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I recently took a 2 week course in a very vibrant area of Los Angeles, Highland Park. I’m sad to say that I don’t know that much about the area, but from what I’ve seen of it, it’s amazing. I recently heard Trekking Los Angeles, an organization (spawn out of LA Commons and UCLA School of Urban Planning) that promotes the culture, food, and art of a few neighborhoods of Los Angeles via a walking tour. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning on attending the one in Highland Park! Check it out!

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Last week, I surprised the BF with a trip to Joshua Tree National Park for his birthday. The day started off a little rocky when I picked up a little bit of a stomach ache, but the day turned out to be more perfect than I could have imagined.

Things to do at Joshua Tree

1. Key’s View: This very short .2 mile walk up the side of a ridge gave us an opportunity to see a panoramic view of the San Andreas fault, Cochella, Palm Springs, and Mexico. How’s that for seeing all the sights? We ended up bringing our packed lunch and parking ourselves on a bench.

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2. Ryan Mountain: The park ranger at the West Entrance suggested that we check out a short hike at Ryan Mountain. From there, you can see the Colorado desert and the Mojave (?) desert on the other side. It wasn’t the most beautiful hike I’ve seen, but I think that perhaps I’m just not as into desert hikes. However, since it’s a short hike (3 miles ), it’ll still be worth your time.

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2. Skull Rock/ Jumbo Rocks: The rock formations are beautiful here. It’s amazing to see how rocks can form into these large round shapes. Nothing you’d expect in the middle of a desert. You almost feel like you’re in a movie with the way you’re surrounded by these globs of rock.

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3. Cholla Cactus Garden: We hit this place by sunset and it was definitely the best way to end our day trip. A rather strange looking cactus garden seemingly just pops out of no where! It really made you wonder how Mother Nature plans these things. There’s a warning sign on the front warning visitors not to touch the cactus b/c they’re poisonous. From the looks of it, it’s a pretty good idea.

There were so many other places to see that I’m certain I’ll be back especially since it’s only 2.5 hours from Los Angeles. On our way there, we stopped by Cabazon Outlets for a quick shopping trip and on our way back we hit the prime rib buffet at Morongo Indian Casino. It was definitely a fun-filled day trip!

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ferry building

(Ferry Building @ Embarcadero)

When I first moved to San Francisco, I really had no idea where and what all the neighborhoods were. So as a tourist, it’s really helpful to have a sense of the different types of neighborhoods so you can customize your visit.

1. Fisherman’s Wharf: This is obviously where the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Ghiradelli Square and Boudin’s Bakery is. With that said, this is a huge tourist trap! The parking is atrocious and expensive (i once paid $25 for 3 hours in a lot!). Is it worth visiting? If you’re a first time visitor, always. Jump on the SF’s Muni F line and sit back on one of their historic street cars. Walkable.

2. Financial District: This busy neighborhood houses a lot of big financial companies on the west coast. It’s fun to get caught up in the hustle and bustle on the week day, but it’ll be a ghost town on the weekends. Walkable.

3. Union Square: Another popular tourist and shopper’s destination. Hands down, this area is the best shopping area. If you can think of a store you like, there’s probably a 3 leveled one here in the neighborhood. After a tough day of shopping, head over to the Westfield food court and get some fresh cream puffs from Beard Papa. Walkable.

3. SOMA: An acronym for SOuth of MArtket, SOMA is a youngish area filled with lofts, furniture stores, art spaces, tech companies, and warehouses. The Museum of Modern Art housed here near the Yerba Buena Gardens. Personally, I don’t think there’s much to see after 4th street, unless you’re going to the famous Folsom Street Fair… which… well… you’ll probably see more than you want to see.

4. Civic Center/Tenderloin: As Dave Chappelle puts it: “There’s nothing tender about the Tenderloin”. There are a few bars, art galleries, and Vietnamese restaurants that are worth going to, but it’s definitely a tough neighborhood. The Civic Center also houses city hall, the SF opera, and the Asian Art Museum. Is it the best area to walk around in? Probably not.

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5. Nob Hill: Be prepared with your good walking shoes! Nob Hill is one of the hilliest neighborhoods in San Francisco, but it houses a lot of SF landmarks. You can still see a lot of the old buildings from SF’s early gold rush history.

dolores

6. The Mission: Personally, this is my absolute favorite neighborhood in SF. A slightly down and out neighborhood, this quickly gentrifying area has a lot of great (and cheap!) dive bars and restaurants. Grab an ice cream cone from Bi-Rite Creamery and head over to Dolores Park and people watch. If the day is nice, you’ll be able to catch a great view of SF from the top of the hill. Walkable.

7. Chinatown: Aside from NYC’s Chinatown, SF’s Chinatown is actually really interesting and full of Chinese people (I’m looking at you DC Chinatown. Where are all the Chinese people there?)! I personally don’t think that the Chinese food is very good here, but Golden Gate Bakery (nob hill?) makes the best egg tarts in the city. It’s shockingly good. Walkable.

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8. The Castro: Surprisingly, this neighborhood isn’t very big, but it’s definitely a lot of fun and great people watching.  This vibrant area is  SF’s LGBT neighborhood. It is also the place that Harvey Milk got his start and where the historic Castro Theater is housed. The restaurants are good and the bars are plentiful. Walkable

9. North Beach: Adjacent to Chinatown, this area is the little Italy of San Francisco. A very cute neighborhood has lots of cute restaurants and bars. After a long brunch at Mama’s On Washington Square, head over to City Lights Bookstore and soak up all of it’s literary goodness. Walkable

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10. Embarcadero: On a sunny day, this waterfront area has a gorgeous view of the Bay Bridge and the water. Locals and tourists alike head to the Ferry Building every Sat morning for the best farmer’s market EVER. Things might be a little expensive, but you can graze from stall to stall for free samples. After, head over to Hog Island for fresh oysters and a grill cheese. Walkable

haight

11. Haight-Ashbury: The famous Haight is what people always think about when they think about SF in the 60s. Today, it’s still fun walking from boutique to boutique (although a little more touristy). Walkable

12. Japantown: A small Japanese neighborhood, Japantown is a good place to get some mochi, ramen, and little Japanese knicknacks. Tired from a long day? Head to Kubuki bathhouse and soak in their same-sex communal bathhouse for the rest of the day. There are also free walking tours starting at Japantown’s pagoda.  Walkable.

11. Sunset/Richmond: Both Sunset and Richmond district has a lot to offer, but it is mainly a residential area. I’ve combined these two neighborhoods because the beautiful Golden Gate Park separates the two districts. GG Park is a great place to walk through and is even home to buffaloes (seriously!). After visiting the DeYoung Museum and the California Science Museum, head over to either of these two neighborhoods and grab a bite to eat.

12. Hayes Valley: This neighborhood is ridiculously cute. It has lots of great brunch places and small boutiques.Walkable

painted ladies

So many more neighborhoods! (Marina, Noe Valley, Pacific Heights, Potero Hill, Alamo Square, etc etc) There’s tons of other neighborhoods I didn’t cover, but if I did this post would be huge! Have fun and explore SF’s many many diverse neighborhoods.

(all photos courtesy of Kevin W: thanks!!)

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On our way back from SF to LA (post on that soon), the BF and I decided to make a quick one day trip to Sequoia National Park. We’ve always wanted to go and it was such a beautiful day for hiking. Unfortunately for us, we left a little too late and only had time to hike a short trail. So, we picked Moro Rock, which is an easy and windy 2 mile hike (from Generals Highway) through giant sequoia trees and to the top of a mountain for a 360 view of the park.

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(on the trail to Moro Rock)

11(view from the top of Moro Rock)

I really wish we had more time to see other stuff, but I’m sure we’ll be visiting Sequoia again. Next time, here are some other things I’d like to do:

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1. Crystal Cave: This was the first thing we wanted to do, but by the time we got there it was sold out. So go early in the day to buy tickets! You can only get tickets at Foothills or Lodgepole Visitor Center.  It’s a 45 minute tour through different rooms in the cave. Adults are $11, children are $6.

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2. Cedar Grove Day Hike: One of the most popular trees here is General Grant’s Tree. From the Visitor’s center it’s about a 1 mile hike. Fairly easy for new hikers. The hike ends at General Grant’s Tree which is one of the largest living trees.

3. Mineral King Valley: Monarch Lakes and Crystal Lakes are both approximately a 4 mile hike.  These look a lot flatter than mountain hikes, but the views must be incredible between two mountains.

14(It’s a good thing the BF loves it too…)

On a side note: It’s bizarre to me how much I really love hiking. I was commenting to my friends the other day how one day you wake up and you realize…. I’m not hungover… what is this crazy feeling… how come my head isn’t in the toilet… why am I getting up at 7am to trek up a mountain? Oh my god. I’m old and I’d rather hike than get blasted at a bar.

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taco el paisa(Taco el Paisa: pictures via Nancy!)

I recently got some tips for great Mexican restaurants/taco trucks in San Diego. Not only do they have really great Mexican food in SD, but SD is also well known for fish tacos! If you’re headed down to Whale’s Vagina San Diego, you should definitely check out some of these places.

Mexican joints in San Diego to check out!

cuatro(source)

Las Cuatro Milpas
Neighborhood: Chicano Park/ Barrio Logan
Suggestion: Tacos & lard based hot sauce=awesome! (pictured above)
1875 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113

pork(source)

Super Cocina–  traditional homemade Mexican cuisine
Neighborhood: Normal Heights
Suggestion: Spicy Pork (pictured above), Pollo con Mole (chicken), stews, and soups
Tip: not the place if you want tacos, cash only, free sampling before you order
3627 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

mariscos(source)

Marisco’s German (taco truck)
Neighborhood:  Normal Heights
Suggestion: Governador taco, fish taco, shrimp taco (pictured above)
Tip: They have a sit down restaurant if taco trucks aren’t your thing.
3504 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

Tacos el Paisa (taco truck)
Neighborhood: Memorial
Suggestion: carne asada, carnitas, abodado
3096 National Ave, San Diego, CA 92113

Additional Reading and Resources

Tacos, San Diego- Chowhound

36 Hours in San Diego- New York Times

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This past weekend, the BF and I took a weekend trip to the North Bay/Marin (north of San Francisico Bay Area, CA). Specifically, we went to San Rafael, Muir Woods, Point Reyes, and Hog Island. There’s no personal pictures for this trip, really, since we only had our camera phones (i forgot our reg point and shoot). It was a great weekend getaway and we were reminded by how beautiful California is. I don’t know why we ever thought we could live in DC somewhere else!

We actually decided to spend two days here since there was so many things we wanted to see and do. Between hiking between giant redwood trees bigger than skyrises, laying on a soft sandy beach, and shucking organic sweetwater oysters just pulled from the bay a few hours ago, it was a really great and relaxing trip. Also, for you organic-loving, sustainable farming peoples out there, this is also the home many small family sustainable, including Marin Sun Farms.

Day One:

muir woods(source)

1.  Muir Woods: We actually spent the night in San Rafael the night before so that we’d be able to have an early start. After a filling brunch at Comforts, we headed to Muir Woods for some morning hiking. There are easy to moderate hiking trails here. If you’ve never seen the California Redwoods, then this would be a great place to see it. $5.00 adults, Free for kids 15 and under.

800px-Point_Reyes_National_Seashore_headlands_from_Chimney_Rock(source)

2. Point Reyes: On our way to Point Reyes, we stopped by some fruit stands and picked up some local pickings. Luckily I had brought a baguette, tomatoes, and avacadoes before the trip (don’t ask, it’s my staple), and we pulled aside to an clif overlooking the beach and had a light lunch at a picnic table.  While driving through, a guy randomly jumped in front of our car and threw his wallet at us. Apparently, locals aren’t fond of people speeding, nor do they carry an expensive wallet. Either way, he saved us from a speeding ticket, since a CHP officer with a radar was 50 feet away from us. Thank you, Mr. Wallet-thrower! You’re a douche-bag, but you saved us $300. After driving through the park, we decided it was time to get out of the car. We pulled over, hiked half a mile to the beach, and hit Kehoe Beach. Not the most gorgeous beach, but with cute clover-eating cows on a cliff looking over you, and just a handful of people with their cuter dogs sprinked in, it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

3. Sol Food, San Rafael: After, we headed back to our hotel in San Rafael and Yelped a place to eat. Sol Food serves the tastiest Puerto Rican food ever. A lively and colorful spot, it offers huge organic and free-range entrees for an incredibly reasonable rate. 2 people, 2 entrees + 2 non-alcoholic drinks = $30. Definitely try the Pollo al Horno (chicken). Delicious, favorful, and served with pink beans on top of rice.   732 4th St San Rafael, CA 94901

Day Two:

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4. Hog Island Oyster Farm, Tomales Bay: The next day, we met up with another couple in Tomales Bay at Hog Island Oyster Farm to picnic/grill. Next to Point Reyes, Hog Island Oyster Farm sells bags of fresh oysters directly from their farm. It doesn’t get any fresher than this! Come prepared with an ice chest and a shucker ($15 at their store) and reserve a picnic table w/ grill early. $10 pp at their picnic site, or drive down more and find a nice picnic spot by the bay. Recommended x-small Sweetwater oysters. 20215, Highway 1, in Marshall, CA. 49 miles north of San Francisco, 10 miles north of Point Reyes Station and 23 miles south of Bodega Bay.

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Look, not everyone’s idea of fun is “conquering nature” or “exploring the wilderness”. Vacation stems from the Latin word vacātiō which means to move as little has humanly possible with out having ravens gnaw at your body. So why is it that every time you go on vacation to Yosemite someone always telling you to hike a mountain or scale a rockface or to jerk off a koala for sustenance? I’m not Bear Grylls. In case you do get suckered into going to Yosemite, here are three things to do that don’t involve the words “hike”, “half”, or “dome” but still lets you experience the outdoors.

  1. Curry Village ($90 per room): Don’t feel like pitching a tent? You don’t have to. Curry Village offers pre-erect canvas cabins with modern accommodations such as electricity, light, and beds. Best of all you’re within walking distance to showers, a coffee shop, beer, and even a pool. We’re modern people, we have modern needs. Penis joke.
  2. Rafting ($25 per person): Alright this is not nearly as intense as it sounds. From the months of May to July, the Merced River becomes calm enough for the Park Rangers to let us common folk raft. True story: we had a friend fall off the raft, freak out and start panicking because she can’t swim, only to realize the water was only 3 feet deep. What a dumbass.
  3. Guided Tour (free): This is pretty bottom rung on the activity chart. Instead of sleeping in your tent, you’re going to be sleeping on a flatbed tractor next to the German tourist and a guy with a oxygen tank while Ranger Jill talks to you about glacier formed rocks and Ansel Adams. The upside is that you can drink the whole time.
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I use to live in San Francisco and it was one of the funnest periods of my life.  A beautiful and friendly city, SF is an amazingly unique place where at any time you can easily have the best all-organic locally farmed meal, watch a friar walk down the street, sit next to a man wearing assless chaps on the bus, and have a random conversation with someone who started a small company called Google. It’s a vibrant city full of energy and life! And one reason for that is that San Franciscans love any reason to celebrate, dress up, and/or have a parade.

Here are a FEW fun, crazy, unique annual events in San Francisco:

Castro Theatre Sing-A-Long (visit their website for schedule): The historic Castro Theatre is a gorgeous venue where you’d only expect opera singers to exhibit not 2 large drag queens hosting group sing-a-longs. Hystarically fun, I attended a Grease-Sing-A-Long with girlfriends once and had a blast singing Summer Love, Summer Love... dressing up is completely allowed and encouraged. Other sing-a-longs include: Little Mermaid, Sound of Music, Wizard of Oz.

(image source)

Critical Mass (Last Friday of Every Month): Started in San Francisco, Critical Mass is a bicycle ride that was started to bring awareness to people about bicyclists, bicyclist rights and road safety.  It originally started out as a spontaneous demonstration, but these days it’s more of an expected event that is often lead by police. Rent a bicycle and join the fun.

Stern Grove Music Festival (Summer only): In their 72nd season now, Stern Grove Music Festival is a great free outdoor music festival. Bring a blanket, a picnic basket, and spend the afternoon listening to soul singers or live bands. Get there early or you’ll be picnicking in mud!

(Surfs! image source)

Bay to Breakers (third Sunday in May): Part 12k, part halloween, part parade, Bay to Breaker is a 12k race that starts from Embarcadero (or the Bay) and weaves through SF neighborhood (and monster hills!) to Pacific Ocean on the other side of the city. True runners run earlier in day and everyone else happily run the course behind them in homemade parade floats, group costumes (Waldo? I found him!) and anything goes!

SF’s LGBT Pride Celebration/Parade (June 27-28, 2008): The world’s largest LGBT parade, it is REALLY fun! There’s lots of food and vendors and rainbow flags flying high and proud.

Dolores Park Movie Night (2nd Thursday of every month in the summer): An outdoor movie night held in the beautiful Dolores Park in the Mission District, this movie night is FUN! From Karate Kid to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the film committee does a great job at picking movies. Bring  blanket, a case of brew, and buy a tamale from Mission’s famous tamale lady, and join SF’s hipsters in the fun.

Ghiradelli Square Chocolate Festival (Sept 6-7, 2008): A yearly event, the Ghiradelli Square Chocolate Festival gives you reason to stuff thousands of calories of cocoa goodness into your mouth.

Folsom Street Fair (Sept 28, 2008): World’s largest leather/fetish festival… uhh… not suitable for children, conservative church-going mothers, Palin, and anyone who is uncomfortable with seeing a grown naked man on a leash.

Litquake (Oct 3rd- 11, 2008): A literary festival orgy, Litquake gathers Bay Area writers for readings, panel discussions, and literary nerd grouping for an exciting and FUN event. Sounds like it’ll be a project in English 101? HARDLY. San Franciscans know how to make reading fun, especially when many of the gatherings happen next to bars. Here’s your chance to have a brew with Neil Gaiman.

What’s your favorite SF event?

Resources:
Festivals: SanFrancisco.com

Events/Festivals Search: SFGate.com

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3 unforgettable destinations to attend (or have) a wedding

1. Ritz Calrton, Half Moon Bay, California

Nothing could be more classier, grander and colder. Beautiful views, windy as hell, as traditional as it gets.

2. Istanbul, Turkey

Nothing could be more exotic, glamorous and baller. Water front views, black tie event, Sultan’s boat, fireworks galore, need I say more?

3. Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach, Los Cabos, Mexico

Nothing could be more charming, sandier or romantic. Dinner on the beach, Mariachi bands, pina coladas and tequila shots all night long.

can’t wait for the honeymoon!

(images by kewlio)

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Summer is around the corner and for many people, that means it’s time to check out the state fair(s). When I was a kid, I remember going to the California State Fair at the Cal Expo in Sacramento, California to eat candy, see a bunch of animals and just hang out with good friends during summer break. If you have kids or little nieces and nephews, you might want to take them for some fun too.

Here at Wanderus, we’ve done the research for you and here are the links to this year’s state fairs with dates:

Have fun!

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