Friday, December 29, 2017

Past POIs - The Wild Center [Franklin County, New York]

Point of Interest - The Wild Center
Location - Franklin County, New York, United States of America
Time of Visit - August 2017

During our long week trip in August, we visited The Wild Center in New York state and it was actually something that I saw from Facebook and was keen on visiting but didn't expect to actually see it any time soon.


Located in Franklin County, about an hour from Lake Placid is The Wild Center which was originally called the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks. The constructions started in 2004 with the old name and when they opened in 2006, it was renamed to The Wild Center. It was funded through donations and the entire campus is now 115 acres in size!


The main attractions that people come to see are the Wild Walk which opened in 2015 where you could actually walk across the treetops of the surrounding area. Not only is there the walk itself, but there is a giant fake bird's nest that you can climb into and there is a big spiderweb that you can play in and lie in. Besides these, there is also the tree house that you can climb and there are lots of information boards spread out in the area.

Inside the center, there is also a theater, a dining hall, some animals and more. Outside, there are plenty of hiking trails that you can wander around for some peace and quiet.

Admission was $17 per adult in 2017 and is actually good for two days, so if you don't finish everything in one day, by all means, just go back. One day was enough for us, but I can see that if you have kids, they would love to come back.

For more information, visit their website at https://www.wildcenter.org/

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Past POIs - San Luis Reservoir [Merced County, California]

Located in Merced County, California is the San Luis Reservoir which is a water storage reservoir that you shouldn't miss if you are in the area. In fact, it is the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States.

Picture of the water level in 2017
If you do happen to visit, make sure to check out the free Romero Overlook Visitor Center. This center has a lot of information behind the history of the reservoir as well as a very scary picture of how low the water level was just one year ago in 2016 (we went in 2017).

Picture of the water level in 2016 (the platform is in the picture above).
For more information, visit the website http://www.water.ca.gov/recreation/locations/sanluis/sanluisvisitor.cfm

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Past POIs - Crooked Street [San Francisco, California]

While visiting San Francisco, a touristy must is to visit Crooked Street. Why would you want to visit Crooked Street? Well, take a look at the picture below.


Located on Lombard Street between Hyde St and Leavenworth St is the famous Crooked Street which is a one-way, one block street that has a steep elevation drop which consists of 8 hair-pin turns. It was actually designed this way due to how steep the drop is. If you drive in San Francisco, you will know what I mean by steep drops. There are streets where it seems like you are on a roller coaster with how sheer the drop is.


When you get here, make sure to take some pictures and video safely. It was actually a bit odd since there was an actually person that was conducting traffic flow and pedestrian safety due to how many tourists there are trying to take pictures with this street. We actually went during a weekday and was told that it wasn't even that busy compared to the weekend. I can't imagine what the insanity must be like.


We did only travel this on foot and we opted out of driving down it. Allison did ask me about it, but I didn't really care to do 5 mph on such a steep and short section of road. Plenty of people road down this street with their GoPros shooting out of the roofs of cars.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Past POIs - Lands End Lookout [San Francisco, California]

Located on the northwest side of San Francisco is Lands End Lookout, a park with great views and some short trails all along the coast line. It is actually part of the National Parks Services and it is free for visitors.


There is free parking in the area, although it did seem to be fairly busy and popular when we arrive early in the afternoon. I imagine it would be easier to find parking earlier in the day.


At the main area of Lands End is the visitor center which you should definitely visit for some history about the place and if you have any questions, there are rangers that will answer your questions. There are also national park stamps if you collect those (the rubber stamps, not actual stamps for mail).


There is a very nice coastal hike from Lands End to Eagle's Point which has a lot of people walking along. There is a bit of an up/down hill portion, but nothing too strenuous.

It is at 680 Point Lobos Avenue. For more information, visit the official website at NPS - Lands End Lookout.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Past POIs - Muir Woods National Monument [California]

Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908 is Muir Woods, home of the redwood trees. It is only a 30 minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge and well worth seeing even if it is a bit short in my point of view.

The redwood trees here are some of the tallest trees in the world, although the biggest trees belong to the sequoias located in both Yosemite and Sequoia National Park, both southeast and roughly 3-5 hours drive from San Francisco.


Admission in 2017 was $10 per person, but is covered with the annual pass which costs $80 at the time. So if you plan to visit a few national parks, this may be worth getting. When we went, parking we were told, is limited and it is true, so do make sure to go ahead of time. I did notice that when I checked the official site Muir Woods, starting in 2018, parking permits will be required. I guess this is to curb the amount of illegal parking that takes place if you go late in the day. It looks like parking will be $8 (it was free when we went) or $3 per person for the shuttle. So it does add up pretty quickly.


When you get there, there is only one entrance and one main hiking trail which takes roughly 1 hour to complete. While there, we actually saw our first buck! Very cool to see wildlife in their natural habitat.


With the parking/shuttle situation, I think it will not be as busy, but at the same time, I'm not sure if it is worth visiting if you have already seen the sequoias. If I had to pick one, I would say go see the sequoias.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Past POIs - 17-mile drive [Monterey Bay, California]

One of the big tourist attractions while in Monterey Bay, California is the 17-mile drive which is a private area of Monterey Bay that cost us $10.25 in 2017. There are plenty of sights and wildlife when we were there.

17-mile drive
When you enter, with the cost of admission, you are told the path to follow (which is follow the red lines on the road) and off you go. The points of interest in the map are clearly mapped and there is plenty to see including but not limited to Pebble Beach and the Lone Cypress.

17-mile drive - look at all the wildlife!
All the marked points have clear areas for park. You'll notice that there are some areas that don't really have much to see, but may be worth it to get out and stretch a bit.

17-mile drive - do you see the seal?
Note, you can re-coup your admission cost if you shop or dine while inside the area. We started from the south side which is probably the proper starting point since it started at point #1.

17-mile drive - lone cypress
Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Past POIs - Santa Monica Pier [Los Angeles, California]

Located in California is Santa Monica Pier, one of the most well known tourist attractions in the Los Angeles area where crowds will gather for the views, the ocean, the muscle area, and more.


Parking isn't cheap, but there are plenty of options in the area and if you grab a local tourist map, it actually tells you where the nearby parking lots are and how far it is walking distance to the pier which was great!


On the pier itself, there is a small amusement park which has a roller coaster and a ferris wheel! Definitely worth a visit and best of all, it is free!


Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2017 - California Summary

We were in California from Saturday, September 9, 2017 to Saturday, September 23, 2017. I decided to just write one post because we moved around so much instead of one for each place that we visited.

Duration: 15 days (Saturday, September 9, 2017 to Saturday, September 23, 2017)
Distance Travelled: 1,300 miles (from Los Angeles, Sequoia and King's Canyon, Yosemite, Monterey Bay, to finally San Francisco)

Highlights

Universal Studios Hollywood
Disneyland
Disneyland
Theme Parks (Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland) were something that were a bit of a mystery to me. I walked in without understanding the appeal and walked out with an appreciation of the end result, however, I think I only enjoyed it because it was a slow period. If there was lines to wait for, I'm not sure how I would have fared.

Yosemite National Park - Yosemite Falls in the background
Yosemite National Park - Nevada Falls in the background
Yosemite National Park - Glacier Point with Half Dome in the background
Yosemite National Park did not disappoint. One of my first big American National Park and it was outstanding beautiful, with well thought out signage and shuttle buses, however, the parking can be a bit difficult depending on the time of day that you go.

San Francisco - Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco - Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz
San Francisco - Crooked Street
San Francisco was a delight. The beautiful row houses, the nice wharf area, the Golden Gate Bridge, I can see why people love this place so much. Unfortunately, with nice places, come difficulties like driving in traffic is really bad, parking is even worse, and cost of living is absolutely insane.

Lowlights

Los Angeles was not as nice as I expected it to be. Or rather, Hollywood Blvd seemed very old and run down once you leave the main tourist attraction portion. Maybe it is because we didn't visit the touristy areas, but it left a sour taste with us.

Food Suggestions

Trestle - cauliflower soup on the left, pear salad on the right
Trestle - Salmon on top, lamb on the bottom
Trestle - chocolate cake on the left, toffee pudding on the right
Trestle was a lovely restaurant to eat at. Make reservations beforehand since it does get busy and it isn't a big restaurant, so it will likely fill up quickly. The menu consists of a 3 course fixed prix menu which has two items for each courses which makes trying out everything quite easy since you only need to come with one other person. As a bonus, it is fairly inexpensive! Only $35 per person and if you like, you can add a pasta course for an additional $10. Very good food and service.

1850 - Fry Bread
1850 - Tri-tip
1850 in Mariposa was a great restaurant to try. The portions are big and the food was very good.

Tips

Travelling within San Francisco is fairly difficult by car. Not only is it slow, but it also very costly to park. If you can, try to pick a place where you can leave your car and take local transit.

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. There was a bit of driving compared to some other trips, but also less than some other ones. The sites overall were very interesting and it didn't get boring. It started with theme parks, followed by National Parks, then the beach and finally the city life again. The only change I think I have would be if we shorted San Francisco by one day since our last day, we didn't really know what to do. If you are into wine, I can see how Napa would be appealing, but it wasn't for us.

Until our next trip!

Monday, October 30, 2017

2017 - California Day 15 (San Francisco)

Saturday, September 23, 2017. Today is our last day in San Francisco, which is also our last day of our trip. We will be here for the full day with our flight out at 11:00pm.

Muir Woods
This morning, we head to Muir Woods which required us to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. For tourists, you actually will need to pay on the way back, however, you don't need to pay when you leave. Since we rented our car, we didn't want to be charged by the rental car company to pay for this, so when I did some research, I found out that I could register online and have the toll charged directly to my account. You can find more information at bay area fastrak. Basically we would select a time range for when we plan to use the bridge, enter our credit card and it would charge the one when we cross within the time range.

Muir Woods
Muir Woods is not far from our hotel, in fact, we made it in 30 minutes. Admission was $10 per person, also covered by our annual pass, therefore we made some money now! 

Muir Woods - A buck!
This National Park is actually quite small compared to Yosemite. The main trail loop only takes about 1.5 hours and it is fairly flat and the main trail is a loop. Muir Woods primary attraction are the redwoods which are some of the tallest trees in the world with the highest tree here being over 200 feet tall. Outside of the main trail, there are some smaller trails, but I don't see how one would spend more than a morning or afternoon here.

We found a chipmunkiosis!
Personally, I think the sequoias were more interesting to see, but that's because I can see it when it is right in front of me versus me having to crane my neck to appreciate how tall these trees are.

The loop is nice and relaxing, since we got here early (just before 9:00am), it wasn't very busy. So it was nice to wander. I'm not sure how busy it gets later though. I did notice and we heard that there is not enough parking for the area, so you should try to come early.

Louis'
Lands End Lookout is where we headed to next. Lunch was our first stop here which was at Louis'. The food is okay, diner style where it is actually cash only for some odd reason. We ordered two breakfasts which were about $10 each. As you can tell, nothing special.

Battleship?
With our bellies full, we hiked to Eagles Point. On the way, we actually were hiking along with what looked like a battleship pulling a tugboat. The hike to Eagles Point is 1.3 miles and we started at 1:30pm.

At Eagles Point, you get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. At this point, I was a bit bored with it. The hike itself is pretty nice, there are some steep parts though. Made it back to the car at 3:00pm, so it took us about 1.5 hours round trip.

Lands End Lookout
We were done with San Francisco at this time. We made it back to Fort Point because Allison wanted some stamps there (there are stamps at every National Park which are unique to them). And so we headed down to the airport area to try to figure out how to return all these plastic jugs.

While in California, we bought a bunch of water jugs thinking that we could return them but there was no place to do so, or it wasn't very clear for tourists. Oddly, it seemed like even locals don't know what to do with them. What I didn't understand was, don't locals buy them? We ended up spending quite a bit of time wandering and driving around and we had to end up just throwing them in the garbage.

Barracuda - Cat's Meow
Barracuda - Caterpillar roll on left, spider roll on right
Barracuda - chicken karage
Dinner was at Barracuda, a japanese restaurant near the airport where we ordered the Cat's Meow, Spider Roll, Chicken Karage, and Caterpillar Roll. The food was okay. We thought it was too expensive for what it is.

Returned the car at Hertz, where the person didn't even check the car, just the mileage, checked in and that was the end of our trip. The flight was pretty uneventful since it was a red-eye.

Come back tomorrow for my trip summary!

Friday, October 27, 2017

2017 - California Day 14 (San Francisco)

Friday, September 22, 2017. Today, we visit the Golden Gate Bridge, explore San Francisco and aim to be in Oakland to meet up with a friend from Toronto for dinner.

Golden Gate Bridge - Visitor Center
We got a bit lost by the signage on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge visitor center, so make sure to look at the signs properly. We ended up getting to the visitor center at roughly 8:30am. Parking is paid at $2 for 2 hours which didn't seem too bad. The visitor center didn't open until later, so we went to explore the area and wander a bit of the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge - from Fort Point
Nearby, you will notice that there is actually a lot of history behind the bridge. While here, you will learn about how much it cost to build, how long it took, why it is called the Golden Gate Bridge even though it is red, and a lot more. There is even a sample cross-section of the wire that is used.

We finished the area and the visitor center by 9:30am, so we spent an hour here. It got busy by the time we left with tour buses being in the parking lot and the parking lot actually being full.

When we went to the visitor center last night, we learned about Fort Point. It was where we should park if we weren't able to find parking at the visitor center, so, we decided to go pay them a visit since we were here.

Fort Point
Fort Point is actually quite interesting to visit and they also have the Junior Ranger program! At this point, Allison was saddened that I didn't inquire about this at the other National Parks (like Yosemite), oh well. We spent about an hour here.

Parking is free there, and there is no cost to visit. It also gives you a different view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bonita
Bonita
Bonita

Lunch was at Bonita which is by the hotel where we ordered 4 tacos. The tacos are roughly $5 a piece, but actually very good. Also, a bit messy. If you're in the area, give it a shot.

Crooked Street
Walked to the Crooked Street next to see what the big deal was. It was clearly a tourist attraction since you could see all the cars and the tourists here. Apparently, it wasn't even that busy yet and it would be worse if you come during the weekend.

Wandered back to Fisherman's Wharf next to finish up what we missed yesterday. We visited a historic arcade which had machines that were really old. Some that just play music, others that have puppets that dance, and some weird one that showed a hanging (yup, a puppet gets hung).

Nick's Lighthouse
Nick's Lighthouse is where we stopped for some seafood. It took a bit longer to get our order since the cashier must have been new and messed up some big orders (charged too little). Allison got some oysters and clams. They threw in some shrimps since the cashier charged us $0.02 for nothing. $1.75 for each oyster, same price for the clams. Allison really enjoyed them, I don't normally eat them.

Boudin Bakery
Boudin Bakery
Boudin Museum & Bakery Tour was next which is where a majority of the local sourdough bread comes from. The museum and tour is free and self guided. Have a look if you are curious.

San Francisco Maritime National Park
San Francisco Maritime National Park
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park was next. It costs $10 per person, but it is included with our annual pass. Our cost has been made back! Any other place will be a bonus. We made it here at 2:30pm.

Stopped by Over the Moon near our hotel for an ice cream before jumping into our car and driving over to Oakland. We left at 4:30pm and made it to Oakland by 5:30pm. So, it took us an hour.

Portal - Garbage Bread
Portal - Pork Belly Salad
Me and Mario (friend from Toronto)
 Dinner was at Portal. Ordered the pork belly salad, and garbage bread. They were okay. Ended up going to Drake with my friend as well for some drinks before we called it a night.

Drake's Brewing Co - bread pudding
Tomorrow, based on feedback, we head to Muir Woods in the morning and explore what we have left before heading to the airport.