2013 Travel Guide

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Posted May 16, 2013 in Feature Story

Homebound

A staycation can be a death sentence of Internet and TV for anyone without imagination, even more so in the sweltering Inland Empire. But, truth be told, there’s a lot to do around here. Here are five typical staycations you can do around here, and the suggestions to get you started on your own local adventure.

By Joe Martone

Around the World in 80 Plates

We have so many good restaurants around here that it’s kind of ridiculous. Foodies and gourmands alike could die of happiness dining in the IE, where locales are allowed to be a little more creative and fun. It’s easier to browse our website and check out our old food reviews, but if you’re going to start anywhere you can bust up your palate with Pomona’s Curry Up and the Dragon Loco restaurant in Ontario. These hidden gems will blow your mind with their deliciousness and set you on the hunt for more.

Back to Nature

Turn off your phone and leave the laptop at home. Let’s face it: we’re plugged in all the time; we need to get away from the constant stream of meaningless updates and junk emails. Head out to Rancho to check out Sapphire Falls, both stunningly gorgeous and easily accessible. If you want something a little easier to navigate, try the UCR and Cal Poly Pomona campuses which feel like nature preserves that are close to civilization.

Getting Drunk

It’s the motto of every college student and affluent housewife: when in doubt, drink. Anyone looking to get more than a little tipsy has a veritable haven in the IE. For the classy drinker, Temecula is doing wine country tours with discounts available online. For the rest of us, the region is peppered with breweries for everyone’s delight. There are plenty around, but start with Chino Valley Brewery or the Inland Empire Brewing Co. to stay local. Feel free to explore (with a designated driver).

Active Body

Look at yourself, fretting about your weight and paying for a gym membership you don’t even use. Your body is not a chore or a problem, it‘s a part of you that deserves to get out and have fun. Walking through the nature choices is fine, but there are alternatives. Give your body a much needed adrenaline rush and check out some karting action at Pole Position in Corona. Hook yourself up to an awesome speedster and challenge your friends/boss/lover/pet to a race around the tracks. You can also cool down with a trip to the Icetown Rink in Riverside. Skating may not be a useful skill on the West Coast, but it makes for a great date and beats the heat.

Active Mind

Despite the heat wave, there’s no excuse for letting your brain fry up. The mind is a major muscle and you can’t waste it on TV shows and iPhone games. It’s easy to associate good culture with boredom, but there are fun places that expose this as faulty logic. The Candlelight Pavilion always has a great show running that will entertain, and

Redlands holds its annual Run Through Redlands race.

There’s always something fun to do in the IE. You just have to go out and find it!

Skimming the Surface of San Francisco

The city of San Francisco is filled with diverse people, but there are a few things that many share: a love for art, music, delicious healthy food and really good beer.  With the abundance of each, visitors who enjoy any of these things will think San Francisco is paradise.

On the West Coast, San Francisco is arguably the best U.S. city for modern art.  The venerable SFMOMA has an impressive collection of modern art from such luminaries as Mark Rothko, Marcel Duchamp, and Frida Kahlo.  The rotating shows are equally interesting—and don’t miss the rooftop bar with signature Mondrian-inspired Cakes and Blue Bottle Coffee. Get there quick: SFMOMA beginning renovations in June.  Their Artists Gallery in Fort Mason is also quite an enjoyable stop, though, and has the benefit of earning you indie points, since it’s less well known.

After all that art, you will need a drink.  Your San Franciscan hipster friends will sooner die than let you drink Coors.  For the best selection of craft beer and (more bonus points) local ownership, stop by City Beer.

At this point you’ll have tasted quite a few beers and be lugging around bottles of beers you had previously never heard of: you’re going to need something healthy to feel better.  You may have heard there is a lot of vegetarians/vegans in the Bay Area—but what you haven’t heard is the meat-free places here take it to another level.  Stop by any number of gourmet veg places in San Francisco and you’ll walk away stunned, as well as full and happy.  Try Source for pizza and delicious spinach artichoke dip, Millenium for fancy food, or Gracias Madre for a taste of The Mission—vegan style.

At this point you will have a bit more energy, but may not be up to walking across the Golden Gate Bridge like you had planned.  Browsing a few vintage records might be better, and Amoeba Records has just what you’re looking for—as well as live shows, CDs and DVDs.

This is a extremely lacking list: we haven’t touched on the amazing bookstores, great coffee, the galleries, parks, farmers markets, diners, bakeries . . . the list could go on and on.  However, if you want a typical San Franciscan end to the day, drive the steep streets up to Twin Peaks and look out over this gorgeous city you have just begun to explore. (Andrea Steedman)

Viva Las Veags

Although many travelers never get as far as the Fremont Street Experience when visiting ‘sin city,’ this best kept Vegas secret is well worth a look—and possibly a stay—the next time you do a Las Vegas getaway.

While “The Strip” receives most of the publicity with all its amusement park styled casino resorts, the Fremont Street Experience offers a fascinating and historic view of Nevada, mainly due to many regional firsts. For instance, it features the city’s first paved street (1925) and its Northern Club was actually the first Las Vegas casino to receive a gaming license. (And honestly, what would Las Vegas be without gambling)?

With that said, though, few people visit Las Vegas merely for history lessons. Fear not, friends. There are also plenty of eye-catching attractions within the Freemont Street Experience section. First and foremost, there is the Viva Vision Canopy, which is comprised of 12 million lights and 550,000 watts of concert quality sound. On any given night, this most unusual series of connected lights can be seen and heard playing rock videos, such as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s even better than your MTV, as it augments original videos with extra visual art for something you will never see on cable TV. Furthermore, whenever there are concerts going on at either of Fremont Street’s two outdoor stages, these performances are shown on overhead visual screens, so you can watch them while walking along the street.

The Freemont Experience sports a most unlikely mixture of old with the new. You can stay at the El Cortez, which is one of the oldest casino-hotel properties in Las Vegas, having continuously operated at the same Freemont Street location since 1941, or you may choose The D Las Vegas, which is a hip, contemporary-looking casino (especially among these mostly older styled buildings), which features half-dressed girls dancing on an outdoor bar whenever music is being played on the street.

Unlike the Las Vegas strip, a big portion of Freemont Street is closed off at night, which makes for a non-traffic-congested party atmosphere. There are also souvenir shops with some of the cheesiest kitschy items you can imagine (they’ll slap “Las Vegas” on anything!), as well as the Indian Arts and Crafts Store selling souvenirs of an entirely different nature.

Oh, and you can gamble there, too. But be forewarned: Some of the waitresses at these aged casinos look about as old as the buildings themselves. Nevertheless, if you’re tired of the Disney-fied Las Vegas of the strip, the Fremont Street Experience will show you and entirely different, vintage side of this tourist hotspot. (Dan MacIntosh)

Classic Americana

Like they always say, everything is bigger in Texas. Even though it is not the capital, Dallas is the centre region and epitome of the Southern experience. The city exudes a calm and hospitable environment for all to encounter. One can land into the mist of downtown Dallas living at the Love Field airport or at the DFW airport in a more suburban and central locale. Hotels such as the W Hotel and Dallas Marriott are great lodging accommodations for a lively and entertaining atmosphere. You can be planted within walking distance of historical landmarks, night life, shopping and fabulous food options.

For a less expensive stay, Holiday Inn or Embassy suites, off the 183 freeway, are good choices around the DFW airport. The international airport is about 15-20 minutes outside the downtown and happening areas of Dallas County. Since Dallas is not a heavy traffic city like, Los Angeles and New York, the public transportation rates are higher.  Cab fare can be up to $30 for traveling within 5 to 10 miles from an airport. Rental and bus rates are feasible. For most Texans, food takes precedence. Delicious eateries are any Texan’s first love.

Dallas is a great region to engulf the Cajun, Tex-Mex and traditional Southern food experience. The menus may seem overwhelming, but applicable for whatever food mood strikes you.

The most well known food-experience in Dallas is Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. Every plate will have a hefty and fulfilling taste of the South. Another recommended eatery location is Texas De Brazil with its lavish 50-60 item seasonal salad/appetizer bar and selective meats.  Other enticing places are Uncle Julio’s, Gators, Aww Shucks, Lucky’s, The Porch and Café Brazil to name a few. For a more vegetarian palette, Cosmic Café and Samar Cuisine are the best of the best. Once you are ready to take on the town, areas like West End District, North Park Galleria and Lower Greenville will have most of your shopping needs and unique finds.

Gettin’ Cheeky in Chi-town

Whether it’s art or athletics, most people favor one or the other. When choosing a vacation spot these can be influential factors. Well the good news is, Chicago has the best of both worlds. Although I am more of an art appreciator than sports fan, I noticed the prominent sports culture from the moment I touched down at O’Hare International Airport. Home to the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks—with over 16 championship titles between them all, Chicagoans celebrate their home town teams with pride.

The Loop district in downtown Chicago is the go to place for art, food, and a lively downtown atmosphere. Many of the city’s famous sites including the Sears Tower, Millennium Park, the Chicago Theatre, the Civic Opera House, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the historic Palmer House Hilton are in the Loop. Getting around Chicago is a breeze with the efficient transportation system, either (L) Train or Bus.

Whether you are visiting for a weekend or more, I recommend getting the three- or seven-day pass for unlimited on both transits systems for under $30. If you have a smart phone, you can download the Chicago Transit Authority app for the schedule and routes of whichever train or bus you may need!

Chicago is full of amazing museums, galleries and public artworks. It is easy to spend an entire day in The Art Institute of Chicago Museum. Directly north of the museum is one of the city’s iconic sites, Millennium Park. The park is a must-see with its amazing public sculptures Cloudgate (more commonly known as “The Bean”) and The

Crown Fountain. Three miles south of Millennium Park is Museum Campus which is home to the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum of Natural History, Alder Planetarium and Astrology Museum and Soldier Field. Other things to do or visit are Lurie Garden ice skating rink and the wonderful Frank Gehry architecture of the Pritzker Pavilion Theater.

A trip to Chicago cannot be complete without eating a Chicago style deep dish pizza. One of the best in town is Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. Grab your fork and knife to devour this mouth-watering pizza. Only be prepared to wait, as it takes 30 minutes to cook your pie to perfection. While waiting, I suggest trying Chicago’s own Goose Island Beer Company brew, I recommend the 312. Regardless of the weather conditions, there are many ways to enjoy this city’s greatness. (Juliana Rico)

As for unique recreational adventures go, Winetastic, Dallas Aquarium and the Dallas Museum of Art are all great spots to explore this bustling city before nightfall. Even though Dallas may be overlooked at times to visit, you would not be let down for a unique and inspired experience in a classic Americana city. (Davettia Hill)


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