Best Things to Do in Monterey, California

Friday March 11, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 1 Comment

Clown Fish, Monterey Bay Aquarium, travel, Nancy D. Brown

When I have a visitor, I take them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Are you visiting Monterey, California for the first time? Below is a list of Insider Tips and recommendations for things to see and do in Monterey.

When I have a visitor from out of town, I  take them to Asilomar Beach and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you are looking for typical Monterey seafood, I head to Passionfish in Pacific Grove.

Looking for a quiet place to relax and recharge? Go to Accista Spa at The Hyatt Regency Hotel. For the budget spa experience, Massage Envy has a location on Munras Avenue.


For something completely different, visit Vision Quest Bed and Breakfast in Salinas.

If you come to Big Sur, get your picture taken in front of the Bixby Bridge.

Del Monte Forest, horseback riding, travel, nancy d. brown

When in Monterey, go horseback riding through Del Monte Forest in Pebble Beach

The best item on the menu at Nepenthe in Big Sur, is the Ambrosia Burger, but the Long Island Iced Tea is a great way to drink in the view.

On your way back to Monterey, from a day trip to Big Sur, be sure to check out Carmel-by-the-Sea for their many art galleries.

When I’m low on money for dining out or want some of the freshest produce around, I go to the Monterey Farmers Market – every Thursday, rain or shine.


If you are looking for a great dinner out, where the locals dine,  go to Fandango Restaurant in Pacific Grove (their paella is amazing, while the rack of lamb is my personal favorite.) 

In Monterey, take your picture down at the wharf with the year round resident sea otters and sea lions.

Walk to the top of the Point Pinos Lighthouse for a great view.

Personally, I’m never experienced the Tours of Monterey Ghost Tour. Let me know what you think.

There are plenty of outdoor activities to discover in Monterey.  Besides golf and hiking, try horseback riding, kayaking or walking around the Monterey Bay.


Looking for a little exercise? Walk  the recreation trail that runs through the sand dunes in Marina to the rocky shore of Pacific Grove.


Monterey, pacific ocean, travel, nancy d. brown

When I have a visitor from out of town, I take them to the Pacific Ocean in Monterey

If you are a museum lover, Monterey’s best museum is the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.


Enjoy a night out on the town? Go to the Hippodrome Nightclub and Lounge.

Are you a night owl? While Carmel shuts down early, the Cibo Ristorante Italiano is the spot for late night dining, and jazz music.

The Monterey County Weekly will keep you posted on local happenings in the newspaper.


You can tell a lot about Monterey from visiting and watching the Sloat Landing Ceremony. Full disclosure: I’ve never heard of the Sloat Landing Ceremony – something to check out.

The  Castroville Artichoke Festival takes place in the spring.

In the summer you should attend Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix & MotoGP World Championship at the Mazda Raceway.

Whalers Cove, Point Lobos, California, travel, nancy d. brown

Visit Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos State Nature Reserve for a day trip from Carmel or Monterey, California

If you are a jazz fan, come to Monterey in the fall for the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Come to Monterey  in the winter to experience  Christmas in the Adobes.

Insider Tip:  Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, outside of Carmel is a great day trip. Whaler’s Cove is my favorite spot.

Go to Toasties in Pacific Grove for a great breakfast that won’t break the bank.


If  you like antiques, nearby to  Monterey is Moss Landing, have lunch at Phil’s Fish Market. The cioppino is a local favorite. You can bring your own container and take it back to your hotel.


The best way to see Monterey is to walk The Downtown Historic Walking Tour in Monterey


Cypress Point, golf, pebble beach, travel, nancy d. brown

Tiger Woods was not invited to play at the private Cypress Point Golf Course in Monterey

Don’t miss: My Museum and Dennis the Menace Park if you are traveling with kids.  While my children are now teenagers, we spent many hours at My Museum and Dennis the Menace Park when they were young.

What are your favorite things to do in Monterey, California?

Thanks to Jenna Palacio and the Monterey Convention and Visitors Bureau for assistance with this post.  All photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.

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Horseback Riding in Pebble Beach, California

Things to See and Do in Carmel, California

Things to See and Do in New Orleans, LA

Friday March 4, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 9 Comments

Mardi Gras, float, New Orleans, Louisiana, travel, Nancy D. Brown

Come to New Orleans, Louisiana for Mardi Gras to watch the colorful floats in the parades

Are you visiting New Orleans, Louisiana for the first time? Below is a list of Insider Tips and recommendations for things to see and do in the ” Big Easy.”

When I have a visitor from out of town, I take them to cocktails at the Sazerac Bar in the historic Roosevelt Hotel.

If you are looking for typical New Orleans cuisine,  order a good po-boy from Johnny’s, Mother’s or Parkway Bakery and Tavern.

Looking for a quiet place to reflect? Check out the Besthoff Sculpture Garden located in City Park. On a warm day, head next door to the New Orleans Museum of Art to cool down and study more than 30,000 art objects.

If you come to New Orleans, get your picture taken at Jackson Square.

Mardi Gras, Costumes, New Orleans, Louisiana, travel, Nancy D. Brown

Magical Mardi Gras Costumes in New Orleans, Louisiana

The best item on the menu at Cafe du Monde, are the beignets.

Seeing a lot of Fleur de Lis in New Orleans? It is the official symbol of the city (and the New Orleans Saints) and can be found everywhere.

Looking for cheap food in New Orleans? Go anywhere that serves gumbo, red beans and rice or a po-boy. All run under $7.

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to Restaurant August, owned by Chef John Besh.

In New Orleans, take your picture with a street performer on Royal Street, on stage at Cats Meow on Bourbon, or with a Hurricane drinking glass on Pat O’s.

The Omni Royal Orleans Rooftop Pool offers great views, and the lobby of the Westin Canal Place is another good place to people watch.

The Fleur de Lis is the official symbol of New Orleans, Louisiana.

In New Orleans, an active day outdoors involves eating and walking to the next bar.

Looking for a little exercise? Walk the French Quarter, although a streetcar ride down the St. Charles Avenue route is even better.

If you are a museum lover, New Orleans’ best museum is the National World War II Museum.

Enjoy a night out on the town? For a night of dancing, go Frenchmen Street. It’s known as the local’s Bourbon Street with plenty of live music.

The Times-Picayune will keep you posted on local happenings in the newspaper.

You can tell a lot about New Orleans from visiting and watching  Mardi Gras. It really sums up the ‘Joie de vivre’ attitude.

Jazz Fest, New Orleans, Louisiana, Nancy D. Brown, travel

Attend Louisiana’s New Orleans Jazz Fest in the spring.

If you are a jazz fan, come to  New Orleans Jazz Fest in the spring.

Tales of the Cocktail is a must do in the summer in New Orleans.

Did you know that New Orleans is America’s most haunted city? Visit in the fall and experience Halloween!

Come to New Orleans, Louisiana for Mardi Gras in the winter.

Insider Tip: checkout the often over-looked Ye Olde College Inn. It’s a short cab ride away to Mid City New Orleans. After, head next door to Rock n Bowl for live music and bowling.

Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans, Louisiana, travel, Nancy D. Brown

If you order one thing off the menu at Cafe du Monde, get the beignets

Go to Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait  for a great breakfast treat or coffee.

Don’t miss The Audubon Insectarium if you have kids traveling with you.

What are your favorite things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana?

Photos courtesy of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Jazz photo courtesy of Donn Young. Cafe Du Monde photo courtesy of Pat Garin.

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San Francisco Neighborhoods – Chinatown

Friday February 25, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 2 Comments

Welcome to the Neighborhood, A Series About San Francisco Neighborhoods

Chinatown, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood

In our third installment of the “Welcome to the Neighborhood” series, we’re going to explore one of San Francisco’s most iconic neighborhoods: Chinatown.

If you’re a regular reader of this series, you know our point of view is that to really get to know a city, travelers should go beyond the famous landmarks and tourist attractions. Especially in San Francisco, where the neighborhoods offer the diversity and atmosphere that people from all over the world come here to experience. That is especially true in Chinatown; we can’t think of another neighborhood in the city that has the ability to transport a visitor to another place and time.
The trick is to get off the main street – Grant Street, with its souvenir, luggage and t-shirt shops – to explore the atmospheric back alleys of Chinatown. With a few left turns off of Grant, the tourists are left behind and it’s suddenly possible to forget that you’re in an American city.


Chinatown neighborhood

Explore the back alleys of San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Exploring Chinatown
By visiting the following three destinations, you’ll find yourself deep in the neighborhood amongst the locals going about their daily business. We suggest you park the easy way: in the Portsmouth Square garage on Kearny Street. When you emerge from the elevator, you’ll step right onto Portsmouth Square. From there, you can work your way up the hill to explore all of the other destinations. Along the way, let yourself be led down a mysterious alley or sidewalk – half the fun in Chinatown is discovering a few things on your own.

Portsmouth Square. We call this Chinatown’s living room, and it is in fact the former center of San Francisco as you will see by the numerous monuments dotted around the square. Currently it is where residents of Chinatown gather to gamble, gossip and pass time. Sit amongst the locals and soak it all in.

Tien How Temple. Up three flights of stairs, visiting this 100 year old temple is a magical experience. Wander on to the balcony for some of the best views in the city.
Chinese Historical Society. Not only will you get a deep understanding of the Chinese community in San Francisco and learn the history of this fascinating neighborhood, you’ll likely meet a couple of long-time Chinatown residents who are staff members. Of note – the building is a former YWCA designed by famous San Francisco architect Julia Morgan.


Chinatown mural

Explore the real Chinatown in San Francisco

Shop Chinatown
When in Chinatown, we skip the tchochkes and shop for something that will provide an authentic memory of our time exploring the “real” Chinatown. Here are a few of our favorite destinations:
The Wok Shop. The first thing you probably think of when considering Chinese cuisine is the wok. The Wok Shop has been in Chinatown for over 30 years, so they know what they’re doing when it comes to woks, steamers, cleavers and all manner of chinese cooking utensils.
Stockton Street. Between Sacramento and Broadway, Stockton has a plethora of small grocers, produce shops, butchers, bakers and five and dime type stores. The sidewalks and shops along this stretch are crowded with residents doing their daily shopping. Just insert yourself in the flow, elbow your way along and you’ll be rewarded with interesting, tasty and sometimes bizarre discoveries.

Chinatown Kite Shop. Okay, we’ve advised you to wander off Grant, but there are a couple of good destinations on this street and one of them is Chinatown Kite Shop. Until you enter this shop you think your life is complete without a kite; five minutes later you’re in dither over which one to buy (Dragon? Butterfly?Fish? So many choices!).


dim sum, chinatown, san francisco

Discover the foods of Chinatown neighborhoods

Chinatown dining

Let’s just put it out there: eating off the beaten path in Chinatown can be intimidating. Set aside your fears and grab your chopsticks because we have tasted our way around Chinatown and here are our recommendations:
Sam Wo. Located at 813 Washington, just off Grant, this place is all about the atmosphere. Go through the kitchen, up a narrow staircase, and wedge yourself in. Sam Wo delivers on the collective idea of a little Chinese “joint”. The food is cheap (we like the Chow Fun), the service is (ahem) authentic, and it’s BYO.
Yong Kee Dim Sum. Located at 732 Jackson between Stockton and Grant, this is one of many dim sum shops on the street. The signage is in Chinese, so just look for the shop with the red awning on the North side of the street. Their steamed chicken buns are great, and so are the pork dumplings and the shrimp dumplings. If your Chinese is rusty, the ladies behind the counter will understand your pointing and sign language.
Golden Gate Bakery. Back to 1029 Grant Street for egg custard tarts at the undisputed winner of the “best egg custard tart award”. Okay, there’s not an official award, but if there was, Golden Gate Bakery would have the biggest trophy in Chinatown.

What is your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco? What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?

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