Tag: local guide
San Diego is the second largest city in California and one of my favorite destinations. The weather is great all year round in San Diego. If you are ever in the Greater Los Angeles area and have two days to spare, I highly recommend you take a drive down to San Diego. Below are my suggestions (with a map for reference):
1. From LA, take the 405 South and pass Orange County. Exit La Jolla to check out downtown and the cove. La Jolla is a beautiful place to grab lunch before you continue your drive down to downtown San Diego. Go to one of the restaurants located along the cove (Prospect Street) for a great view while you dine.
2. After lunch, continue south on Interstate 5 and go past downtown. I recommend you make a stop at Coronado which is an island across the strait of downtown San Diego. Take exit 13B on Interstate 5 which is the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. Once you are on Coronado island, go by Hotel Del Coronado which is on the southwest side of the island. Grab a drink at the hotel and walk along the shores where you can watch the sunset at Coronado.
3. After the sunset, you will be ready for some fine dining in the Gaslamp Quarter. Cross the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge and get back on Interstate 5 North. Get off on Market Street and head west. Instead of looking for meter parking around Gaslamp, I recommend you park at Horton Plaza where you can get 2 hours of free parking before 9PM. For Horton Plaza free parking, you will need to get your parking ticket stamped at a validation machine inside the mall. The downtown Gaslamp area has plenty of food options spanning from Sushi to Mexican to traditional American bars.
1. To start Day 2, I recommend you start breakfast at the Seaport Village located by Harbor Drive and Kettner. Grab breakfast or brunch at one of Seaport Village’s restaurants. You can park in the lot as all restaurants and shops will validate your parking. After breakfast or brunch, take a stroll along the boardwalk for a view of the marina.
2. After breakfast/brunch, swing by Balboa Park for a mid-morning walk. There are museums, gardens, carousel inside Balboa Park. It is a very nice park to walk in. The San Diego Zoo is also inside Balboa Park.
3. While you are at Balboa Park, I highly recommend you go visit the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the US and has tons of animals including pandas from China. I personally think the San Diego Zoo is the best zoo in the US.
4. Wrap up your day in Old Town after a day in the park and zoo. You can get to Old Town from the Zoo by taking I5 North to Exit 19. Old Town is a historic park with tons of Mexican restaurants and shops. You can have dinner at one of the restaurants or grab street food from vendors. There are also handcraft shops where you can buy a nice souvenir.
Day 3, 4, 5 (if you have the time)
If you have time to extend your stay in San Diego, consider the following attractions:
1. SeaWorld - great amusement aquarium.
2. Legoland - where you can recapture your youth or bring your kids
3. Wild Animal Park - the San Diego Zoo’s sister… this is where you can see animals live in the habitat.
Portland, Oregon is known for its Pinot Noir, fancy restaurants - steakhouses in particular. Yes. Believe it or not, there are several great steakhouses in the Pacific Northwest where they are known for fish. During my time in Oregon, I had the opportunity to dine at some of the best steakhouses in Portand. Below is a review of the top 3 steakhouses in Portland:
1. RingSide Steakhouse - Ringside is a family owned and operated restaurant with locations downtown and Glendoveer. The place is a bit west of the center of town. You will get great steak and a wide variety of meats at RingSide. RingSide also has special sauces to go with each steak. Be sure to get the steak with the peppercorn sauce. RingSide also offers a great selection of Portland Pinots and California Cabs. This is a great place to dine like a local!
2. Jake’s Grill - Jake’s is part of McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant chain but it certainly does not feel like one when you are inside restaurant. Jake’s has the classic American grill look and feel with a very local Pacific Northwest atmosphere. Best dish at Jake’s is the shrimp cocktail appetizer. The jumbo shrimp is fresh and awesome. My personal favorite steak at Jake’s is the New York. Jake’s also offer a wide selection of scotches - they are so so when it comes to wine selection. You will also find nice cigars and see people smoking outside before 9PM. Portland allows smoking after 9PM.
3. El Gaucho - El Gaucho is a Pacific Northwest steakhouse with restaurants in Oregon and Washington. El Gaucho offers live Latin guitar as a part of your dining experience. In addition to the standard USDA steaks, El Gaucho als offers “carved table side” and “flaming swords.” The “carved table side” is a selection of meats cut at your table. The “flaming swords” are kabobs which is also served at your table. El Gaucho also has a cigar room where you can dine and enjoy a fine cigar before, during and after dinner.
If you are not ready to try the local joints, go to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for a consistent steak. Portland’s Ruth’s did some experimentation with the menu when we were there. We did not like the experiments and the chef was very accommodating and still offer me my personal favorite: two petite filets with shrimp. It was a good experience overall.
Honorable Mentioned: Shula’s Steakhouse - which was located inside the Marriott on Broadway but recently closed. Shula’s was a great place to catch Monday Night Football. I was said to hear that they have closed down. I believe it’s a restaurant called Mez which is very lamed compared to Shula’s Steakhouse.
New York City is known as a great place to shop. If you are in retail or any type of brand, you must have a New York address. This also applies to retail outlet stores. If you really want a bargain and have a few days left in New York after you have completed my efficient New York City Guided Tour, I highly recommend you visit Woodbury Commons - a place where you will find all the major brand names in one location.
There are multiple ways from NYC to Woodbury Commons. You can rent a car and drive North on New York State Thruway (I-87) to Harriman, Exit 16. You can easily find Woodbury Commons after the toll plaza. The drive from NYC to Woodbury Commons is about a 90 minute drive with traffic plus approximately $10 of tolls. One day car rental in NYC will cost you around $80 with taxes.
To save you the hassle of driving and some money for shopping, there are buses that operate hourly from NYC to Woodbury Commons. You can take a bus from NY Port Authority Bus Terminal (on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, one block west of Time Square) to Woodbury Commons. Here’s the link to the NY Port Authority bus schedule.
If you are staying on the East side of NYC and do not want to cab/walk cross town, there is a daily bus that will take you to Woodbury Commons in the morning and back in the evening. The East side NYC to Woodbury Commons bus goes up 3rd Avenue at around 8AM and returns from Woodbury Commons at around 2:00PM. Here’s the link to the East Side bus schedule. Enjoy your shopping.
Here are two recent posts regarding New York City: