GBTA 2013 Convention in San Diego! (Global Business Travel Association)

GBTA 2013 Convention in San Diego! (Global Business Travel Association)

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NOTE: For ThrowbackThursday and FlashbackFriday we found this Blog draft. We laid out all the type and captions back in 2013 and never added the pics or details. So we went to the files for collateral from the convention, found old travel picture files on our other laptop for pictures that were never seen and also went hunting for the pics that we had already downloaded or posted, then we filled in all the details we could remember and constructed this Blog! And even though the event happened in 2013 we still hope you will enjoy this Blog for TravelTuesday in 2017!

We were invited to attend the GBTA 2013 Convention as a “Hosted Buyer”, but we had prior commitments and could only attend the first and second day of the event. So we made a one-night hotel reservation and arranged to attend the “preview day” on Sunday and the first day on Monday.

GBTA 2013 Convention Schedule for Sunday and Monday:
(Vendor Parties not shown) CLICK to SEE A LARGER PIC!

Road Trip to San Diego! – Ride along with me!

It was a foggy Sunday morning when we woke up very early and hit the road to San Diego. We left the San Fernando Valley at 7am to avoid traffic and drove south on the 405 and 5 freeways for about three hours. We were successful and drove fast (we also took pictures as we went) but other drivers were driving really fast! We were really amazed at the speed of some of the cars passing us at very high speeds like we were parked.

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GBTA 2013! – On The Road to San Diego (405 freeway south to 5 freeway south)

Ride along with me to San Diego, just click on the pics below:

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AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

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GBTA 2013! – Downtown San Diego

Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego (A Hilton Hotel)

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego

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AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego Atrium & Skylight

We arrived in San Diego and found our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown, sometime after 9am. We found metered street parking two blocks away from the hotel which was FREE and available because it was Sunday. We walked over to the hotel, had breakfast at the complimentary buffet and got an early check in.

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GBTA 2013! – Breakfast Buffet at the Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego

We went up to the room, checked it out and dropped our luggage. We set up the laptop, hooked into the hotel’s wi-fi and did our morning business via the internet and cell phone.

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After a short time in the room, we walked over to the Hyatt Regency and caught the Free Shuttle to the Convention Center.

Sunday was a “preview” day, so it was not very crowded, just busy. There were a lot of people checking in and the vendors and staff were making preparations for the week ahead. The Exhibition Hall didn’t open until Monday, but we were invited to the “First-Timers” lunch and the Welcome Party at the Hilton on Sunday evening.

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GBTA 2013! Global Business Travel Association Convention in San Diego

We rode the shuttle to the Convention Center, walked to Check-In, checked in and got our credentials, and then we walked to the “first timers” lunch in an adjacent meeting hall.

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GBTA 2013! – San Diego Convention Center

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AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

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GBTA 2013! – “First Timers” Lunch, Orientation and Welcome

On The Menu: Turkey sandwich with mozzarella cheese balls, lettuce & tomato and a slice of apple pie with iced tea, water and coffee

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CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY
AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

After lunch, we attended the “Going Global” session, walked around the Convention Center and then we walked to the shuttle pickup point, rode the shuttle back to the Hyatt and then walked back to our hotel. We cleaned up and enjoyed a free cocktail and complimentary appetizers at the Embassy Suites’ afternoon Happy Hour downstairs.

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GBTA 2013 Welcome Reception Party Buffet at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront

After the Happy Hour we drove over to the Hilton Bayfront Hotel and paid $15 to park for the Welcome Reception and Party on the Great Lawn which runs along the Marina.  An outdoor evening buffet for 7000 people or so, with beer/wine and magaritas at the bar.

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GBTA 2013! – Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

NOTE: It was a huge convention! Every hotel in San Diego remotely close to the Convention Center was at capacity and filled with Travel Agents, Vendors, Travel Writers and other attendees from all over the United States and other parts of the world. We commented on the size of the crowd to a staff person at the Convention Center and they just laughed because Comic-Con had been in town the week before and the size of GBTA convention wasn’t even close to the overflow crowd for Comic-Con.

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GBTA 2013 Welcome Reception Party on the Great Lawn – the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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GBTA 2103 Welcome Reception Party on the Great Lawn – the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

On The Menu at the Welcome Reception Party Buffet at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront:
Buffalo chicken meatballs, lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce, pasta in lobster sauce, pita chips and a bunch of types of hummus, prime rib sliders with cheese, chicken potstickers, veggie potstickers, pork potstickers, other stuff too, and then on to the dessert table! Nice truffle selection, chocolate covered strawberries, candy lollipops in a bunch of weird flavors and mini-pastries…

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GBTA 2013! – Sunset Over A Sea of Travel Industry at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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We walked to over to Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant for the next party. It was a long “Las Vegas” walk just after dark along the Marina and Bayfront to get to Roy’s, but it was worth it! We immediately regretted eating at the Welcome Party Buffet, because there was an amazing assortment of incredible food at Roy’s!

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GBTA 2013! – The Kitchen at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant in San Diego

There were all kinds of sushi and cut rolls, egg rolls, chicken and beef satay skewers, Hawaiian style ribs, other tasty appetizers and finger foods, fresh fruit and a lot of fancy desserts. We ate and drank and networked until it got too crowded inside the large restaurant and we didn’t take any pictures (except the one of the kitchen above). We left the party early and took a little food “to go” for later at the hotel. We didn’t want to do anymore walking or make the long dark walk back to the Hilton parking structure, so we negotiated with a pedal cab guy and survived a really fast and wild nighttime ride back to the hotel along the Bayfront for $10+tip.

We walked to our car and drove back to the Embassy Suites. We valet parked our car at the hotel and retired to our hotel room. We did some work, ate the “to go” food (ribs, sushi and little chocolate balls) after midnight and went to bed.

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Monday morning, we were up early and we enjoyed the Embassy Suites’ breakfast buffet again. We took the food up to the room, ate and did some more work, and then packed up our stuff, went downstairs and had a second breakfast. After eating again we got our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We picked up the car from the valet, drove to over the Convention Center and paid to park there. Parking was $15 for all day until midnight.

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Breakfast Buffet (in the room)

We arrived in time and got a pretty good seat for the Keynote Address and Lunch for 6000 people with a presentation and performance by singer/songwriter Jewel. All of the front area tables were “Reserved” so we took a seat at a forward table in the first section behind the front area. The hall at the Convention Center was massive! Lunch for 6000 is not an easy task!

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GBTA 2013 Keynote Lunch with Jewel at the San Diego Convention Center

Monday’s GBTA 2013 Keynote Speaker Jewel performs
“Who Will Save Your Soul” live at the San Diego Convention Center

RIGHT CLICK AND “OPEN IN NEW WINDOW” TO VIEW VIDEO>
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=703198789706690&set=vb.337421319696080&type=2&theater (facebook video)

On The Menu: iceberg lettuce salad, bread & butter, stuffed chicken breast with pesto sauce, vegetables, a fruit tart dessert and iced tea.

After lunch they opened the massive Exposition Hall which ran the entire length of the Convention Center and was filled with Vendors and Suppliers. There were also Vendor meetings scheduled for the afternoon. We walked a portion of the Exhibition Hall, collected brochures/information/swag and received invitations to events later on that evening and later in the week. It would have been impossible to cover the whole Exhibition Hall in one day, so we didn’t try. Instead we did what we could between 3-6pm and dropped all the promotional material in our car before beginning the evening activities.

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GBTA 2013! – The Gaslamp District Sign in San Diego

The Gaslamp District!
The Historic Heart of San Diego is located across the street and train tracks from the Convention Center. Bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels and plenty of gift shops are within easy walking distance (unless you’ve already walked all day).

Let’s get this party started!
We were invited to eight different parties happening at different locations around the Gaslamp District and the Bayfront near the Convention Center.

Monday Party # 1 – Sunset cocktails and dinner at the Altitude Lounge

Our first invitation was for a party at the Altitude Lounge on top of the Marriott Gaslamp Hotel. We walked over to the Marriott Hotel next door to the Convention Center, but it was the wrong Marriott. So then we walked over to the Gaslamp District and found the right hotel. We ate and drank and watched the sunset from the rooftop patio.

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Excellent view of San Diego and Mission Bay from the outdoor patio!

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GBTA 2013! View from the Altitude Lounge in San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – View of Petco Park from the Altitude Lounge in San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – Sunset in San Diego from the Altitude Lounge

On The Menu: tray passed appetizers and a buffet with eggrolls, beef on toast, beef and chicken satay, tuna on wonton crisp, crab on cracker, pita bread and hummus and more… catered by Flemings Steakhouse!

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Monday Party #2 –
We crashed The Parking Spot Party at Lou & Mickey’s at the Gaslamp

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GBTA 2013! – The Parking Spot Party at Lou & Mickey’s at the Gaslamp

We left the party and walked across the street and crashed The Parking Spot’s party at Lou & Mickey’s restaurant. We ate and drank and met the nice folks from The Parking Spot and told them we crashed their party. They didn’t mind. Their party ended early, and the place emptied as the crowd left for other parties that were just getting started.

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Monday Party #3 – GBTA 2013 “AMPED” Party at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego!

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GBTA 2013! – Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Guitar at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

We walked over to our next event: the AMPED party at the Hard Rock Hotel! We ate and drank and met a bunch of really nice people. It started slow but soon the crowd at the main bar was five people deep, the music was rockin’ and it got pretty hopping.

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AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

This party was on a very large rooftop patio, with several permanent bars, a couch area with fire pits and portable heaters, several floating bars and a bunch of buffet stations with a great selection of food. There was good music, of course, and a stage was set up for performance, but it didn’t get used until later. There was even a photo booth for taking pictures with silly wigs, hats and props.

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GBTA 2013! – Buffet Station at the AMPED Party at the Hard Rock Hotel

We asked permission before taking these pics of one of the Go-Go Dancers on a raised pedestal (there were several). She said “Go ahead, I don’t see why not” and posed for the first one. And she was a fantastic dancer too!

Monday Party #4 – Level Skye Club at the Andaz Hotel in San Diego!

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GBTA 2013! – The Bar at Level Skye Club at the Andaz Hotel in San Diego

We had one more party to check out or we would have just stayed at the Hard Rock, instead we left the hotel and walked over to Level Skye Club at the Andaz Hotel. We walked a lot and we were wearing our dress shoes, so by the end of the night our feet were really hurting. We were also tired from a long day at the convention and a long night of partying.
When we got to the club the upstairs was deceptively quiet because downstairs in the basement it was raging! The party at Level Skye was really “off-the-hook” with funky dance music and lots of light and a lot of drunk travel agents. Travel industry people love to party! Thanks American Express!

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GBTA 2013! – Big Party at Level Skye Club in the Andaz Hotel Basement in San Diego

We didn’t eat or drink anything alcoholic because we still had to walk back to the car and drive home to Los Angeles. So, Monday late night we walked back to the car on sore feet before they closed the Convention Center Garage for the night (at midnight).

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GBTA 2013! – San Diego Convention Center Parking ($15 all day – closes at midnight)

We drove back to Los Angeles on the 5 freeway north after midnight and hit a impossible “Stop-and-Go” traffic jam along the way because of construction at 2am in the morning.

When we finally made it home after 3am, we unloaded the car and crashed hard. We had a really good time, did a lot of business and networking, saw Jewel play live music, enjoyed our “budget” stay at the Embassy Suites, and ate and drank and danced and partied in San Diego for two days.

NOTE: We did a lot of walking, a whole lot of walking in our dress shoes, so next time we bring and wear more comfortable walking shoes.

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GBTA 2013! – San Diego Convention Center Stairs at Night

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GBTA 2013! – We did not attend GBTA 2014 in Los Angeles

FINAL NOTE: We finished this Blog and hit “PUBLISH” and it did not. WordPress lost the Blog and the draft(s) totally disappeared! We had to use Google Cache to rescue it and then we had to start over and rebuild the original Blog again. Total waste of time. There is a flaw (BUG) in the wordpress program, because when we went looking for help we found that this has happened to other people as well. So, please ENJOY THIS BLOG, a lot of time went into it.



 

UPDATED Wednesday March 29, 2017 – We posted this Blog yesterday!

We collected a bunch of FREE stuff in the short time we were there, two bags full of stuff actually! Most was promotional “paper”: sell sheets, pamphlets, maps and brochures. But there was some fun giveaway stuff and cool “incentives” for visiting certain booths.

We were given a “Swag” bag at check-in provided/sponsored by Delta and the padded bag was very nice. We recently found it in Storage (see our previous Blog about Storage) and we are now using it as a laptop bag.

UPDATED April 5, 2017 – TRAVEL TIP!
We found these “hospitality cards” (restaurant and bar coupons, freebies, come-ons, etc.) from the San Diego trip. We had so much FREE food and drink and were only in town for one night, so we didn’t use any of them. They can be found at the Concierge Desk at the San Diego Convention Center (and these are just a few of the ones available).

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Hospitality Cards (Restaurant and Bar Coupons, Freebies, Come-Ons, etc.)

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Downtown Los Angeles 2013

Well, I just found a draft of a Downtown Los Angeles Blog from 2013 and the pictures were all laid out with captions. So I thought for the third year anniversary I would work it up a little and publish it for your entertainment.

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Los Angeles Times Travel Show (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

I was invited down to L.A. Live in DTLA for lunch and a private tour of the Grammy Museum courtesy of AEG. I was working a deal to package their events with travel and destination specific tours. At the time when this was written I was a newbie travel advisor and set this deal with AEG up for the agency immediately. This lunch meeting was to discuss all the details and I’ll write more on the outcome later in this Blog.

The day included freeway traffic in both directions from the San Fernando Valley, driving around DTLA, parking at Staples Center and L.A. Live, a nice lunch at Rock’N’Fish and a private tour of the Grammy Museum and the AEG offices.

Here’s the Blog and please note the pics were shot with a Blackberry camera.

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There was traffic on the 101 Freeway heading Downtown (as usual).

101 Freeway Traffic - Downtown in the Distance (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

101 Freeway Traffic – Downtown in the Distance (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Downtown - This is where once got a flat tire at Midnight (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

101 – 110 Freeway South Exchange – Downtown, Los Angeles – This shoulder is where I once got a flat tire at Midnight (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

110 Freeway south - Downtown, Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

110 Freeway south – Downtown, Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

110 Freeway South

110 Freeway South

110 Freeway South

110 Freeway South

Convention Center or Staples Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Convention Center or Staples Center?  (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Los Angeles Convention Center

L.A. Convention Center

L.A. Convention Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A. Convention Center

L.A. Convention Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A. Convention Center

L.A. Convention Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Staples Center

Up the Escalator - L.A. LIVE (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Up the Escalator – L.A. LIVE (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A.'s Finest at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A.’s Finest at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott Hotels at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott Hotels at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Staples Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Staples Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Staples Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Staples Center (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Staples Center - Chick Hearn Plaza

Staples Center – Chick Hearn Plaza (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Staples Center - Chick Hearn Plaza

Staples Center – Chick Hearn Plaza (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A. Live

L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at Rock'N'Fish - L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at Rock’N’Fish – L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lunch at Rock’N’Fish!  We shared a Calamari appetizer (no pic, but it was good), then I had the 1/2 rack of Baby Back Ribs with fries and a salad, and Creme Brulee for dessert.  The food was excellent!  The calamari and ribs were tasty and cooked perfectly, and the creme brulee was delicious too.

Luxe Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Luxe Hotel Downtown Los Angeles (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live – Would you like a private tour?

Grammy Museum at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Grammy Museum at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

In the Lobby of the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Janis Joplin’s Porsche 356 in the Lobby of the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Photographs are not allowed inside the museum., but I was able to take a picture of the Janis car in the Lobby before taking a private tour. It’s a great space and the permanent and visiting exhibits were pretty spectacular!

NOTE: Dec. 10, 2015 – A 1964 Porsche 356 that once belonged to the rock singer Janis Joplin sold at auction for $1.76 million. The car had been expected to sell for between $400,000 and $600,000. The sale price includes a 10% commission for Sotheby’s auction house.

The Plaza at L.A. Live

The Plaza at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Plaza - L.A. Live

The Plaza – L.A. Live

The Plaza at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Plaza at L.A. Live (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

J.W. Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

J.W. Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Downtown Los Angeles

Condo

717 Condo – Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown

Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown

Downtown Los Angeles

Westin Bonaventure Hotel

Westin Bonaventure Hotel and the Wells Fargo Towers

Wedbush Building - Downtown Los Angeles

Wedbush Building – Downtown Los Angeles

Four Level Freeway - Downtown Los Angeles

Four Level Freeway – Downtown Los Angeles

Under the Freeway - Downtown

Under the Freeway – Downtown Los Angeles

Under the Freeway

Under the Freeway – Downtown Los Angeles

 

NOTE: As you can see, there was a lot of the Blog laid out but never finished.

The meeting was a great success! I had a terrific lunch and a private tour of the Grammy Museum. I was gifted a couple of FREE tickets to return another time on my own. I wasn’t able to tour the Staples Center because Rihanna was rehearsing for her concert that night (if I remember right, and we would get a private tour of Staples Center on my next visit). It was a good day downtown and they did comp my parking!

The deal included access to the Grammy Museum and the 200 seat performance space, AEG events at L.A. Live and Staples Center including the Kings, Clippers, and Stars games; the BET Experience and other concerts (including corporate CLUB BOXES) and the L.A. Galaxy soccer (fútbol) games. It was a major score! But, the best laid plans….la la la.

All photos copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel

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Here are a couple more recent picture of DTLA from the Echo Park Blog:

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US District Court Building & Los Angeles City Hall

 

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Echo Park – Downtown Los Angeles, California


“Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go
Downtown, things’ll be great when you’re
Downtown, no finer place for sure,
Downtown, everything’s waiting for you
Downtown!”

Downtown Los Angeles is the central area of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and features many of the city’s major arts institutions and sports facilities, sightseeing opportunities, a variety of skyscrapers and associated large multinational corporations, and an array of public art and unique shopping opportunities. Downtown Los Angeles is the hub of the city’s freeway network and Metro rapid transit system.

Staples Center, opened in 1999, has contributed immensely to the revitalization of Downtown, adding 250 events and nearly 4 million visitors per year to the neighborhood.  Since the opening of the Staples Center, the adjacent L.A. Live complex was completed, which includes the Nokia Theater, the Regency Theaters and the Grammy Museum.

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Downtown Los Angeles from up high 2014 (taken from WP24)!

Dinner at Sushi 2 U in Encino

Dinner at Sushi 2 U in Encino

There’s a new sushi restaurant in town and we decided to try it out. Sushi 2 U has “soft-opened” in the space formerly occupied by Sushi Hirosuke in the Plaza de Oro shopping center on Ventura Blvd in Encino. Welcome to the neighborhood and good luck!

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

RIGHT CLICK and OPEN IN NEW WINDOW to view larger photo!

The DISCLAIMER on the window (enter at your own risk):

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

The space has been renovated and remodeled. The sushi bar is smaller and more central, the prep area and kitchen are “hidden”, the booths have been removed and there are many flat-screen televisions in the dining room. They also have the ability to play music (which was kind of a problem at the previous incarnation in this space).

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Dining Room – Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

New Sushi Bar (and prep area) – Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sushi time! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Old Sushi Hirosuke sushi bar & grill

ON THE MENU: Encino roll (spicy tuna, salmon and crab with avocado), Sushi2u roll (shrimp, soft-shell crab and salmon), California roll, spicy tuna hand roll, edamame, yellowtail/spanish mackerel/albacore sushi and a coke.

NOTE: We wanted to order a small hot sake, but they didn’t have their liquor license yet.

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Edamame – Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

The Encino and Sushi2U special cut rolls were both very good!

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Encino Roll & sushi – Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

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Sushi 2 U Roll – Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

The spicy tuna was spice just right with chili oil.

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Spicy Tuna Hand Roll – Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Imitation crab (as noted in the disclaimer) California rolls:

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

California Rolls – Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

It was only their fourth day being open for business, so they were still working out the dinner procedures and routines. Also, it seemed the one waiter was still being trained so service was a little staggered. Everything was fine and we got everything we ordered or asked for, but it was because we asked him or the owner/managers for something.

They have a big menu of sushi, rolls, grilled items and drinks. We ate pretty tame stuff. There’s a lot of different things to choose from and the orders are large.

The space is very nice and there was a steady stream of customers while we were there. There are six other sushi restaurants (Okumura, Gyoro Gyoro, Yamato, Midori, Cho Cho San and Sushi Stop within 3 blocks on either side, and many more in the nearby vicinity (4to6, Katsu-ya, Crazy Tokyo, Octopus, and Sushi Iké) so we’ll see if they can compete.

They were very nice, the food was good, the price was very reasonable and I enjoyed my dinner. I might wait until they get the service routine worked out and their liquor license before going back, but I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.

RIGHT CLICK and OPEN IN NEW WINDOW to view larger photo!

NOTE: The entrance “lobby” and bar upstairs on Ventura isn’t finished yet. It looks like it will be a nice space for waiting/drinking when it’s finished.

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

Sushi 2 U in Encino (copyright 2015 JoshWillTravel)

NOTE: The second time we ate there it was not good and we never went back.

Sushi 2 U – CLOSED in early 2016! Sushi Ganzo has opened in the same space.
READ THE BLOG “Sushi Ganzo and Donutella” > http://wp.me/p3dhVM-54p

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Where is the Best Place to see 4th of July Fireworks in Los Angeles? 2015

Q: Where’s the Best Place to see Fourth of July Fireworks in Los Angeles?

A: Here’s my short list of Independence Day events for 2015:


Grand Park BLOCK PARTY!  July 4, 2015 >>> 3:00 pm – 9:30 pm

200 North Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90012

FREE!  www.grandparkla.org #GO4THDTLA

FIREWORKS!

FIREWORKS!

From the Grand Park website:

LOS ANGELES! Grand Park is the place to celebrate together with music, food, and an incredible fireworks display launched from the civic center skyline. Grab the best friends, the whole family, and main squeezes and enjoy a bit of togetherness under the beautiful Angeleno sky. **Safety for everyone is número uno. Please read all event info to know what to bring and what to leave at home:**

PICNIC and OUTSIDE FOOD is welcome. SIZE OF BAGS AND BACKPACKS/TOTES and COOLERS must be standard backpack size or smaller (16.75 inches x 13 inches x 8.5 inches). NO OUTSIDE BEVERAGES including juice and soda. ONLY EMPTY (non glass) WATER BOTTLES allowed. FREE WATER FILLING STATIONS will be available in the event space, provided by LADWP, in addition to several booths with water for sale. HANDHELD UMBRELLAS allowed, no tents, large umbrellas or anything that spikes into the ground

NOTE: This will be an alcohol-free event: no beer garden or point of purchase / no outside alcohol permitted in event space. All bags will be checked.

SCHEDULE: Doors open at 3pm for early birds (no prior admittance). Rooftop fireworks show at 9pm. Event ends at 9:30pm. 

FIREWORKS!  HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!

FIREWORKS! HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!

PLEASE LEAVE AT HOME: Grilling gear, alcohol, narcotics, fireworks, sparklers, candles, large coolers (handheld coolers OK but subject to search), lawn furniture including low folding chairs, tents, lawn umbrellas or sun umbrellas (handheld umbrellas OK) or anything that spikes into the ground or would obstruct views of stages.

THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES ARE PROHIBITED: Public Intoxication / Rollerblading / Skateboarding / Smoking / Vaping / Unauthorized Vending / Aggressive Solicitation / Staking Objects to Ground

Grand Park is an LA County park powered by The Music Center. 

http://grandparkla.org/event/4th-of-july-block-party/



The Rose Bowl Stadium and outside the Rose Bowl – Pay to see the 89th Annual “Americafest” show inside, pay for parking to see the fireworks show from the outside. It’s the biggest and longest running 4th of July party in the L.A. area.

Join in celebrating our nation’s independence with the 89th Annual Fourth of July Celebration at AMERICAFEST! The largest fireworks show in Southern California! 

FIREWORKS!

FIREWORKS!

2 PM: Festival begins outside the stadium (parking lots open at 9am)

There will be food vendors, entertainment, crafts, exhibits and inflatable rides for the kids outside the stadium starting at 2 pm and closing following the fireworks. Fanfest is located in Area H southeast of the Rose Bowl marquee sign.

Live Motorcycle Stunts by TNT Action Sports

Celebrating, “The 50th Anniversary of when Elvis Met the Beatles in Los Angeles”

9 PM: Fireworks Spectacular! produced by Pyrospectaculars by Souza

In celebration of the upcoming Universal Pictures “Minions” movie there will be a viewing of “Despicable Me 2” on the videoboard directly following the fireworks.

General Admission $13 Reserved Seating $25 TicketMaster 800-745-3000

General Admission children 5 years and under will be admitted free. Reserved Seating children 2 years and under require a ticket in these sections.

Day of event tickets will be available 10am– 9pm at the ticket booth at Gate B. Before 2pm guests may park in Lot B at no charge for 15 minutes to purchase tickets and leave or they can pay to park in any general parking lot and remain. After 2pm guests will be required to pay to park in general parking as directed to purchase tickets. After 2pm there are no in-and-out privileges.

Active military who present a valid Military ID will gain free admittance (up to 4 per family). Tickets can be obtained from the ticket booth at Gate B beginning at 3pm on July 4th only. Veterans who present a valid Military ID will gain free admittance (1 ticket only). Tickets can be obtained from the ticket booth at Gate B beginning at 3pm on July 4th only.

Parking is $25 per car payable at the parking lots. Advanced parking for $20 per car will be available at the Rose Bowl Will Call Booth by Gate B beginning Sunday, June 28; hours-10am to 5pm; everyday through July 3.

Parking lots will open to the general public starting at 9am on July 4. Guests will be directed to the closest available lot.

For your safety and the enjoyment of all, we ask that you please help by observing the tailgating guidelines. (READ THE RULES!)

Pasadena Police and Pasadena Fire Departments will be patrolling the lots. There is a zero tolerance policy regarding illegal fireworks.

A shuttle from Old Town Pasadena will NOT be in operation this day.

http://www.rosebowlstadium.com/events/detail/americafest-1



3-Day July 4th Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl

FIREWORKS! Hollywood Bowl 4th of July!

FIREWORKS! Hollywood Bowl 4th of July!

Smokey Robinson, the King of Motown will be headlining the three-day Independence Day celebration with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a Fireworks Spectacular each night at the Hollywood landmark. July 2-4th, 7:30pm $15-$250 + fee

www.hollywoodbowl.com



Marina del Rey Fireworks 9:00pm

Celebrate the 4th of July in Marina del Rey with a spectacular fireworks show over the water! Fireworks are shot from a barge across the Marina’s main channel, lighting up the night sky and water below. The show begins at 9 pm and lasts approximately 20 minutes.

FIREWORKS!

FIREWORKS!

Depending upon weather and cloud cover on the night of the show, the fireworks can usually be seen throughout the marina, and from the waterfront side of most hotels, restaurants, beaches, apartments and anchorages. Popular viewing locations include:

Fisherman’s Village, 13755 Fiji Way (2 blocks west of Lincoln Blvd.)
Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way (1 block west of Admiralty Way)
**This location will have speakers set-up near the Helmsman statue, allowing spectators to watch the display and  listen to synchronized music 
Marina Beach (Mother’s Beach) 4101 Admiralty Way (1 block south of Washington Blvd.)

Parking
Come early! There is no on-street parking inside Marina del Rey. Parking is available in 14 self-pay public lots. Park early because most public parking spaces are filled by 6pm!

The Marina del Rey Visitors Center (at the corner of Mindanao & Admiralty) will also be open from 10am – 4pm with festive giveaways like complimentary flags , red & blue bead necklaces, and other items to celebrate the 4th!

http://www.visitmarinadelrey.com/events/4th-of-july



Santa Monica 4th of July Parade 

July 4, 2015 – Parade starts at 9:30am

This year’s theme: Inspirational Heroes!

Main Street from Pico Blvd, turning on Marine to the beach in Downtown Santa Monica

The entire stretch of Main Street in Santa Monica will be closed. http://www.opa-sm.org

The Flag of the United States of America

The Flag of the United States of America


The annual Mr. & Ms. Muscle Beach  July 4, the 2015

Pre-Judging begins at 10am, Finals at 1pm

Sign up the morning of the competition. No Late Fee! Registration is 7am – 9:30am.

Muscle Beach – 1800 Ocean Front Walk, between Navy Street and Washington Boulevard, at the Venice Recreation Center in Venice, California.

Bodybuilding.com presents the Mr. & Ms. Muscle Beach, Saturday July 4, 2015. Hosted by Profight Supplements. BB, Figure, Bikini, Men & Women’s Physique, Couples (Mixed Pairs). Mr. & Ms. Muscle Beach features men and women amateur athletes competing in a muscle and fitness competition. Categories include figure, bodybuilding, women’s physique, and men’s physique.

FREE and OPEN to the public. All are welcome!

http://www.musclebeachvenice.com



“Top Gun” + Fireworks! Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Gates open at 7:15pm, Screening at 9pm, Fireworks to follow!

Admission $25 (SOLD OUT!)

6000 Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood

http://cinespia.org/event/top-gun/

FIREWORKS!

FIREWORKS!



There are many good options for the 4th of July in L.A., and there are many other smaller celebrations, both public and private events, happening all over Southern California. Check the local listings! LA Weekly, LAist, LA Times & google.

The Queen Mary and Disneyland have special events and extra-special fireworks for the holiday. Disneyland has special fireworks all week long!

Disneyland Fireworks!

Disneyland Fireworks!

The Dodgers are playing the Mets at Dodger Stadium at 4:15pm with Fireworks after the game, but we are BOYCOTTING the Dodgers until we can watch the games on television.

BOYCOTT THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS AND TIME WARNER CABLE!

Read the Blog> http://wp.me/p3dhVM-1qL


Happening the weekend before:

Celebrate America!

Saturday June 27 at 5pm – Corsair Stadium​ at Santa Monica Community College

SMC’s Independence Day Celebration, the biggest, most sensational patriotic community event on the Westside! Bring your family and friends to SMC for a star-spangled salute to our nation’s independence. Come early, picnic on the lawn, enjoy continuous entertainment and special exhibits (with plenty of refreshments available for purchase), and cap off the evening with a spectacular fireworks salute to America.
Celebrate America 2015 Flyer

Celebrate America – June 27th, 2015 at Corsair Field at Santa Monica Community College

http://www.smc.edu/ACG/Marketing/Events/Pages/Special-Events.aspx


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Vintage Storage Find #2B – Disneyland Vacationland Summer 1977 Magazine (part 2)

Storage Find #2B – Disneyland Vacationland Summer 1977 Magazine (part 2)

NOTE: This Blog was originally written and constructed 12 JUNE 2014. This is the first time it’s been published. Enjoy!

I actually found this vintage Disneyland Vacationland magazine from 1977 before I found the “Sleeping Beauty” poster (see a previous blog) and have been posting pages on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravel and sharing them with the Vintage Disneyland group. It was in MINT CONDITION and I was hesitant to even scan it for fear of damage.

In addition to the cover story on the Grand Opening of Space Mountain, the contents include articles on the Main Street Electrical Parade, the Golden Horseshoe Revue, “The Rescuers” and the Disneyland Costume Division. There are also vintage promotions for the Gerber Baby Center and Orville Reddenbacher Popcorn (both new additions in 1977) and cool retro ads for Disneyland, Wonder Bread/Hostess, GAF/Kodak and even other theme parks: Knotts, Magic Mountain, Lion Country Safari and Universal Studios.

It was just too cool not to share! So here is what I scanned:

The Grand Opening of SPACE MOUNTAIN in 1977 on the front cover!

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine - COVER

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine – FRONT COVER

Inside Front Cover:

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Disneyland Facts (look at the admission and ticket book prices!):

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

The Main Street Electrical Parade! (2 page spread w/Space Mountain featured)

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

The Rescuers!

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

The Golden Horseshoe Revue with Wally Boag! Sponsored by Pepsi Cola.

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Popcorn!

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Gerber Baby Center

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Cool ad for GAF (KODAK):

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Disneyland’s Costume Division

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine

For educational purposes only. Not for commercial use.

They even ran ads for Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm in the magazine.

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Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer '77 magazine

Vintage Disneyland! Vacationland Summer ’77 magazine – BACK COVER

Happy Birthday Simon Bolivar! See the Statue at United Nations Plaza at the Civic Center in San Francisco!

SAN FRANCISCO! (Part 1)

On my last trip to San Francisco, I stopped at the Civic Center and walked around downtown taking pictures. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Here are a few of the pictures:

San Francisco Civic Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

San Francisco Civic Center and City Hall (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Asian American Art Museum in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

 

State of California Building in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

State of California Building in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

 

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

I’ll be posting more pictures from this trip and telling stories in future Blogs, so be sure to FOLLOW us! And please LIKE our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/joshwilltravel

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIMON BOLIVAR!

Simon Bolivar Statue at United Nations Plaza at the Civic Center in San Francisco

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

As I was walking around Grosvernor Square, I came upon United Nations Plaza and the statue-monument of Simon Bolivar. Now you’re probably wondering who he was…

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

WHO WAS SIMON BOLIVAR?

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco aka Simon Bolivar  24 July 1783 – 17 December 1830

He liberated Venezuela, Colombia (including Panama at the time), Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia (a country named after him) from the Spanish Empire and helped lay the foundation for democracy in Latin America. He was President and Dictator of the Gran Colombia Republic from 1819-1830.

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

NOTE: There is a statue just like this one in Bolivar Plaza in Caracas, Venezuela. There are other statues, monuments, plazas, squares and streets in honor of him all over the world.

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

United Nations Plaza at the Civic Center in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

WHAT SAN FRANCISCO DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SEE:

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Wha’Cha Need?” at the Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

There’s a HUGE homeless population in the city of San Francisco! Go back to the first picture and you’ll see people sleeping on the lawn and hanging out on the plaza. Everywhere you go in the city there are homeless! Many of them are in need of serious mental health services!

The picture of the homeless at the statue (above) is actually a picture of an open-air drug market! While I was walking around taking pictures, I witnessed deals going down here and at other locations at the UN Plaza. Although not unexpected, I was surprised by the obvious nature of their unlawful enterprise and the lack of police presence and attention. While I did see a pair of cops walking down by the fountain, you can see in the picture that the dealers operate without concern for keeping it undercover….

San Francisco is a beautiful and historic city, but the terrible traffic, the huge homeless population and the current urban blight really takes the shine off the city by the bay.

Simon Bolivar Statue in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Simon Bolivar Statue, “California” and City Hall in San Francisco (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

As a final note, I didn’t know it was Simon Bolivar’s birthday when I started this blog, so that’s either a happy coincidence or something else….

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First time in L.A.? Want the local experience?

First time in L.A.? Want the local experience?

San Fernando Valley #1 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

San Fernando Valley #1 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

I’m going to run down the beautiful San Fernando Valley for you. Here are some attractions, Points of Interest, good restaurants, and fun things to do. This list is nowhere near complete and things are constantly changing!

Don’t say there’s nothing to do and nowhere good to eat in the San Fernando Valley! Also, you”ll probably find a celebrity sighting or three if you get lucky.

San Fernando Valley #2 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

San Fernando Valley #2 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Let’s start at Universal City, CA: Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal CityWalk with lots of places to eat/drink/shop on the hill, Firenze Osteria (Fabio from “Top Chef”) Italian restaurant,

Universal CityWalk (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Universal CityWalk (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Universal CityWalk Hollywood (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Universal CityWalk Hollywood (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

North Hollywood: Television Academy, NoHo Arts District and it’s many theatre companies, The Federal Bar, Circus Liquor and the giant clown sign on Cahuenga, Los Angeles Valley College, North Hollywood Park, Tiki No Bar, Joe Peep’s Pizza, Bar One: a craft beer bar, Krua Thai restaurant,

 

Atwater Village: Atwater Village Theatre, The Village Bakery & Cafe Proof Bakery, Canele Restaurant,

Burbank: Warner Brothers Studios, Disney Studios, Burbank Media Center, Bob’s Big Boy, Johnny Carson Park, Market City Caffe Italian restaurant, Smoke House Restaurant, Burbank equestriain center, Pickwick Bowl, Colony Theatre, Ribs USA, Arnie Morton’s The Steakhouse – Burbank,

Glendale: The Americana at Brand Shopping Center, Autry Museum, Griffith Park, Forest Lawn (there are two cemeteries, one near Griffith Park and one in Glendale), Jax Bar & Grill, Griffith Park and the Observatory, Griffith Park Travel Town, Los Angeles Zoo, Tam O’Shanter restaurant, Damon’s Steak House, Mori Teppan Grill, Billy’s Deli – Glendale, (continue east on the 134 freeway to Eagle Rock and Pasadena)

Sun Valley: Hansen Dam Park, Georgio’s Pizza and Sports Bar,

Studio City: CBS Studio Center, The Village restaurant, CA DEL SOLE restaurant, Black Market Liquor Bar, Spark Woodfire Grill, Vitello’s Italian Restaurant, Loteria Grill, Du-par’s Restaurant & Bakery, Fryman Canyon, The Six Restaurant, City Wok Chinese restaurant, Henry’s Tacos, Art’s Delicatessen & Restaurant, Firefly Studio City restaurant and bar,

Spark Italian Woodfire Grill in Studio City (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Spark Italian Woodfire Grill in Studio City (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Sherman Oaks: Sherman Oaks Galleria, Sherman Oaks Castle Park, Casa Vega, Westfield Fashion Square, Smoke City Market bbq restaurant, Delmonico’s Steak and Lobster House, Café Bizou restaurant, Blu Jam Café, The Getty Center, Skirball Cultural Center, Bamboo Cuisine Chinese restaurant, Valley Inn restaurant,

Cafe Bizou in Sherman Oaks (copyright 2012 JoshWillTravel)

Cafe Bizou in Sherman Oaks (copyright 2012 JoshWillTravel)

Van Nuys: Van Nuys Courthouse and historic district, Lake Balboa Park, Puro Sabor Peruvian restaurant, Swiss Chef restaurant, Salsa And Beer Mexican restaurant (Papas &Beer), Sepulveda Recreation Center, Japanese Gardens, Woodley Avenue Park,

Lake Balboa Park - Los Angeles, California (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lake Balboa Park – Los Angeles, California (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Encino: Encino Commons, Okumura Sushi Restaurant, Sushi Hirosuke, Larsen’s Steakhouse, Versailles Cuban restaurant, Taj Mahal Indian restaurant, Balboa Sports Center, Los Encinos State Historic Park, Benihana Japanese restaurant, Yamato’s Japanese Restaurant, Aroma Bakery Cafe, Encino Velodrome,

Oh yeah, we're gonna have sushi. Sushi at Okumura! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Oh yeah, we’re gonna have sushi.
Sushi at Okumura! (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Tarzana/Reseda: Tarzana Village, Le Sanglier French Restaurant, Fabrocini’s Italian Kitchen, Sushi Ichiban Kan, Bea’s Bakery, Superwok Chinese restaurant, Las Fuentes Mexican restaurant, Sol y Luna Mexican restaurant,

Le Sanglier (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Le Sanglier (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Northridge: Northridge Fashion Center, California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC), Pacific Theatres Winnetka 21, A & W Seafood Chinese restaurant, Brent’s Deli, Mandarin Deli Restaurant (soup dumplings), (continue northwest on the 118 freeway to Simi Valley)

 

Woodland Hills: CA: Warner Center, Westfield Topanga Mall, Yang Chow Restaurant, Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion restaurant, Pierce College: Farm Center, Arnie Morton’s The Steakhouse, My Brother’s Bar-B-Q, (continue west on the 101 freeway to Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks)

Drive Topanga Canyon south over the Santa Monica Mountains to Topanga State Park, Saddle Peak Lodge, and down to the Pacific Coast Highway for access to Malibu Beach,

Drive Mulholland Drive from Cahuenga Blvd to the 405 freeway at Sepulveda or vice versa. Great views of the valley day or night!

San Fernando Valley Sunset (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

San Fernando Valley Sunset (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

OTHER UNIQUE EATS (multiple locations):

In-N-Out Burger in North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, and Woodland Hills

Katsu-ya in Encino and Studio City

Cheesecake Factory in Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills

Cupid’s Hot Dogs in Northridge and Tarzana

Tommy’s Burgers in North Hollywood and Van Nuys

Solley’s Deli in Van Nuys and Woodland Hills, Jerry’s Deli in Studio City and Encino

Mulberry Street NY Pizzeria in Encino and Sherman Oaks

El Torito Mexican Restaurant in Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills

Zankou Chicken in Tarzana and Sherman Oaks

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito in Woodland Hills, CA (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

There are numerous public and private Golf Gourses, Tennis Courts and Country Clubs in and around the valley.

The Woodland Hills Country Club (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Woodland Hills Country Club (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

There are also numerous city parks, bike paths, small dog parks and urban garden areas. The rehabilitation of the L.A. River is an ongoing project.

 

 

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area http://www.nps.gov/samo has 500 miles of trails and spans 153,075 acres, the world’s largest urban national park!

Paramount Ranch, Agoura, CA (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Paramount Ranch, Agoura, CA (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

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San Fernando Valley Sunset (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

San Fernando Valley Sunset (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

San Fernando Valley at night (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

San Fernando Valley at night (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito in Woodland Hills

Mexican Food! El Torito (near Warner Center) in Woodland Hills has been at this location for many, many years. Casual dining, good Americanized Mexican food, and cocktails have been the foundation for this restaurant’s success.

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

ON THE MENU: Chips and salsa, Caesar salad, Mex Fix Platter: chicken & avocado roll, steak nachos, buffalo wings, quesadilla, beef taquitos with sour cream, guacamole, ranch dressing, & sweet sauce. Here’s the “food porn”:

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito – Chips & Salsa (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito – Strawberry Margarita (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito – Mexican Caesar Salad (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Dinner at El Torito – Mex Fix Appetizer Platter (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

and Deep Fried Ice Cream for dessert! Sorry, no picture because it got “inhaled”….

El Torito Restaurant 6040 Canoga Ave, Woodland Hills, CA 91367 http://www.eltorito.com

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I Posted These Travel Answers About Las Vegas!

Las Vegas: Great food, not outrageous price, near Aria Casino?

Aria Resort - Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Aria Resort – Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Q: We will be traveling to Las Vegas this summer, looking for great places to eat within walking distance of the Aria Casino that are under $30 a plate. Looking for a tasty meal that doesn’t break the bank.

Late lunch spot for a couple, near the Wynn Hotel?

Q: My wife and I are landing in Vegas around 1:30 and want to stop for a late lunch on our way to the hotel. I normally would just go to Joe’s for some stone crab, but thought there might be a new place for us to try. We are staying at the Wynn, but any recommendations are welcome. We are fine (and might prefer) eating at the bar.

A: There are so many restaurants and places to eat, and they change constantly in Vegas.

Here are five options for great food at a reasonable price near (but not walking distance to) the Aria Resort and Wynn Hotel:

Grand Lux Cafe, Venetian Hotel - Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Grand Lux Cafe, Venetian Hotel – Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

A reasonably inexpensive meal can be found at the Grand Lux Café (inside the Venetian and Palazzo Resorts). I like the hand tossed, wood-fired pizzas and you can get them “to go” in a pizza box. (~$16.00 per pizza) http://www.grandluxcafe.com/locations.htm

Venetian Hotel - Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Pizza from Grand Lux Cafe –  Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Go off-strip to this “hole-in-the-wall” #1 in the USA rated Thai Restaurant, the Lotus of Siam. Not really a secret, because the the locals and most “foodies” know about this amazing restaurant! (~$9.00-21.00 per dish and they have lunch & dinner specials) http://www.saipinchutima.com

Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill is at Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. Opened in 2004, the southwestern cuisine is truly fantastic (but it’s not inexpensive). From the Mesa Grill website: “Bobby developed his signature style of American cookery, marrying the flavors of southwest with his love of grilling at Mesa Grill. Bobby presents dishes like New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Ancho Chile Sauce, Sweet Potato Tamale, and Crushed Pecan Butter. In a nod to the West, he also includes a Chiptole Glazed Rib-Eye with Red and Green Chile Sauce. Las Vegas’ proximity to Mexico gives the restaurant access to some of that country’s highest-quality tequila and mezcal offerings, and the expansive wine list has a global reach yet maintains an emphasis on top American wines. The combination of Mesa Grill’s magnificent decor, the exciting vibe of the casino atmosphere and Bobby Flay’s stunning range of textures, flavors and colors incorporated into his menu continue to electrify diners year after year.”  http://www.mesagrill.com/las-vegas-restaurant/index.php

or have too much amazing Bavarian (German) food and beer at the Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas. Sausages, sauerkraut, spaetzel, pork shanks, and all kinds of other Bavarian specials. A lot of food, so bring friends! (Daily specials start at $9.99) http://www.hofbrauhauslasvegas.com 

And of course, the Peppermill Restaurant is great anytime day or night (open 24/7 with a secret off-menu locals’ late night special Steak & Shrimp for cheap) and they have great cocktails too! http://www.peppermilllasvegas.com

NOTE: Do not eat at the MGM Buffet! (read my other blog)

Bon cha’nce! Bon appétit! Good luck & Good eating!

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Is it true if you eat at Tao Restaurant, you get into Tao Nightclub free and skip the line?

Venetian Hotel - Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Venetian Hotel – Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Q: Is it true if you eat at Tao Restaurant, you get into Tao Nightclub for free & skip the line?

A: TAO Asian Bistro, TAO Nightclub and Tao Beach inside the The Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

From the Tao website: “Dinner and Nightlife Packages – As low as $82.50 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). Enjoy an evening at TAO Asian Bistro and Nightclub! Package Includes Three Course Dinner, Nightclub Admission and a VIP Table with One Bottle and Mixers. Available on dinner reservations before 6:30pm and after 10:30pm.”

http://taorestaurantlv.com/reservations/

The menu with this package and bottle service seems a to be a pretty good deal!

I’ve heard that admission was included if you have dinner at the restaurant, but I’m sure it depends on the night of the week and the event at the club. Contact the restaurant directly for reservations and questions.

Venetian Hotel - Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Venetian Hotel – Las Vegas, Nevada (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

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Bachelor party venues?

Welcome to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Welcome to Las Vegas (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Q: One of my best buddies is getting married next year and as a groomsman, I’ve been tasked being one of the organizers for his bachelor party. Here’s the thing: none of us groomsman are really party animals, so we really have no idea where to start, but we just know that we want our buddy to have a good time and that we want to go to Vegas, just for the experience. Any ideas on which venues to start looking at and/or bachelor party-type activities?

A: Bachelor Party in Las Vegas!

Do you want the full blown “Hangover, part 4” or just a good time?

First, how many people will be attending? Do you have hotel reservations? Do you want to have dinner, go clubbing, go drinking, go strip clubbing, hit an ultra-lounge or three, see a show, do some gambling, ride a roller coaster, or maybe shoot automatic weapons?

Or do you want to really get wild?

You can get a nice package deal with the hotels if you have a large group (sometimes, all you need is a block of five rooms). Hotel rooms, dinner, and entertainment can all be arranged, contact the group sales manager.

Rent a limo or party bus if you want to travel around, beyond walking distance. There are companies that can arrange the whole evening, just know that they are probably getting “kickbacks” from the party venues. NOTE: Be sure to shop around, negotiate for the best deal and extras, and always check safety and consumer reports before booking with any company!

You are on your own for strippers, escorts, hookers and “party favors”.

Good luck and be safe!

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MGM Grand (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Vegas Sunset Through a Green Metal Screen at the MGM Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

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