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Destinations | Ryan's Blog

Archive for the ‘ Destinations ’ Category

Joshua Tree National Park – Ryan Mountain – Palm Springs Area, CA

 One of the first things you realize about Joshua Tree National Park is it’s size.   Spend some time before your trip to plan what areas/trails you would like to see.   At over 789,745 acres, you will have plenty to choose from.  Temperatures can vary greatly depending what time of year you visit the park.  Make sure to bring lots of sunscreen, and water.    

We chose a relatively short hike to the summit of Ryan Mountain (2-3 hours, 3 miles round trip).   The summit is at 5,461 ft., affording you views of Lost Horse, Queen, and Pleasant Valleys.  You really get a great 360 view of the park from the top.   If you are afraid of heights, this is not the hike for you (I won’t mention any names). 

I am looking forward to coming back soon to explore other areas of the park.   There is so much to cover, you could easily spend a week here and not see everything. 

Official Website:
http://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm

Contact Info:
Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597
(760) 367-5500

Ryan Mountain Trailhead:
 34° 0’9.11″N
116° 8’9.16″W


 

Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls – Malibu, CA

After lunch at Geoffrey’s, it was time to work off a few calories on the Escondido Canyon Trail.   The trail head is actually 1 mile up the hill from the parking lot; however you will not mind the astonishing views of multi million dollar homes and the Malibu coastline.   I highly recommend this hike after it has recently rained.  The sky was so clear you could see all the way to Palos Verdes.   It will also ensure that the waterfalls are at their best. 

A very important note about the hike – If you are going to the water falls, make sure you go left at the first T, and go upstream (makes sense, right?).   Also, when you get to the first waterfall, don’t think you’re finished.   There are more falls up a rather steep mini-climb (well worth it).

The trail is very well maintained.  At about 4.2 miles you should give yourself about 2 hours to fully enjoy the park.  Difficulty wise it wasn’t too bad.  I actually thought the 1 mile hike up the road to the trailhead was the most strenuous.  I look forward to coming back again soon! 

Official Website:
http://www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=12

Contact Info:
27200 Winding Way
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 589-3200

Trail Head:
 34° 1’54.07″N
118°46’21.36″W

Parking Lot:
 34° 1’33.93″N
118°46’48.24″W

 

Geoffrey’s – Malibu, CA

So I had a day off of work and was trying to think of something to do.  I get so few off I didn’t want to waste it.  I was going over several hiking trails, and found Escondido Canyon.  Of course you need to eat before you hike, and luckily I found this amazing place next to the trail called Geoffrey’s.  

While you may feel a bit underdressed in your hiking cloths, jeans and t-shirts are just fine for lunch.   When you pull in, you will need to valet your car (unless you can find parking on PCH).  It’s only $5 and included on your bill.  

When you walk through the entrance to the patio to be seated, breathtaking panoramic views of the Malibu coastline hit you on all sides.  It was a perfectly clear day and you could see all the way to Palos Verdes, Catalina, and the Channel Islands.

Enough on the view – the real reason you go to a restaurant is to eat, right?   You won’t be disappointed.  I ordered the lunch filet with vegetables.  Extremely tender and perfectly seasoned, the filet was accompanied by a exquisite sauce. 

If lunch is any indication of dinner, I would imagine it would be absolutely amazing.  I’d love to come back for a sunset dinner on a full moon to enjoy the view and great food.

Official Website:
http://www.geoffreysmalibu.com/

Contact Info:
27400 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA  90265
(310) 457-1519

Restaurant:
 34° 1’31.06″N
118°46’10.70″W

 

Geoffrey's Malibu on Urbanspoon

Fresh Foods Cafe – Long Beach, CA

My friend told me about this place in Long Beach that has an amazingly fresh and progressive menu.   While it is a bit hard to find, it is well worth the hunt!  It is located right in the Catalina Landing Building (where the Catalina Express departs).  They even have 90 minute free parking if you can find it (use the coordinates below).  

I’ve been to Fresh Foods Cafe several times now, and I still haven’t tried everything I wanted to try on the menu.  They have great daily specials to spice things up.   Every time I get the soup – it is always amazing.   If you like fresh salads, you can watch them make it in front of you. 

Prices are very reasonable – every time I went I never paid more than $12.   My favorites would be the turkey sandwich, and rotisserie chicken.  Both are extremely moist.  The bread is extremely fresh and must be made daily.   Their motto is “Everything Fresh, Every Day.  We do not buy it, we make it.”  I go back so often I signed up for their “I like it Fresh” club which gets you free food after so many dines.

Official Website:
http://freshfoodscafe.com/

Contact Info:
340 Golden Shore
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 980.9200

Cafe:
 33°45’48.22″N
118°12’1.63″W

 

Fresh Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

Germaine’s Luau – Oahu Hawaii

Our trip was winding down and we still hadn’t made it to a Luau.   We were a bit skeptical that it would be touristy, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised with Germaine’s.   At about $70/person, it was a great value.  The price included transpiration to/from the Luau from Waikiki (about a 30 minute ride), 3 drink tickets, dinner AND the show. 

The bus picks you up and the party starts.  The guide we had cracked jokes the entire ride along with giving us a few lessons on Hawaiian culture.  It made the ride go by pretty quick.   They plan it out so you arrive around sunset (amazing view). 

Before the show starts, you get to whiteness the “Royal” ceremony where they bring up the pig from the outdoor imu (underground oven).  Shortly after, dinner is served.   Don’t be shy and ask for extra Kalua Pig – it is absolutely amazing – super moist with a unique smoked flavor. 

After everyone gets food from the buffet, the show starts.   The cast takes you through several tribal dances/rituals from Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand and Hawaii.   My favorite was the fire thrower. 

Everyone in our party was very happy with the level of quality and service provided.  We would definitely go back.

Official Website:
http://www.germainesluau.com/

Contact Info:
91-119 Olai Street  
Kapolei,Hawaii  96707
(800) 367-5655

Luau:
 21°17’51.51″N
158° 6’18.62″W

 

Diamond Head Hiking Trail – Honolulu, HI

A group of friends went to Hawaii over Thanksgiving this year.   While going for a casual drive, we came upon the Diamond Head Crater.   Feeling adventurous, we decided to give it a shot. 

If we had it to do over, we would have definitely wore tennis shoes (not flip flops) and brought along some water.    It is a relatively short hike (about 40 minutes up, and 20-30 minutes down).  As you ascend the side of the crater, beautiful panoramas of the entire island come into view.  We had an absolutely perfect day, and snapped some amazing photos.   If you are afraid of stairs, you will want to avoid this.  We actually saw one person look at the larges series of stairs and head back.  At the top you actually get to see some of the WWII gun turrets at the top of the mountain.  One of the best views is that of Waikiki beach, where you can see a modern city with every amenity imaginable meet the crystal blue waters of the Pacific.

After you are finished and back at the parking lot in the base of the crater, don’t forget to try some shaved ice.  I don’t know if it was the fact we forgot water, but the shaved iced was the best I ever had!  I’d definitely like to repeat this hike the next time we go.  

Official Website:
http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/hiking/oahu/Index.cfm?hike_id=2

Contact Information:
Off Diamond Head Road
Between Makapu’u Avenue and 18th Avenue, Honolulu, HI
 (808) 984-8109

Trail Head:
 21°15’48.19″N
157°48’18.97″W

 

Dixie Crossroads – Titusville, FL (Orlando Area)

On our way back from Kennedy Space Center, we stopped at the Dixie Crossroads seafood restaurant off a recommendation from my Aunt.   Even though she gave great directions, there was no trouble finding the place with its huge red neon sign. 

We arrived at around 6:30PM on a Sunday evening and the waitress was quoting us a 40 minute wait.  From the size of the waiting area, 40 minutes seemed to be pretty quick.   They have a beautiful outdoor waiting area set in a lush park-like fashion.  While you’re waiting, you can take a look at the Dixie Crossroads merchandise, or head over to the bar to get a drink.     

The wait was well worth it.  We were actually seated in about 30 minutes, so that was a nice surprise.  The Rock Shrimp was absolutely amazing.  You could tell they were very fresh and were seasoned to perfection.   We will definitely be coming back next year!

Official Website:
http://www.dixiecrossroads.com/

Contact Info:
1475 Garden Street
Titusville FL 32796
(321) 268-5000

Restaurant:
 28°36’54.78″N
 80°49’14.30″W

 

Dixie Crossroads on Urbanspoon

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center – Cape Canaveral (Orlando Area), FL

We got a late start to Kennedy Space Center, but were glad to find that they reduced their rate in the afternoon.  We just missed the last bus to the launch pad the day before an Atlantis launch!  There were still plenty of things to see. 

New in 2007, the Space Shuttle Launch Experience was an A+ attraction.  Even though it was quite busy the day before the launch, the wait wasn’t very long at all.   The simulator actually raises you to a 90 degree angle and shakes you like the real thing.  On its own it was worth the price of admission.

Next to the simulator is a full size replica of the space shuttle you can go inside to explore.    

Also notable was the 3D IMAX movie of the International Space Station.  It felt like you were really there!   It uses the same 3-D technology the new movie Avatar uses, which is a bit more realistic than the old fashion red and blue cardboard glasses.     

After the movie, of course we had to stop at the gift shop and stock up on souvenirs. 

The next day we saw the shuttle launch from the airport.  Hopefully we’ll be able to come back before the end of the program to whitness it closer. 

Official Website:
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/home/index.html

Contact Info:
State Road 405 East
Cape Canaveral, FL 32899
(321) 449-4400

Kenedy Space Center - Entrance

Kenedy Space Center

Kenedy Space Center - Astronaut

Kenedy Space Center - Shuttle

Kenedy Space Center - Launch Experience

 Shuttle Launch from Airport

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Orlando, FL

While in Orlando, we debated what Disney park to go to.  Since we were all adults, we shyed away from the Magic Kingdom and opted for the Animal Kingdom (even though we had already been to the San Diego Wild Animal Park earlier in the year). 

While both parks have their advantages, Disney’s Animal Kingdom stood out as the clear winner.  The attention to detail was absolutely amazing in all aspects of the park.  You could tell a lot of thought went into making the experience be as close to the native habitat as possible.   Also enjoyable was the native entertainers who actually come from the region each area the park was representing.  

At first we were a little taken back at the admission price, however once inside we thought the price was well worth it.  We only allowed a 1/2 a day for the park, and we didn’t get to see everything.  You could easily spend an entire day here.  One other suggestion – ditch out of the end of day parade early to avoid gridlock in the parking lot (if your kids will let you).   

Official Website:
http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/animal-kingdom/

Contact Info:
2901 Osceola Pkwy.
Bay Lake, FL 32830
(407) 938-3000

Park:
28°21’16.09″N
81°35’23.49″W

Disney Animal Kingdom - Entrance

Disney Animal Kingdom - Elephant

Disney Animal Kingdom - Hippo

Disney Animal Kingdom - Gorilla

Disney Animal Kingdom - Tiger

Disney Animal Kingdom - Giraffe

Hilton Bonet Creek – Orlando, FL

My Dad turned 60 this year, and I thought it would be a good idea to take him bass fishing in Florida.  I looked at several bass fishing destinations; however Orlando had not only good fishing, but also good entertainment.

Hilton just opened their brand new flagship hotel right inside Disney World in Bonnet Creek.  I can truly say that I was thoroughly impressed with every aspect of my stay.   The staff were extremely helpful and courteous.  

Every morning we had the buffet breakfast in the Harvest Bistro.  Everything was incredibly fresh and perfectly cooked.   The variety of food made it feel like a Sunday brunch every day of our stay.

I also had the opportunity of ordering a pulled pork sandwich from the pool restaurant..  Fantastic!   The pool area itself has a relaxing lazy river that connects two pools.  If you’re feeling adventurous, try the water slide.  

The Muse Cafe offers freshly brewed coffee and light desserts.  The brownies and muffins were excellent.

The hotel was very well thought out.  Everything flows perfectly together and the decor is fresh and airy.   Even the elevators only take 10 seconds to go from the lobby to the top floor!  It truly is a destination in itself.  

Also onsite was a golf course, affiliated with the attached Waldorf Astoria.  The convention center connecting the two hotels is massive.    I can’t wait until we go back again next year! 

Official Website:
http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/ORLHHHH-Hilton-Orlando-Bonnet-Creek-Florida/index.do

Contact Info:
14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane,�
Orlando, FL  32821
(407) 597-3600   Phone
(407) 597-3701 Fax

Hotel:
28°21’32.08″N
81°32’6.12″W

 

Hilton Bonet Creek - Outside

Hilton Bonet Creek - Sunset

Hilton Bonet Creek - Beds

Hilton Bonet Creek - Pool

Hilton Bonet Creek - Muse Cafe