old copper mines from former miners. There are several tours throughout the day.

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These are our excited faces. But seriously, the mine tour is a must-see (especially if you’re a REALLY big fan of mining, or a history buff or just want to cool off.)

Spend the day strolling through Bisbee, checking out galleries, visiting historic hotels, and enjoying this small, colorful town.

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ALIENS.

After dinner, if it suits your fancy, wander the streets at night and learn about the many ghosts of this small town with Old Bisbee Ghost Tours (http://www.oldbisbeeghosttour.com/). These take place at 7 p.m. each day of the week.

Day Two: Kartchner Caverns and Getting Home

Catch breakfast in Old Bisbee or Sierra Vista.

Stop by Kartchner Caverns (https://azstateparks.com/kartchner/) to see one of the United States’ most colorful, living caves. You will not be disappointed in this special, natural attraction. It is about an hour from Bisbee to Kartchner.

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In the Visitor’s Center, you can take silly photos in the replicas of cave openings that the Kartchner explorers had to squeeze through and be thankful they did all the work for you.

 

 

Stop for lunch in Benson or Tucson, and then head back to Phoenix. It is about 2.5 hours from Kartchner to Phoenix depending on traffic.

Ending Point: Phoenix, AZ

Prep:

  1. Reserve a place to stay.
  2. Reserve a tour with the Old Bisbee Ghost Tours and Kartchner Caverns.
  3. Learn about some of the historic landmarks in the town to visit.
  4. Know the weather! Stay safe.

Solid Gas/Food Stops Along the Way:

  1. Tucson
  2. Benson
  3. Tombstone

Note: There are numerous small towns that also dot the way to Bisbee, but if you want guaranteed gas stations, fuel up in Tucson or Benson.

Parking

  1. Mostly free parking in Bisbee (there’s like one paid lot in the entire city), but be prepared for the lots (which are small) to basically be full after 10 a.m., at least on weekends.
  2. There’s plenty of street parking available, it just depends on how far you’re willing to haul your butt up and down a hill.
  3. Before you park, check if it’s residential. Don’t be a jerk and park in someone’s spot.

Places to Stay:

  1. Copper Queen Hotel (http://www.copperqueen.com/): This is a historic hotel in the middle of town. Perfectly central to all Bisbee’s attractions, and a great place for ghostly activity (for anyone interested).
  2. Hotel Lamore/Bisbee Inn (http://bisbeeinn.com/): A smaller alternative to the Copper Queen, this place is just as historic and ghostly. But it has traditional shared bathrooms, it will really bring you back.
  3. Plenty of alternatives throughout the town, and some good AirBnbs as well.

Cultural Highlight: The American People

Ok, so I lied about what I was going to post next. Since I posted a highlight about the Kalinago people, I decided that it would only be fair to post something similar about my own culture. Not only did it seem like a fun prospect, but I have noticed that I have a fairly good number of international people checking out my blog, and I thought that this might be a little helpful for anyone thinking about visiting the United States.

Disclaimer: This information is based off of my own experience, so be aware that this post is limited by my own biases as well as the limits of my perception of my own culture. You may have a different opinion of American culture than me, or, if you are a visitor, you may have a different experience. I will provide some information about a good book about American culture for anyone interested at the bottom of this post.

Cultural Highlight: The American People

Culture: American

Resident Area: The United States

Population: 316.1 million (2013)

Language: English is the primary language of the United States, and it is spoken everywhere except in a few small pockets of new immigrant communities in some large cities (e.g. Chicago, Phoenix, etc). The most common language spoken in the States besides English is Spanish, but most Americans only speak English. A lot of people that I know, including myself, wish that we spoke another language as well as English, but our public school methods of language teaching don’t appear to be very effective.

Food: There are a few things that we consider American food, including things like hamburgers, BBQ, apple pie, among others, but for the most part, the joy of eating in the US is the sheer variety of food types available. Furthermore, the country is so large that different regions have different specialties, so that should help any visitors decide what they should try while here. For some guidance, however, here is a list of foods that my friends and I decided are must-tries for visitors to the US: BBQ, hamburgers, hot dogs, chop suet, strange fried foods (Twinkies, pickles, Oreos, etc), ribs, turkey, apple pie, mac & cheese, brisket, pulled pork sandwich, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, deep dish pizza, clam chowder, gumbo, jambalaya, and others! There is so much. 😛 But seriously, you should enjoy eating while you are here; get some tips on the best local restaurants where ever you are going on Tripadvisor (the forums are great for getting advice), and don’t short change yourself by sticking to chains.

Religion: Christianity is the most common religion in the United States, and its influence can be seen everywhere here- from the prevalence of churches throughout our cities to our laws. I get the sense that this influence is more extreme in the United States than it currently is in most Western European countries, and there are some ongoing tensions created by what I would consider extremist Christians, and those of us that are more moderate in our beliefs, but I won’t go into any details about that here.

Besides Christianity, the University of Pennsylvania  lists the following as the other seven major faiths in the United States: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Wicca, Buddhism, Sikhism, Baha’i World Faith. The ideal in the United States is that we are open to people of all walks and religions, although in practice this can be difficult. Overall, however, I do find that while people may be uninformed about other religions, we are generally pretty accepting. Again, there are those extreme exceptions, but as long as you stay away from arguing with people about religion, you should be pretty comfortable, and in many big cities you can find places of worship for most of the religions listed above.

Yearly/Ceremonial Cycle: Note: These are the official holidays of the United States, but there are some religious holidays not listed here.

New Years Day: December 31-January 1: Festivities till midnight on the last day of December. Fireworks and parades are common. At many parties, it is traditional to kiss someone at midnight. It is also common for people to make New Year’s Resolutions, or goals for the coming year for themselves.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Third Monday in January: No work on this day. Celebrates the birthday of the great civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr.

Groundhog Day: February 2. This is a small celebration in which the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow and if he sees his shadow then six more weeks of winter are predicted. This has ben celebrated since 1887.

Valentines Day: February 14. This holiday was named after a Christian martyr, however, it is now a day to celebrate love. Gifts are commonly given and time is set aside for significant others. In elementary school, it is traditional for all the children to bring in cards and candy to exchange with eachother on Valentine’s day.

St. Patrick’s Day: March 17. Celebrated in honor of St. Patrick. It has widely lost its religious significance in the US, but many people party and drink with friends on this night. Those who don’t wear green on this day are threatened with a pinch.

Earth Day: April 22. This is a day to celebrate the Earth, and to promote action for its preservation. It was first celebrated in 1970 and helped inspire the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

Mother’s Day: Second Sunday of May. Celebrates the service of mothers. Typically time is spent with family, and gifts are given to the mother of a family.

Memorial Day: Last Monday of May; No work on this day. Originally honored the dead of the Civil War, but currently it honors the dead of all wars.

Father’s Day: Third Sunday of June. A day to honor fathers, celebrated in a similar way to Mother’s Day.

Independence Day: July 4: Honors the nation’s birthday- July 4, 1776. During the day, people celebrate with picnics and parades, and then at night there are fireworks and family gatherings.

Labor Day: First Monday of September. Honors the nations working population, with parades being common.

Columbus Day: Second Monday in October. Commemorates October 12, 1492 when Columbus landed in the new world. No real celebration traditions happen on this day.

Halloween: October 31. People dress up in costumes on this day, and at night people will party or take their children out trick-or-treating, in which they knock on their neighbor’s doors and receive candy.

Veteran’s Day: November 11. Originally, this holiday honored the veterans of WWI, but now it honors all veterans. There is typically no work on this day, parades are common, and the President places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Thanksgiving: Fourth Thursday of November. This is done in remembrance of a three day feast that the Pilgrims held to Celebrate a bountiful harvest. Currently, this is celebrated with two days off of work- Thursday and Friday. On Thursday night, families will gather to eat a turkey dinner.

Christmas Day: December 25. Religiously, this is a Christian holiday that marks the birth of Christ; however, most Americans celebrate it regardless of religion. Families come together and exchange gifts and the symbolic presence of a Christmas pine as well as stockings are common. Must businesses are closed on Christmas.

Birthday: Varies. This is a celebration of the day of birth of an individual. Typically, gifts are given to the person of interest, and the family will gather to celebrate them.

Culture: The notes made below are based on generalized American culture, and will vary from family to family, region to region, and religion to religion. This is just meant to provide a brief overview of general American traditions.

Family Life: The American family typically consists of the core family, with the mother, father and children. Extended family gather on special occasions, but in most cases they don’t play a major role in the everyday life. Ideally, when Americans grow up, they are expected to illustrate their independence by breaking away from their parents, getting their own place, and starting their own families. This independent action is considered a major step towards adulthood, and the idea of adult children “living in their parent’s basement” is considered a somewhat shameful situation, although the Great Recession has caused many young adults to live with their parents. In their old age, Americans attempt to maintain their independence by avoiding the care of their children, which is often considered an inconvenience on the younger generation. Altogether, this need for independence is a point of pride and concern for Americans, as most people seek to be able to provide for themselves without the help of their parents, but many feel that this lack of community is detrimental over all.

Marriage: Americans date before they marry, and couples may move in together before marriage to see what living together will be like. The period of time taken for this varies from individual to individual. After the dating period, American men are expected to propose to their wives-to-be, often with the presentation of a ring, although it is also acceptable for women to propose if they so choose. Once this is done, the couple is considered engaged. Planning for the wedding is expected to be time consuming, and the wedding itself is often expensive. Before the wedding itself there will be a wedding shower, which is a family affair, as well as bachelorette and bachelor parties. At the wedding, the wife will usually wear a white dress (not to be seen by the husband until she walks down the aisle) and the man will wear black. The father will walk his daughter down the aisle to where the husband-to-be and the person residing over the wedding wait. Then the two lovers will exchange vows, rings, and finally they will kiss. After the wedding, most couples who can afford it will go on a honeymoon trip together.

Women and Men: Technically speaking, women and men should be treated equal in American society, and compared to some cultures the equality between the two is significant. That being said, there are still pressures on both genders to play traditional roles in which the man works, and the wife cares for the house and family. Women are also typically paid less than men, and are less represented in media such as movies and video games.

Extra Notes: Here are a couple things that you may find helpful when traveling to the US, depending on where you are coming from. These come from my own opinions as well as some thoughts from my friends (both American and friends from other countries who have visited).

(1) We are sticklers when it comes to lines. Pushing to the front is not acceptable, nor is grouping up towards the front of the line. Everyone waits their turn here, and in the few instances when people cut, most of the other people in line are clearly dissatisfied.

(2) Americans like their personal space. Typically, you should keep at least a foot or two (yes, we still use our antiquated measurement system 😀 ) away from people that you don’t know unless you are in a crowded place such as a bus or train, where there isn’t much of an option otherwise.

(3) There is an interesting dichotomy in America of people who believe that America is the best country in the world, and are particularly harsh towards immigrants and foreign visitors. On the other hand, lots of Americans have a much more realistic understanding of our country, and are excited to meet people from countries around the world.

(4) Americans are deeply interested in their ancestry, and most people know where their families have come from. I know several people who have made it their hobby to study their genealogy, and I made it a point to find records of some of my family when I visited Ellis Island in New York City.

(5) We tip our servers! Unless you get really horrible service, you should tip. 15% of your bill is considered normal, but I usually try to tip 20%.

(6) Lots of Americans love to believe in things like Bigfoot, government conspiracies, and UFOs. There are even some small towns (like Roswell, New Mexico) that have made their connection to these (perhaps) urban legends into a tourism draw.

A great book for further information about American culture for visitors is American Ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States by Gary Althen and Janet Bennett.

And if you have any questions about my experience in my own country or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on February 15th, and I will actually be writing about Coronado’s neighbor, San Diego.

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