A Weekend in San Diego

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This was my first time visiting both the state of California and the Pacific Ocean. I honestly never had any great desire to go to San Diego but I have a good friend from high school, Emily, who is living there now. I often thought about the trip I wanted to take to California and it included the Red Wood National Forest, Napa Valley, San Francisco and Monterey (for the world class whale watching). I didn’t want to go to south of there but after visiting San Diego, I’m so happy my friend moved there so I could experience it! So in this post I will lay out some of the things we saw, places we went, recommendations and what I didn’t like. Here we go 🙂

I flew into San Diego on Tuesday morning and was surprised how small that side of the airport was. Emily picked me up and the very first thing she did was warn me about the traffic and drivers….more on that later. We went downtown and struggled to find parking but finally got a spot (for a $20 fee) and went to the Café 222. Café 222 is a very popular breakfast joint in East Village and I see why! It doesn’t feel touristy at all (thankfully) and had a great variety of food on a manageable sized menu. I got the pumpkin waffle (…yes pumpkin in June, I’m so basic) and it was delicious!

Next we went walking down towards the Gaslamp district of downtown but since we were coming back there in a few days we didn’t stay long.

We saw Kansis City BBQ where the ‘Sleazy Bar Scene” in Top Gun was filmed and went into some shops across the street. One was an awesome local goods place easily named Simply Local with everything from clothes to jewelry to home décor to food items. I really think W Harbor Dr has everything. After that we walked over to the USS Midway Air Craft Carrier museum. USS Midway is an actual Naval aircraft carrier turned museum and has tons of things to see. You can go down into the engine rooms, brig, seamen quarters, main floor, flight deck (equip with tons of planes and helicopters) and up to the captains and air control rooms. Admission includes a self-guided tour with audio and can take up to 3 hours. There is a little café type restaurant there so no worries if you start getting hungry. And water fountains so buy that $3 bottle of water but then refill it as many times as you like. Admission is a bit steep at $20 in my opinion but active military get in free, retired military for $10 and students with ID for $15. Definitely worth the trip!

*PHOTO DUMP*

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San Diego, Kalifornien, USA, USS Midway Museum

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Right next to the USS Midway is the Kissing Sailor statue. Although it is swarming with tourists, go ahead and try to remake the pose 😛

Kissing Sailor

On our way home we picked up yummy cupcakes from Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes (who won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars)! They offer gluten free too if you think you need that.

The next day, we went to the Birch Aquarium (at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Deigo). Parking is free and admission prices were very reasonable. Before you go in, there is an awesome whale fountain that is definitely photo worthy. They had an awesome exhibit on seahorses and a huge Kelp Forest tank. Definitely makes you feel small. There’s lots of stuff for kids too but of course Emily and I were equally fascinated with the energy exhibits and tide pools (designed to entertain children lol). There’s also a pretty great view.

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After the aquarium, I was dying to hang on the real beach. I was reading about different beaches in the area and stumbled upon the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. It was originally an area designated for children to swim safely way back in the 1930’s because of the big seawall built to break waves. However, this also created the ideal area for another visitor…tons of harbor seals and sea lions! These days, swimming there is highly discouraged because the seals hang there on a daily basis. You can get so close to these guys from the beach (which of course is roped off for safety) and from up on the sea wall. Watching them was truly an experience. Definitely one of the best things I did in SD.

*ANOTHER PHOTO DUMP!*

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Thursday was a chill day since we were already planning on Downtown SD that evening. We went around to some of the shopping malls to find shoes for the event. Unfortunately we ended up losing much of the afternoon after witnessing a car accident and stopping to help….and then sticking around because the poor girl responsible was really freaked out and asked us to. Good citizen deed of the week. Hokay. We were originally planning on taking the Cruiser or Coaster train from Oceanside where Emily lives down to SD but we missed that opportunity and had to drive….I will complain about that later. Emily was dying to take me to The Shout House and I quickly figured out why she was so impatient. This place was awesome! We originally planned on bar hopping but couldn’t bring ourselves to leave after we got there! If you’ve never been to a dueling piano bar, you must go here. Make sure you order the Mac and Blue Balls for a snack and tip the pianists when you request songs. Definitely request the song “Lucille” and follow along with the ‘You bitch, you slut, you whore’ lol. *Disclaimer- don’t be a prude or a wimp here. There is language and there is a chance you will have to go on stage* Super fun!

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The next day we went surfing! Emily and her brother use a great woman named Heather for lessons but unfortunately she was having back problems. I was nervous about who was going to give us the surfing lesson for the day. But I couldn’t be more thrilled with our instructor. His name is Jucimar (I hope to god I’m spelling that right). He was so incredibly helpful, patient and just a naturally nice guy! He explained in very good detail what to expect and what to do and I popped up on my third wave. The lesson also included surfboard and wetsuit rental. I can say without a doubt that surfing is the most incredible thing I could have done in SD. I honestly didn’t think I would ever miss the ocean after I moved to Colorado but this has reignited my love for it. If you find yourself in the San Diego/Oceanside area, it would be a sin not to contact Heather and/or Juicmar. Here is Heather’s website under construction (Emily is about to start building her a new one!): http://www.learntosurfwithheather.com/

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My last day in SD was luckily a long one. My plane didn’t leave until 830pm so I still had time to explore. Emily took me to the main part of Oceanside. We saw the house where Charlie lived in the movie Top Gun (seriously, SD is obsessed with it). It’s fenced off but still very cool to see. I hope it sticks around and never gets demolished. Next we walked on the pier and near the water where we saw Jucimar again! After Oceanside we drove across the way to Carlsbad and walked around there. Lots of cool shops but my favorite thing in Carlsbad was this little section where a trailer named Choice Superfood Bar and Juice sits. The trailer itself was really cool selling juices, smoothies and even quinoa sushi. Around the trailer is the best faux turf I have ever seen and awesome picnic tables around trees. On the far wall (which makes this area impossible to miss) is an incredible painting of a robot “watering” these hanging succulent gardens made from pallets. Just so much to take in all at once!

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Emily loved Choice!

Restaurant suggestions: we did not eat out much because Emily is on a budget and a diet but we definitely recommend Café 222, The Local Taphouse in Oceanside, Ruby’s diner (not because the food is anything special from any other diner food but because it’s an experience) and Choice Superfood in Carlsbad. I plan to do a lot more eating out during my next visit.

BIGGEST TIP EVER!

There are 1.3 million people living in this city….and most of them are terrible drivers. I recommend ALWAYS leaving way, way early before you try to go anywhere. I also recommend taking the Coaster to avoid the interstate traffic (which pretty much is jammed 24 hours a day)

A Weekend in Nashville!

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It has been about 2 months since my trip to Las Vegas, which means it has been too long since I have had a weekend vacation. So I spent this past 4 day weekend of mine exploring Nashville! One of my best friends from college, Brandi, moved there in October and I finally found a long weekend deficient of plans or to-do lists so it was the perfect time to fly out there. This city of HUGE and you could spend a couple weeks there trying to see and do it all but not many of us get that luxury (and honestly, if I were to spend weeks anywhere it would be Europe!) But it is very possible to see and do a lot of awesome things during a weekend trip. Here is how I spent my little mini-vacation in Nashville complete with tips, tricks and recommendations.

The Parthenon

parthenon2Nashville is known as the Athens of the south. Therefore it only makes sense to build a complete replica of the Parthenon from Greece. In the heart of Centennial Park stands this full scale model built in the late 1800s. It’s amazing just walking around the outside and seeing the detail in the stone carvings but the inside is a museum ($7 admission for adults). The first floor has a lot of info and history on this model and the fair it was the centerpiece of. Theres also a few art exhibits on display throughout the first floor. The current main showcase is a series of Civil War wounded paintings by Dane Carder. Awesome paintings of real documented cases but not graphic, definitely check them out.

The second floor is the model we were all expecting, complete with a 40 something foot tall replica statue of Athena just like in the real Parthenon. Supposedly people in Ancient Greece thought their Parthenon was too gaudy/ flashy so they usually preferred to worship their wooden statues at home.

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**Warning: Parking is free but complicated. Most people park up on the grass on both sides of the road. I recommend if you have a car or low vehicle you do not try to hop the curb. They are much higher and more oddly angled than they look. Cars definitely have a rough (and possibly damaging) time trying to get on and off of these areas. My friend and her car are troopers, but they got lucky haha

OpryLand Hotel

In a perfect world, I would have seen a show at the Grand Ole Opry but not everything is always attainable. However, it is extremely easy and definitely necessary to take a walk through the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel. This hotel, connected to a convention center, felt so Disney to me because of its elaborate décor, 17 restaurant options, many gift shops and HUGE atrium complete with an indoor river and many waterfalls. It is ridiculously expensive to stay in this resort but it is completely FREE to walk around. The atrium alone takes at least an hour to walk through, not including stops through the many shops, candy stores or attractions (such as a riverboat ride). Some tips and recommendations:

  • Park at the Opryland mall and walk over to the hotel. It is not a long walk by any means, 5 minutes or so, and you don’t have to cross any streets. Doing this will save you the hassle (and heartache) of paying over $20 to self-park at the hotel.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. The atrium is amazing to walk through and you should definitely do it! But I underestimated how much walking it would take to get through the atrium to restaurants and shops and back through. Luckily there are many places to sit and take a breather.
  • Be aware that a lot of the restaurants are not open during lunch. We originally wanted to go to the Irish pub but it did not open until 5pm, so we went across the hallway to the Jack Daniels Restaurant. It was delicious and I definitely recommend trying the brisket and the bbq sauce they keep on the table! Also be aware of your dining options. After eating at JD’s, we walked through another part of the atrium and found a sushi place right next to the indoor river which we slightly wished we ate at instead.jack

Downtown Nashville

The main strip of Broadway!

The main strip of Broadway!

Downtown Nashville is a MUST no matter how much or how little time you have in town. You must go check out Broadway where it seems all the main buzz is. Go in the touristy shops, bar hop and definitely stick around for some live bands which are in basically any bar you choose. We walked through some shops and went past a few bars listening to the various singers before we decided on the Tin Roof. There we ate, drank and watched 2 amazing bands.

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Some tips and recommendations:

  • I recommend parking in one of the parking garages. You may have to walk 5 more minutes but they’re a little easier to get in and out of than the scattered parking lots and usually cheaper. Definitely opt to buy more time than you think you’ll need though. We were originally planning to just walk around and then leave so we paid for 4 hours at $10. We ended up going back and buying 4 more hours because we wanted to stay longer. So we paid $20 for 8 hours when we could have just bought 8 hours in the beginning for $12.
  • If you don’t like crowds but still want to see some musicians, hang around from about 4pm until 7 or 8pm.
  • Take a minute to learn about some history. Downtown Nashville is mostly old historic buildings with tons of character and plaques to prove their age. One of the coolest historical stops we made was in the Hard Rock Café gift shop on the corner of Broadway and 2nd This building used to be the Silver Dollar Saloon and, even though that bar has moved a few buildings down, this building still has a good bit of the original floors from the late 1800’s. The lady in the store told us the story of how the Silver Dollar’s owner was so rich, he put hundreds of real silver dollars in the floor for decoration and would shoot people that tried to take them.
  • Get your fortune told by Elvis and then keep your eye open on the streets for one of the many Elvis impersonators.
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12South

12 South is one of the self-proclaimed “hipster neighborhoods” in Nashville and it is awesome! Full of that college town vibe, the 12 South neighborhood is home to lots of unique restaurants, coffee houses and little stores. Some recommendations:

  • Burger Up: This little restaurant/bar boasts artisan burgers, truffle fries and craft beers.
  • The Frothy Monkey Coffeehouse: There are tons of awesome coffee joints in Nashville but how could we pass up a placed named the ‘FROTHY MONKEY’? It doesn’t strike me as a quiet coffee shack to do schoolwork considering it was after 11am and still packed with people BUT the staff is incredibly friendly and the coffee is great.Frothymonkey
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  • White’s Mercantile: This old service station turned eclectic boutique shop is home to lots of really cool items that, even though the average person couldn’t afford, is still a lot of fun to see. Lots of great gift ideas for anyone and everyone. Women’s jewelry and clothes to mens grooming supplies to pet supplies to home décor.Whites
  • Sloco: We did not have the time (nor empty enough bellies) to go into Sloco but as an avid Food Network fan, I couldn’t help but be amazed that a Chopped winner’s restaurant was right in front of me! Sloco does fast gourmet sandwiches with the mindset of going organic and eating local. They also donate 5% of all profits to community food advocates.

East Nashville

East Nashville is the largest of the “hipster neighborhoods”, spanning three zip codes. It is not as easily walkable as the one street of 12South, but still is worth going to and most things are right next to one another! The old houses in this area are also really neat to look at. Many of the have funky décor and modifications. This artsy fence definitely caught my attention.

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Some other recommendations:

  • The Groove: This is an adorable new and used vinyl and CD’s shop. This place is pretty well hidden, located on the corner of Gallatin Ave and Calvin Ave. But if you stumble upon it, you should definitely go in whether you’re a fan of old vinyl records or not. HINT- the 99cent stack had a lot of awesome options and you get 15% off on Mondays.groove
  • Barista Parlor: This is supposedly the best coffee shop in all of Nashville. We had just left the Frothy Monkey in 12South and we did not want to jitter through the rest of the day by having another latte BUT we did walk in there. The rich aroma was incredible and the atmosphere was so chill and open. All their furniture is reclaimed wood and the light fixtures have an industrial design. And if coffee doesn’t do it for you, they sell tons of unique chocolate bars made with cocoas from around the world.

    Amazing graffiti behind the wall of Barista Parlor

    Amazing graffiti behind the wall of Barista Parlor

  • Fuselage Design: I had an extremely difficult time exhibiting self-control and not buying everything in this funky store. And literally everything, because even much of the furniture the merchandise sits on was for sale too. They had lots of reclaimed metal décor and marquee lights, clothes, shelf décor/trinkets, handmade recycled jewelry, local handmade soaps, etc. What I thought was incredible is that the owner, Anna Cox, builds things out of scrap airplanes. She has an in with a guy who lets her salvage old aircraft before they get broken down and turned into soda cans. The checkout counter, several chairs and many tables holding merchandise were made out of old airplane wings. She will even make you custom pieces. Definitely take a walk through this store.
  • Mas Tacos Por Favor: The locals rave about this place and it was also featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network. And let me tell you….it is a dumpy looking little joint. As you walk up to the building you’ll ask yourself “Am I in the right place? This can’t be what everyone is talking about.” Oh but it is! Walk inside and you’re greeted by chill music and funky décor but best of all….AMAZING food! They offer 5 to 6 all homemade, artisan tacos at $3 each. We got the sweet potato and quinoa taco and the skillet chicken with verde sauce taco as well as a side of fried plantains (also $3 and better than any I’ve ever had). Everyone around us kept ordering one of the soups which made me want to try some (also super cheap) but I did not have enough room in my belly. Someone get soup and let me know how it was!Mas Tacos

It was a great weekend in Nashville and we saw a lot! I do have some things left on the list to do and see for the next time I visit Brandi but I don’t think I could have spent my weekend vacation any better!

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW IF YOU HAVE ANY TIPS OR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A WEEKEND IN NASHVILLE! 🙂 Or if you have a recommendation on where I should go for my next weekend vacation, leave that below as well!

Before I go…..*Extra Photo Dump*

Brandi and I in front of the Parthenon

Brandi and I in front of the Parthenon

The inside of Mas Tacos

The inside of Mas Tacos

These amazing little stickers/paintings were all over 12South

These amazing little stickers/paintings were all over 12South

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And lastly, I have missed Publix so much since moving out west and I was SO EXCITED to go into one haha

And lastly, I have missed Publix so much since moving out west and I was SO EXCITED to go into one haha