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Attractions | Ryan's Blog

Archive for the ‘ Attractions ’ 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

 

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

 

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

Newport Aquarium – Cincinnati, OH

I must say I fell victim to hotel info channel advertising.  Every time I turned on the TV it went on and on about the local aquarium.  Seeing as I was looking for something to do, I decided to go check it out.

I was happy to find that the aquarium was part of a complex of movie theaters, restaurants, and shops.   Parking was easy – and partially validated if you see a movie.

When you first enter the aquarium, you descend via an escalator which makes you feel like you are actually going under water.  Along with the huge, impressive shark tanks are smaller, more specialized habitats for not only fish but amphibians, crabs, snakes, birds and muskrats.

One of my favorites was the Jellyfish room, where they had several species.   I visited over Halloween weekend so I also got to witness a diver carving a pumpkin underwater.   They also do something with Santa for Christmas.   The kids seemed to love it.  Well worth the $20 admission price.

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

Contact Info:
1 Aquarium Way
Newport, KY 41071-1679
(859) 261-7444

Aquarium:
39° 5’41.05″N
84°29’50.25″W

Newport Aquarium

Newport Aquarium - Shark Tunnel

\Newport Aquarium - Tropical Fish

Newport Aquarium - Jelly Fish

Sharon Woods Park – Cincinnati, OH

Every once in awhile I have to stay the weekend at my client’s site for my job.  It turned out to be a great weekend to be in Cincinnati.  The fall colors were in full effect, and the weather wasn’t half bad.

A friend of mine recommended Sharon Woods Park for running, as there is a well kept running trail (2.6 miles around the small lake).   In the warmer months you can also rent a rowboat, paddle boat, or pontoon.  There’s also a 1 mile fitness trail and .7 mile nature trail to explore.  Other facilities include an indoor/outdoor playground and a 18 hole golf course.

When I first arrived I stopped at the ranger station to find out where the trail started.  They were very helpful and even gave me a brochure with a map of the entire 730 acre park.

Official Website
http://www.hamiltoncountyparks.org/parks/sharonwoods.htm

Contact Info
11450 Lebanon Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45241
(513) 769-4326

Park Entrance
39°16’49.46″N
84°24’18.81″W

Sharon Woods Park - Drive

Sharon Woods Park - Lakeside Trail

Sharon Woods Park - Ducks

Sharon Woods Park - Lake

Sharon Woods Park - Bridge

Getty Villa – Malibu, CA

My family was in town for a wedding and we were looking for something we hadn’t done yet.  When at the Getty Center during their last trip, we saw a brochure for the Getty Villa.  Similar to the Getty Center, there is no fee to visit the Villa (except for the $15 parking fee).   The Villa is dedicated to the cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.

Entrance to the Villa requires a ticket.  You can print one out free online.  While several times are available, we were allowed in ahead of our ticket time.   I’d recommend watching the 12 minute introductory video online before going.  If you wish, you can also do so on site.  There is also a 45 minute tour available to orient you to the villa that is loaded with factual information of the Villa’s origin.   

The architecture is absolutely astonishing.  So much attention has been given to materials and details that you truly feel like you are being transported to a different time.  The Villa is modeled after an ancient building found under a lava flow.  

Inside the Villa itself you will find thousands of antiquities.  One difference between this and other museums is that you are looking at the original works of art.  There is something to be said for being in the presence of such ancient pieces of work (some 2,000+ years old).   Be sure to allow at least 4 hours to see the grounds.  We did not see everything, but look forward to coming back again next time.

Official Website:
http://www.getty.edu/visit/

Contact Info:
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, California 90272
(310) 440-7300

Museum Entrance:
34° 2’30.96″N
118°34’1.94″W

Getty Villa - Pool 

Getty Villa - Inside Atrium

Getty Villa - Hallway

Getty Villa - Atrium

Laugh Factory – Long Beach, CA

A friend of mine  invited me to join them at the Laugh Factory last Saturday night to see Jamie Kennedy.  She was adamant about getting there early so we could get good seats.   We ended up all being seated in the front row!   What she didn’t tell us was that we were all going to be part of the act in one way or another.

Harry Basil came on before Jamie and did some pretty amazing things with props (including using our friend!).  Jamie Kennedy was outrageously funny.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

We paid the extra $5 for the VIP tickets (well worth it).   The difference is that there are two lines – one that wraps around the building, and another that was only about 25 people deep.   Also, the $6 valet was a deal (opposed to walking a 1/4 mile to the parking structure where you would still be paying at least $6).

There are a lot of big names on the upcoming list, and we’ll definitely be back again soon!

Official Website:
http://www.laughfactory.com/content/Longbeach.html

Contact Info:
151 S. Pine Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 495-2844

Club:
33°45’49.93″N
118°11’33.09″W

Laugh Factory

Laugh Factory - Brady Bunch