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Ryan's Blog

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

Parkers Blue Ash Grill – Cincinnati, OH (Blue Ash)

This was my third visit to Parker’s  Blue Ash Grill.  Their warm crackling fire was very welcoming on a cool fall evening.  Since I wanted to watch the game, I opted to have dinner in their bar area next to the fireplace, fully equipped with  large screen TVs.

Looking for something light, I opted for the broiled Tilapia.  Paired with steamed spinach with fresh garlic and roasted potatoes it was exactly what I had in mind.  The food has always been very fresh and flavorful.   In the past I’ve also enjoyed and recommend the filet.   For lunch, their 1/2 sandwitch and 1/2 soup (baked potato) is an exceptional value.

Official Website:
http://www.selectrestaurants.com/parkersblue/index.html

Contact Info:
4200 Cooper Road
Cincinnati, OH 45242
(513) 891-8300

Restaurant:
39°14’16.69″N
84°23’30.09″W

Parkers Blue Ash Grill

Parkers Blue Ash Grill - Tilapia

Parkers Blue Ash Grill on Urbanspoon

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

Vineyard Cafe and Wine Bar – Cincinnati, OH

Overall, the Vineyard Cafe and Wine bar is my favorite restaurant in Cincinnati. I’ve been there about four times now and every time has been a memorable experience. From dining on their patio overlooking Hyde Park Square in the summer, to dining in their cozy wine room on a cold fall night; each time the food, service, and hospitality were top notch.

Located in Hyde Park, the restaurant is surrounded by quaint little shops that warrant a visit. Just be sure to shop before dinner as many close around 5.

To start off, I highly recommend the Brushetta Trio. You get to try olive tapenade, boursin hummus, and sun dried tomato basil spread all in one appetizer.

For dinner my favorite is the Tenderloin Medallions. The sauce that comes with them is perfectly paired with the steak. I always worry that the sauce will take away from the high quality of meat, but this truly did accent the flavor instead of masking it.

If you have enough room for dessert, try the Key Lime Tart. The best way to describe it would be an explosion of lime flavor in every bite. The flaky graham cracker crust is rich and buttery.

I make it a point to come back at least once every time I visit.

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

Contact Info:
2653 Erie Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45208
(513) 871-6167

Restaurant:
39° 8’22.60″N
84°26’36.90″W

 Vineyard Cafe - Patio

Vineyard Cafe

Vineyard Cafe - Medallions

Vineyard Cafe on Urbanspoon

Number Nine Noodles + Beer – Long Beach, CA

I talked my friend into having dinner (even though we were trying to be good and eat at home). We’ve wanted to go back to this new Vietnamese restaurant called Number Nine Noodles & Beer, located in the recently revitalized 4th street Art Theater area.

The narrow setup of Number Nine is very New York esque. It is very clean, to the point and efficient.

For an appetizer we decided to start with the vegetarian spring rolls. The waitress made up our minds when she told us the spring rolls weren’t deep fried like the egg rolls (still trying to be good). Don’t be shy with the tasty peanut sauce.

During our last visit, we had the Soda Chan Vietnamese Lemonade. It was VERY delicious. This time I thought I would try something new and had the lychee infused jasmine iced tea. It was okay, but I definitely prefer the lemonade.

Since it was a bit chilly outside, I decided to have the chicken rice noodle soup (pho). It comes with tender chicken, fresh herbs, sprouts, mushrooms, scallions, and an amazing broth. There were also two sauces that came with it for you to add at your discretion – one spicy and one that had a smoky BBQ flavor.

We’ll definitely be back, however we both decided it was too much food for two and instituted a 3 person minimum for appetizers.

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

Location:
2118 East 4th Street
Long Beach, CA  90814
(562) 434-2009

Restaurant :
33°46’17.92″N
118° 9’57.77″W

 

Number Nine Noodles + Beer

Number Nine Noodles -  Chicken Soup

Number Nine Noodles - Spring Rolls

Number Nine on Urbanspoon

Bai-Plu Thai Food and Aki Sushi Bar – Long Beach, CA

Tonight I recommended that our Thursday night dinner group try Aki Sushi & Bai-Plu Thai restaurant.  While you won’t find a Ferrari in the neighborhood, its not as bad as some reviews make it out to be.   I really like the fact that they have a decent sized parking lot on site so it is easier to find parking.  Don’t park in the back unless you want to enlist the help of a fellow restaurant patron to get you out.

When it came time to order, the waiter asked how spicy I’d like my steak salad.   “Medium?”, he suggested…  Being the only male in the group tonight, it must have been my primal machismo speaking when I nonchalantly agreed with him.  Not to fret, though.   The waiters have a sixth sense that tells them exactly when you are about to run out of water, and are back promptly to refill your glass.

The Spicy Beef Salad is marinated in a lime sauce that gives it an incredible flavor.    Another favorite is the Spicy Chicken Soup (Tom Yum Kai) which has chicken, lemon grass, mushrooms, lime juice and chili.  The ladies also tried a caterpillar roll which they said was very good.  We’ll definitely be going back.

Official Website:
http://www.akibaiplu.net/

Contact Info:
1626 East 7th Street
Long Beach, CA 90813
(562) 436-3123

Restaurant:
33°46’30.91″N
118°10’16.55″W

Aki Sushi Bar

Steak Salad

Spicy Chicken Soup (Tom Yum Kai)

Caterpillar Roll

Aki's Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

La Muse Cafe – Long Beach, CA

It was a perfect day out, so I decided to go to one of my favorite outdoor lunch destinations, La Muse Cafe.    Ideally located on Ocean Ave, it is close to the downtown office high rises, while still allowing you to enjoy the fresh ocean breeze on their outdoor patio.

I had the “Melpomene the Songstress” crepe, consisting of chicken, cheese, spinach, and caramelized mushrooms.  The mushrooms definitely made the crepe.  Now I have a new favorite item on the menu!  Also recommended is the San Pellegrino Limonata (lemonade).   Even though it is Italian, it goes very well with the food.

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

Contact Info:
455 East Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, CA  90802
(562) 432-1965
LaMuseCafe@verizon.net

Restaurant:
33°46’0.15″N
118°11’12.25″W

La Muse Cafe

La Muse Cafe - Crepe

La Muse East Village Cafe on Urbanspoon

455 East Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, California
90802

El Callejon – Laguna Beach, CA

On our way back from the wedding, we decided to go to the beach for a few hours and grab some lunch on the way home.  We didn’t know of a good Mexican place along PCH, so while we were walking in Laguna, my cousin asked a police officer where you could get good guacamole.

We were definitely happy with the suggestion.   The food was very fresh, tasty and the service was quick and friendly.   The skylight and great decor gives you the illusion that you are dining outside somewhere in Mexico.

I had two Carne Asada tacos a la carte, along with their freshly made guacamole, salsa, and chips.  Everything was very delicious.  Perfect for lunch.  If you are in a fiesta mood, try one of their 750 different brands of tequilla.

Official Website:
http://www.el-callejon.com/el_callejon/Laguna_Main.html

Contact Info:
480 South Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 715-5999

Restaurant:
33°32’26.49″N
117°46’55.33″W

El Callejon

El Callejon - Inside

El Callejon - Carne Asada

El Callejon on Urbanspoon