One Word to Describe São Paulo, Brazil: Underrated

We have been here in São Paulo for the last weeks. We are in love with the city and we want to take a little tour with you to our favorite bars, restaurants, neighborhoods, and museums. Here’s our story:

This is Centro, the Central Region of São Paulo, which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the whole city. I think in North America most of the central regions are strictly business; only office buildings and banks. In São Paulo, however, there is a big counterculture that is also here. I think the best place to see it all is called Galeria do Rock. It’s a six-story palace dedicated to rock, tattoo parlors, and record stores. It’s just awesome.

In the Centro, there are many abandoned buildings that were occupied by political activists and artists. In their view they are protesting the high cost of living. You can find many graffiti arts along the building walls. One of them particularly says, “Living is a right; occupying is a must”.

Another place that leaves a good memory for us is São Paulo Museum of Art. It’s the largest museum in all of Latin America. It’s located near Paulista Avenue – the path you must take if you want to head over to Livraria Cultura, a bookstore. Not just a bookstore actually, because this one is also the largest of its kind in South America. It is an amazing place.

But this street in my opinion would be kind of the equivalent of Broadway in New York. It has all banks and all businesses. It’s kind of the main crossing route of all São Paulo. There are people playing music, shouting protests, skateboarders rushing up and down the road, artists; everyone kind of congregates here in Paulista Avenue, the center of the city.

If I were to live in some neighborhood in São Paulo, surely it would be in Bela Vista Augusta. In the 70’s and 80’s, this region was full of punks, gays, hipppies, and lesbians. Everyone lived here in harmony. Now it is a place that is slowly gentrifying. For me, personally, this is a perfect neighborhood in São Paulo.

At night, if you feel like having burrito for dinner, I recommend going to Chicano Taqueria. While I was in there enjoying my meal, I managed to talk with the owner of the restaurant. He said that he chose this place as the location of his business because he’d wanted to find a place in São Paulo that looked like the Mission District, in San Francisco. Baixo Augusta, in his opinion, was very similar to the Mission District. There is a kind of magical atmosphere at night. It’s a little different from the Mission District, but at the same time very similar.

Next destination would no doubt be Vila Madalena, which is definitely one of most fun place in São Paulo. It’s full of amazing bars and restaurants and lots of art. There are several alleys that people just fill with art; definitely a great place to visit at night to see the nightlife of São Paulo and get some drinks. You will probably find some of the best restaurants in South America.

So for me, one of the coolest things about São Paulo is its diversity. It is one of the largest concentrations of Italians outside Italy, one of the largest concentrations of Lebanese outside the Middle East, and the largest concentration of Japanese outside Japan. And I think the best place to see this diversity is the Liberdade neighborhood.

One of the coolest things to do in Liberdade on the weekend is to visit Sunday Street Market. You can get various types of Japanese food from around the world. I had Takoyaki while I was there, which is shrimp and squid fried in a creamy ball with a Japanese sauce on top. It was delicious. I also had Yakisoba, which is a Brazilian version of Japanese noodles. It had chicken steak and some vegetables; delicious!

I think it’s the mix of different classes, races and religions – all coming together – that makes São Paulo one of the greatest cities in the world. It definitely should have more tourists coming. What about you? Do you think São Paulo is a bit underrated and deserves to be one of the world’s top destinations? Or have you ever had unpleasant experience while visiting the city that makes you not recommend it to your friends? Chirp in on the comment below.

Stunning Spots in Orange County, California You Never Knew

These are the hidden gems you didn’t know existed in Orange County. From its picturesque beaches to its exhilarating theme parks, Orange County has a lot to offer whether you’re just visiting or you live in Orange County. I encourage you to check out these hidden gems that make this place even more special.

Noguchi Garden

First on the list is the Noguchi Garden in Costa Mesa. In 1979, Henry Segerstrom commissioned Japanese-American landscape architect, Isamu Noguchi, to complete this outdoor sculpture garden which is sandwiched between a couple corporate high-rises across the street from South Coast Plaza. Formerly known as California Scenario, the artwork symbolizes the unique characteristics of the multi-faceted indigenous California terrain. The work highlights the Segerstrom family’s contribution to the agricultural heritage of Southern California through Lima bean farming with a large centerpiece sculpture called the spirit of the Lima Bean. The garden is open free to the public from 8 a.m. to midnight and has become a popular backdrop for photographers.

Irvine Ranch Historic Park

Number two: Irvine Ranch Historic Park in Irvine. Like the Segerstroms, the Irvine family played a vital role in Orange County’s history. Currently the site of the administrative offices for OC parks, Irvine Ranch Historic Park beautifully preserves Orange County and Irvine ranches legacy of farming and agriculture. On display are 24 original ranch structures, remnants of old farming equipment and a sprawling orange orchard. Also located on the property is the Katie Wheeler public library which replicates the 1900s Irvine family home. Once the world’s greatest producers of Valencia oranges, Irvine Ranch was at the center of Orange County’s transformation, from farming to real estate development and urban planning. The park is currently open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pirate Tower of Laguna Beach

Up next at number 3 is the Pirate Tower of Laguna Beach. Nestled into the hillside of Laguna lies Victoria Beach which in and of itself is a hidden gem in Orange County. However, just past the beach where the shoreline begins to narrow stands a beautiful tower that will make you think you’re on the shores of medieval Ireland. The story behind this glorified staircase doesn’t quite live up to its mystical name, though. It was built in 1926 for California State Senator William E. Brown from Los Angeles as a means for accessing the beach below his estate. Still, it’s pretty cool to see in person and not many people know about it.

Dana Point Arches

Number four: the Dana Point Arches in Dana Point. After developing the Hollywood Hills with a flashy new sign in 1923, developer Sidney H. Woodruff set out to develop Dana Point in 1926. Los Angeles was prepping to host the 1932 Summer Olympics and Woodruff wanted a fancy luxury hotel to host a Grand Opening Ceremony. Centrally located between San Diego and Los Angeles, the Dana Point Inn was going to be the magnum opus of Woodruff’s new Mediterranean development. Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression brought construction to a screeching halt. The half-built hotel was then eventually dismantled in the 60s.

A housing boom in the 80s prompted community members to create the Dana Point Historical Society, which played a key role in preserving the hillside foundation of the hotel now called the Dana Point Arches. A massive elevator shaft was dug through the mountain in the 30s to connect to a tunnel to the beach and the exit door is still visible from Dana Point Harbor Drive today.

Lyon Air Museum

Number five: the Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana. Even if you’re not an aviation enthusiast, the Lyon Air Museum is a fascinating place to spend an hour or two learning about the United States important role in shaping world history. Located on the west side of John Wayne Airport, this museum was founded by retired Major General William Lyon of the United States Air Force. It offers dozens of exhibits featuring prominent aircraft from the early days of aviation such as: the Douglas DC-3 which revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 40s, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress which once carried then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and a North American B-25 Mitchell which successfully completed the first strike on Japanese soil during World War II.

Also on display are several old automobiles and military vehicles, even a 1939 Mercedes-Benz Model G4 Touring Wagon personally used by Adolf Hitler in over Saltzburg, Berlin and Poland. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and general admission is $12 per person. A knowledgeable staff of friendly volunteer docents are on site to guide you around and answer any questions you might have.

Well, that’s it for part 1 of my hidden gems in Orange County series. I hope you get the chance to check out all of these places. But before you go, please leave a comment down below and let me know your favorite hidden gems in Orange County. I just might feature your comment and location in a follow-up post. Thanks for stopping by and remember to never stop exploring.

Top 5 Things You Must Know Before Taking a Trip to Marrakesh, Morocco

Today’s post is going to be all about what I learned in Morocco. There are always lots of questions about traveling to Morocco. I’ll try and keep this short and sweet for you guys But if you are planning to travel to Morocco any time soon hopefully these five tips will be helpful.

In case you’re wondering, this is my first time doing a trip to Africa and it was a totally different experience from my past travels but tons and tons of fun and I highly recommend it to anyone. I traveled there with just myself and my friend and we were there for a long weekend, so it was a 4 days total. We were traveling between Casablanca and Marrakesh. Unfortunately we did not get to see all of Morocco but we took away what we could in the four days that we were there. So here are the 5 tips I have for you before you jump in the airplane to the country of setting sun.

About Money

My tip number one is use the currency exchange booths in the airport right as you land. I was coming with euros and transfer that into dirhams right away. First of all, it’s just efficient. You get it done right off the bat. You don’t have to worry about it later. The second reason is because we found it pretty hard to find ATMs around. It’s definitely not impossible; I know they’re around but they’re also very busy because they’re not as frequent as maybe you would see them in North America and Europe. There  were always big lineups at ATM, so it just saves you the hassle.

Another note on that would be to take out more cash than maybe you’re planning on originally. We made the decision to only use cash for our weekend and it was definitely a good call. Most places don’t really want to use credit cards unless you are staying in a really high touristy area. Most of the time, people would prefer just cash. It just kept it easy for us as well.

About Accommodation

This is referencing when we were staying in Marrakesh. Prior to going there, we did a lot of research into where we were going to stay over our time in the city and we ended up settling on a Riad. We stayed at the Riad Star, which is located inside the Medina and I cannot say enough good things about staying in a Riad. We played with the idea of staying in a hotel but decided that a Riad would be a little bit more authentic to our Marrakesh experience and it definitely was. If you have the opportunity to stay in Riad, I highly recommend it.

Some really great things about a Riad is it is right in the Medina, so that means you have the souk and the main square and everything very, very close to you. You don’t need to worry about traveling at any great lengths. We actually only had like a two-minute walk until we were in the middle of the souks. That was super fun and a super unique experience that you definitely wouldn’t get if you were staying at a large chain hotel.

Another extremely unique experience about staying at this Riad is there is a rooftop terrace and we were able to hear the prayers from the roof, which was very cool. You can hear there are lots of places around inside the Medina but just being able to hear it in your accommodation where you’re staying was something we’ve never experienced before. I actually went up to the roof and we’re listening and we took photos and videos of the prayer call echoing around us.

On top of the Riad giving you a completely unique experience and being in an amazing location, the customer service of the Riad Star was above and beyond. We felt like we had someone there to help us 24/7 and that was amazing. We got served mint tea whenever you like it. It’s available 24/7! The staff were incredibly friendly. We actually sat down with the manager upon our arrival and he made us feel extremely at home.

On top of this, they will also provide you with a cell phone or find a way to get in touch with you via WhatsApp or whatever service you use. You can text them if you ever feel lost while you are in the souk or Medina, which can totally happen if you are a first-time traveler there because it’s a little bit hard to orient yourself. That was actually very helpful because on our very first day there we arrived almost in the evening and we ended up not knowing our way back to Riad. We just sent them a quick text and within four minutes we had someone picking us up and escorting us back to the Riad.

About the Souks

The souks are a very unique and authentic experience to Marrakesh and I highly, highly recommend going to and exploring the souks. If you aren’t there, the souk is where you’re gonna do lots of shopping. You’re gonna get a real mix of tourists as well as locals in those souks. That’s very cool to see and can be a little bit of hectic there. The streets are very, very narrow and can get very crowded. You will have streets with donkeys pulling carriages and trucks trying to pass and little children riding mopeds and scooters down the street. All this mixture of locals and tourists doing the daily hustle of just walking up and down but it is tons and tons of fun. I definitely recommend it.

One thing to note is the souks can definitely be a little bit intimidating in terms of navigation if you are new there. The roads or paths do get a little bit confusing. Just be prepared that you’re gonna get lost and just be okay with it because they’re gonna get you out eventually. If that makes you totally uncomfortable, it’s good to just kind of get your grounding and kind of have a starting point and you can decide that you’re gonna walk straight one way and then straight  back another way.

Still, everyone who we spoke to at our Riad said it’s much more fun if you just decide you’re gonna get lost and go down those little alleyways because you’ll see a lot more. It’s definitely more fun to go a little bit deeper into the souks. That’s also where you’re gonna find a lot better deals because you’re a little bit further from that main tourist strip.

In the souks, we are able to bargain or haggle a little bit with all the different shops. That’s something to keep in mind. If you’re not planning on buying anything, don’t put too much effort into doing a big debate because that can rattle people. That was one tip we were given and we found that very, very helpful. Don’t put in the effort of bargaining down to a price, taking up a lot of the store owner’s time if you have no
intention of actually buying that item.

Another thing about the souks is you definitely are going to want to try some traditional Moroccan food. There are tons and tons of restaurants and cafes. Some of them are more geared towards locals and some are more geared towards tourists. We did a bit of both and we had some amazing food. We have lots of tagine, which was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend trying multiple tagines from multiple locations because it’s the best.

Another thing I should mention about the souk and when you’re walking around it is to be aware of what you are wearing. You want to be dressing conservatively in the souks. It’s not the best place to be wearing tank tops and short shorts. Of course, you can wear anything you’d like but in terms of avoiding potentially unwanted attention I highly recommend wearing clothing that covers far below your shoulders and far below your knees. That’s what we did throughout our days there and we found this to be the most helpful.

You will potentially get lots of attention in the souk. We definitely got lots of attention and lots of people trying to engage in a conversation with us. You would get people telling you that you were going the wrong way often and people telling you that the main square is the opposite direction that you’re walking or sort of little side comments. The best option is just to completely ignore it. It’s one of those things you can do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

About Day Trips and Excursions

I don’t have an ample amount of experience with this. We did end up booking a trip to do a camel ride and fortunately we did not have time to go to the Sahara Desert and do the full-blown experience. We decided that since we were in Morocco, we still wanted to get the camel ride experience. So we just did like a quick little day trip not too far from Marrakesh. It was cute; it was fun; it was quick and it was a good way to still get the camel ride experience if you don’t have time to do the whole actual desert tour. So, whether you’re here with kids or by yourself and you just want to get like a little hint of the experience, I definitely recommend it.

About the Trains

We traveled from Casablanca to Marrakesh by train. What I have to note about the trains is number one: the trains are always late and I don’t mean like necessarily just 10 minutes late. They can be like up to two hours late! So if you have a specific time that you want to get to your destination, definitely take an earlier train than you were originally planning on getting.

Another note on the trains is I highly recommend booking first-class especially if you are there in tourist season. Second class would be totally fine if there was more space but we were there at a very, very busy time and because the trains don’t leave super frequently, they are extremely overcrowded. We learned this the hard way because we did not pre-book our tickets. Unfortunately, first classes booked from the morning all the way into the evening and we didn’t have a choice because we had to get to our destination. So, we traveled in second class and it was just very, very crammed. On one of our trips, we were standing and obviously that’s not ideal because it is quite a trip from Marrakech to Casablanca. It is about a three and a half hour train ride. So, I highly recommend pre-booking those train tickets and getting them ahead of time and booking first-class

That concludes my five tips of what I learned in Morocco. I hope you guys enjoyed and learned something from this post. Let me know what you think about it and see you in the next post!

What to See and Where to Eat in Austin, Texas

I was in Austin, Texas a while ago and in this post I’m going to show you some of the best things to do, see and eat here, including the amazing live music scene here in Austin. So, let’s begin our journey around this wonderful city.

Franklin’s Barbecue

This place is supposed to be the best in Austin. The line is absolutely insane. People have been waiting out here for hours. There are even lawn chairs. Well, apparently people get here as early as 6 a.m. and they don’t open ’till 11:00. So, that’s already waiting five hours, for some brisket. That should tell you how really good it must be. I myself made it inside after waiting for about two and a half hours. I got ribs, some brisket, pulled pork and sausage. All of them taste really great.  You might be wondering now; is it worth waiting up to three hours? Well, the thing after waiting in line for such a long time is you’ll get really hungry. And once you dig in the meat, it taste all that better. With all that hunger you kept in, you might ask for more.

Cypress Valley Treehouses

The next thing I recommend you to try when visiting Austin is taking canopy tours in Cypress Valley. It’s located right outside of Austin and they offer a really unique lodging experience where you can sleep forty feet above a ravine in a tree house. They’re actually sky yurts that have been strapped on to a tree. So the really, really cool part besides the fact that it’s in a tree is that there’s a waterfall inside where you can swim and bathe. This waterfall is available in all of the tree houses and all of the buildings on the property are powered by solar and wind energy. So it’s very good for the environment. They also offer canopy tours here, so you can sleep in a canopy, you can go with zip-line, explore the canopy. It’s a great way to be in touch with nature and to do something really positive for the environment.

St. Elmo Brewing Co.

This is the best place to go in Austin if you like drinking. I walked here all the way from the place I stayed and arrived 36 minutes later, completely drenched in sweat. The heat in this city is no joke, man! But the best thing is I got a big glass of cold beer to quench my thirst. Boy, was that great!

One of the cool things about this place is they have a food truck right in the entrance way, so you can get really good craft beer here. But, you can also get good quality food and it’s all kind of like Thai food. I got a charred broccoli, green beans, with sugar snap peas, green curry dish. It definitely was not fancy, but for a brewery to have this kind of tropical dishes, I was impressed.

Easy Tiger – Bake Shop & Beer Garden

An alternative to St. Elmo Brewing is Easy Tiger. It’s a cool place to come and chill and have some beers. They also serve a variety of baked goods, such as bread, pretzels, sausages and corned beef. You can also get nice cheese here, craft beer; there’s a huge beer selection and of course, my favorite part of this place is you can play ping pong here.

Barton Creek, Greenbelt

One of the things I love about Austin is It has a really avid outdoor scene from kayaking, biking, rock climbing, to hiking, you can really do it all in this city. I really appreciate that they have a really good bike system here. It’s only $12 a day and you can literally bike all around the city.

Zilker Metropolitan Park

This place is still part of the Greenbelt area and the main attraction here is their natural spring. Within Zilker Park lies one of the crown jewels of Austin. It is the Barton Springs Pool and this pool is three acres long with a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees. Because it’s fed from a natural spring, the water is super blue. There’s a slate rock on the bottom and it’s really an interesting pool. You don’t really see that anywhere else in the world. Admission is only three dollars for residents and eight dollars if you’re not a resident.

The White Horse

It’s a good place to chill in the evening. The bar’s interior has a very classic Texas vibe. They do free dance classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. So you can learn the Texas two-step dance, you can learn Cajun dance, you can learn swing and you can get a nice beer, drink or they got a food truck too. Apparently, that’s the theme here. It’s a pretty cool place. Oh, one more thing; they have free popcorn too.

Stubbs Barbecue & Live Music

This is a great place to get barbecue and also see live music. They have some of the best live music performances here daily and Austin is known for its live music. So this is a really great place to check out some local artists, some real Austin music.

Rainey Street

Renovated house is turned into bungalow bars reigned supreme on this increasingly popular tucked away street. If you come here day or night, you’ll see bar goers strolling from bar to bar or food truck to food truck here on Rainey Street in Austin.

Top 10 Places to See in Shanghai, China

Shanghai, a huge metropolitan with so much to see. If you ever want to visit Shanghai, you’d be wise to plan beforehand, unless you have unlimited time and money. For this list, we’re looking at attractions, sites, neighborhoods, and areas of Shanghai that travelers absolutely must visit in this unique Chinese city.

Zhujiajiao Water Town

Undeniably one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Shanghai, if not all of China, Zhujiajiao is covered in water and steeped in history. Located on the outskirts of the city, this town was founded some 1700 years ago but its roots date back to thousands of years earlier. Once a central hub for the trading of goods, the area has evolved into more living testament to the past. Thirty six time-worn stone bridges crossed the waterways, which are still navigated by locals on boats. Walk the streets and marvel at the countless historic buildings or hire a boat for an entirely different perspective. Just be sure to try some of the delicious food on offer.

Shanghai Science & Technology Museum

Fun for the whole family but equally of interest to adults traveling solo, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in the city’s Pudong district is one of China’s most visited museums, and for good reason. Sure, not every exhibit is focused on cutting-edge tech but it offers a wide variety of subjects to explore, ranging from animals and geology to space navigation and robotics. Even if you aren’t particularly captivated by pop science, the building’s incredible eye-catching architecture is reason enough to visit, especially when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Shanghai Maglev Train

In many cities, public transportation is a purely utilitarian consideration particularly for travelers who are simply trying to get from one site to the next. Shanghai’s Maglev Train, however, is an attraction in its own right. A magnetic levitation train, hence the name, it cost a whopping 1.2 billion dollars to build
but as a feat of futuristic engineering, it appears to be worth every penny. It tops out at 236 miles per hour and takes you from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Longyang road station a distance of roughly 19 miles in just eight minutes. If you’re flying into Shanghai, you don’t even need to go out of your way to ride it. It’s a logical step on your journey to the city center.

Shanghai Museum

As with the Science and Technology Museum, visitors will quickly be drawn to the Shanghai Museum, thanks to the unique design of the building. Once inside, however, you’ll soon forget the outside world as you become engrossed in the rich history of China. There are entire sections dedicated to the likes of calligraphy, ceramics, jades and coins from the Silk Road. With over 120,000 pieces on display, the Shanghai Museum is a truly immersive journey through China’s past. Honestly the biggest downside to the museum is that it simply offers too much to see in one visit. Depending on how long you’re in town, you may want to pop in twice.

Lujiazui

Shanghai is a city with a lot of history to appreciate but the business district is where its modernity shines. If you’re into high-end eating, hotels and rooftop bars, this is the place to be come evening time. Of course, that sort of travel is not for everyone but what should attract all visitors to Lujiazui is the skyline. Shanghai’s business district is famous for its iconic skyscrapers many of which have observation decks. The trinity of main attractions includes the Oriental Pearl Tower, the World Financial Center and the Shanghai Tower, each of which have at one time held the title of highest building in Shanghai.

Nanjing Road

Shoppers rejoice! This is the street you’ve been looking for. Mostly closed to cars so that pedestrians can move from store to store without a care in the world, Nanjing Road has earned itself a reputation as the number one shopping street in China. Along the roughly three and a half miles of road, visitors will find all manner of shops ranging from historic specialty shops to the huge multi-level shopping malls. Of course, you don’t become the top place to shop the country without the biggest high-end and luxury brand boutiques in the world. And Nanjing Road certainly delivers in this regard. Shop or window shop, either way it’s an experience worth having.

Propaganda Poster Art Center

Shopping is all well and good but for an experience truly unique to Shanghai, you’ve gotta head to the Propaganda Poster Art Center. This one-of-a-kind museum is home to an impressive collection of authentic propaganda posters dating back to communist China’s Maoist period. Occupying just two rooms in the basement level of an apartment building, it’s owned and operated by Mr. Yang Pei Ming who’s made it his personal mission to preserve these historic works for future generations. Stop by and then enjoy the rest of the day exploring the artsy enclave of Shanghai.

Yuyuan Garden

Considering it’s one of the busiest cities in the world, Shanghai can be a bit overwhelming to navigate. At some point during your visit, you’re gonna want a change of scenery. Next up, the Yuyuan garden. Also simply known as Yu Garden this five acre plot of land was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1559. Over the centuries, it’s gone through numerous instances of destruction and periods of decay but today it’s a pristine national monument open to the public. Aptly named the garden of happiness, this oasis even when crowded is a serene slice of ancient China in an ultra busy modern city.

Jade Buddha Temple

No trip to Shanghai is complete without a visit to a temple and if you’re gonna see just one, there’s arguably no better choice than this iconic landmark in the Putuo district. Though by no means the oldest temple in the city, this active monastery draws countless visitors every year to walk among the monks and local worshipers. Step on to the 77 acre grounds and you’ll almost immediately be filled with a sense of awe and wonder. There are over 200 rooms and halls containing statues, scriptures, paintings and relics. In the Grand Hall, you’ll find three golden Buddhas among numerous others but the dual star attractions are the two Buddhas, each carved out of solid white jade.

The Bund

They say that the best way to get to know a city is to simply walk around. And nowhere is this a more enjoyable experience in Shanghai than on the promenade along the embankment known as the Bund or also known as Waitan. The city’s waterfront is a major destination for travelers so much, so that it’s become fairly emblematic of the city and a great source of local pride. Simply walk along the promenade and soak in the beauty and history on display. It’s been labelled the Museum of Buildings and it’s easy to understand why. On one side of the Huangpu river are European-style architectural marvels from years past and on the other loom the city’s futuristic skyscrapers. The Bund is a must visit, day and night.

What do you think? Did I miss a top attraction in Shanghai that should be on this list? Be sure to comment below!

5 Must-See Museums in New York City You Never Heard Of

New York City has over 100 museums. While the really famous ones, like the Met, MoMA, the Natural History Museum tend to get all the attention, today I’m gonna be sharing with you some of New York’s best museums that you’ve never heard of.

The Color Factory

For all of you Instagram-obsessed people out there, you’re gonna love The Color Factory Museum and interactive art exhibit. It’s only running until mid May possibly later, so make sure to check this out. Admission is $38 and must be purchased online before going, but trust me if you want a really fun experience, it’s worth it. The place had a Willy Wonka type vibe. While we didn’t see any Oompa Loompas, we did get plenty of food samples throughout the 16 different exhibits.

It’s quite interactive. You’ll get to draw your partner, play instruments and just have a generally good time. There are cameras everywhere, so if you don’t want to take your own photos, Color Factory will email you some of the best moments from your trip. These didn’t come out half bad. The absolute best part of the museum is the ball pit. Plan to spend up to two hours here. This is the perfect place for families or even a date.

Fraunces Tavern Museum

This is the front of Fraunces Tavern which is the oldest bar in New York City built before the Revolutionary War. Upstairs is a museum that’s a history lover’s dream. You can tell a place is old if George Washington himself used to drink there. While the bar is worth a trip as well, I’m gonna tell you about the lesser-known museum located upstairs. Adult admission is just seven dollars and you’ll learn so much about the history of New York City. I highly recommend asking for tour guide; ours was super knowledgeable.

This place is most famous for when George Washington delivered his farewell speech to the Continental Army in 1783 and the room hasn’t changed much since then. The other exhibits were equally as fascinating to a history buff like me, from amazing portraits, to a Martha Washington shoe, to a map of how New York City looked in the beginning. Prepare to be impressed! I love the room showcasing the evolution of the American flag. There’s even an interactive exhibit where you can put on old wig and hat. Give the museum at least one hour.

New York Historical Society Museum

The New York Historical Society has a very famous neighbor in the Museum of Natural History, but don’t count this spot out. For one, it’s New York’s first museum founded in 1804. Adult admission is $21 and you could spend hours wandering here. Although the focus is American history, one of the surprise exhibits is a room filled with one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany lamps. These are absolutely beautiful. Some of the designs are really breathtaking.

You can learn a lot just wandering the halls here; from the many portraits, to old cartoons from The New Yorker paper. There’s a 15-minute video about the formation of New York City that is really informative. I recommend giving this place a chance, even with it’s very famous neighboring museum nearby.

City Reliquary Museum

This is City Reliquary Museum and if you’re a fan of quirky, unique stuff and just a
little bit weird this is the museum for you. A Museum of New York City relics; that it is. The smallest museum on the list and with a price tag of only $7 for admission. I dedicate 30 to 45 minutes here. In one word, this place is quirky. They have a lot of old New York City memorabilia like Seltzer bottles and displays from bygone eras.

Any one of the friendly staff there will happily take you on an included tour if you ask. I listen to old music playing from an antique telephone speakers; have a listen
yourself. There’s an old belly dancer exhibit that was pretty neat. Even the bathroom was a shrine to the quirky and strange. If you get a chance, make your way to the backyard for an unusual shrine to the Statue of Liberty. Overall, if you like weird stuff like I do, you’ll be right at home at the City Reliquary.

New York Transit Museum

Of all the museums on this list, the New York Transit Museum is by far my favorite because living in New York, you’re going to be taking public transportation all the time. Going down those stairs is gonna give you an insight into what it was like to live in New York and ride around the city. You can tell it’s going to be a fun experience when you walk down the stairs and feel like you’re entering a subway station because Transit Museum is actually housed in an old one, underground. Admission is an affordable $10. Plan to spend at least one hour weaving your way around New York transit history.

You’ll start your self-guided tour finding out how the subway system was built. Make sure to bring your camera because on the lower level is the crown jewel of the museum: the old subway cars. If you saw a vintage 1930 subway ride video from December, these might look familiar because they actually originated here. It feels like a movie set. I imagine riding subway cars that were from 1917 to 1963 filled with original ads, notices, and of course the seats. If that’s not enough, the exhibit blending comics with New York transportation was very interesting, if not downright creepy. You’ll also see streetcars, buses and even signs from other country’s subways. As I said before, this is my favorite Museum on the list and an absolute must-visit in Brooklyn.

That’s it guys. Make sure to tell me down below in the comments which one of these museums is your favorite; I’m curious. See you in the next post.

Best Hidden Places to Visit in Prague, Czech

This post is all about Prague. A city so choc-a-bloc full of history, picture perfect architecture and arts and culture that it’s become a very popular spot for visitors from all around the world. Here, I want to talk more about the hidden parts of Prague. Places that are so tucked away you would never find them, or they’re hidden in plain sight such that you could just stroll by without even realizing it.

Don’t get me wrong though, some of the more popular spots in Prague are definitely worth visiting too. So before getting into hidden Prague, there are just a few I want to mention. Of course, there’s the main square in the center of town with buildings so colorful and gorgeous. Just don’t forget to bring your digital cameras,  so you can take a bazillion photos without running out of film. Prague is so photogenic that it could easily bankrupt you or, me at least, if I had a film camera.

The astronomical clock is nearby the square and it serves as a good reminder that even though Prague has narrow alleyways and cathedrals and that well preserved skyline might seem frozen in time, the city is very much still ticking. The clock has been measuring the passing of time since 1410. The clock measures time in more ways than one – not only does it track the hour, it also has a calendar that notes the days of the week, the month and the year as well as a zodiac ring that shows the path of the sun and moon through the sky.

To see the clock in all its glory, don’t miss seeing it strike the hour when you’ll get to see a little show. And the marking of time is a major theme in Prague because they also have an enormous metronome installed on the other side of the river. It’s 23 meters tall. So big that you can see it swing dutifully back and forth from quite a distance. The location of the metronome is also significant because it’s where a statue of Stalin used to stand watch over the city. Now the metronome serves as a clear reminder of Prague’s not-so-distant history and the enormous change that time can bring.

The nearby Charles Bridge is one of the most iconic sites in Prague and there’s very good reason. It’s over 500 meters long and it’s been bridging the river since its construction finished in 1402. The bridge tower used to display severed heads during a particularly violent bohemian uprising in 1621.

Across the bridge across from the old town is Prague Castle, which I enjoyed because it’s a gigantic complex of buildings and laneways. When you’re here, it makes it easy to believe you’ve stepped back in the long history of the castle. It’s the largest ancient castle in the entire world and the best part to me is that you can walk around the grounds for free without buying an entry ticket. It’s also a fantastic place to get an amazing view of the old town on the opposite side of the river.

Those are a handful of some of my favorite well-known spots in Prague and I just couldn’t make a post about the city without at least giving them a quick mention. So now onto the more hidden spots that don’t get as much attention, some of which you can literally stare at on the street without anyone else taking notice.

The first spot is for all my fellow book lovers and bibliophiles. If you’re like me and jump at the chance to visit bookstores and libraries, then this is perfect. It’s a giant tunnel made of 8000 books located inside the front entrance of the Prague Municipal Library. The tunnel measure more than 5 meters high and 2 in diameter. But the best part is that because of two mirrors installed on either end, when you look inside it appears that the tunnel is infinite. You can look up and down and all you see is this glorious tunnel of books. I can just imagine falling down like Alice in Wonderland and arriving in a new world that you can only reach through the pages of a good book.

Speaking of books, Prague is a city full of salutes to Franz Kafka who was born there and one of the absolute best is a moving sculpture of Kafka’s head that looms large at 11 meters tall. The head is made up of 42 layers that move around and around and around until they briefly reveal the proper physical form of Kafka’s head before breaking up again. This is one of my favorite installations I’ve ever seen. It’s instantly relatable to anyone who’s ever felt like their mind is spinning around torn to pieces like this and I think it’s a very fitting tribute to Kafka and his inner torment.

Outside the Franz Kafka Museum tucked into a cute little courtyard, you’ll find another animated sculpture. This one keeps a sense of humor and it’s a little controversial. It’s a fountain of two men made out of bronze holding their penny whistles, which spout a constant stream of pee. The statues swivel and the stream of pee is actually programmed to write out Czech literary quotes. You can interrupt the quotes, however, if you’d like by texting a number that goes straight to the fountain and instructs the statues to spell out your text message. And you might think that the controversy comes from statues peeing out messages but it’s actually more about the shape of the fountain basin itself. It’s shaped like a map of the Czech Republic, which means that those men are peeing on the country itself.

This is not the only mocking art you’ll find in Prague either. Another excellent example is hidden in a passageway of the Lucerna Palace. Prague is full of these passageways where you’ll find shops and places to eat and they’re worth exploring because you might find a gem like this. It’s a man proudly riding an upside down dead horse hanging from the ceiling. It’s a completely ridiculous and very provocative image that pokes fun at a famous statue of King Wenceslas in nearby Wenceslas Square.

The same artist is responsible for something so hidden that I stood on the street looking up at it and nobody else stopped. It’s a sculpture of Sigmund Freud hanging off of a long pole dangling above a busy street. It’s very lifelike and it’s quite disconcerting to see because at first you think it’s a real person. I saw it at night which made it extra difficult to spot but it’s a fun feeling to stand in a crowd and see something no one else takes notice of.

Prague is full of narrow streets but I found one so small that a traffic light has been installed to direct foot traffic. The passageway leads down to a restaurant and there’s only enough space for one direction to walk at a time. You press a button like a crosswalk and wait for the light to turn from red to green. It’s definitely not the easiest for moms with carriages or dads carrying the kids behind the carriages. I thought it was really fun and it’s got to be one of Prague’s cheapest thrills.

Not too far away in a nondescript street is the Lennon Wall, which has been a place for Beatles-inspired graffiti since the first image of John Lennon was painted after his death in 1980. The police tried to whitewash it many times but people just kept coming back. And now it’s a place for graffiti of peace, love and lyrics. You’ll find candles along the wall, people taking selfies with it, or asking people like me to take a photo for them and musicians playing.

If you’re in Prague and want a souvenir that’s unique and cool and made in the Czech Republic, then you need to go to Botas 66 for a pair of sneakers. The walls are covered in yellow boxes and it would be easy to walk by the shop without knowing the history behind these Czech shoes. Botas was a sport shoe brand in Czechoslovakia that created an iconic sneaker in 1966 called the Botas Classic, hence the name of the store, Botas 66. The shoes got a reboot in 2008 by two designers who wanted to bring back the shoes and make them over into cool streetwear. They’re super popular now and come in all sorts of designs and colors. It’s definitely a unique piece of history that you can take home on your feet.

I hope you enjoyed this tour around Prague and some of its more hidden nooks and crannies. I’d love to hear what your favorite places in Prague are. And if you happen to know of any more of Prague’s secret gems that you don’t mind sharing, that would be amazing so please make sure to leave a comment.

Top 5 Things to Do in the Beautiful Northeastern State, Maine

When one thinks of the state of Maine, there are many things that comes to mind for foodies. Maine tourism offers clams lobster and acres of fresh produce. For those who love to shop there are antique stores art galleries and large shopping malls. Golfers will find dozens of locations to practice their swing. Outdoor enthusiasts will find quiet state parks and for the weekend getaways, there is a plethora of historic B&Bs. Yes, Maine definitely has something for everyone. To get started on a Maine adventure, here are the top five things to do in Maine.

 Winter Adventure

Get an adrenaline rush while racing down the slopes of some of the best ski resorts in the Northeast. Whether it’s skiing and tubing at Mount Abram, night skiing along the Canadian border at Bigrock Mountain in Mars Hills, snowboarding and challenging ski runs at Sugarloaf, or family-friendly Titcomb Mountain, Maine has a long list of ski resorts from which to choose.

Summer Golfing

Play around that summer Maine’s Championship golf courses. If you love golf there are sure a lot of amazing courses to check out in Maine. Golfers can tee off at the 70 to par course at Point Sebago Golf Resort in Casco, where the length ranges from four thousand nine hundred yards from the forward to just over 7,000 yards at the back. Or perhaps a visit to the Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn, set on two hundred acres of rolling farmland or the delightful greens at the Nonesuch Golf Course in Scarborough. As you can see Maine is a golf dream destination.

Lighthouse Tour

Due to its rocky shoreline inlets and peninsulas, Maine is home to five dozen lighthouses. These have amazing history connected to them and it’s a great place to have some romantic time alone with your loved one. Some tourist favorites are the Cape Neddick Light, West Quoddy Head Light, the Grindle Point Lighthouse and Sailors Memorial Museum, the Portland Head Light and Museum, the Isle au Haut Light – which offers overnight accommodations, and the Monhegan light and museum. There sure are a lot of lighthouses in Maine and it’s definitely something you should take a look.

 Romance at the Covered Bridge

Maine was once the site of 120 covered bridges but due to storms, floods, modern highways, and fire, today only nine remain and can be found in the western region of the state. Its most famous bridge is the Sunday River Bridge also known as the Artists’ Covered Bridge. Other impressive Maine bridges include the Waldo-Hancock suspension bridge and the Deer Isle bridge.

Swimming in the Beach

Go swimming or play on the shore along craggy and beautiful Maine beaches. There is surfing at Long Sands Beach near Route One. The beautiful yet cold sand beach at Acadia National Park and family-friendly beaches like Old Orchard Beach, Popham Beach, and Ogunquit Beach. As a matter of fact, Old Orchard Beach is voted the best beach year after year due to the nearby amusement park, arcade and entertainment venues.

On the Maine vacation, the main thing is to have a good time. Come and see what great family memories are waiting to be made in the beautiful northeastern state, Maine. I think Maine looks like a crazy fun state to go to. Lighthouses, golf courses, a rocky shoreline, and sandy beaches. There is definitely something to do for all ages and even the family can go and have a lot of fun together in Maine.