Walking Guide of Historic Old Town Cottonwood, Arizona

Old Town Cottonwood, affectionately still known as Downtown or Main Street, is a little town with a lot to offer in the heart of Arizona.  Cottonwood is part of the Verde Valley, and close neighbor to the Ghost Town of Jerome and ever popular Sedona, each accessed from the 89A highway.
walking-guide-of-historic-old-town-cottonwood-arizona

Old Town is a few shorts blocks along Main Street, perfect for a few hours and up to a few days!

Come hungry!  Cottonwood is building a reputation for fantastic local restaurants, with new ones opening every time I visit!  The “new” bakery smelled divine and received glowing recommendations from everyone I spoke to in town. Continue reading “Walking Guide of Historic Old Town Cottonwood, Arizona”

One (Little Piggy Goes to) Market, San Francisco

Recently, my friend Jack was travelling for work and asked for restaurant recommendations in San Francisco.  Years ago, I spent considerable time there for work.  Based on the location of his hotel and the style food that he likes, I recommended One Market for a short walk and delicious dinner.  Here is Jack’s review of One Market.  Enjoy!  

I arrived at One Market in the Embarcadero District of downtown San Francisco at 6:45pm on a Thursday night and asked the hostess for a table for one.  She looked me up and down — fat man dining alone.   “I think we can squeeze you in, sir.”

2016 SF OM RoseI’d hoped for a half bottle of rose, but nobody ever sells rose in a half bottle.  I compromised and ordered a full bottle of 2014 Archery Summit Pinot Noir Rose from the Williamette Valley.  The color was almost ruby, with a full bodied (for a rose), dried fruit taste.  There was nothing sweet about this rose, and at that moment, I resigned myself to drinking the whole bottle.

The food menu was somewhat limited, with starters capturing my attention far more than entrees.  Of particular interest in the starters column were thinly sliced lamb tongue, a pan seared foie graas, grilled octopus, and ocean trout.  My waiter recommended the ocean trout with an enthusiasm that indicated that the item was either fantastic, or on its last day in the walk-in.  I decided to order the lamb tongue, grilled octopus, and ocean trout, foregoing the foie graas as I was unsure of the penalty for consuming it in the State of California.  The last thing I need is to be part of some weird televised foodie sting.

2016 SF OM AmuseBThe amuse bouche was a new potato puck topped with domestic monkfish caviar.  Whatever.  I was not all that amused. Continue reading “One (Little Piggy Goes to) Market, San Francisco”

South Mountain Park | Hiking in Central Phoenix, Arizona

Hiking is one of my favorite free activities in Phoenix.  Our desert valley is surrounded by mountains providing stunning views and wildlife.  South Mountain Park/Preserve in the heart of Phoenix is over 16,000 acres, approximately 20 times the size of New York’s Central Park, it is the largest municipal park in the country!  Now is the perfect time to Go Take a Hike!

South Mountain Park
South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park is easy access from anywhere in metro-Phoenix and offers trails for every level of athletic ability.  Horses, dogs, and mountain bikes are all welcome on the trails.

Desert Classic Trail
Desert Classic Trail

With nearly 60 miles of trails, I like to map out the hike before heading to a trail head.  Most trails are easily followed with metal signposts along the trail as a guide, and many of these were recently updated with trail name, QR code, elevation, and specific trail post information.  I always bring a hard copy trail map of the area I plan to be in.  A recent hike with friends was so beautiful we decided to add another couple miles to our hike, which was easily accomplished with a brief look at our trail map.south-mountain-park-map

 

 

There are at least 4 main parking lots, and many more parking areas near perimeter trail heads.2015_SM1There are excellent maps and detailed descriptions of trails provided by National Geographic at All Trails website.  Here is more information about the beautiful desert trails including petroglyphs and ruins.

Pima Canyon entrance from Guadalupe
Pima Canyon entrance from Guadalupe

Pima Canyon entrance is accessed from I-10 and Baseline road, just off of 48th street and Guadalupe.  This popular parking lot is usually packed with cars, and offers restrooms, water fountains, shaded benches, and areas for cooking/grilling.

Pima Canyon Gazebo
Pima Canyon Gazebo

 

Desert Foothills Parkway is a smaller parking lot located at the Southern tip of the park and offers shaded area, water fountains, and portable toilets.

Desert Foothills Parking and Gazebo
Desert Foothills Parking and Gazebo

 

 

Continue reading “South Mountain Park | Hiking in Central Phoenix, Arizona”

Orpheum Theater Phoenix | Arizona History and Architecture

Orpheum Theater
Orpheum Theater

My favorite, and the most luxurious theater in Phoenix is the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix.

Home to performances from the Phoenix Theater League, comedians, and high quality shows. Capacity is less than 1400 seats, which means there really are no bad seats.  Even mediocre views are easily avoided by skipping the last 10 rows lower level or last 5 rows on the balcony.Orpheum stage

Originally opened in 1929 in the Spanish Baroque architecture style, the 1997 restoration gave the theater amazing acoustics and modern lighting while keeping the Roaring 20’s class.  The theater itself is beautiful, with new details inside and out to be discovered during every visit.

Orpheum balcony seating from lower level
Orpheum lower level seating looking up to the balcony

The seat rows are a smidge close (not as much leg room as Phoenix Symphony Hall).  Seats on the interior aisle are a great option for taller people or anyone needing a little more room.

Orpheum lobbyBeverage bars serving wine, coffee, and light snacks are open before and during intermission for performances. The bathroom lines tend to be short and fast moving.  Every comfort is provided in the Orpheum.  The ground level lobby is small, venture downstairs to the lower level bar (not always open), large area for mingling, and restrooms.

Orpheum seating

Performances at the Orpheum are a great excuse for date night, family afternoon matinees, girls’ night out, and more.  Incorporate one of the nearby restaurants for the perfect dinner and a show event.

orpheum

Winter in NYC Tourist Highlights | Frugal and Fun Activities around New York City

New York City is a busy, loud bustle of activity and I love it!  Coming from the hot, dry desert, NYC is especially magical in the Winter.  I never stay as long as I want, nor do everything on my travel list, since NYC is so expensive.

Here are my favorite, and best value, activities for NYC in the winter.

First, the FREE stuff!

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Station – Officially known as Grand Central Terminal, this may be your first stop when arriving in NYC.  A major hub for trains, this busy station is a destination for most tourists.  Take a moment and look up at the elaborate astronomical ceiling in the Main Concourse, clocks, and sculptures throughout.

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center – Check out the world famous Christmas tree (perfect for selfies), golden sculpture of Prometheus, and Ice Skating rink.  Do not let the crowds scare you away, add people watching to your activities at the center.

Macy's Herald Square
Macy’s Herald Square

Department Store Window Display – Walk down 5th Ave and check out the Window displays starting at Bloomingdale’s (closer to 3rd Ave), and moving on to Barney’s, Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s Herald Square.  These are no ordinary displays!  Every year these stores create an impressive display of movement, animatronics, light shows, music, color, and imagination!

Empire State Building
Empire State Building view from Monarch bar in Herald Square

Empire State Building – Visible all along 5th Ave, the Empire State Building is best viewed from Herald Square, a perfect accompaniment to the Window Displays.   There are restaurants, shopping, and elevator rides to the observation decks (not free, not cheap, but a bucket list item for many people).

Central Park
Central Park

Central Park – Walk around and take in the NYC skyline view from the park.  Wear comfortable walking shoes to explore tip to tip of this impressive park.  Bundle up and check out all the spots featured in TV and Movies.  The best time to go is after fresh snowfall, it is simple stunning!

Times Square – No trip to NYC is complete without walking through Times Square. Known as the Crossroads of the World, so many activities will lead you to Times Square, in fact, it is difficult to visit NYC without passing through.

High Value Activities (do whatever your budget allows)

Radio City Music Hall view from the Mezzanine level
Radio City Music Hall view from the Mezzanine level

Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular – The best seats to see the entire show, and intricately choreographed Rockettes dancing, is from the First Mezzanine.  There are several shows per day, and the earliest and latest shows tend to be less expensive.  These tickets sell out fast, so buy your tickets as soon as possible.

Lion King Mask in Theater Lobby
Lion King Mask in Theater Lobby

 

Broadway Show – This is where travelling solo really has advantage, buying a single ticket is easier and you get better seating for one.  Check out show availability and prices, certain nights and showtimes are cheaper than others.  I scored 6th row center seats to Lion King for Thursday night, when Friday was completely sold out!

Lion King 6th Row
Lion King 6th Row

Russian Tea Room – Stop in for Breakfast, 3 course lunch, Pre & Post Theatre 3 Course Dinner, or between meal time for a drink (hot or cold, plus full bar).  The decor, ambiance, and amazing artwork is well worth the visit.

Russian Tea Room
Russian Tea Room

NYC Observation Decks – Rockefeller Center offers views at Top of The Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory all require (pricey) tickets to access the observation decks.  I paid to visit one observation deck years ago, now I try to book reservations at restaurants that are on high floors of skyscrapers.

winter-in-nycHotels, Food and Drink are more expensive than comparable cities throughout the US. Less expensive deals can be found, do your research and assume that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is in NYC.  Above all, take advantage of all the free and fabulous sights the city has to offer!

Want more?  Wanderlustingk has are even more tips for Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and holiday activity around New York!