Tempe, Arizona is home to Arizona State University and located in the heart of the Valley of the Sun. I am no stranger to Tempe, graduating from both high school and University. Many years later, I am back to walk down memory lane and explore my hometown. Tempe is no longer just a college town in the shadow of Phoenix and Scottsdale, this little town has grown up! Offering an amazing variety of excellent independent restaurants, shops, and activities, Tempe is a wonderful blend of modern and hip fitting along the rich history of the town.
Visiting twice in the last two months, I have discovered some new and wonderful activities and am reminded of the spots that are better than ever. Here are my recommendations for the Best of Downtown Tempe Activites, Shopping, and Dining.Continue reading Best of Downtown Tempe, Arizona→
The Humacao Natural Reserve is located on the East Coast of Puerto Rico near the community of Palmas del Mar. Behind the small unassuming entrance awaits big adventure exploring the lagoons, swamps, and wetlands. The walking and bike trails are well maintained throughout the reserve. Kayakers can enjoy the calm lagoon waters in a secluded section of the reserve. Fishing is a common sight from the bridges and docks. There are multiple floating docks along the lagoons for fishing and unobstructed views over the lagoon water. The majority of the natural reserve is shaded by the lush foliage making it a pleasant destination year round. Continue reading Humacao Natural Reserve→
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 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 – 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.
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 – 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 – 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 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.
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!
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.
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.
Hotels, 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!
Earlier this week we attended the Rush 40th anniversary concert at US Airways center arena in downtown Phoenix. Not wanting to miss a moment of the show, we called our Uber car and arrived almost 2 hours early. Our plan was to avoid traffic, and get a light snack & beverages at Cityscape before the show, since we had plenty of time. Great plan, except that every lounge and bar was packed! We could see the bar at the Blue Hound, but it was so crowded with people it was impossible to order a drink.
Feeling frustrated and claustrophobic, we wandered toward Central Avenue and discovered the most delightful cocktail lounge. Bitter & Twisted is deceptively simple on the outside, and a wonder on the inside. Reclaimed red brick from Chicago and a massive bar, complete with old-tyme bar stools, greeted us on entry. There are luxurious golden upholstered booths along the outer wall and a stunning wall canvas. The atmosphere is glorious! There were only a few people, which we later learned is because B&T opened on their normal day off to serve the concert-goers (thank you, thank you!).
The drinks are exquisite. Each one is poured with skill and attention to detail. Average drink price was $12 and took a couple minutes to make – worth it. We ordered cocktails exclusively, but they do serve wine and other beverages. I shared the Fish & Chips with my friend, and it was the best that I have had in Phoenix! Next time I will not eat before going, so that I can try more menu items.
B&T are self-proclaimed “Purveyors of fine cocktails, spirits, and good times” and that is the honest truth. We had such a nice time before the concert that we all met back at B&T for a post-concert beverage before calling our car to take us home. Traffic and crowds were overwhelming after the concert, so it was a strategic withdrawal to B&T.
The bartenders are funny, charming and talented. Explaining each drink ingredient when we asked, and offering dead-on suggestions for the next delicious beverage to try. The staff is clearly having a good time, and they ensure that everyone around them has a pleasant evening, as well. The bartenders were telling us about the New Year’s Eve party, and a few other events that we need to attend. Turns out, B&T hosted a fabulous Villain’s Ball during Comicon – I missed out!
B&T is located at Central & Jefferson, close to US Airways arena, the Phoenix Symphony, Phoenix convention center, and many downtown events. Bitter & Twisted is my new top pick for Downtown refreshments!