Archives for November 2011

Be a Star When You Visit Los Angeles

Is there anything more famous in the entertainment world than the Hollywood sign? Sitting atop Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains, the iconic nine letters that spell success (and failure) for so many are a must-see during any trip to the Los Angeles area. Though going anywhere near the sign is forbidden (it’s guarded by gates and security cameras) embodying the message of entertainment success implicit in it as a landmark is easier than you might think. Though you may not be the next Marilyn Monroe or Clark Gable, you can be on television or even in a movie when you visit the Los Angeles area, and here’s how:

Life's a Stage Part 1

  1. Be an Unpaid Extra.
    Though it’s not a great choice if you’re looking for a “big break,” if you’ve always wondered where they get all those people needed for large group shots in the movies, you needn’t look far. There are actually websites that handle these voluntary casting calls, the most famous of which is By signing up before you head out, you can get the chance to be filmed in a real Hollywood movie. You won’t get paid, but it will make for a great story and you may meet some of those who do.
  2. Watch a Live Taping.
    Several of your favorite talk shows, game shows and sitcoms are filmed nearby to Los Angeles in Burbank, CA. Among them are The Ellen DeGeneres ShowDr. Phil and The Tonight Show. As well as popular game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and many sitcoms.If you’ve never had the opportunity to see a live taping it is a worthwhile experience. Generally, there are refreshments provided, there’s always the chance of huge giveaways at the talk shows and you are generally given the chance to ask questions of the hosts and/or actors both on and off tape. The best part is that tickets are free and standby tickets can often be obtained the day of taping. However, if you have a favorite show, then request tickets in advance through each show’s website.
  3. Go on a Studio Tour.
    For those simply content to view the glamour of Hollywood vicariously, visiting the individual studios can provide that experience. The big four of Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. all call LA home. The Los Angeles Go Card includes all four studio tours in its price as well as tour options that include a trip to look at Hollywood stars’ homes.

A Trip to Remember

Los Angeles and Hollywood specifically represent some of the greatest allure to us all. Is there any little girl out there who hasn’t rehearsed her Academy Award acceptance speech in front of the mirror? Who among us hasn’t yearned for the glory of celebrity at least once? Though these options won’t get you a house in Hollywood Hills, they will certainly make for a memorable trip and an amazing tale once you get home.

New York Holiday Traditions

New York Holiday Traditions

Tourists visiting New York City this holiday season have more than a couple options when it comes to sights, sounds and shopping. Christmastime in New York is truly magical. From the window displays on 5th Avenue and ice skating in Central Park to watching the Rockettes at Radio City and losing yourself in the 30,000 lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, finding activities on a cold winter’s day in the Big Apple is a simple as stepping outside your hotel door. New York is a city ripe with holiday tradition that you cannot miss. Here’s a rundown of the most famous “must see” attractions of the New York holiday season.

Ice skaters having fun in New York Central Park

  1. 5th Avenue Christmas Displays
    It’s no secret that the streets of New York are a shopper’s mecca, from 5th Avenue’s finest stores to the diamond district to the incredible “deals” in Chinatown, buying holiday gifts in New York is a truly unique experience. However, the simple joy of window shopping can be just as fulfilling.All along 5th Avenue, some of the most famous department stores in the world, including Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barney’s, decorate their windows each winter to display the magic of the season and add some pizazz to your window shopping. There’s no shame in dressing up, walking the streets of New York and admiring the beauty and the immense work that goes into creating these unique windows each year. In a city full of glamour, this element stands above the rest.
  2. Skating in the Park
    Central Park is an institution in New York. During the summer months, businessmen, college students and stay-at-home moms alike can be found enjoying the sun on a blanket and reveling in some of the only “greenery” available in this concrete jungle. During the winter months, another great tradition begins: ice skating. Many people don’t realize that there are actually two ice rinks available in Central Park during the winter months. The Wollman Rink is located on the east end of the park near the zoo. It is open beginning in November with reasonable weekday rates for adults ($10.25) children ($5.50) and seniors ($4.75). Skating here can be a nice appendage to a day at the zoo (yes, they’re open in the winter, too) which is included in the New York Pass.The other rink, the Lasker Rink, is in the middle of Central Park, between 106th and 108th Street. Prices are cheaper here $6.25 for adults, $3.50 for youth, and $2.25 for seniors and do not vary according to the day of the week.
  3. The Radio City Rockettes
    Though the price of a ticket to the annual “Christmas Spectacular” are a bit high, $45-$179 at non-peak times or $55-$250 during peak, the experience of the Rockettes is well worth the splurge, especially if you have a special little girl to take to the show. As a child, going to Radio City at Christmas can be an almost ephemeral experience. Between the bright lights, the gold and silver decorations and the magical beauty of the Rockettes, the memories of seeing this show will last a life time.This year, Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular has been remastered to include the Rockettes in a 3-D video game-inspired number. Capitalizing on 21st century technology as well as the old tradition of precision dance, this element of the famous show catapults viewers into a virtual land of wonder sure to excite the child in us all.Even if you cannot make the show, consider touring Radio City during the holiday season as an option on both the New York Pass and the New York City Explorer Pass. The decorations themselves are worth a look.
  4. The Rockefeller Tree
    There are few annual traditions as iconic as the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Taking place on Wednesday, November 30th this year, the 74-foot Norway spruce looks stunning day and night. The decorations this year include 30,000 LED lights that stretch for 5 miles and a Swarovski crystal star. The multi-colored LED lights used this year are the “greenest” ever and the tradition of turning the donated tree into lumber for Habitat for Humanity will continue again at the end of the season.Pairing a trip to the famous tree with one of the many great tours available on New York’s tourist passes, such as the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, is a great way to spend the day and see this massive tree from more than one angle. Also, make sure you take the time to see the tree at night to get its full effect. Then, enjoy ice skating just below it at the Rockefeller Center rink or dine at the food court located just inside.

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner: A Unique Way to See Southern California

When most people first travel to the Golden Coast, the sheer volume of sights, tours, and famous people can overwhelm them. California, and specifically Southern California, offers tourists a rich array of opportunity beyond most other vacation destinations. With amazing weather year-round, a rich blend of historical charm and modern, Hollywood inspired indulgence, both San Diego and Los Angeles are prime vacation destinations. However, one mistake that too many tourists make when travelling to So-Cal, is to neglect the unique beauty that first brought settlers here both from Mexico and the original colonies of the United States – amazing beaches and fantastic scenery.

The railway along the coast of California

The Pacific Coast

East coasters especially fail to grasp the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. Though more than a little colder temperature-wise, the crystal blue waters of the Pacific combined with its amazing, surf-worthy waves make it magical even to look over. Many, more local tourists take advantage of this beauty through a day drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. However, if you are from far away, on a budget or simply not brave enough to chance the worst commuter traffic in America, there is still an option for you to see the Pacific Coast in an entirely different light.

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner

The 350 miles of rail track between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, CA represent Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner Route. The double-decker trains run 12 daily round trip routes throughout the day and evening hours. They stop at several notable locations in between these destinations, with major stops in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. The Pacific Surfliner can be an amazing alternative to the 405 freeway and provides travellers with a unique California experience that highlights all the diversity that the land has to offer.

Notable Stops and Scenery

The Pacific Surfliner provides tourists the opportunity to see the California coast in unique and exciting ways. Passengers can board directly from a beach-side station in San Clemente, north of San Diego, or opt for a more urban option at Los Angeles’ Union Station.

Perhaps the most memorable stretch of the Surfliner route is between north Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. Through here, the train hugs to coast line from the city of Oxnard until it hits Vandenberg Air Force Base. It passes by famous sights such as Pismo Beach, Gaviota State Beach, and Santa Maria, weaving through the valleys of this amazing state, rich with grape vines and farmlands that provide fresh food and wine all over the United States and the world.

Mass Transit Done Right

For those interested in tourist passes for either San Diego or Los Angeles, the option of riding the Surfliner allows easy, stress-free mobility between these two major cities and the ability to capitalize on the cross-city offering on both the Go Los Angeles and San Diego Go Card. Without having to lay out money for a rental car, you can easily travel between places and stay as long as you like.

However, one of the most amazing aspects of the Pacific Surfliner route comes just from the experience of riding it. At $58, the coach class round-trip from San Diego to San Luis Obispo is the most expensive fare you will find, which only enhances the ephemeral experience of modern rail travel. The Pacific Surfliner offers beautiful interiors, comfortable seating, and a hearty and delicious dining car reminiscent of another time. Parents and children, couples and friends can benefit from the freedom that rail travel offers. Instead of navigating traffic, you are free to talk, play cards, and enjoy the beauty of the California coast together.

Enjoy the Elegance and History of the Hotel del Coronado this December

If you are planning on vacationing in the San Diego area this winter, more options for beauty and adventure exist than you can possibly achieve in such a short time. However, from December 6-31 one very special opportunity exists that will take you back in time and into the lap of luxury. This December, docents from the San Diego Museum of History and Art (Coronado) will be leading special walking tours through the historic Hotel del Coronado located on an island just off the coast of this amazing city.

Hotel del Coronado

Coronado’s History

Named a national historic landmark in 1977, the Hotel del Coronado sits across San Diego Bay on Coronado Island, a 32.7 square mile peninsula that is connected to the mainland of California by a 10-mile long isthmus called Silver Strand. In Spanish, Coronado translates as “the crowned one” and currently the island embodies the spirit of that name in its luxury and standard of living. It is one of the most expensive places to reside in the U.S. and boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

The Hotel del Coronado was built in 1888 in the midst of the San Diego land boom and at the time held the title as the largest resort hotel in the world. Currently, it stands as an historic landmark of its period and an excellent example of Victorian all-wooden buildings.

Since that time, Hotel del Coronado has been given the prestigious 4-diamond rating from AAA and continues to rank among California’s most beautiful and luxurious resorts.

The People of Coronado

In addition to its awesome architecture, Hotel del Coronado (nicknames the Del) has played host to some of the most famous people in history including Prince Edward of Wales, Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplain and Babe Ruth. Many former U.S. Presidents have also stayed at the resort, which includes every president since Franklyn Roosevelt as well as quite a few beforehand.

The Beauty of Coronado Island

San Diego Downtown from Coronado Island

While staying in the San Diego area, a visit to Coronado Island is a must. The Go San Diego Card includes ferry fare which will transport you to this exclusive resort village hassle-free and also get you into the San Diego Museum of History and Art located on the island.

Once there, the sights and sounds of the Pacific greet you from all ends, and you will find Coronado Island is a mecca for luxury shopping as well as beach living and recreation. Through the experience of this magical island, ordinary people can glimpse both history and unprecedented beauty.

This December’s offer to take a behind the scenes tour of the Del simply accent what is a wonderful tourist destination year-round. If you are interested in this historic walking tour, reservations are required, call 619.437.8788, the cost is $15 per person.