Posts Tagged ‘Chinatown’

Budget Eats in San Francisco

Friday, September 14th, 2012

With the abundance of restaurants in San Francisco, it can be difficult to narrow down your options – especially if you’re unfamiliar with town. Some of the city’s prominent neighborhoods include the Mission District, Chinatown,  SoMa, The Castro, The Haight and of course, Fisherman’s Wharf. All of these areas have their fair share of quality eateries, and as you might expect, many of them are a bit pricey. However, there are a few hidden gems around town. That’s right; you don’t have to break the bank for a quality meal in San Francisco. Here are our affordable picks.

Hot Blossoming Flower Tea in Full Bloom

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Chinatown: House of Nanking

We’ve raved about House of Nanking before. Their quick service and quality dishes won our hearts, but their menu prices also deserve praise. For $20, you can get a drink (non-alcoholic), a large bowl of soup, an entree and a glass of their hot blossoming tea to wash it all down. Oh, and the entree? It’ll feed two people, easily. They’ve got a nice variety, a simple set-up, and a speedy turnaround. What more could you ask for? If you’re hankering for soul-satisfying chinese food, hop on over and jump in line – the queue usually extends out the door and up the street.

Fisherman’s Wharf: Boudin at the Wharf

Crab & Corn Bisque Breadbowl

Boudin Bakery strategically lures unsuspecting pedestrians into their quarters with the aroma of warm, sweet, freshly-baked bread. Just walking by the front door will have you craving a cinnamon roll, and if you walk by enough times, you’re bound to take a step inside. Don’t hesitate! Instead, head on upstairs to the cafe, check out some amazing views of the bay, walk through the museum, and sit down for lunch.This place is famous for their sourdough bread bowls, so definitely try one. The original and petite versions are both fiendishly satisfying, and if you opt for the latter, you’ll only pay $8.50. Even at $13.95, the original bowl is still a great value. Read our full review here.

The Financial District: Oz Lounge

Ahi Poke

Appropriately named, Oz Lounge carries a relaxed and chill atmosphere, and you don’t even have to follow the Yellow Brick Road to get there. During happy hour, you can enjoy live music, tapas specials, and roughly 40 different varieties of beer. The small plates are affordable, tasty and fresh, made with locally grown ingredients. Not to mention, their burger selection will blow you away (sushi burger?!). So head over to the financial district and give them a try if you’re looking for good music, good food, and good prices – aren’t we all?

These aren’t the only inexpensive restaurants in the city, but they’re on the top of our list. If you have any other recommendations, feel free to share!

Good Eats in San Francisco: House of Nanking

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

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During our recent visit to San Francisco, Lauren & I had the pleasure of scouting a few good restaurants around town, and our first evening in the city was pleasantly spent devouring delectable heaps of Chinese food at House of Nanking.

We’d spent all day raging through the city, cruising along the bay, absorbing the sights and blending in with the locals [kinda]. When it came time to wind it down and satisfy out appetites at dinner, we were determined to escape the tourist areas.

Nestled in a charming little corner, House of Nanking is arguably Chinatown’s gold trophy. Unfortunately, as we walked right in the door, we blew our cover and exposed ourselves as tourists. The place was packed. Servers whistled by us with their hands and arms full of enticing dishes, and there was hardly space to turn around.

Amid the chaos, I stuck my head out and asked if we should seat ourselves. The hostess politely said no, and directed us to the back of the line… outside… and up the street – a line that we conveniently passed by when we first walked up. For a moment we debated going somewhere else. Our stomachs were grumbling, our feet were tired, and we hadn’t anticipated a queue. But my foodie senses persuaded us to stay; after all, these people were waiting for a reason, and the street hype continued to stir our interest.

After a while, the hostess directed us to our seats at a tiny table, in very close quarters with a few other guests. It was a bit uncomfortable at first. Coming from Atlanta, where all the restaurant tables are spaced out and easily accessible, I normally consume my meals with ample elbow room. My anxieties subsided once the food started coming. It was as if we were the only ones in the house. The aromas of tangy spices and flavorful herbs overwhelmed our senses and slowly started to soothe our griping tummies.

We started with the Sizzling Rice Soup

It’s a lemon scented broth with crispy rice and chicken or veggies. We chose chicken. It was amazing.

We were almost ready to order another batch when our entrees arrived.

Lauren picked the ‘Fang’s Panfried Garlic Fish’

I chose the ‘Famous Nanking Sesame Chicken’, served with a side of sweet potatoes and deliciously deserving of all the ‘Fame’ it’s received.

Our selections were superb, and every bite was better than the last, but my favorite part of the meal was the tea. The ‘Hot Blossoming Jasmine Tea,’ to be exact.

It comes in a mug of hot water, with a little ball at the bottom. It looked a little strange, but the Jasmine taste complimented my chicken and rice, washing it down like a sinfully sweet chaser. The best part? It lived up to it’s named, and blossomed into lovely little fluid flower.

Full Bloom

Full and accomplished, we left the restaurant with [skimpy] doggie bags and gratified grins. What more could we have asked for?

Convenient location? … CHECK

Great Food? … CHECK

Fast Service? … CHECK

Reasonable Prices? … CHECK CHECK CHECK!

If you’re ever in San Francisco, pop on over to 919 Kearny Street, and check them out. (Tell em’ we sent ya’!)

 

Disa and Lauren Take San Francisco – Part 2

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

No one escapes from Alcatraz… except for the notorious Lauren and Disa!

Welcome back, travel friends! Click Here for the awesome first half of our adventure – Disa and Lauren Take San Francisco – Part 1!

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Day 4 and 5 of Disa and I’s adventures in the misty City by the Bay included the epic Monterey & Carmel Tour by Bus from San Francisco on Thursday, then on Friday the Chinatown Walking Tour in San Francisco, then cruising to explore the infamous ex-federal prison of Alcatraz Island, then going on an enchanting San Francisco Dinner Dance Cruise around the beautiful bay at sunset. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the virtual tours.

Thursday:

  • The Chronicles of Monterey: The Sea Lion, the Sandwich, and the Nautical Globe. The Monterey & Carmel Tour by Bus from San Francisco is a fully narrated 11-hour tour that departs from and returns to San Francisco. This tour showcases California’s natural, rugged Central Coast. As we made our way south-bound from San Francisco, we passed by M5 Industries, which is the headquarters for Myth Busters, a science entertainment TV show on the Discovery Channel. The Fire Station is close by for a reason. ;)

Yours truly took every photo opportunity to capture the beauty of the scenery

  • As we continued our journey past Daly City, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and beyond to the right of our luxury coach we could see the gorgeous rocky coastline with a few nice sand beaches and tide pools. Something interesting that we learned is that the reason Monterey has such a wealth of marine life is because of Monterey Canyon underwater, which descends over two miles – twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon – and is home to giant kelp forests and a myriad of sea creatures. I would love to go scuba diving there someday! We could also distantly see (and mainly hear) several sea lions off on the rocks further from the shore.

Just a taste of the seaside scenery on the journey to Monterey, California

  • When we reached the famous Cannery Row in Monterey, we were welcomed with vistas of scenic piers, tons of cool little shops, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and seaside restaurants. You might see sailboats in the marina or kayakers. After reading the sumptuous menu posted outside, we decided to dine for lunch at Louie Linguini’s. I was pretty super excited about this seafood pizza, and for good reason. Salmon, crab and shrimp! I’m a seafood hound. Disa ordered the Spinach Salad, Goat Cheese, & Bacon Sandwich. Absolutely delicious. I seriously wish I could eat there every day now! :D

Decisions, decisions… everything was delicious at Louie Linguini’s in Monterey!

The Fisherman’s Wharf of Monterey, and our fantastic view from Louie Linguini’s

  • After our seaside escapades in Monterey, we were on our way southbound again along the famous scenic 17-mile road. We traveled through Pebble Beach, learning about the highly exclusive and outrageously pricey golf courses on each resort, and enjoying the views of really, really ridiculously good looking houses and estates along the coastline. There is a great variety of architecture to see, and interesting stories you’ll hear aboard the tour. We also stopped to see this natural anomaly, the “Lone Cypress Tree” growing where it is said that no Cypress tree *should* ever grow. Another of the mysteries of the Universe…
  • Finally, we arrived at the beautiful seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Yes, they do prefer the whole city name said correctly, so get it right. The city is known for its amazing art galleries, bakeries and restaurants, and of course there are the miles and miles of white sand beaches. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll down Ocean Avenue to explore the fabulous shopping turf of the wealthy. It is here that you will find the first gallery of Thomas Kinkade, the Thomas Kinkade Gallery in the Garden. You pass by the cottage door, follow the stone walkway, and into a beautiful garden exhibit with a very fine collection of the world famous painter’s masterpieces. It reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Secret Garden.

Sound like a local by saying the city’s full name, Carmel-by-the-Sea!

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a dream come true for art, food, and beach enthusiasts

Re-energizing with caffeine in a scenic courtyard near Ocean Avenue

The Orignal Gallery of Thomas Kinkade, The Garden Gallery Cottage of Carmel

  • We concluded our adventures south of San Francisco driving back through Silicon Valley, but first stopped at the lovely, historic Mission San Carlos of Carmel. It is the second mission in upper California, and is still home to a Catholic parish. We arrived just before the church bells gonged the evening time.

Photo Op Stop at the historic Mission San Carlos of Carmel by the Sea

Friday:

  • We started the day off with a fascinating and very informative walking tour through Chinatown, on the Chinatown Walking Tour in San Francisco. Our tour guide, Linda, gave us an excellent historical, cultural, medicinal, and culinary overview of Chinatown. This tour is definitely another “must-do” in San Francisco! Chinatown is like a city within the city filled with mysterious sights, where an ancient culture from the other side of the world survives and flourishes with remarkable authenticity. I loved the pagoda-style architecture of the buildings and shops ranging from martial arts weapons displays to Hello Kitty merchandise. What a cool place to shop and explore!

Linda explained the rich history behind this mural and many buildings

Awesome martial arts weapons display at a shop in Chinatown

Chinese School passes on the language and cultural traditions of generations

  • Linda told us that a majority of the people in Chinatown today are actually Christians, but you will still find many Authentic Buddhist Temples. From the street, we wound our way up a narrow, steep staircase to a beautifully adorned temple. Inside we saw entire walls decorated with red ribbons with the names of deceased loved ones written in gold. For many residents, deceased loved ones may not have been buried nearby or inaccessible in the East, so a ribbon serves as a token of veneration. Chinese Ancestor Worship is the belief that deceased loved ones possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living. Gifts of oranges or flowers are customary, or simply time spent remembering and honoring those dearly departed. Tangerines and oranges sound like “luck” and “wealth” in Chinese, respectively. That is why you will see many oranges as gifts for good fortune.

Buddhist Temple adorned with lanterns, gold antiques, and incense urns

  • Inside the temple, we found dazzling altars adorned with red lanterns, priceless gold antiques, incense filled bronze urns, and more. I was even given the unique opportunity to be a test guinea pig for the traditional Chinese Fortune Sticks and the Chinese Yin-Yang. For the Chinese Fortune Stick (or Divination Sticks), I was handed a circular wooden container filled with many long, flat wooden sticks with a different Chinese symbol at the end of each. Linda asked me to think of any kind of life question that I wanted an answer for, and concentrate on it, then to tilt the container and shake it until only one fortune stick fell out. Sure enough, only one stick fell out. Linda looked up the meaning of the fortune stick and gave me a small slip of paper written entirely in Chinese, and told me I could have the note translated more in depth with a Chinese expert, but basically it meant that research is important to me. I can’t argue with that – I love me some science! Next, Linda handed me two pairs of wooden moon blocks (jiaobei) which she said symbolize the Chinese Yin-Yang. She said the objective is again to ask it a question (aloud or not), and then drop the blocks. You hold the pieces together, flat sides facing each other, and drop them to the ground. How the blocks fall determines the answer. If it lands with both flat or rounded sides facing up, the answer is no. If one side lands flat and the other rounded, the answer is yes. I asked “Will it rain today?” Yin-Yang: one side landed flat and the other rounded, so the answer was yes. It did not rain in San Francisco that day, but I also failed to specify *where* it would rain, so it definitely rained somewhere in the world!

I volunteered to test the Chinese Yin-Yang at the Buddhist Temple

Honoring ancestors is a special way of remembering deceased loved ones

  • Next stop: the Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Factory!! The sweet aroma of the freshly made fortune cookies is sure to lure you in whether you can read the Chinese store signs or not. Inside, you will find fortune cookies of all shapes and sizes, and watch as cookies are made right in front of you.
  • Linda gave us each delicious circular samples of the freshly-made fortune cookies. Yum! You can even order custom fortune cookie messages there at the factory. I wish I’d had time to return to order some fortune cookies with custom messages… with the lyrics to “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, so I could pass them out to my friends, just to drive them crazy. *evil laugh* :D

Our next stop was at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory with a free sample!

At Golden Gate Fortune Cookies you can even order custom fortune messages

  • We also stopped at Stockton Street Food Markets, where you will find an amazing variety of local and exotic foods. This is the place to be to buy the freshest and cheapest produce, meats, live seafood, and dried herbs.

Stockton Street Markets offer the freshest and most exotic foods in the Bay Area

  • After our journey through Chinatown, we walked to In-And-Out Burger at Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, because it’s just so delicious. After another glorious round of double-double cheeseburgers, we proceeded to walk off the calories to Pier 33 for our second tour of the day, and the most famous sightseeing attraction of San Francisco — Alcatraz Island!!!

The Guard Tower looms ominously high over former prison grounds

Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelley, and other famous inmates

  • Alcatraz was a federal penitentiary that operated from 1934 to 1963, riddled with mysteries and dark mystique. Once home to the likes of Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelley, and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, the Federal Bureau of Prisons used the facility as a maximum security prison. It housed prisoners too notorious or dangerous to be held elsewhere. Alcatraz was closed in 1963 due to its expense. The trip includes the ferry ride to the island and an amazing self-guided audio cell block tour, complete with actual interviews of former guards and inmates. Alcatraz is still known today as one of the world’s most legendary prisons.
  • Here’s a fun fact: Juan Manuel de Ayala was the first Spaniard to document Alcatraz Island in 1775. He also charted San Francisco Bay, and named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which translates to “The Island of the Pelicans.” You will still find Alcatraz covered with a countless number of seabirds, although the California Brown Pelican is not known to nest on the island today. Instead, you are likely to see hundreds of Western Gulls, and, if you are lucky, you may get a glimpse of pelagic cormorants, California gulls, pigeon guillemots, or black oystercatchers.

Alcatraz is a sanctuary for a variety of seabirds, most prominently Western Gulls

  • If you’re more of a nature lover than a mystery or history buff, walk along the Agave Trail. The trail begins near the ferryboat landing on the east side of Alcatraz Island and continues to the southern tip of the island. The Agave Trail passes through a protected bird sanctuary and features beautiful plants and flowers. This trail also offers fabulous views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

This is how a typical cell would look upon a prisoner’s arrival to Alcatraz

I’ve been bad. On the plus side, now I can polish my Cell Block Tango.

  • Alcatraz was well known for having an excellent menu compared to other prisons. Warden James Johnston believed that good food in the cafeteria would help to quell dissension among the prisoners. So why was the Mess Hall regarded as the most dangerous place of Alcatraz? Imagine angry, hungry men with knives (even with steak knives, when the menu called for such) gathering together three times a day… A few food and fist fights broke out occasionally, but the armed guards on the outside catwalk rarely ever had to break the windows with their rifles, and never had to fire warning shots or release the tear gas canisters.
  • One bad-tempered incident occurred when Warden Johnston was attacked while standing routinely near the Mess Hall door and beaten up by inmate Burton “Whitey” Phillips. Phillips was later sent to the Treatment Unit in Cellblock D for the assault – a dark, barren cell of Solitary Confinement, also known as “The Hole.” He didn’t leave the Treatment Unit until years later when Warden Johnston retired.
Alcatraz Mess Hall Food Menu

The food quality at Alcatraz was regarded as the best in the prison system

The Mess Hall of Alcatraz was considered to be the most dangerous place.

  • I highly recommend reading the story of the Alcatraz Spaghetti Riot of 1950. Inmates had to find cunning, creative ways to communicate for an organized anarchy under the constant supervision of the prison guards. The inmates were rebelling because they were tired of bland spaghetti. Personally, I think the inmates may have been a bit spoiled. Red velvet cake on the menu?! Dang, prisoners ate great back then. Perhaps the riddles inspired by the hit mystery-thriller FOX TV show “ALCATRAZ” can shed light on the mystery… I would also recommend reading the story of the Battle of Alcatraz.

Guards’ recreational office near the Lighthouse of Alcatraz Island

The iconic Lighthouse of Alcatraz Island, now a museum that can be toured.

  • Disa and I escaped from the sinister clutches of Alcatraz in time to return to our secret hideout and freshen up for our charming sunset dinner cruise along the bay aboard the San Francisco Dinner Dance Cruise. We were so lucky that it was a clear night without the dense fog rolling in yet. Very pretty sunset. Cheers to an amazing week in San Francisco!
San Francisco Dinner Dance Cruise

Aboard the San Francisco Dinner Dance Cruise with dazzling sunset views

Lovely dinner cruise views of the Golden Gate Bridge and more around the Bay

Amazing views of Alcatraz Island and the ferry for the Night Tour

Beautiful sunset as we passed by Alcatraz Island on the Dinner Cruise

  • What you get on this amazing dinner cruise? A sightseeing yacht cruise (Fri. – Sat. is 3-hours, Sun. – Thurs. is 2.5-hours), a 4-course seated dinner, coffee and tea, live entertainment and dancing, scenic San Francisco Bay views, and available for purchase are soft drinks, wine, beer and cocktails from the full-service bar. Truly a magical evening out for any occasion along the scenic Bay as you watch the sun set, the stars come out, and the city lights of San Francisco glistening next to the water edge, all while enjoying an amazing 4-course dinner and dancing to live entertainment.

Our Appetizers were South American Scallop Ceviche with Fried Plantain Chips

2nd Course: Fontina, Leek & Carrot Tartlet with Champagne Shallot Vinaigrette

Disa ordered the Roasted Chipotle and Garlic Marinated Bone In Pork Chop

I ordered the Salmon Moqueca with Peppers, Red Coral Rice, & Black Beans

For desert, we had these super cute and delectable Blueberry Pies!

Marvelous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a passing Sailboat out in the Bay

Another gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset in the Bay

That concludes our overview of amazing adventures in The Taking of San Francisco with Disa & Lauren. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and seeing some of our journey as much as we enjoyed being there. Stay tuned for more pictures and new videos as we continue to share our experiences throughout Reserve123′s social media networks. You’re going to love seeing even more of our trip photos and the video magic we captured on each tour!

Are you ready to plan your own adventures to the City by the Bay? We want to earn your business with the best customer service around. Book your tour tickets online and save or call us toll free for assistance with reservations at 800-410-8233 or at our local phone number which is 678-320-2200. Did you know that Reserve123 also offers a San Francisco Hotel Directory, Rental Car Services, and even Airline Tickets? Leave everything to your travel friends at Reserve123.com and we guarantee that just as Tony Bennett so smoothly serenaded, you’ll leave your heart in San Francisco. ;)

Empire State of Mind in NYC

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012
Double Decker Bus Tour

Double Decker Bus Tour

“In New York, concrete jungle
where dreams are made of
There’s nothin’ you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you
feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York,
New York, New York”

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I think that Alicia Keys and Jay-Z summed it up pretty well. New York really is like being on another planet; a great melting pot of culture, design, architecture, and attitude.

My brother and I visited NYC a few years ago, and had a great time sightseeing in the city and visiting the Empire State Building. For my first visit to New York, I decided to go with a classic – the New York Classic Double Decker Tour, to be precise – to gain a nice overview of New York City and Manhattan.

New York Classic Double Decker Tour

New York Classic Double Decker Tour

It’s easy to get lost in the endless sights and sounds and lights everywhere, and this tour covers the major sightseeing spots and landmarks of the city.

You will enjoy the best sights in Manhattan during the day and at night, with unlimited hop-on, hop-off service at over 40 stops on our double decker bus. There is an Uptown Loop, Downtown Loop, Brooklyn Loop, and The Night Loop, and your pass is good for 48 hours to use as you wish.

Plus, this fun-filled tour includes a ticket for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island AND admission ticket to either the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. What more could you ask for? Well, stopping for pizza along the way of course, if you’re like me. 8)

Scenic views at the top of the Empire State Building

Scenic views at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City

New York Skyscrapers, Central Park, and the Atlantic Ocean

New York Skyscrapers, Central Park, and the Atlantic Ocean

Sunset views of New York City and Liberty Island in the distance

Sunset views of New York City and Liberty Island in the distance

Toronto Double-Decker Bus Tours

Monday, July 27th, 2009

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If you want to see the city of Toronto but want to call your own shots, take the Toronto Hop On Hop Off City Tour.This option combines the knowledge and skill of a professional tour guide with the convenience of picking and choosing which spots to explore.You have the luxury of getting on and off the bus to have a closer look at an area, and you can rejoin the tour at any time within 3 touring days.This allows you to see what you want, skip what you don’t, and pick up where you left off.It is perfect for those who are in town for a conference or to visit loved ones since you can fit it into your schedule whenever you have time.

This double-decker tour does not disappoint.The bus has two loops, one running north to south and the other east to west.Each loop has some distinctive stops, so some might decide to take both, one each day. On the north-south loop, one of the highlights is the stop at Casa Loma, a beautiful castle on a hill and the estate of a well-known Toronto financier.Guests also appreciate some time at the Entertainment and Fashion Districts as well as the Toronto Music Garden.On the east-west loop you will want to pay particular attention to Little Italy, Chinatown, and Koreatown where there are some great buys and of course mouth-watering food.Take the opportunity to hop off the bus at some of these points if you decide you want to spend some more time there; it is very easy to find the bus again and hop back on to continue the tour.

The touring experience on the Hop On Hop Off City Tour is unbeatable and is highly recommended to anyone visiting the Toronto area that needs a little guidance on how to get around and on popular points of interest.Tours are offered year-round with pick-up at Toronto area hotels and other designated stops.

Creatures and Colors in Beautiful Victoria, BC

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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Victoria, British Columbia, home to the famous Butchart Gardens, is a wonderful place to visit during the spring and summer months.  The capital city is bustling with activity, from Canada Day festivities in July to Symphony Splash in August.  While there are lots of festivals going on in Victoria, there is plenty to do on the day-to-day as well, and a scenic tour of the area is just what you need to get the lay of the land.

A great way to see the city and check out its main attraction is on the Grand Tour of Victoria & Butchart Gardens combination trip.  Aboard a traditional English double-decker bus, you will get a chance to check out the homes and gardens that make Victoria unique.  You will learn the back story on the Empress Hotel, Antique Row, and Chinatown and will make a stop at Castle Point for an exquisite view of Oak Bay and the Coast Mountains.  Along the way you will also check out the exclusive Uplands and Oak Bay residential areas as you enjoy a peaceful ride along Marine Drive.

As you make your way around Victoria, you will ultimately reach Butchart Gardens, where over 50 acres of blossoms and fragrances await you.  A walk through the theme gardens – linked by spacious lawns, meandering streams, and lily ponds – will relax and rejuvenate you, as will a visit to the sunken garden.  As an added bonus, seasonal outdoor performances in the afternoon add that special something to your trip.

For an extra dose of natural beauty, take the Butchart Gardens & Butterfly Gardens Tour, which provides access into Butterfly Gardens, an indoor tropical garden where the butterflies fly freely and display their unique shapes and color patterns.  The enclosed gardens house even more varieties of plants and flowers for you to be amazed by, so if endless bursts of color and life are what you crave, this may just be the perfect tour for you.

There are many fun activities to choose from in Victoria, so for a more complete list visit www.VictoriaTours.org.

Affordable Tours Feature San Francisco Highlights

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

It is almost impossible to get to everything on one trip to San Francisco, but for those who are interested in a tour that provides a comprehensive overview of the city, the San Francisco City Tour is an excellent choice.  It departs several times daily from Fisherman’s Wharf and takes you past many of the major landmarks in the city, most notably the Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square, and the Palace of Fine Arts.  It is often possible to stop at the Golden Gate Bridge and Twin Peaks, weather and traffic permitting.

This tour lasts for three and a half hours and is a great way to see many of the city’s landmarks under the tutelage of a friendly and informative tour guide.  The tour provides tremendous value and covers a wide variety of locations of interest, including but not limited to: Nob Hill, Golden Gate Park, the Financial District, the Opera House, and Union Square. 

There is so much to see on this tour that you will never be bored.  I would give this exciting tour two thumbs up for covering a whole day’s worth of activities in under four hours.  When you finish your tour, head over to Chinatown for an incredible Chinese meal as a perfect end to the day!

San Francisco is a place that everyone needs to visit at least once.  For more information on how to make your San Francisco vacation the best that it can be, visit www.sanfranciscotours.us

Journey through History on a Tour of Philly

Friday, December 12th, 2008
Philadelphia is a great place to spend some time, and whether it’s hot or cold outside there will always be tons to see and do.  Also known as the ‘Birthplace of America’ and the ‘City of Brotherly Love,’ it is packed with historical sites and was once the home of Betsy Ross, the creator of the American flag, and author Edgar Allan Poe.   A few such distinguished sights in the area include the Liberty Bell – which was one of the most prominent symbols of the Revolutionary War and today symbolizes justice and liberty –  Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was mulled over and approved, and the First and Second Banks of the United States. 
Once you arrive in Philly, you will see that there are more attractions than you know what to do with.  An excellent way to cover a lot of them at once is the Philadelphia City Tour by Trolley.  On this survey of the city, you will get to see the Liberty Bell up close, along with Betsy Ross’s house where she was thought to have conceived the idea of the American flag, the US Mint, Chinatown, the Academy of Music, and thirteen other notable locations.  As an added perk, you can hop on and off the trolley as many times as you would like, as your ticket will be valid all day.  If you decide to stay on the trolley and go straight through, the trip takes about 90 minutes.
Should you seek a more leisurely tour, you can take the ever-popular Philadelphia Carriage Tour.  For one hour, you get to sit back and enjoy the ride as you take in the historic sights and learn about their humble beginnings.  As your horse navigates the tree-lined streets of the National Historic Park, which is also the most historic square mile in the country, you will be amazed at how far the nation has come and will get an idea of where we came from.  Society Hill is also a feature on this tour, and it is the largest collection of 18th century homes and churches in America.  This is not all; you will also pass Betsy Ross’s house and much more.  The carriage tour option is wonderful for families but can also serve as a romantic way to spend part of an evening with a loved one.

 

If you have done these two tours and are still thirsting for more, you can do a scenic dinner cruise or tour the town by Segway.  This is definitely not an exhaustive list, so take a look at all that Philly Tours has to offer for your next trip.
 

 

 
 

 

 

Tour Across America

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

It is often hard to choose where to spend your vacation, but when you think about all the things you can do in each state and in each city, you really can’t go wrong.  United States Tours offers things for you to do in every state in the country, including Washington D.C.  There’s no way that you can’t have a great vacation with the vast array of activities and attractions that are at your disposal.  United States Tours and its affiliates are the largest tour operators in the world so there is no doubt that this year’s trip will be the best yet. 

One of the most popular packages that United States Tour provides, out of the 5,000+, is the Alcatraz Tour & San Francisco City Tour.  You will get a comprehensive tour, including bus and ferry transportation, of the beautiful city of San Francisco.  This is an excellent tour as you see all the world renowned sites through San Francisco including Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and Union square as well as the notorious federal prison on Alcatraz Island.

Another wonderful option for a vacation activity that United States Tours offers is the New York Spirit Dinner Cruise.  This is a great way to spend an evening after a full day of sightseeing around New York.  You will eat a delicious dinner aboard a luxurious and chic ship.  Your night will be complete with the entertaining music and Broadway-quality performers.  For a break from the exciting festivities, you can stroll along the decks of the magnificent boat and view the best of New York drift by.

On the Nashville City Tour you will see all the major sights of Music City.  This fantastic tour is known for taking you to the best areas in the marvelous city.  You will ride by the historic downtown Nashville, Fort Nashboro, the Parthenon, Music Row, Studio B and beautiful Vanderbilt University.  The tour makes a stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the Ryman Auditorium – the Mother Church of Country Music.  This is a perfect tour for visitors to Nashville who want to see the greatest parts of the city.

An experience unlike any other is Boston Duck Tour and it all begins as you board your sightseeing vehicle, the “DUCK.”  The “DUCK” is an authentic WWII amphibious, meaning it can drive in land and water, vehicle that has been renovated for your comfort.  As Boston is the birthplace of freedom, it is only fitting that you see sights that reflect this while touring Boston.  The golden-domed State House, built on land owned by John Hancock, is highlighted during the tour.  Other locations that will be sighted are Bunker Hill, Boston Common – the oldest park in the country, and Copley Square.  Just when you think the tour has ended and you have seen all Boston has to offer, “SPLASHDOWN” hits.  The DUCK will splash right into the Charles River giving you the chance you receive an incredible view of Boston and Cambridge skylines.

United States Tours has tours, activities and attraction tickets in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  By using the services offered you will without a doubt have one of the best vacations of your life.  Reserve your tickets today at United States Tours website, www.unitedstatestours.us. 

Top 10 Things to Enjoy In and Around San Francisco

Friday, June 6th, 2008

REMINDER- Father's Day Sale

There are so many fun things to do in San Francisco that it is difficult to narrow the list down to only ten items.  I have attempted to cover all of the “musts” while incorporating a few fun things that are less widely known to the visiting crowd.

1.  Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz is a small island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.  It is the location of the first lighthouse and US fort on the west coast.  It served as a military prison during the early 1900′s, and became a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963.  In 1972, it became a national recreation area and the National Park Service continues to operate the island today as a tourist attraction.  Alcatraz Cruises depart daily from Fisherman’s Wharf and provide a ferry ride to The Rock, an audio-guided cellblock tour of the prison, and time to explore the island on your own.  Boats return approximately every 30 minutes to San Francisco so you are able to spend as much time as you like at Alcatraz.

2.  Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge View from Marin

The Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937.  It connects the city of San Francisco with Marin County.  Before the bridge was built, the only practical way to Marin was via boat.  Ferry services were established beginning in the 1820′s.  Although the color of the bridge may look reddish, it is actually International Orange, a color chosen by Irving Morrow, a relatively unknown residential architect who also designed the overall shape of the towers as well as several other elements.  There are several ways to see the bridge up close.  Bay Cruises travel under the bridge.  Sightseeing city tours see the bridge and trips to Muir Woods drive across the bridge.  If you want a unique experience, fly over the Golden Gate on a seaplane tour or a helicopter flight.  If you are more active, you can always walk across the 4200-foot-long bridge, or rent a bicycle and ride across.  Just be sure to wear a jacket as the breeze coming off of the ocean can be very cool.

3.  Coastal Redwoods

Muir Woods Coastal Redwoods

Muir Woods is located in Marin County, 12 miles north of San Francisco.  It is 554 acres of protected coastal forest land controlled by the National Park Service.  The tallest tree in John Muir Woods is 258 feet.  Day trips to Muir Woods depart in the morning and early afternoon from San Francisco by bus, limo, van, and jeep.  You can also drive up in your vehicle, but you might have to park far away from the park entrance.  As long as you don’t mind a potential hike to get to the park, and you have a car, this is a viable option.  There is a small gift shop, snack bar, and basic services available inside the park.  There are several hiking paths to follow suitable for all schedules and skill levels.

wine.com

4.  Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley

Napa Valley Wine

Taking a trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley from the city is a really fun way to spend the day or stay overnight.  Driving to the wine country is ideal because it is so beautiful, but if you plan to drink or visit the wineries, I suggest a guided wine tour from San Francisco.  Keep in mind that the legal drinking limit in California is lower than some states and many are considered “over the limit” after one drink.  There are many transportation options from the city including limousine, jeep, bus, and van.  Once you are there, the Napa Wine Train is one unique experience that I consider to be an absolute must.  The train is first class, the food is exceptional, and the scenery is unlike anywhere else.  Hot air balloon rides are available at sunrise, including a private flight for two with champagne and breakfast.  If you are staying in Napa or Sonoma, there are also limo tours and antique car tours that depart locally.  Some of my favorite wineries in the area include Viansa, which has a fantastic marketplace, and Artessa, which features modern art on display throughout their impressive facility.

5.  Italian North Beach

North Beach

North Beach is a San Francisco neighborhood surrounded by the former Barbary Coast, now Jackson Square, the Financial District south of Broadway, Chinatown to the southwest of Columbus below Green, Russian Hill to the west, Telegraph Hill to the east and Fisherman’s Wharf at Bay Street to the north.  If you want to visit North Beach, you can easily walk there from the wharf and most downtown hotels.  Most San Francisco city tours incorporate Italian North Beach into the tour, and there are also some food tours worth trying.  At night, there are loads of restaurants that stay open late and many people dine outside, similar to what you would find in Europe.  My personal favorite in the area is a small indoor spot called Caffe Sport on Green.

6.  Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

There are both Winchester Mystery House tours from San Francisco and tickets to the well-known mansion located in San Jose, California.  The home once served as the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, wife of famous gun-maker William Wirt Winchester.  At her control, the home remained under construction from 1884 until her death in 1922. The mansion is known for its size and total lack of a master building plan.  Apparently, Sarah Winchester felt the house was haunted by the ghosts of people killed by the rifles her family built, and that her continuous construction would appease the spirits.  There are several tours of the house that vary in length and content.  You will see windows built into floors, stairways that lead to nowhere, and man other oddities that make this house unique.  Guided tours depart every 30 minutes or so from 9:00am until at least 5pm.  On the grounds, there is a snack bar, a gift shop, an arcade, and places to sit and relax both indoors and outdoors.

7.  Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay California

The city of Monterey is located along the Pacific Coast approximately 120 miles south of San Francisco.  The city is known for its history of resident artists beginning in the late 1800′s as well as its famous fishing.  Day trips to Monterey and Carmel depart daily from San Francisco.  Once you are there, the Monterey Bay Aquarium should not be missed along with a walk through Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.  After seeing Monterey, be sure to visit Carmel-By-The-Sea, which is a quaint little town.  On my last visit, I really enjoyed a walk along the beach and a great dinner at The Hog’s Breath Inn, which is owned by Clint Eastwood.  The first time I ate there was in 1983, and the food keeps me coming back.  If you decide to drive on this excursion, I would also recommend that you include 17-Mile-Drive and Pebble Beach.

Cheap Flight Discounted hotels

8.  Haight Ashbury

Haight Ashbury

The Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco is named after the intersections of Haight and Ashbury Streets.  The area is most famous for its role as the center of the 1960′s hippie movement.  It is surrounded by Golden Gate Park on the West, the Golden Gate Park Panhandle on the North, Buena Vista Park to the East, and Ashbury Heights and Cole Valley neighborhoods to the South.  Today, the street is full of merchants with everything from thrift stores and clothing boutiques to toy stores and head shops.  There are also a variety of restaurants and bars along Haight Street including a personal favorite, El Balazo.  There are not many tours that visit Haight Ashbury due to the fact that street traffic and parking make the area difficult for large tour buses.  For this reason, jeep tours are the best way to enjoy city sightseeing without excluding this neighborhood.

9.  Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

A visit to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is a perfect way to spend a sunny day.  With over 1,000 acres of public grounds, this is an extremely large urban park.  There are many attractions to enjoy including the De Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Gardens,  the California Academy of Sciences, and the San Francisco Botanical Gardens to name a few.  On a recent trip to Stow Lake, we rented bikes and enjoyed a leisurely ride around the lake and park.  Rentals are available on site on an hourly basis and include helmets.  A picnic in the park is another fun suggestion with no shortage of great places to setup your spread.  If you plan in advance, there are barbeque grills and park benches that can be reserved through the city.

10.  Chinatown

San Francisco Chinatown

Chinatown in San Francisco is a truly unique place.  It is one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, as well as the oldest.  It is a huge tourist attraction, drawing more tourists per year than the Golden Gate Bridge.  There are a number of bus tours that incorporate Chinatown, but if you want to get a really good look, try one of the walking tours.  If you decide to explore on your own, there is a really interseting fortune cookie factory that should not be missed.  For food, I highly recommend Yee’s on Grant Street.  The food is delicious, and once you are on Grant Street, you can shop in all of the stores, bakeries, and unique markets.

So, that is my top ten.  There are so many other places that are worth visiting that I could easily fill a top 100.  A few highlights might include Ocean Beach and the Cliff House, the Mission and Dolores Park, Twin Peaks, the Marina, and the Presidio.  There is so much to do…


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