Orange County is the typical Southern California paradise that the world expects from SoCal. No wonder then that there have been so many recent television shows set in the area, including 4 seasons of the O.C. and reality television fodder, Laguna Beach, The Hills and The Real Housewives of Orange County. If people are going to be beautiful, wealthy and live a charmed life, the least they can do is let us watch them live out their lives and provide us with entertainment. So why should you visit? I’ve listed below 30 reasons to visit Orange County in California. Get off the couch, folks, and go live the life you see on television even if its only for a vacation.
Sunny, affluent Orange County is the dream California that advertisers sell.
The End of the Road
- The famous Pacific Coast Highway ends at Dana Point in Orange County. If you’re going to do a road trip it makes sense to go to one end or another of the road, right? We did the smart thing and headed south on the PCH towards guaranteed sunshine in southern California.
- Orange County is blessed with miles of sand and surf. But the kicker? It’s also got near-perfect weather all year-round so you can actually enjoy the beach for more than just the summer.
Another perfect beach day for residents.
- Crystal Cove State Park, one of the best beaches in the OC, is 3.5 miles of beachfront perfection. There are lots of activities at the park – hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking etc. We went for the obvious simple pleasures – boogie boarding and swimming.
The beautiful Crystal Cove StatePark.
- The OC is famous for its tidal pools. We are talking hours of entertainment for inquisitive kids while you hang out in the sunshine on a beach chair.
Explorig tidal pools left in the rocks.
- As you would expect, surfing is a big part of outdoor sports in the OC. Huntington Beach, known as ‘surf city’, is home to one of the largest world surfing competitions.
- Get a panoramic view of the OC from 500 feet in the air on the Big Orange Balloon at Orange County Great Park. Bonus: It’s really cheap!
The tethered helium ballon takes passengers up into the sky for a panoramic view.
- You can visit Mickey Mouse and friends in Anaheim – a theme park experience which can be made more fun with Julie’s 25 Secret Tips for Disneyland. Really need I say more?
A local favourite, you get delicious burgers and milkshakes with a view over the beach below.
- California’s famous In-n-Out burger is headquartered in Irvine. They are famous for the freshness of their burgers so you know their stores in the area have to be good.
- For dinner with a view, check out Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort at Laguna Beach. The food was good, but the view was amazing. It’s right on the beach perfect for walking off some of the calories that you just imbibed.
- Irvine has hundreds of miles of on-road and off-road dedicated biking paths. Obviously, these paths are good for hiking too.
A bike basket filled for a day at the beach.
- A planned city built by the Corporation of Irvine, Irvine is pretty, landscaped and has roads that make sense. It consistently gets rated as one of the safest cities in the USA.
All tha sunshine and no rain does mean the non-ocean view is a desert landscape,
- Orange County Great Park is a former Marine base turned into 1300 acres for outdoor enjoyment, including a Farmer’s Market, sports fields and playgrounds.
Great cycle trails but watch out for those hills!
- Perhaps your idea of outdoor exercise, is flexing your credit card finger muscles. Even the mall at Fashion Island in Newport Beach has an ocean view!
An Arts Community
In the Pageant of the Masters, European paintings by Old Masters are faithfully recreated on a stage by live actors.
- I have to admit I did think that people getting dressed up and re-enacting Old Masters paintings for the Pageant of the Masters would be a good laugh. I came away impressed at the sheer pageantry of the show. It’s art, theatre and Hollywood magic all combined into one impressive show narrated by a booming Morgan Freeman voice.
- Less fancy, and across the street from the Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters is the Sawdust Art Festival which can basically be described as Etsy in the sunshine with sawdust.
- In fact, there is art everywhere in the streets of Laguna Beach. What’s not to love?\
No, this isn’t in London. It’s a sculpture in downtown Laguna Beach.
Fun Day Trips
- ‘You can take a day trip to pretty Catalina Island from either Dana Point or Newport Beach.
- You can also go whale watching trips from Newport Beach.
- Both Los Angeles and San Diego are a couple of hours from the OC. Traffic, however, can make this trip much longer. Sure it could be a fun day trip or you could just go crazy sitting in the car for hours.
Orange County has so much to do but is also located near other great destinations.
Great Hotels and Transport
- The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach is a fantastic place to stay (with or without kids). Set on 500+ acres with accommodation in little bungalows and a golf course, pools, spa, restaurants, you may be loathe to leave this hotel. It would, however, be a shame to miss the rest of the OC!
- The OC has an airport named after John Wayne who used to live in nearby Newport Beach. Technically it is an international airport (probably because it flies to Cabo in Mexico?)
- There is a super-cute Laguna Beach Trolley that runs a shuttle service around the town for free on weekends. Of course, the trolley starts at 11AM on Saturdays and Sundays because anything else would be uncivilised.
The cute little Laguna Beach Trolley operates on weekends to transport visitors.
For more suggestions, check out A Local’s Guide to Orange County by a blogger friendwho grew up in the area. Have you been to Orange County? What else do you recommend?
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Primrose Hill is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in London. When we were house-hunting in the area, we were choosing between Primrose Hill and St John’s Wood. In the end, we choose St John’s Wood because the houses were nicer and it was less of a so-trendy-it-hurts scene. A disappointed Primrose Hill real estate agent told us that we were making a big mistake and that we would miss Primrose Hill’s vibrancy. We didn’t. But we did visit often as it was only across the park. If you would like to experience a part of London that the average tourist does not frequent, I would recommend the Primrose Hill neighbourhood. Along those lines, I’ve put together a list of 5 things you need to know about Primrose Hill in London.
Colourful terrace homes in Primrose Hill
Where is Primrose Hill?
Primrose Hill itself is a large hilly park just north of Regents Park Zoo (and a part of the Royal Park of Regents Park). The two parks are intersected by Prince Albert Road which connects crazy cool Camden with sedate upscale St. John’s Wood. The Primrose Hill neighbourhood is in the middle picking up aspects of both of its neighbours.
The popular press always talk about the celebrities that populate Primrose Hill. In my experience it has been overrun with general wealthy City types. The heyday of the celebrities living in Primrose Hill was in the 1990’s. If the Daily Mail is to be believed Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and her husband Jude Law threw crazy house parties. Adding music cred, the Gallagher Brothers also lived nearby (several ex-wives ago). Most of them have moved onto other parts of North London (mostly Highgate) which have more privacy, leafier gardens and better schools. Yes, even the party kids have to grow up.
When the area was developed in the early 19th century, Regents Park and Primrose Hill were considered suburbs because London itself was much smaller. Today it is fairly central and firmly within zone 2 of the Tube.
A Brief History of Primrose Hill
I’ve heard taxi drivers tell me that Primrose Hill was actually a plague pit from the 14th century. Plague pits were where the bodies of people who died from the Bubonic Plague were dumped. Almost 1/3 of the population of the City of London died from the plague and so the bodies were just dumped as quickly as they could be found in large burial pits. This story could potentially be true as there have been plague pits found nearby and the area would have been sufficiently outside of the medieval city to be a countryside dumping ground. No one has actually dug it up so we don’t know if it is. Usually these things are found when you are excavating for a tube line extension or similar.
Not much happened in Primrose Hill from the time of the supposed plague pit until the mid-19th century. The rapidly expanding middle class in London needed somewhere to live. Thanks to the British Empire, London was the most populous city in the world at the time. So, enter the developers.
An attempt to prettify the railroad bridge over the railroad tracks that delineate Primrose Hill.
In the early 19th century, architect John Nash, with the blessing of the king, was building villas for the ‘great and the good’ in Regents Park. That scheme wasn’t as extensive as proposed because Nash was more creative than business-minded. At the same time, St. John’s Wood was being developed as one of the first ‘suburbs’ of London with spacious villas and low-density housing.
The semi-detached villas were built to accommodate a family and their servants.
Primrose Hill was likewise tagged for development but, along the way, it became less villas and more terraced houses. Unlike the other two neighbourhoods, the railroad tracks (and their accompanying industrial elements) were too close for comfort for the aspiring middle-classes who wanted villas. There were some villas built which housed single-families who were comfortably wealthy sufficiently far from the tracks.
An idyllic sunday in the park when life is good.
So, what was a poor developer to do with rest of the land? They crammed in housing. Where there would have been a pair of semi-detached villas on a lot, they put about 5 terraced homes. These terraces became homes for the working class with families taking an entire floor (or if they were really poor, stuck into one room).
The Primrose Hill of Today
Primrose Hill likes to think of itself as a village. (Somewhat pretentious because it never was!). When we were house-hunting, one of the things that put me off were all the AGA cookers. If you live in the English countryside, you have to cook on an AGA cooker/oven. It’s in the contract as soon as you buy a home in middle-codswallop-on-the-river. Along with the subscription to Country Life magazine. You really don’t need one in London other than to pretend you live in a little village in the middle of nowhere.
What are the 5 things you need to know about Primrose Hill?
Regents Park Road is the Epicentre
The main drag in Primrose Hill is Regents Park Road. Although the area does not have chain stores (e.g., Pret a Manger, McDonalds), it does have branches of select stores. Dahling, you have to shop rich to understand the difference. For example, there is a branch of upscale Nicolas (a French wine store), Graham and Greene (boho-chic interior furnishings) and Mary’s Living and Giving (boutiquey thrift shops established by retail expert Mary Portas for Save the Children).
One of the many great pubs in Primrose Hill.
I personally love Primrose Hill Books which is an independent bookseller which has a curated selection of books (written by locals as well as others). Primrose Hill has a long history of leftist/liberal intellectual credentials with numerous famous locals having lived in the neighbourhood, such as Frederich Engels (philosopher), Alan Bennett (playwright) and the Milband Brothers (politicians).
Thin and rich does not mean you have to be stupid.
Be Serious About Food…
Of course, Primrose Hill is home to a lot of foodies. Or, foodies, if only they could bring themselves to eat carbohydrates. Maybe they just smell the fresh aroma of good bread. Anthony Delicatessen has great Italian food. My son loves the parma ham it sells. On Saturdays, there is a farmer’s market held in the neighbourhood.
Do NOT come into this neighbourhood with plastic bags.
In terms of restaurants, Greenberry Cafe is popular with the ladies who lunch crowd with a well-deserved reputation for good food. Lemonia is a local favourite Greek restaurant which has been there for ages. People are always asking us to lunch there – it’s good but not great in my opinion. I much prefer Odette’s which has been around for a really long time as well and is consistently good. My children love Cachao which makes great sweet or savoury crepes. The cafe being part of a charming toy store has nothing to do with their love.
Shepherd’s Foods is a little supermarket along the lines of Partridges in Sloane Square which in turn tries to be the cooler version of Fortnum & Mason. Not surprising since the same family (Shepherd) own both Shepherds and Partridges. Just like Partridges, you will find a selection of American brands at Shepherds.
One of several fabulous wine places in Primrose Hill
But Not So Serious As To Be More than a Size Two
The fashionistas will also be happy in Primrose Hill. I love Anna, a store that has been there for years and has great sales. For children, there is I Love Gorgeous which sells charming (if expensive) girls’ dresses. Elias and Grace is a great store for children’s clothes for both genders. On the less expensive side, you also have Fara Kids (a charity store which sells hardly-used and brand name hand-me-downs from local rich kids).
Must Love Socialising
There are side streets nearby which has more stores, restaurants and pubs. For example, Gloucester Avenue was one of the roads that unluckily backs onto the railroad tracks on one side. On Gloucester Road, we really like The Landsdowne Pub and, just down the road, The Engineer. The Lansdowne Pub has a great restaurant upstairs (with a roof terrace overlooking the railroad tracks).
The Engineer has a great outside courtyard area to hang out in the sunshine.
The Engineer has a charming courtyard in the backyard. In between the two pubs, there’s Primrose Bakery which is a neighbourhood favourite. Across from The Engineer, next door to high-end deli Melrose and Morgan you can take a nice stroll along the canal towpath. One way will take you to funky Camden Town Market and the other way will take you to the genteel prettiness of Little Venice.
In my experience, the pubs in Primrose Hill are always packed. It’s a good thing then that they are great places to hang out!
Must Love Dogs
You have to understand that the people in Primrose Hill love dogs. Not only is the park nearby, having a dog is part of that English country living thing. You can’t take a long bracing walk over the rolling hills of the English countryside with a cat, can you??
One lucky doggie riding in style.
Visiting Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill really is a walk across Prince Albert Road from Regents Park. From the top of the hill, you will get fabulous views across London. It is easily accessible by tube as well (Chalk Farm Tube Station).
I think the nicest way to visit if you are a tourist is to take in the very pretty Regents Park and then have a lunch/dinner/drinks in Primrose Hill. As soon as you leave the Baker Street area, the crowds that characterise tourist-central-London melt away. London’s charms are much easier to appreciate if you are not constantly being jostled by people. You will definitely find yourself hanging out with the London locals (and possibly a celebrity). After Primrose Hill, it’s a short walk to visit Camden Town (maybe via the scenic canal path route near Melrose and Morgan?) and its market mayhem. Be forewarned, you will once again find yourself with the throngs having left idyllic Primrose Hill behind.
Did you know that Venice Beach claims to be the number 1 visitor attraction in Southern California? Yes, even more so than Disneyland or Rodeo Drive. We walked the Venice Beach boardwalk on a Sunday and I can attest that was heaving with people. The Venice Beach boardwalk is about a mile and a half long with the beach on one side and all sorts of visual candy on the other side.
The town of Venice California was created by a real estate developer who was fascinated with bringing the sophistication of Venice in Italy to the California sun. The original vision is still alive and well in the Venice Canals District. The boardwalk part of Venice though has turned into more of a Coney Island (New York) or Blackpool (England) sort of experience. If you don’t take yourself seriously, it is still a lot of fun in my opinion.
15 Things To Do on the Venice Beach Boardwalk
What is there to do in Venice Beach? Frankly, pretty much anything goes from what I can tell. And, this list is by no means exhaustive of things you can get up to in Venice Beach.
The best part of Venice Beach is the people-watching. This strip is a street photographer’s dream.
On and off the Venice Beach boardwalk, there is fantastic street art. The artists in the area have really made a grungy place look cool.
Venice Beach Chorus Line by noted muralist Rip Cronk
If this private residence looks this wacky from the outside, can you imagine the inside?
I’d love to see the inside of this private residence.
See a doctor
Don’t worry, medical help is nearby.
I wonder if Dr. Weed went to one of those dodgy Caribbean medical schools for his degree.
There are traditional types of beach shopping as well as lots of artwork for sale.
Be a culture vulture
Lots of artists display their wares. This vendor has recycled metal craft made to look like robots.
One person’s junk is another person’s art.
Join up with local sports
You can see plenty of people shooting hoops, skateboarding and surfing (not at the same time!).
Psychedelic coloured skateboards to go along with any other trip you may take.
The bicycle path gives you a nice and easy ride. Just remember not to crash into anyone/anything as you gawk at all the sights.
Take in a show
After watching American Horror Story, I thought Freak Shows were a thing of the past. But clearly not here on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
A Freak Show just sounds like such unPC branding for California.
Support local entertainers
I can’t believe a busker actually brings a piano to the beach.
Get a commemorative tattoo and/or piercing
Engage in a lively debate.
Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you.
Grab a coffee
Hang out in the sunshine, get something to eat or drink and watch the world go by.
Gawk at hardbodies
It may not be your cup of tea, but this sort of body takes some serious effort to achieve.
Big guns at Muscle Beach. Image credit: Lin Mei
Enjoy beach time
And, finally, how about just relaxing at the beach? Only with the Venice Beach Boardwalk nearby would such a beautiful white sand beach become almost an afterthought.
Venice Beach lifeguard stand – sadly didn’t look very Baywatch.
Visiting Venice Beach Boardwalk
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is located at Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach, California 90291. Admission is free, but the spectacle is priceless.
When we visit Los Angeles, our favourite place to stay is the Terranea Resort located by the ocean. We rent a car through Hertz rent a car through Hertz, our usual choice of rental car in the United States.
Check TripAdvisor Reviews Now!
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So you’ve been awed by Mt. Rushmore and wondered at the tenacity of the sculpting family behind the Crazy Horse Memorial. You’re ready for fresh air and the beauty of outdoor activities of South Dakota. You definitely have great options to enjoy nature in the Badlands, Black Hills, Custer State National Park and the Mickelson Trail, to name a few. In the intense heat of the South Dakota summer sun, though, you may want some indoor time.
When you are visiting the gorgeous Badlands and Black Hills nearby, you will pass through or near the town of Hot Springs in South Dakota. Here are 5 indoor activities you can do in South Dakota when being outside gets too much for you (or the kids).
The Mammoth Site is open year round as a museum and a working archeological dig. It has the largest collection of mammoth bones in the world. The area used to be a watering hole nearly 26000 years ago and the occasional mammoth would fall in. So far, they have found 61 mammoths’ remains. Amusingly, we were told all these mammoths were male. I’d like to think the female mammoths were too smart to fall in the pond and not be able to get out.
The different sizes of various mammoths
My children thought the exhibit was fascinating. The Mammoth Site runs a summer camp and, if we lived any closer to Hot Springs South Dakota, I would definitely send my kids off to be junior palenteologists.
Giant Mammoth Tusks
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is also located in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Our tour of the sanctuary turned out to be a private one because we were the only people there. The guide was local and really knew her stuff.
The Wild Horse Sanctuary
We saw all 4 different types of mustangs – American, Curly, Spanish and Choctaw. Some of the mustangs came right up to us and we even got to feed some of them. Once again, my kids were enthralled at getting so close to the mustangs.
I know this activity is technically mostly outside but being driven around with the fresh wind in our faces in a jeep was a refreshing change from hiking up and down hills.
My kids are BIG fans of thermal pools and so, of course, we had to try the hot springs for which Hot Springs was named.
Evan’s Plunge claims to be the oldest tourist attraction in the Black Hills. It’s somewhat dated but for a quick play in the pool, my kids were happy. There are a couple of water slides as well. I joined a local water aerobics class that was happening while my husband played with the kids.
Think of it as a large community centre pool and you won’t be disappointed. It is definitely not as clean, sparkling and shiny as the Icelandic and Austrian thermal pools we’ve been to. The water is more warm than hot but Warm Springs doesn’t have much of a ring to it, does it?
Wind Cave National Park
You can take guided tours of Wind Cave National Park which was the first cave to be designated a national park in the world in 1903. The wind that the caves are known for are due to the difference in pressure between the cave and the surface. Wind Cave is sacred to the Native Americans who lived in the area.
We were part of a fairly large group. The tour guide was excellent though and we had no problems keeping up with him. Wind Cave is part of a large and complex cave system much of which is still not explored. On average four new miles of cave are discovered each year!!
Pioneer History Museum
The Pioneer History Museum is in the centre of Hot Springs and housed in what used to be an elementary school. It’s got a mixed collection of historical memorabilia. You get a sense of pioneer life with its display of everyday items. It was good for my children to see how much they take for granted nowadays!! The museum is open during the summer months and is free for the under 12 set.
The Hot Springs Jail which saw quite a bit of action in its day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round up of fun indoor activities near Hot Springs South Dakota. Our favourite would have to be the Wild Horses Sanctuary because we are horse-crazy in my family. What would be your pick?
This post is linked up with Weekend Wanderlust and The Weekly Postcard.
I’ve been on this mission to check out the Chinatown in whichever city I find myself. Earlier this year, I had a chance to check out Boston’s small but historic Chinatown.
Cool Facts About Boston’s Chinatown
- The Chinatown in Boston is the third largest in the United States. Only the Chinatowns in New York and San Francisco are bigger. Presumably the size is determined by population density because the actual area is only a few square blocks between the financial and theatre districts.
In the shadow of the high rise buildings
- Although this area is the only Chinatown left in New England, the neighbourhood increasingly is subject to gentrification. The swanky new high-rises being built in the neighbourhood attract non-Asians.
- Boston’s Chinatown was built on top of reclaimed land. Like many other immigrant neighbourhoods in the United States, the area was first settled by English settlers before they moved out to other areas. The neighbourhood has also welcomed other Asian immigrants especially the Vietnamese.
The times they are a-changing.
- Ping on Alley was where the first Chinese settlers set up a tent city. They had come east after helping to build the Transcontinental Railroad. As I mentioned in a previous post on Hell on Wheels Towns, the Central Pacific railroad had preferred hiring the quieter Chinese workers instead of the hard-drinking Irish hired by the Union Pacific railroad.
- The first restaurant in the area was called Hong Far Low. I just love that name (I know very childish of me). Also, how can you not love a Chinese restaurant called Double Chin?
Lots of body parts on this corner.
- The best reason to visit Chinatown is authentic Chinese food (as opposed to the Americanised chains like Panda Express or PF Changs). This June 2015 list from the Boston Globe gives their rundown of the best places to eat and what to order in the area. My favourite restaurant is Shojo (on the list) for a contemporary take on old favourites.
- There are still over 30 family associations in Chinatown. These associations were used by Chinese immigrants in the past to help them settle into their new homeland.
- The traditional Chinatown gate (paifang) is located at Beach Street and Surface Road. It was a gift from the government of Taiwan to mark the area’s centennial anniversary. It’s got a foo lion on each side of the gate as a protective symbol.
Cute but protective
- Right near the Chinatown gate is the new Rose Kennedy Greenway. One of the Greenway parks is the Chinatown Park. The park has lots of Asian-inspired planting (think bamboo), a water feature and a liberal use of the colour red. It’s a charming place to sit and eat the takeaway food you got in Chinatown itself.
A Photo Gallery of Boston’s Chinatown
A detail from the gate
A mural in a parking lot
McDonald’s with a pagoda roof – just trying to fit into the neighbourhood.
Colorful street art