Hotel Solamar Downtown San Diego

Hotel Solamar Downtown San Diego

Sleep Tight (and Bring Your Dog!!) to Hotel Solamar in Downtown San Diego

“Chilling out on the bed in your hotel room watching television, while wearing your own pajamas, is sometimes the best part of a vacation.” – Laura Marano

Hotel Solamar view

My fiancé Patrick and I love downtown San Diego. There is something about the area that we are just so attracted to. Maybe it’s the convenience of jumping in our car in North county and heading down for a night of fun. Maybe it’s the hustle and bustle of businessmen and ladies heading to their offices. Maybe it’s the welcoming fitness and health community sprinkled through the streets. Whatever it is, we love spending time downtown. We have stayed a bit too long some nights, causing us to “crash” at a nearby hotel, and some of the locations we have chosen haven’t been the best experiences. (Ah hem, like last year on my birthday when we reserved a room at a hotel downtown, dropped off our car to the hotel valet, ran straight out to celebrate, and came back a few hours later to find that they were booked and gave our room to someone else, even after valet had taken our car in!) Booking a room downtown is a guessing game; you never really know what to expect. (Although we do like Andaz Hotel and  Hard Rock Hotel, here’s why!) But, the other night, we decided to book a staycation at Hotel Solamar while the kids were away on winter break, and it was nothing like our past experiences. It was DELIGHTFUL!

Hotel Solamar

We booked at room at Hotel Solamar online through their easy-to-use website. We chose this hotel because we had never stayed there before, and we were excited to experience something new. The rooms looked spacious, clean and comfortable, and the hotel is close to all of the downtown fun: Petco Park, the convention center, and all of the bars and clubs that we like to go to. They also have a gym in the hotel with cardio and weight training equipment.

Hotel Solamar gym

Hotel Solamar has large conference rooms available for meetings, and a coffee/tea bar in the morning. We packed up, and drove the 27 minutes down I-5 from our home to Hotel Solamar. When we pulled up to the hotel, it was easy to see the area to pull into for valet. They helped get our luggage out of the car as we headed to check-in inside.

Hotel Solamar

The lobby was warm and welcoming and I was thrilled to be starting this staycation! I couldn’t wait to get up to the room, put my bags down and finally relax! We checked in quickly and the staff was very friendly and helpful. They mentioned that the hotel is dog friendly, which almost made me wonder if we should’ve brought our two Labradoodles with us, but after thinking about it a bit more, I was glad we left them with a dog sitter. I wanted to take full advantage of this night away from home, my one chance to sleep in!

Hotel Solamar lobby

Hotel Solamar lobby

We took the elevator to the room, and smiled ear to ear as we walked in. The room had great views of the entertaining downtown streets, and the jacuzzi tub in the suite we reserved was over 3 feet deep! I was in hotel heaven! I took a long quiet bath, and then Patrick and I headed out on the town!

Hotel Solamar view

Hotel Solamar suite

Hotel Solamar suite

Hotel Solamar suite

For dinner downtown, we recommend Greystone, Bice, Kettner Exchange, and Juniper & Ivy. If you’re looking for steaks you can find Donovans (also in La Jolla), Morton’s and Flemings downtown, and if you’re looking for something a little fun and different, head to Dick’s Last Resort! If you’re staying at Hotel Solamar you can always head downstairs to their restaurant JSix and have breakfast, lunch or dinner there.

Hotel Solamar JSix

A few of our favorite spots to go for drinks or a full night of fun are Sidebar, BangBang, RoofTop600 (at the Andaz Hotel), Flux and Omnia. San Diego is also wonderful because after you leave whichever fun place (or places) you decide to go, you can get a ride in a Pedicab, which is a bicycle taxi, back to your hotel. The Pedicab drivers are always biking all around downtown, and they usually have bright colorful lights on their Pedicabs as well, so they are easy to spot! Patrick and I had a ton of fun, and the window coverings on the Hotel Solamar windows kept the sun out the next morning until we were ready to wake up. Perfect!

Hotel Solamar JSix

After we ate breakfast at The Broken Yolk (only 1 block away from Hotel Solamar!) I immediately asked the hotel if I could book an appointment at their spa for that afternoon. Their spa, Nature’s Spa by Jurlique is about 6 blocks away, at their sister hotel, Hotel Palomar, and I was happy to book an appointment for a 60-minute massage. I walked less than 15 minutes down the street and headed inside.

Hotel Solamar spa

Right away I felt wonderful, as the calming ambiance relaxed my tense muscles. I spent time in the lounge before my massage drinking tea and feeling incredibly blessed. I was so happy to have found a cute, fun hotel downtown that my fiancé and I could come stay at anytime we needed a mini-break from home. The masseuse who treated me was wonderful, and the service was very professional. I almost wanted to stay and book all of their services, nails, facial, the whole 9-yards.

Hotel Solamar spa

Hotel Solamar spa

As I walked back to the hotel I couldn’t help but think about what a fun night it had been. San Diego is such a fun city, and downtown really brings out that wild, adventurous attitude in all of us. Patrick and I loved spending our time at Hotel Solamar, as it really made the whole day and night in San Diego an enjoyable and pleasant time.

Hotel Solamar

If you’re looking for a hotel downtown that is pet friendly, has great service (and I mean it, I’ve been to hotels with terrible service) and a friendly staff, make sure to keep Hotel Solamar in mind. It is in a ultra-convenient location for just about everything there is to do downtown. We will be back soon, and we cannot wait until then!

*This is a sponsored post.*

Love Comic-Con? Add Flashbang to Your Reading List

Love Comic-Con? Add Flashbang to Your Reading List

Comic-Con Fanatics Will Love This Science Fiction Book Series Written by Rorie Still

“Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on.” -David Brin

san diego comic con book

I recently began reading more often before heading to bed, so I’m always looking for new genres and books to read. I came across author Rorie Alexis Still and her book Flashbang: Sci-Fi Stories That Will Blow Your Mind! and immediately reached out to talk with her. She told me that Flashbang is a mind trip, and takes you on a wild ride through other worlds, while still allowing for fun in the cool breeze sun. For the permanent residents of San Diego who may never have been to the East Coast, but want to experience it, she said that Flashbang gives a taste of the historical city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania through casual mentions of important places. I was very intrigued and wanted to know even more.

I know San Diegans would LOVE this book.

San Diego, California has been the home of Comic-Con, the largest convention of its kind, for the last forty-six years. Comic-Con International was started by a group of San Diegans, and is the premier gathering for everything fantasy and science fiction. Even though I am not a huge science fiction reader, after talking to Rorie, I immediately thought of the San Diegan’s I know that would most likely LOVE her book. Comic-Con fanatics have a deep love for the weird and wondrous, as evident by the grand celebration of Comic-Con each year!

san diego comic con book

But why write science fiction?

I confessed to her that I do not read many science fiction books, and asked her why she decided to write science fiction. She explained, “Flashbang: Sci-Fi Stories That Will Blow Your Mind!, like all science fiction stories, is a both a beautiful vehicle for escapism, and a mouthpiece for the current times. I believe that right now, Trump’s America presents a frightening challenge to all the positive American ideals for which so many have fought and died to obtain. What is very self-evident, however, is that many people are still fighting to keep many of these ideas of truth and justice a reality. Sometimes we will win, and sometimes we will lose. However, any fight for good is usually long fought. Flashbang is just like that, different pieces of a long fought war, or dance that happens in sixty-five pages.” What an incredible point of view. Her thoughts on science fiction stories made me immediately want to order this book online.

san diego comic con book

How can I relate to the characters in a science fiction story?

I explained to Rorie that I was unsure how I would truly be able to relate to the characters in her book. I asked if the characters had any real life similarities. She explained, “For its characters, and their fantastically real lives, (because isn’t that real life anyway), this story is about trying to have hope in hopeless times, whether that hope appears to payoff for the protagonist or not. Some of characters are quite familiar. One of these is the Cover Bear, Teddy Ninja, grasping a bloody katana, and branded with a matching handprint. His story is one of finding yourself inside your enemy’s soul. What do we do when our hater is leading the team? Perhaps you can find yourself in Izzainyah and Matthew’s predicament throughout their three stories. They are normal people whose lives are shattered by the gift of flight. How often does a blessing come into our lives dressed as a curse or sudden unwanted change? Perhaps most familiar might be a girl named Tip, who loses her hero to hypocrisy. She learns that life is not often what it seems, but what you make of it instead. Yes, Flashbang’s characters are quite lively and very real.”

san diego comic con book

Is Flashbang a collection of similar stories?

I loved the idea of different characters going through different issues and challenges. But were all the stories the same I wondered? Rorie said, Flashbang is a self-anthology whose stories range from a comedic anti-bullying narrative to a somber haiku to a prosaic stranger-danger tale, all in strikingly vivid detail. In each of these stories, these everyday people are searching for something after having a very rough and weird day. Be it a sense of peace, confidence, freedom, each of these diverse characters need something desperately. Will they get what they want? You’ll have to read and find out!” Pretty intense right?

What was the motivation to write Flashbang?

I love the passion and excitement that Rorie has when explaining her book and how science fiction books can intertwine into anyone’s life. But, what inspired her to write this powerful book? She answered, “My inspiration was the simple fact that I wanted to write a book to completion. I have always had a fascination with fantasy, science fiction, and horror concepts. This interesting mix of genres, also known as speculative fiction, is the main genre in which I wrote this story, and still write in today.

One of the stories I wrote was “Taking Wing”, which I first introduced to the public through a speculative fiction writing contest and segment, “Octavia City”, hosted by The Black Tribbles podcast on G-Town Radio. This story became the seed from which, Flashbang, grew. During this phenomenal opportunity, I met Jason Richardson, head of J1 Studios. He offered me the opportunity to sell Taking Wing, plus a few other stories, at his J1 Studios convention, J1-Con. I then realized a grouping of stories was a short story collection! So, I pursued this path, until I had the paperback that currently has a comfortable home on Amazon.com!”

san diego comic con book

How does it feel to be a published author?

I was so inspired by her motivation to write, and publish her own series of stories. I was ready to go order the book online, but wanted to know her thoughts on “traditional publishing.” Her thoughts: “In the case of publishing, which I did through Createspace, I didn’t think to even try to go the traditional route. I am pursuing that now, for my first novel. However, for my first publication I just wanted to be able to get Flashbang in readers’ hands as quickly as possible. Although I was learning by doing, I had a sense that self-publishing was the best way to achieve this goal.”

This book really WILL blow my mind.

I couldn’t wait to get ahold of this book, and appreciate the work that this incredible author put in to make this story a success. Rorie’s final thoughts: “Based on peaceful escapism, written rebellion, undercover historical education, and San Diego’s immense enjoyment of science fiction and fantasy, Flashbang: Sci-Fi Stories That Will Blow Your Mind! will be just what the surf and turf San Diegans ordered!” If you’re inspired and intrigued by this series of science fiction stories, purchase a copy today on Amazon.com and comment here to let Rorie know what you think.

Top 10 Places to Visit Within Kimball Junction in Park City, Utah

Top 10 Places to Visit Within Kimball Junction in Park City, Utah

Newpark Town Center, Redstone, and Tanger Outlet Make Up One Great Area in Park City

“I enjoyed my time in Utah. It was a different area to what I was used to. The people there were very nice and it was a great organization and city. I have only good things to say about Utah.” -John Starks

Kimball Junction Park City Utah

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/aaronjohnd

There is an area tucked away from the busy Main Street in Park City, Utah. This magical area, just minutes from Park City Mountain, (where they have the best ski school for kids, read all about it here) is called Kimball Junction, and is well-known spot for locals and visitors to have some fun and grab lunch, dinner or drinks with friends or family! Kimball Junction is comprised of three mini areas, Newpark Town Center, Redstone, and Tanger Outlet area. All within a minute or two of each other, these three areas make up one unique Park City experience. Here are our top 10 places to visit within Kimball Junction:

1. Newpark Town Center is one area of Kimball Junction that offers a lot to do, see and taste, including Maxwell’s. Maxwell’s is a pizzeria that also serves pasta, sandwiches and other delicious meal items. Maxwell’s includes a full bar and is one of Kimball Junction’s most popular restaurants. Their chocolate chip/peanut butter pizza-cookie that is offered for dessert is delicious and HUGE, so make sure not to order more than one unless you have a ton of people with you. Our family has seven people, and this one dessert fed us all!

Cafe Rio Park City

2. Cafe Rio is just a few doors down from Maxwell’s. (Check out this interactive map of nearby businesses.) Cafe Rio provides the most delicious Mexican food I have ever had anywhere! This restaurant prides itself on fresh, delicious ingredients, and I support them 100%! They make their tortillas right there in the restaurant, and heat them up on a Comal, (or what they describe as a “magic tortilla spinner”) before serving them to you. The Barbacoa Pork I suspect is the most popular meat on the menu, as I always here people talking about it, and I order it every time myself.

3. Jupiter Bowl is a bowling alley in Newpark Town Center that provides families with hours of entertainment and fun! We love to go to Jupiter Bowl and have some snack foods while we enjoy quality time together. Prices are very reasonable here, and there is rarely a wait for lanes, so no need to call ahead.

Kimball Junction Park City Utah

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/ClementsBauer

4. Redstone is a business and shopping complex in Kimball Junction that has unique personality and vivacity. Check out all it has to offer here and make sure to plan some time in your day to shop around many of these local boutiques and eateries.

5. Redstone 8 is a cinema located in Redstone that’s always alive with the most recent feature films. Grab your family and head to a movie here after eating next door at RedRock Brewing Company.

6. RedRock Brewing, next to Cold Stone Creamery and Redstone Cinema, offers sliders, wings, pizza, sandwiches and more! They also have craft beer, which is gaining more and more popularity in Park City!

Kimball Junction Park City

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/Tiernk

7. If you’re renting a vacation house in Park City, you’ll most likely need to go grocery shopping. This is made easy in Kimball Junction as there is a Smiths and Whole Foods! Both are located close to each other so you’re sure to be able to get everything you need to make delicious meals at your home away from home!

8. Kimball Junction also includes a Jimmy Johns which is a quick and easy sandwich shop. They have locations all over the U.S., but their sandwiches are made fast, and they are extremely fresh and delicious. Grab something from there quick on your way to ski the mountains all day!

Loco Lizard Cantina Park City

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/LocoLizardPC

9. Loco Lizard Cantina offers Mexican food in more of an official, sit-down setting than Cafe Rio! If you’re looking for somewhere to have lunch before or after shopping at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Kimball Junction, consider this great restaurant that’s just across the road.

10. The Tanger Outlet Mall, is about 2 minutes from Newpark Boulevard (where Maxwell’s and Cafe Rio is) and offers wonderful shopping. With stores such as J. Crew, Coach, Rue 21, Talbots, Volcom and more, you’re sure to find a store that suits your shopping needs. See the full store directory here.

Park City Mountain Resort

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/PCSki

There are so many great places in Kimball Junction, I have just scratched the surface in this article, but I wanted you to get a good feel of what is available in Park City, outside of the typical Main Street experience. If you’re skiing at Park City Mountain or just looking for a new adventure in town, you may want to stop in the Kimball Junction area to have a bite to eat or enjoy some time with friends and family. Have you been to Kimball Junction? Where is your favorite place to go? Let us know!

Top 10 Skiing and Snowboarding Destinations from San Diego

Top 10 Skiing and Snowboarding Destinations from San Diego

The Best Places to Ski If You Live in San Diego

“For me, skiing is a necessity. I have a need for risk.” -Jean-Marie Messier

It’s getting to be that time of year again when the weather gets cold and the snow starts to fall.   Not in San Diego, of course, where it is sunny and 72°F pretty much year around.  However, in my experience, snow skiing and snowboarding are two of the most fun winter activities for San Diegans, at least for many that I know.  I have lived in California for almost 30 years now.  I’ve lived in OC twice, LA twice, SF once, and now San Diego for the last 14 years.  Of all of these, despite all of San Diego’s amazingness, it has the worst access to world class skiing of all four.  However, it still isn’t too bad, and after living here for a while now, I have some experience of what is best based on a combination of access, cost, luxury, nightlife, and world class skiing, of course.  Here are my top 10 ski destinations if you live in San Diego:

Park City Skiing

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/PCSki

(1) Park City, Utah

Once you get used to the liquor laws in Utah, this is absolutely the best skiing and snowboard destination for San Diego residents.  Both Delta and Southwest Airlines fly direct from San Diego to Salt Lake City, UT.  It is about an hour and thirty minute flight, and a 45 minute drive on an interstate highway that rarely closes or gets significant delays, even with massive snow.

The snow in Utah is usually dry and powdery, and the temperature is typically not blistering cold.  From Park City, you have immediate access to Deer Valley Resort (skiing only) and Park City Mountain Resort (a new mega ski resort that combined Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort).  Park City Mountain offers a ski school for the kids that is a great experience. (Check out the full story on kid’s ski school here.)  If you drive an hour to Cottonwood Canyon on the SLC side of the mountains, you can ski Snowbird, Alta (skiing only), Solitude, and Brighton.  If you drive 90 minutes north of Park City, you get to Snowbasin and Powder Mountain.  For my family, now that Park City is a mega resort, we rarely ski anywhere else, but do go to Deer Valley occasionally to avoid snow boarders.  Park City Resort is now owned by Vail Resorts, which owns an operates several major ski resorts on my top 10 list, and if you are a mega skier, you can get their Epic Pass, which is a season pass to ski all of their resorts.

Park City has a super quaint downtown with several terrific restaurants and quite a few bars and clubs, so the nightlife if really good.  There are also half a dozen world class hotels including St. Regus, Montage, Stein Ericsson, Waldorf Astoria, and Ritz Carlton.

I love Park City so much that I bought a vacation home there a few years ago, and it is an amazing place in the summer as well.  I sold my place, and now we just rent a home there when we visit since I have such a big family.  We can usually find good deals on VRBO, and I hear that Airbnb is pretty good as well.

If you are looking for one place to ski and snowboard that will be super fun for you and your whole family, you can stop right here.

mammoth mountain

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/MammothMountain

(2) Mammoth Lakes, CA

Mammoth Mountain and nearby June Mountain are great ski resorts right here in California.  If you don’t like to fly and you don’t mind an eight-hour drive, much of which is on a two lane highway 395, this is a wonderful ski resort.  Mammoth as the name implies is a gigantic mountain.  Although the snow is not as good as Utah, it is really good in the middle of winter.  It is in the Eastern High Sierras, so it has a higher elevation than Tahoe, which makes the snow much better and more consistent.  They have good snow making equipment, but not as good as Deer Valley or Park City Resort.  This is purely a ski destination, and there isn’t as much nightlife here or vary many great restaurants.  When I lived in LA, this was the place to go skiing because of the easy access.  It actually isn’t even a bad drive from Orange County.  San Diego is just a bit further, which makes this a bit less convenient.  There are fights to Mammoth, but the schedules can be inconsistent, since planes get grounded for high winds pretty frequently.  A few years back, we went skiing in Mammoth and took a fight.  We were scheduled to return on New Year’s Eve day.  Our fight was cancelled due to wind.  My kids were pretty ticked, and it was a bummer for me as well. That being said, it is still the second best ski resort for San Diegans.

lake tahoe

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/MountainVibez

(3) Lake Tahoe, NV

Lake Tahoe is the primary ski destination for people that live in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.  It is a four-hour drive from SF, and the skiing and resorts are really good.  The snow can be a little inconsistent, so it is important to monitor the ski reports and be willing to travel last minute to get the best snow.  From San Diego, there are direct flight into Reno, which I recommend versus the Tahoe airport.  Reno is a lot more consistent.  It is about an hour drive from Reno to South Lake Tahoe, where Heavenly Resort is located, but there can be long delays on the road if weather is bad.  There are also a number of really good Las Vegas style casinos in South Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side of the boarder.  It makes this a really fun spot for nightlife and skiing.

There are quite a few really good resorts in the Tahoe area including Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Homewood, Diamond Peak, Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood and Northstar.  I personally like staying in South Lake Tahoe for access to the casinos, but I have a bunch of friends that like to stay in North Lake or Trukee, CA, which is more mellow.  There are some great hotel resorts there as well.

One year, I just stayed at one of the casinos in Reno, which was super cheap.  I took a bus to ski everyday, which included the cost of my lift ticket.  There was a bus that went direct to Squaw Valley, and it was a great trip if you are alone or with a bunch of guys.  It would have been a lot tougher with the kids on that trip.

aspen colorado

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/MyLuxuryFeed

(4) Aspen, CO

Aspen is the cream de la cream of ski resorts and towns.  It can be a bit pretentious for my taste, but you can find down-to-earth people anywhere if you look hard enough.  For those of you that remember Bernie Madoff, and his Ponzi scheme scandal, the saying in Aspen was “the millionaires are pushing out the Madoff billionaires.”  For years the billionaires were pushing out the millionaires in Aspen.

In the winter, there is a daily direct flight from San Diego to Aspen, which is really nice.  My main complaint with the other Colorado resorts is access, and Aspen is different. Although some of the others are wonderful ski destinations, they just aren’t the best if you live in San Diego, relative to other options.

I think the best time to go to Aspen for a super fun time is the Winter X-Games.  This is typically the week after the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Jacksonhole Wyoming

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/Ash.Robin

(5) Jackson, WY

Jackson Hole is one of the best ski destinations in the country for fun on and off the mountain.  The snow is terrific.  It can get a little colder there, so you need to dress appropriately.  My only knock on Jackson is access.  If you have a private plane or a charter, nix that thought, and go to Jackson Hole.

Vail Colorado

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/AbyDauz

(6) Vail, CO

Vail and the resort next to it, Beaver Creek, are both terrific resorts with wonderful skiing.  There is also a really great downtown area in both locations and it is very family friendly.  My main knock on Vail is access.  You need to fly into Denver, and the drive through “the tunnel” to get the resorts.  Traffic delays can be terrible, and I don’t like sitting in traffic.  Other than that, you will love it once you get there.

telluride skiing

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/TellurideSki

(7) Telluride, CO

This is another epic ski resort with a super fun town like Park City and Aspen.  You can fly into Aspen and drive to Telluride.  The snow is really good, and the resort is terrific. Downfall: It’s too close to Aspen.  If you flew into Aspen, why not just ski Aspen?  I would never make Telluride my go-to destination despite its amazingness. However, some would argue that they want to experience something new and different which I can understand.

sun valley skiing

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/Tristate_Outfitters

(8) Sun Valley, Idaho

I have never been to Sun Valley, but I have a few venture capitalist friends that live in Silicon Valley and own vacation homes there.  I hear it is really amazing.  I thought you had to have a private airplane to travel there, but I heard recently that you could get there from San Diego on a commercial airline.  I may try this if one of my buddies let’s me borrow their place or invites me there.  *Hint hint.*

british columbia skiing

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/Heli

(9) Whistler, BC

There is no substitute for Whistler and British Columbia, Canada in general, for deep powder skiing on a consistent basis.  Canada is a little cold for me a good part of the winter, but this is a wonderful ski destination for a guys’ trip, for couples or for a family.  It isn’t super easy to access, but it isn’t horrible either.

(10) Helicopter Skiing with CMH Resorts in British Columbia

I don’t have a “bucket list” because I don’t believe I’m not old enough to have one, but if I did, then I crossed this one off my bucket list in 2004.  I went on a ski trip with a group of other San Diego executives and professionals to the Bugaboos in British Columbia for some heli-skiing as the Canadians call it.  I almost died, but it was a super fun trip for the expert skiers in the group.  I am an advanced skier, and I was in WAY over my head.  But if you’re in for an adventure, and skiing is your thing, you have to do this.  It is unforgettable.  The poor man’s version of this is Snow Cat skiing in Utah or Colorado, where they drive you up remote mountains on tractor-like machines, and you ski down from there.

Hope you enjoyed this list and found it entertaining.   What are your favorite skiing and snowboarding destinations and why?  We’d love to hear from you about your ski adventures!

Visiting My Hometown of St. Louis, Missouri

Visiting My Hometown of St. Louis, Missouri

Fun Filled Visit to St. Louis: “The Gateway to the West”

“If you refuse to live an average life, you will have no choice but to be exceptional!” -Unknown

St. Louis, Missouri

Amanda and I visited my hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri this past weekend. St. Louis is in Middle America near the intersection of the Mississippi River and the Missouri River.  St. Louis has the big Arch, and is known as the Gateway to the West. Like many Midwestern cities, the people are awesome and the weather is not so great. The good news about the weather: “If you don’t like it today, it will be different tomorrow.” There is an old joke: Question: “What is the hardest job in the world?” Answer: “Bank guard in Alaska…everyone is wearing ski masks!” The second hardest job in the world has to be forecasting the weather in St. Louis, since it’s pretty much the opposite of San Diego’s steadfast sunshine.

Amanda and I are both from the Midwest. She is from Michigan, and we visited her hometown of Traverse City, MI over the July 4th holiday. (Read about it here!) So we now have both made our obligatory trips back home. As all of us Midwesterners that live in Southern California now say: “St Louis (or wherever) is a great place to be from.”

St. Louis, Missouri

Some Fun Aspects of Saint Louis

With that said, other than Chicago, I think St. Louis is one of the nicest major cities to visit, especially in the summertime and the fall. The people are amazing, the food is great, the bar scene is hopping, and the St. Louis Cardinals are always one of the best teams in baseball. If you weren’t born in San Diego, as most of us were not, it is always great to venture out of “America’s Finest City” once in a blue moon to visit your hometown, see the relatives, eat some comfort foot, and see some of your best buddies and friends from high school.

There are three dry dock “riverboat” casinos on the Missouri side of the river in the St Louis metro area. Two are near St. Charles: Ameristar and Hollywood Casino, and one is in downtown St. Louis called Lumiere. All of them are traditional Vegas style casinos with blackjack, poker, craps, and lots of slot machines. There are a couple more casinos on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River as well.

The bars and nightclubs in St. Louis are super friendly, and most of the bars are open until 3:30am. If that isn’t late enough for you, then there are some more nightclubs in East St. Louis, which is on the Illinois side of the river, and they are open either until 6:00am or 24-hours!

St. Louis, Missouri

Some of the best bars in St. Louis near downtown are clustered into four main areas: Soulard Market, Clayton, Laclede’s Landing, and Ballpark Village near Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play. And, of course, East Saint Louis. We went to a bar right next to Soulard Market one night called the Social House, which is famous for their body-pained waitresses, which often times pay tribute to the local sports teams!

In addition to the Cardinals, St. Louis also has a professional hockey team, the Blues, but they recently lost their NFL team, the Rams, to Los Angeles.

There are a bunch of fun things to do for kids in Forest Park including the St. Louis Zoo, the Jewel Box, the Planetarium, and the Museum of Natural History. There is also a Six Flags amusement park in the metro area, and, of course the Arch.

stlouisarch01

The Saint Louis Arch and the Old Courthouse

Amanda and I have been together to St. Louis before, but this was the first trip where we really did the tourist thing. One of the major landmarks in St. Louis is the Arch. There is a massive renovation underway to the St. Louis Arch, the Arch Museum, the Old Courthouse, and surrounding grounds. Even though we saw it mid-renovation, it was still really cool to see the Arch and visit the Old Courthouse which is famous for one of the darkest times in American history, the Dread Scott case in the 1850s, that determined that Black Americans were property and not people. It was one the major catalysts of the Civil War in the United States. Strange that over 150 years later, we still have so much racial tension in the United States. A good example of this is the racial situation that occurred in Ferguson, which is in the suburbs of St. Louis where I grew up.

St. Louis, Missouri

Unique Food to Saint Louis

One of the coolest things about St. Louis is the unique variety of food available, including Toasted Ravioli, BBQ Pork Steaks, Saint Louis Style Gooey Butter Cake, and St. Louis Style Pizza. There is also a famous landmark dessert place in St. Louis called Ted Drewes Frozen Custard that is worth checking out.

There are also a number of foods that St. Louis has been said to have introduced for the first time, or at least popularized during the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, including Ice Cream Cones, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Peanut Butter, Iced Tea, and Cotton Candy. Dr. Pepper and Puffed Wheat were also first introduced to a national audience at this World’s Fair, which was later popularized in the movie, Meet Me in Saint Louis, starring Judy Garland.

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri

Visiting “The Folks” and My Best Friend from High School

My parents are getting up there in years now, as they are both in their early 80s. It was great to see them, and we also got a chance to hang-out with my best friend from high school. It is always awesome to reminisce about old times, but also to talk about the future. What are some of your best childhood experiences? Do you visit your hometown often? Do you love it or hate it? We’d love to hear some of your stories!

Family Friendly Fun Found in Las Vegas

Family Friendly Fun Found in Las Vegas

With Rides, Games, Shows, and Disney Characters to Meet, Las Vegas Everything a Family Could Need

“Man, I really like Vegas.” -Elvis Presley

las vegas family vacation

Smokey casinos, all-nighters & bus loads of strippers! That’s typically what someone thinks of when the word VEGAS pops up, not necessarily your ideal family vacation destination. But is there a G-rated side of Las Vegas that is great for those who aren’t looking for the “lets-pop-a-roofie-and-party-till-the-sun-comes-up-and-possibly-get-hitched-at-a-drive-thru” experience?? I’m happy to report back that the answer is — YES!!

las vegas family vacation

I recently had my second baby & was faced with the dilemma of my company’s major annual convention being held in Las Vegas just 6 short weeks after my little boo boo was born. My husband and I had already paid for the trip and planned to bring the new baby (I was breastfeeding) and leave our 4 year old home with my mom to care for. But as the trip loomed closer we felt less and less like taking the road of “divide and conquer” and more so like making a family trip out of it and bringing my oldest daughter and my mom along as well. So we did and it turned out great!

las vegas family vacation

Short Drive From San Diego

Since Vegas is just a short 5 hour drive from San Diego, it’s common for San Diegans to head to the desert for a fun weekend to let loose & be wild. With a very different agenda and a couple of teeny tiny minors in tow, we loaded up our car and off we went. The drive was smooth and it’s so cool to watch the landscape change from lush greenery to dry desert as you head further and further away from the ocean. There are plenty of places to stop for cold drinks & snacks along the way & we arrived in the early evening feeling ready to relax in our hotel room.

las vegas family vacation

Hotel Family Fun

We had stayed at the Mirage once before which was a great hotel but this time we booked at the Venetian and WOW it was truly a step above. Even the basic rooms are suites. I was worried about the heat for the baby but the hotel was kept very cool through-out the day and night with AC on blast. The glitz and glam of Vegas decor is actually super fun for kids, even palace-like for them.

las vegas family vacation

My 4 year old had so much fun walking around in the hotel making wishes in the fountains and “ohh and awe-ing” at the painted ceilings and gold plated details.
Although the reputation of Vegas is party-party-party, there’s plenty for a young family to enjoy!

las vegas family vacation

Other Fun Family Activities in Vegas

We went swimming in the pool during the day & dined at nice restaurants in the evening. My husband and 4 year old caught the Michael Jackson ONE Cirque du Soleil show on our last night which was a total hit. My daughter is in dance classes and was hypnotized by the incredible talent of the dancers and acrobats of the show. She can’t wait to go back to Vegas next time because we promised she could go to another show!
It’s nice to go on walks once the sun is down because it cools off a bit in the summer months and the kids love to see the different movie characters walking around the Las Vegas strip, and get their picture taken with them. We saw Dora, Elmo, Princess Jasmine and some Brazilian Samba girls.

Another hit is to walk by the Bellagio water fountains and catch the amazing display of water works which are keenly choreographed to music playing loud enough for all to hear. The shows run every 15 minutes from 8pm-Midnight, and every 30 mins otherwise.

las vegas family vacation

Another great place to spend some time is by the new hotel The LINQ which happens to have the world’s largest ferris wheel called the “HIGH ROLLER.” Each ride is about 30 mins and each pod can fit up to 40 people inside. It offers an amazingly gorgeous 360 view of the Vegas strip like you’ve never seen it before. No need to worry about the heat in there either as each pod is air conditioned. You can grab some dinner and do some shopping at The LINQ Promenade before hand (or after) and spend a full evening enjoying this area.

las vegas family vacation

So as you can see, there is SO much a family can do to enjoy the “softer” side of Vegas. It’s a short and easy drive from San Diego, making it a great weekend getaway for San Diego families. 🙂 To conclude in this case, what happens in Vegas, CAN indeed be posted to Facebook! Have you been to Vegas with your family? What fun things did you do and see? I would love to add to my list for next time I head back to visit.

xoxo, Chels

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