If I extend my hands and exclaim “IT’S SHOWTIME!” with extreme gusto, would you have any idea what I was referring to? Come on! Come on! You know. Black and white pinstripe suit. Green, mossy hair. He’s got terrible manners. Likes things in threes?
It’s BEETLEJUICE….BEETLEJUICE….BEETLE….scared you there, didn’t I? Don’t worry. No calling the undead here.
What if I told you that this universe does not just exist in the movies? That there is a place fully Tim Burton-themed where fans can high-five with Edward Scissorhands, sing along with Jack Skellington, and get personally victimized by wise-cracking Beetlejuice himself? What if I told you that there were actually two? Yup! There is one in East Village of New York City and the one I went to in Hollywood.
Hollywood (or Hollyweird as some people affectionately call it) seems to be the perfect setting for Beetle House LA. It is located about a block away from the famous Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd. It is a tourist-filled area, so do not be surprised by the amount of people who might be there.
My two cousins and I decided to make our visit on (what better night?) Halloween. My birthday also happens to be the next day, so we decided to celebrate it there. You might be thinking “Why would someone want to spend their birthday at a place so strange and unusual?” Well, readers. I, myself, am strange and unusual. See what I did there? 😉 Disguised as Minnie Mouse, a butterfly, and female Beetlejuice/Beetlejuice’s androgynous girlfriend/half-assed Beetlejuice (I honestly have no idea what I was), we left the world of Hollywood behind and entered into Tim Burton’s imagination. You are greeted with a florescent purple pumpkin sign encouraging you to “Come As Your Are”. Huh, guess we shoulda ditched the costumes.
After climbing the stairs, you are engulfed in a cacophony of Danny Elfman songs and costumed patrons cheers-ing their “Big Fish” bowls. There are references to pretty much every film at every angle. I found it hilarious that you couldn’t even really tell who actually worked there and who was just dressed up for Halloween. It took me about 15 minutes to even realize that the Edward Scissorhands quietly standing in the corner was actually an employee and there for photo ops (and not just some anti-social wallflower).
True to LA-style, we were really late to our reservation. Parking was a bitch, ok? Especially late at night on Halloween. Luckily the hostess was able to fit us in and we were led into a separate area where the restaurant is. It is parallel to a stage where we saw Beetlejuice starring in his own comedy hour and, after, a bearded lady showed feats of strength or breathed fire…or something. I was too busy geeking out at the surrounding decorations, to be honest.
Despite the multiple courses, Beetle House has a pricey menu. It is $40-45 complete with 2-3 course meals, which will include an appetizer, entree, and dessert. I ended up choosing “Cheshire Mac & Cheese” (which had hints of truffle – which is this foodie’s favorite), “Linguini Todd” (a not-so-subtle homage to the singing razor-yielding Benjamin Barker), and a free sorbet with a candle in it for my birthday. I don’t think you can go wrong with Mac & Cheese so I was very pleased with this creamy dish. However the linguini, even though paired with clams, came up short. The proclaimed “Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc” sauce was completely bland for my taste. What they might lack in taste, it is made up for with creativity. My conclusion about this place is that you are not paying for the quality of food, you are paying for the experience and for the actors.
We had a special moment when Catwoman stalked up to our table. “Oooouuu, my favorite snacks,” she declared, licking her lips. My eyes went big and my mind went to dirty places before I realized she was talking about my cousins who were dressed up as the mouse and a butterfly. (Doy, cats eat those!) They informed her it was my birthday and she excitedly made it over to my side of the table.
I looked down at my phone and said I didn’t even realize it was only a minute until midnight! Catwoman made some small talk to help pass the time, asking what our favorite Tim Burton films are and if we were from LA. 20 seconds goes by…30…40…it felt like forever before the clock stroke 12. She hilariously broke character and said, “That was the longest fucking minute of my life! Have a Happy Birthday!”. And, true to her catlike form, she sauntered away to greet her next customers.
“Everyday is Halloween” here, so don’t feel obligated to visit only on a spooky holiday. I don’t know how crowded it is on a regular night, but it was pretty packed on October 31st. Be prepared to be blocked by people taking pictures – but you should not expect anything less from a Tim Burton fan in a Tim-Burton themed bar. Just have fun!
Five seconds of listening to this nostalgic melody easily brings me back to a much simpler time. It goes without saying but a big part of my childhood came from enjoying cartoons! One of my absolute favorites growing up (apart from The Nightmare Before Christmas and any Disney movie) was My Neighbor Totoro. That VHS was on constant replay at my house. It is a film encompassing the joys of playtime in the summer, making new friends, exploring the unknown, and getting into a little bit of mischief.
Hayao Miyazaki is a genius movie maker that captures the imaginations of kids. His movies certainly made a mark on myself and the dozens of other adults gawking at the amazing exhibits presented at Ghibli Museum. WHAT?! You didn’t know there was a museum dedicated to Ghibli films?! Oh yes there is! It was top of my list of “Must Dos” for my Japan trip.
TOP 3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT GHIBLI MOVIES
Original story lines
Accuracy of the characters and setting to real Japan
How delicious they made food look
Ghibli Museum is located in quiet Mitaka’s Inokashira Park, which is about 40 minutes outside of Tokyo’s center. It is another 15 minute walk from Mitaka station, but I promise it is a pleasant one! It seems to be a very residential area, as I passed by many apartments. Along the way, you will be greeted by Totoro-themed bus stops. I didn’t see any but I heard there are some cute decorated shuttles that can take you to the museum. Check thebus schedule if you don’t want to walk 🙂
One warning before you go, though:BUY YOUR TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME! This is not any ordinary museum! Remember how I said Miyazaki has captured the hearts of many? Yes, so much so that you have to order tickets at least 3 months ahead of time. I heard that you can buy them at select Lawson convenience stores, but it is all in Japanese. So it just a bit more difficult buying them in Japan. (Maybe ask your host or hotel receptionist to help you out?) Click here to see where I ordered mine! You submit 3 choices of days that might work for you to visit. There is a detailed calendar on the site that shows sold out and available dates. They are very quick to respond and customer service is very friendly.
The nice thing about going through this company is you do not have a designated time to arrive (some tickets have entrance availability only at a certain time). You need to bring your passport and the confirmation that they send you through the physical mail. Even though you can come anytime you like, I suggest going as early as you can! You want time to enjoy this amazing place! Plus, the line is bit long!
Although my pictures might fool you, this museum does not just center around Totoro. In fact, it is not even just about the popular films! A lot of the exhibits are educational (and even interactive) as they show the process of old-school film making and cartoon drawings. Even if you are just tagging along with your Ghibli-obsessed girlfriend, as long as you like movies you will enjoy this place! They even have designated times to see an unreleased short film in a tiny theater. The piece of film they give you at the entrance of the museum serves as your ticket to see the movie! I heard they show different ones each day. So that is super fun! It is in Japanese, but it is very easy to follow along!
Keep in mind you are not allowed to take pictures inside of the museum! You ever see those YouTube videos where they have literal walkthroughs of attractions? While it is convenient to have that available, especially if you’re excited, it completely spoils it for you. No spoilers here though! Zero photography is allowed inside. They even have staff constantly on the lookout and they’re not just there for show – they will tell you to put your camera away. Of course, if you really wanted to, you could probably take your phone out to snap a pic of something. But … why would you want to? It’s so nice to not have your camera or phone out as a distraction! You can simply enjoy what is right in front of you. Honestly, I think it is meant to keep the magic alive. Just respect their rules and ENJOY the museum when you get there! 🙂
What I CAN tell you about (and where you CAN take pictures):
If you take the beautiful winding staircase up, you will find yourself on the roof of the Ghibli Museum. You’ll be greeted, not by Totoro, but his robotic cousin from Castle in the Sky. There really isn’t much to see up there. But you get a great view of the museum from up high and you can walk among the miniature garden. People go up there for great photo ops with Robot Soldier though! Have someone snap a picture of you!
My constant mantra before going to the museum was: “Only one thing, Tiffany. Just ONE THING from the gift shop. You spent way too much money yesterday at Puroland. Limit yourself. You can do this.” I decided that my one thing was going to be a Totoro pin. But then I saw the Mei pin…and then I saw the Ghibli-themed stationery…then some cute washi tape..and oh look they have cookies! Yeah, you can see where I am going with this. Mama Aiuto’s Gift Shop is a Ghibli-fan’s playground. You won’t find some of these things anywhere else in the world! CDs, stickers, pins, clothing, and even dishware – it is all here. My prized possession (and probably most favorite buy on my whole trip) is from the bookstore close by: a book of the movie art from Totoro. Great quality! It is on my coffee table right now!
A day of reliving your childhood certainly makes the belly hungry! And hungry kids deserve some good eats, right? That’s where the Straw Hat Cafe comes in. The wait is long-ish (I had to wait about 30 minutes for a bar seat), but I was too busy deciding what I wanted from the menu to be bothered by it. I wasn’t super hungry, so I ended up getting the red beet and vegetable soup with a side of real bread made from straw (straw hat cafe, oooohhhhh). But the highlight of my meal? The parfait! A great perk of sitting at the bar was I got to see the kitchen staff make it. Layers of deliciousness were piled into this glass cup and was topped with a chocolate-drawn flower, sweet pink rock candy, and a Totoro flag (how did they know it was my favorite?!). As only the Japanese can, it came out looking almost too pretty to eat! Oh, who am I kidding? Damn straight I ate every bit. ITADAKIMASU! Before I left, I personally thanked the guy who made it. He returned my over exaggerated “mmmm that was yummy” by patting my belly, satisfied face, and okay sign with a simple polite bow.
If you’re hungry, get the Straw Hat Omelette. It is HUGE! If you’re in a hurry, you can go upstairs and they have a limited menu of to-go items.
Did I mention that this museum is magic? It was designed by Miyazaki himself, so you know that every nook and cranny has a special detail. The designs on the stained glass windows, a familiar character hiding in the walls, small crevices that only someone at a child’s height could see, interactive props and exhibits…they’re everywhere! This is why I suggest going early, so you have time to discover all of this museum’s secrets.
If you are not staying at one of the Walt Disney resorts that provide free shuttle service, I highly suggest planning ahead when it comes to parking. It is going to be busy no matter what time of day you go (who doesn’t want to visit the happiest place on earth, right?), but go as early as you can. When you find yourself with the choice between standard and preferred parking, splurge the extra $15 and go for preferred. It was a 5 minute walk from our spot to the ticketing booths as a preferred parker. If we had went standard, we would have had to wait for shuttles to come pick us up (it is that far).
I will say that even if you are staying at a hotel with shuttle services, use them with caution. Depending on your hotel, there are only certain time slots when the shuttle will come. It is very important to make sure you ask your concierge for the shuttle schedule before you start your day! It is very convenient, but just make sure that you keep track of your time. Keep in mind when you want to leave and when you want to come back.
It is NOT a walk in the park
If you thought that once you get past the parking situation that you can just walk right up to the park, then you will be sorely disappointed. There’s another step you have to take! You also have to take the monorail or a ferry over to your World of choice (remember, it’s not only Magic Kingdom! There’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios). This ride adds another 15-20 minutes onto your trip, so keep that in mind.
Don’t go during the summer. But, if you do, STAY HYDRATED!
Here’s a big tip from a Florida native: DO NOT GO TO THEME PARKS IN THE SUMMER! Florida summers are notorious for being unbearable to tourists and locals alike. Ever been inside a sauna? That is what it feels like once you step outside your door. It is not just because it is sunny and bright, it is because the air is filled with humidity! It sucks the life out of you sometimes. The best way to combat that? Go in October or November. Can’t go during that time? Better bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a spray bottle fan, and good old dihydrogen monoxide.
I was surprised by this fact, but they actually let us bring our own bottled water inside. Take full advantage of this! Water costs at least $6-7/bottle if you buy it at the park. And trust me, you are going to need it. Stay hydrated and take rests in the shade if you need to. The good thing is that most lines at Disney are covered! It is still humid out, but at least you won’t have the sun beating down on you and your kids.
Leave your selfie stick at home
I know you have already envisioned filming yourself on Thunder Mountain taking on the bumpy turns and partaking in joyous screams. (Make sure you don’t drop anything like I did) Nip that dream in the bud because the newest craze in picture taking is actually banned! Sure, they allow water and food in the park, but selfie sticks? Uh-uh, they confiscate it from you at the entrance. But no fear! You can fill out a slip that allows you to pick it back up again at the end of your day.
You like saving money, right? We all know that vacations cost a lot of that green paper stuff. Tickets to Disney are almost $100 for adults now! Isn’t that crazy?! On top of that, you have to pay for parking, lunch/dinner, and souvenirs. If it’s your first time, you might even go way overboard and stockpile on Disney pins, costumes, professional photos, Mickey ears, candy, a balloon with another balloon inside in the shape of Mickey… the works. And that’s totally fine! These are memories in the making…
But what if it’s your second or third time and you don’t feel like spending a fortune on souvenirs? But you still really, really want them?
~Don’t buy any stickers, magnets, keychains, pins, T-shirts, etc. at the park gift shops! They are completely overpriced! On International Drive (where all the restaurants and outlets are), there are discount souvenir stores all over the place that sell them for a fraction of a price. They literally have everything you could want.
~Make your own Mickey Ears. It’d be a great project to do with friends or family!
~Don’t buy those “professional” photos they take of you at the park. Stage your own Disney photo ops and edit them yourself at home! It is so easy! Here are some apps you can download on your phone to do it (PicMonkey, Canva, Lomotif).
Let everyone know you’re celebrating
There are multiple reasons why someone might be visiting Disney. They may have never been before, it’s their birthday, their anniversary or it’s a family reunion. Whatever the reason, Disney is there to celebrate with you! At the ticketing booth, be sure to tell the cast member what you are celebrating. They will then give you a specific pin with your name on it. It was my mom’s birthday and everyone gave her a genuine greeting! It was cute seeing little kids (and older kids at heart) wearing “It’s My First Time” pins too! They really know how to make you feel special here…
***There’s an app for that (My Disney Experience)***
I saved the best for last…
Disney Theme Parks have always been really great about “fast passes”. Unlike their competing neighbors (*cough* Islands of Adventure *cough*), you have never have to PAY EXTRA for them. They used to have these machines hidden off to the side where you can get fast passes for a ride. You’d pick a future time and print out a ticket.
Now there is something even more convenient! Introducing My Disney Experience , your new best friend. This bad boy app can do so many amazing things. It has an interactive map of the park (including location finder), easy access to the ugly photos they take of you on the rides, and…MOST IMPORTANTLY…it allows to sign up for FastPass+.
All you have to do is register, connect your purchased tickets to the app, and pick your times for FastPass+. The coolest part is that everything is connected to your ticket (which is the size of a credit card)! You’ll stand in line a few minutes before your allotted time, put your card to the Mickey scanner, see it turn green, and you’re in!
CHECK OUT MY DETAILED POST FOR USING THE FASTPASS+ COMING SOON!
Remember: When you first use it, you can sign up for THREE different rides. Make sure you keep in mind the times and locations of these rides when selecting. You want to be there on time! After the first three, you can only sign up for one at a time. Tip: Once you’ve scanned your card for that FastPass, you can immediately sign up for another one! Also, if you have the opportunity to sign up for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Roller Coaster – grab it! – they are the first to go.
Whether you follow these tips or not, enjoy your trip to Walt Disney World. It is an experience you cannot miss!
Let me start out by saying that I do not have a great relationship with the outdoors. Mother Nature and I? You can call us acquaintances at best. She is like that one friend you text every so often and declare, “OMG, we have to hang out soon!”, but then you almost never do.
Admittedly, I would like to keep it that way.
There are lot of trails in Jacksonville. We have visited a good number of them, but they do not propose much of a challenge. The land here, much like a 9 year old girl still begging Mom for a training bra, is flat…flat…flat. However, our neighboring state of good ol’ Georgia had much more to offer us. So my boyfriend and our two friends headed out to conquer the Georgian trails.
Panther Creek is about an hour away from Athens, Georgia (home of the acclaimed Georgia Bulldogs, if you like college football). When it comes to parking, it is easy and cheap to get a spot. You leave your money envelope in a payment box by the entrance. The lot is only across the street from the trail, so you simply have to cross to begin your hike.
I had never been on a real hike before. You might be able to tell that by my lack of hiking boots (I wore my brand new Nike Frees, which I totally clayed up by the end of the trip) and my flimsy blue backpack from college containing only two bottles of water. Can I get a #n00B??? I would definitely make different choices if I could go back in time. Like, maybe not wear all black in the middle of a humid Southern summer…
I stayed at the back of the group the whole time, as I did not want to get in anyone’s way. “I’m slow,” I would say, as I ushered them in front of me. While everyone was marching forward, I was lagging behind, filming things and taking in all the sights. There was a lot to see! Along the way, we came across various plant life, moving creeks, small-scaled waterfalls, and people’s campsites (ugh, people actually sleep in the wild?). Even the occasional scary looking bug and evil looking snake. Typical nature stuff…but definitely not something you see everyday. Unless you live in the woods…which my boyfriend was planning to do…
It was a 3.5 mile trek to our destination, which was this beautiful waterfall. I was getting really tired of going uphill then downhill, around the corner, under this log, all while holding on for my dear life and avoiding getting bit by mosquitoes. So seeing this natural oasis was a huge relief for me (and my poor feet). A lot of people were lounging around, swimming, enjoying snacks – and I was more than happy to join them.
Playing around in the waterfall was definitely the highlight of the trip.
The moral of the story is that, even though I successfully completed my first hike, I am completely out of shape. The walk back (another freaking 3.5 miles) was BRUTAL! I clearly remember screaming expletives when we took a wrong turn and had to backtrack by literally climbing up a freaking 10 foot dirt mound. I am getting angry thinking about it again! LOL. I honestly do not even remember how I got back to the car. Miracle. Alien abduction. Who knows?! I was just relieved to be sitting down again.
CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE TO SEE A VIDEO ABOUT OUR HIKING ADVENTURE!
I was happy we got to experience this with our friends. Would I do this again? Yes. No. Maybe so. I’ll let you know when the time comes 😛
It was news to me that Savannah is only two hours away from my home in Jacksonville. My lack of geographical sense was made transparent when I admitted that I thought Atlanta was actually closer. As always, you’re wrong, Tiffany. Atlanta is really about 5 hours away. I will buy a map one day, I promise. Armed with this new knowledge, I suggested a weekend trip to my boyfriend. The plan was set…
I have always wanted to visit “The Hostess City of the South”. My imagination took me to a place that was a combination of St. Augustine and New Orleans. After walking those wobbly streets myself, I can say that I was not far off in my assumptions. The rounded corners of the architecture reminded me of the those standing in The French Quarter. The grey beards of Spanish moss hanging off the haunting branches of Savannah’s trees resemble those planted on St. George Street. It made me happy to see pieces of these two places I love waiting for me in a new location.
But do not me wrong, readers! Savannah is in a league all her own. Keep reading if you are interested in seeing how we spent our weekend in the good ol’ south!
In my opinion, the best way to see this city is on foot. Parking isn’t as bad as other places I have been before. But to make it easier on yourself (especially for those who cannot parallel park – *raises hand*), I say to either stay somewhere in the heart of downtown or Uber from your hotel in Midtown. You also have the option of hailing a pedicab, who I have heard have great personalities and unique local insight, or hopping on a trolley to enjoy a day-long tour. But I still stand by my recommendation of going about it all on foot. Each street and square has a personality of its own. After doing some research, I learned that Savannah’s buildings canvas different styles of architecture: Gothic (my favorite), French, Italianate, Grecian, and, of course, Georgian. I found that to be surprising and beautiful! No two buildings look exactly alike.
The picture above is the route we took on foot! Did you know TripAdvisor can track your movements like that in a Travel Timeline?! Kind of creepy, but kind of awesome!
1) Forsyth Park (Drayton St & East Park Ave, Savannah, GA 31401)
Who doesn’t love a good fountain? You can find this one on the perimeter of Forsyth Park. We actually made this the starting point of our journey. We parked in a neighborhood near by and began walking from there. This park is big! It is the site of many couples having picnics on the grass, families going for a weekend stroll along the moss-canopied sidewalks, and tourists coming to take the typical fountain picture. Here I am in this picture trying my hardest not to look like one those tourists…But it’s not working with that blue backpack on, is it?
2) Historic Downtown
As stated before, the architecture of Savannah is a mixing pot of different cultural influences. As you can see from the picture above, each house takes on their own character. It is like a free museum of houses for the curious passerbys. I can only imagine the interesting people who live in them too! Because of course only the most sophisticated, artistic, and compelling people can inhabit them, right? Or, you know, it could just be your Grandpa Joe…but he is cool too.
Chippewa. Wright. Pulaski. Madison. Chatham. All interesting names for five out of 22 (there used to be 24!) squares you can mosey upon. They all have similar feels with the looming trees and park benches to rest on. But they all have a different focal point. It could be a statue of a famous historical figure (don’t ask me their names!) or the site of a classic movie (does Run! Forrest! Run! ring any bells?). They make for great meeting spots! “See you at Franklin Square at 4?!”
4) Colonial Park Cemetery (201 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31401)
Ignore that huge wedgie in the picture. Did I just bring attention to something I shouldn’t have? Yeahhhh, let’s bring our attention to the headstones. Eyes up! This is a famous cemetery that is usually a pit stop on most Savannah ghost tours. It is closed at night, so I would make a visit when the sun is out. Its inhabitants include some famous historical figures (who are you, Nathanael Greene?) and victims of the Yellow Fever outbreak in the 1800’s. On any tour you take, you will learn that Yellow Fever has a lot to do with Savannah’s deadly history. Stupid mosquitoes!
5) River Street
It is a collection of touristy gift shops, bars, and restaurants – all with a view of the Savannah River. I liked the rustic architecture that surprisingly homed all these commercial stores! This was my favorite part to walk around during the day. Lots to see and find. I honestly do not know if there are people who live in those upstairs quarters or not, but it appears to have habitable balconies (someone let me know if you have the answer!). Fair warning that it gets a little rowdy at night. I would keep this in mind if you are traveling with the youngsters. Open container policy + belligerence do not equal an attractive outcome.
6) Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
(222 E Harris St, Savannah, GA 31401)
Awestruck! This is THE most beautiful Catholic church I have ever been in. It is adorned with masterful works of art. Even if you are not a religious person, you cannot help but be moved by the sheer magnificence of it all. Feel free to take pictures of the architecture, but just be respectful of those adorning the sacrament. I attended Sunday mass at 11:30am – there were lots of people in attendance.
7) Boneventure Cemetery
(330 Bonaventure Rd, Savannah, GA 31404)
Have you ever been to a cemetery and gotten lost trying to find a specific grave? You might think any cemetery is big, but I have one for you that will trump the rest. Boneventure Cemetery is located about 20 minutes away from the historic district, adjacent to the Wilmington River. I recommend first stopping at the visitor center to get yourself a map! Yes, a map of the cemetery. It is so big that they even have an electronic registry that documents every single plot in this location! The place is huge, to say the least.
Although picturesque, the statues and monuments can only be inspiration for any frightening nightmare. They may be pleasant in the morning, but I can only imagine the sinister glances they give you when the sun sets. It is so inspiring that the classic book The Garden of Good and Evil used this cemetery as a setting for its story. But if you are looking for the famous “bird girl” statue from the book’s cover, you will not find her here. She is located in a art museum now!
My coworker, who is originally from Savannah, suggested this one. She mentioned that there are two separate locations: a sit-down version and a take-out one. The update, which we quickly discovered, is that the sit-down restaurant is officially closed. Located near Oglethorpe Square is this self-proclaimed “eclectic takeaway” food joint. The long line outside snakes into a tiny room where there are workers taking your order deli-style. They are famous for their sandwiches here. So I suggest giving that a try! I got “The Conquistador” with smoked sausage and was really happy with my choice. Some advice would be to get the special sauce on the side. It is a big sandwich so it might take you a while to finish it. If you get the sauce on the side, you decrease your risk of a soggy sandwich. Learn from me!
There is a covered, outdoor seating area around back.
Side note: Cover your kid’s ears, parents! Shouts of “Shit yeah!” fill the air. What’s a motto with you?!
We attempted to eat at this place twice! I was trusting the TripAdvisor reviews and very eager to eat somewhere trendy and new. The first time was on Saturday night, after fighting our way through drunken patrons of the various River St. bars. The wait was 45 minutes and we could barely fit through the door. You know what that means? “You want to go to McDonald’s?”. We tried again the next afternoon around noon.
When my order of “Treylor Park Nachos Grande” came out, my eyes went big! If you see the picture, you can easily tell that this is a small order of fries for a giant! It was a mountain of french fries topped with sprinkles of eternal happiness (and carbs). Oh, and I freakin’ love truffle sauce… I ate it by myself because I am a glutton, but I highly recommend sharing that with a friend. Other suggestions would be to get the Grilled Cheddar Cheese with a spicy coleslaw or the Ahi Tuna pizza!
Is a Ghost Tour worth it?
Still here? Not enough of an explanation? Haha! Alright, alright, I’ll explain…
Let me start out by saying that I am an avid believer in the paranormal! I am no skeptic and will gladly entertain any ghost stories you have to tell (everyone has one, right?!). Despite my enthusiasm, I was disappointed with the tour I went on. Don’t get me wrong, this is not because of the tour guide or his efforts. I just … wasn’t scared. I knew we wouldn’t be going inside any of these haunted locations, so I don’t know what I was really expecting. If you are a follower of shows like Ghost Adventures or Celebrity Ghost Stories, you are already familiar with terms like “EVP” and “anomaly” and “voice box”. You’ve been creeped out enough by their stories! I guess what I need is just to do my own investigations of known local haunts…but God knows, I am too chicken to do that!
At places like the Colonial Park Cemetery, there is a possibility you will run into other ghost tours trying to see the same thing your group is. I can imagine the competition felt by all the tours offered in town! It is a bit annoying when two tours are trying to talk over the other one. If you still want to experience it for yourself, I would recommend Afterlife Tours over all the other ones. No costumes. Just a normal (as normal as a paranormal investigator can be haha) guy, his iPad filled with paranormal evidence, and knowledge that you might not have about Savannah and its ghostly past. He said that soon his tour will offer the chance to spend a night at the haunted brewery! So that sounds like a cool option for future visitors!
Download the Savannah ePass to get some $$$ off this tour!
What I Wish I Had Done:
Wormsloe Historic Site: I am a huge fan of picturesque areas with borderline creepy trees. Wormsloe fits the bill on this front. Unfortunately, we didn’t make this place a priority because 1) it was a bit too far out to fit into our schedule and 2) there is an entrance fee. We went to Boneventure Cemetery instead.
Stayed in Historic Savannah: Our hotel was in Midtown, about 10 minutes away from historic downtown. This is very convenient (and cheaper, I’m sure)! But
Taken a Pedicab ride: I’m the first to admit it: I’m lazy. Walking around Savannah takes it toll on you, alright? Taking a pedicab would have been a nice relief on the soles. I heard the drivers are incredibly entertaining too.
Tried Huey’s On The River: I love seafood. Love it! But my boyfriend? Nope. “It tastes like the sea,” he says. *shake my head* Huey’s has amazing reviews, as it mixes New Orleans style cooking with the delicacies from the ocean. I wish I could have indulged!
SCAD Museum of Art: Art is an important part of Savannah’s culture. You see SCAD’s name plastered on almost every street downtown! But I never got to visit the actual museum. Maybe next time!
Am I the only one who has a list of apprehensions when going to theme parks? My list goes a little like this…
Being super late and not being able to enjoy any rides
Getting stuck on a roller coaster
Fainting from heat exhaustion
Losing my wallet/keys/clothing/whatever on a ride
Getting kidnapped lol
I have been going to theme parks (Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, DisneyWorld, Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure…to name a few…yes, one of the perks of living in Florida) since I was a wee miss and, until this past Thursday, I have had no mishaps. I considered myself an A+ rider.
Let me tell you my shame.
Although I have been to Walt Disney World multiple times, I have actually never ridden Space Mountain. You know, that roller coaster in Tomorrowland that zips you around in the dark. The reasons for why I never got to try it before changed as my age progressed. I was either too young, too tired, too chicken, or it was too broken (haha). But, now that I am in my full-blown braver 20’s (I am a big girl now, damn it), it was finally my time to take on this classic Disney thrill ride. And I was excited about it.
Picture this: It was our first ride of the day. We had a FastPass+. We only waited like 10 minutes in line. I get front row. I’m excited. I’m pumped. I’m ready to ride this thing. They rocket us off into hyperspace and I let out my first scream. The whips and turns and sudden dips in the dark were everything I thought they would be! Super fun!
“This day is going to be awesome,” I thought to myself, “What an amazing start! What a great first ride!” I then touched my side, where I stored my Mickey ears. Awesome, they didn’t fall out.
But as we started rolling back in, my ride-high had turned to horror.
Where the hell is my purse?!
Yep. It fell out. I made a rookie mistake and did not strap it to my body. I thought if I had just wrapped in my legs, it would have been fine. But… I was stupid. It…fell…out…on…the…ride. I dropped my purse into a ride called Space Mountain. As if that doesn’t sound huge enough!
Long story short: I asked help from a cast member who said “You’re gonna have to wait until the park closes before we can look for anything in the ride. You probably won’t find out until after midnight.” Instant freak out mode. I reported what happened to someone in the gift shop, who asked help from another cast member, who had to call upper management, who then called the same cast member who said they couldn’t help me until the end of the night, who then talked to me and said that they would have to stop the ride and there is no guarantee they’d even find it, *time passes by* …aaaaannnddddd…they stopped the ride to look for my purse.
I know, I know, I know. I turned into one of those hateful people who ruins your day by halting the ride over something stupid. I clearly remember standing in line for The Hulk back in High School saying, “What an idiot! Why do they have to ruin the day for the rest of us?!” I didn’t put myself in their shoes. And, here I am, purse-less, upset at myself that I let this happen. I could blame no one else but myself. Karma.
The story has a happy ending though. They actually found my purse rather quickly! This whole ordeal might have lasted only 30 minutes (even though it felt like hours). My day went from fantastic to horrific to relief-filled. All thanks to the amazing cast members who took the time to help me out. Can you imagine what my day would have been like if I had to wait until the end of the day?!
Note: This map is based off my own personal itinerary. You will see options for historical sites and restaurants.
Need a little know-how?:
Savannah is best seen on foot. Wear some comfortable shoes!
For those who don’t want to walk, there are a ton of trolley tours and pedicabs available
Parking is pretty easy (on a regular weekend). There are metered spaces, but it wouldn’t hurt to park on the outskirts of downtown and walk. I would recommend taking Uber from your hotel to avoid the hassle.
Download a Savannah ePass for some extra savings (I got $4 off my ghost tour with it!)
Make a weekend out of it – 2 days is the perfect amount of time to visit
Beware the “fiances”: there are Bachelor and Bachelorette parties galore. And they can get pretty obnoxious. (But goosfraba I tried to tolerate it because I knew they were celebrating something great).
If you’re like me, you grew up loving 2001’s The Princess Diaries (set in San Francisco, CA). If you’re even more like me, when you visit a city, you enjoy going to the sites of famous movies. One of my favorite scenes from TPD is when Mia takes her grandmother to enjoy a day at the Fisherman’s Wharf. They arm wrestle a masked luchador, eat corn dogs,and take goofy pictures in an old-fashioned photo booth. So guess what? So did we! Follow us as we recreate some of the memorable parts of the movie!
Musée Mécanique is located near Pier 45 in The Fisherman’s Wharf, right next
to Fisherman’s Grotto. As the sign boasts, they have a plethora of antique and new coin operated games alike! There are some very unique items in there; things I have never seen before and probably will never see anywhere else. I highly recommend visiting, even if you aren’t a Princess Diaries fan. The best part? It’s free to get in and only pennies to play.
Meet the arm wrestler! Don’t be fooled – he’s tougher than he looks. Costing only a quarter to challenge him, you can choose from the hardest level (welter) to the wimpiest level (fly). I chose fly obviously. You get two tries, yet both seem to just fly by because you’re too busy being pinned down by this mechanical luchador! He’s strong, ok?! We took turns, Elyssa going first and being defeated. I suffered the same fate right after. We must have been causing a scene because people were stopping to watch us and laugh. We were just happy to be touching the same hand that touched Julie Andrews (and maybe a thousand other hands before and after her)! Don’t worry, I wiped it down just like she did in the movie.
Have you ever tried an old fashioned photo booth? It’s so much fun! It flashes with that *poof* sound and then takes about 10 minutes to print out your pictures (not for the impatient). The ink was still a little wet when we pulled it out. It smelled like it could give you lead poisoning too! Haha.
Do not make the same blunder we did and mistake this photo booth for the one in the movie. There are like FIVE different ones in Musée Mécanique, so make sure you go to THIS one for the legit experience. Of course it was the last one that we came across. We must have spent about $15 on photo booth pictures. Not that I mind 🙂
I highly suggest visiting the sites of your favorite TV shows and movies. It brings you closer to the characters! Who doesn’t want to relive the magic and have the joy of experiencing it all over again?
Although AirBnB was been around since 2008, I feel like it’s popularity has only peaked within the last couple of years. Or maybe I’ve been under a rock and you all have been using it this whole time?! Either way, it’s a new concept to most people. This past November, my closest cousin and I planned our first trip together to San Francisco, California. Only about a 1.5 hour flight away from Los Angeles!
This was my first time in The Bay. We didn’t really have a set itinerary, but we definitely knew that we didn’t want to spend a fortune on a hotel. Did you know that the lowest price I could find for 1 night at a 3 star hotel was nearly $300?! Say what?! Say NO! That’s why we decided to give AirBnB a shot. And I am SO happy that we did.
To tell the truth, Shaun and Kurt’s place was always the top of my list. How could it not be with the presentation they had on the website? From it’s stylish furniture, spacious room, and free cable, there really was no resisting it. The only thing holding me back was that it was located away from the action of San Francisco’s downtown area, about 30 minutes, in Bayview. But, after talking to other hosts and weighing multiple pros and cons, we landed right back on S & K’s doorstep.
From SFO, we took an Uber (also my first time using this) carpool for about $17 to Bayview. The neighborhood is nothing too extravagant, but it is in a fairly good part of town. It is a really cute 2 story blue building with a gated, private entrance. A big pro is that Shaun and Kurt give you your own 4-digit key code to get into the gate and your room! No hassle with managing key exchanges. There is a neighboring room for other tenants on the other side of the patio, but they were far enough that we never ran into them.
Based off my 4 C’s of Confidence, here is how I’d rate the place:
Not a speck of dust left. You never would have known that another tenant had ever stayed here! Seemingly clean sheets and immaculate bathroom – that’s really all I can ask for.
For two nights, we spent $274 in total. That is with service and cleaning fees included. Much better than 1 night at a hotel closer to the city.
I communicated mostly with Kurt through text and he would always respond very quickly! He answered all my questions about their place amicably. They have a binder with information about the history of their neighborhood, tourist spot, random recommendations, and transportation options.The BART was really easy to use and there is a bus stop very near the home. It is about a 10 minute walk to the stop.
As stated, it is about 30 minutes away from all the tourist spots. It could be a good or bad thing depending on how close you want to be to the traffic. It was very easy to hop on the BART or hail an Uber from their location. But keep in mind your budget!
Be sure to sign the guestbook they leave for their tenants. Take a picture of what I wrote and send it to me – if you ever end up staying!
Click below for a link to Shaun & Kurt’s amazing AirBnB! Tell them Tiffany sent ya!
Take out your list. What is your number one for must-see destinations? Most people wait until they retire to even start marking things off. Me? No husband. No kids. I’m ready to start now! I have crossed #2 and maybe #165 (it’s a long list, sue me!) off there. But…my mind can’t escape that elusive “Number Freakin’ One”. And, for me, that is “The Land of the Rising Sun”. That gorgeous country whose beautiful culture has enraptured me my imagination since childhood. Ask any kid who grew up with Miyazaki films (for me it was Totoro)! They most likely feel the same way. (And, yes, I was part of the Sailor Moon/Pokemon generation.
I am ELATED to say that the dream is becoming a reality. I already have plans (and approved time off, thanks job!) for a 2 and 1/2 week vacation to my dream destination. Yes…*breathe a little*…it is within my grasp now.
So, I write this entry in the hopes that any Japan-natives, Japan-lovers, or Japan-constant-travelers will help a sista out! Please read the questions below! I would appreciate, in addition, any sort of advice you can give me.
OCTOBER 2016 – NOVEMBER 2016
Based off a suggested itinerary from japan-guide.com, I have created a “rough draft” version for my trip.
***UPDATE*** I have changed my itinerary almost entirely. Instead of flying in and out of Tokyo (which allows for back-tracking), I will be flying into Osaka and out of Tokyo. See the updated itinerary below, with detailed options for my day. -tbh 08/18/16
QUESTIONS FOR THE EXPERTS:
Does this seems realistic?
*** I AM SO INTIMIDATED BY THE TRAIN SYSTEM – Is there anyone who could help me?! I plan to get a JR pass too. ****
Would a 14 day JR Pass work for me or should I splurge on 21 day pass?
Should I rent pocket wifi? I will definitely be utilizing Hyperdia, Google Maps, etc.
Since I will be going in end of October, I heard the fall colors will be in full effect? Out of the cities I have listed, do you have recommendations to see the autumn colors? Take pictures?
What are your experiences with AirBnb or hostels? I do not think I can afford to stay in nice hotels, so I am willing to go this route. Any recommendations?
I would like to visit a ryokan. But I heard that it is harder to book as a solo female traveler. How true is this? Any ryokan recommendations?
I want to experience rural Japan (which is why Takayama is on my list). I think I would like to rent a bicycle and travel through the fields, etc. Is this safe? Would you recommend a bike tour?
Experiences I would like to try:
Maid cafe / Themed cafe
Mount Koya (ok for solo female traveler?)
I am sure there are more questions that I need to ask… but this is what is on the top of my head. As I said, I am very open to ANY suggestions and recommendations. Thank you for reading.