Anyone out there ??

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Anyone out there ??

Postby sharon slack on February 13th, 2009, 2:37 pm

Hi all,

Actually this area seems a little dead so I'm not particularly hopeful of a reply.

But anyway, I live in Australia and me and my 2 daughters are comming on over to the US of A at the end of April into LA and out of San Fran
I wanted some information on places that are a must see, besides Disney Land lol/
Also in Australia we dont tip, i mean you can if you want but its not done much. So I would like someone to explain it to me and what sort of tip is appropriate.
Any other information would be helpful, areas to avoid etc as well.

Thank you to anyone who can help out with a bit of info.

Regards to all
Sharon
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby MarioMangler on February 13th, 2009, 5:37 pm

I live in L.A., and I went to school up near San Francisco. And I drive between the two cities about every 4 months. So I'm as good a resource as any around here. :)

First off, don't call it San Fran. No one up there calls it San Fran. When you're in Northern California, it's either S.F., San Francisco, or "The City." Just about everyone up there calls it The City.

What to do? Well that sort of depends on how long you are going to be here. And how are you getting between the two cities? Driving? or Flying? If you're driving, four places I recommend highly are Santa Barbara, Heart Castle, Monterey, and (my favorite) the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. All of them are on the 101 freeway between L.A. and S.F. In fact personally I'd recommend Santa Cruz over even L.A. or S.F. It's much smaller and you'll run into much less traffic and overcrowded tourist areas. Santa Cruz is unlike any other city I have ever visited.

Okay, Los Angeles. Disneyland of course is a given but there are tons of insider tips I can give you depending on when you want to go. For starters, DO NOT GO ON A WEEKEND if you can avoid it. The lines are way too long and if you are there for the first time, you will fall into every "waiting in a line for 2 hours to go on a ride" trap there is. So my advice is go during the week if you can. If this isn't possible, then let me know and I'll give you some local tips. Also, remember that A) Disneyland is the ultimate day killer (you'll be there all day), B) Disneyland isn't actually in L.A., but an hour away, and C) the traffic between L.A. and Anaheim is horrendous. Give yourself plenty of time to get there and spend there, cause if you do Disneyland, you aint doing anything else that day. That's a day in itself.

Other stuff near L.A. I recommend? Well if you like roller coasters then Six Flags Magic Mountain is about the best you will find on the west coast. It's in Valencia, about 45 minutes north of L.A, but it blows Disneyland away in terms of fun and thrill rides. The way I describe the two parks to people is that Disneyland is for kids, Magic Mountain is for grownups. Magic Mountain is a whole day trip just like Disneyland though.

Um, what else? The Santa Monica Pier is pretty much a must see if you're in L.A. They have rides there and film a lot of movies there. Speaking of movies, you'll probably get a kick going to Beverly Hills and driving around, looking at all the movie stars' houses. You can pretty much do that for free, if you know where to look. I would also highly recommend Universal Studios and the attached Universal City Walk. Whenever we have visitors from out of town, that's the first place we always take them.

There's lots more in L.A. I can recommend if you have specific requests. What exactly are you looking for? How long will you be here? And how old are your kids?

In regards to tipping, here's a simple rule you can follow just about everywhere. When you go out to dinner, you'll generally get charged sales tax on top of it. It's generally between 8 and 9 percent. Well the general rule on tipping is that you are supposed to tip between 15-20% your total bill. So if you want to be lazy, just take the tax and double it. That's how much you should tip. For example, if your meal came to 10.00 and on top of that the tax was .85, your total bill was 10.85. Just take the tax, double it, and leave a tip on the table of $1.70 afterwards. It is as easy as that. I generally don't tip all that much other than meals but you can probably get by with a 15% tip on just about anything.

Where to avoid in Los Angeles? Well despite its reputation as a high crime area, most people in California really don't have any contact with crime on a daily basis at all. I've lived here for 11 years and I have never had any problems with it. We lived in the quietest little suburb there is. That being said, there are a lot of urban and ghetto-ish areas in and around Los Angeles. It might sort of freak you out the first time you see it, but L.A. is sort of all over the map like that. You can have a $10 million dollar mansion two blocks away from a burned out liquor store. They really don't delineate between nice areas and not so nice areas like most other places. That being said, the areas you'd want to avoid are pretty much the same types of areas you'd want to avoid in Australia. If it doesn't look nice, stay away from it. But if you're thinking that people will just randomly pop up and try to carjack you on every corner, I wouldn't worry about it. L.A. is no more dangerous than any other big city. Like any other city, you just have to be aware of your surroundings.

In general, the tourist areas are touristy for a reason. People go there because there is no reason not to go there. And L.A. gets millions of tourists a year. Most places are perfectly safe.

Now driving in L.A., that's a whole different adventure altogether. Are you planning on driving here? I've been driving in Los Angeles for 11 years. It turns you into an a**hole. You have to learn to drive aggressively or the other drivers will eat you alive (not literally). How much driving are you planning on doing?

Where exactly are you staying? I can tell you what the good/bad areas are around there.

I'll give you some info on S.F. and Northern California in my next post.
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby jro on February 13th, 2009, 6:07 pm

I didn't have time to read the other response but wanted to add that Santa Cruz is a great beach town with a small amusement park near the ocean. It is located in between LA and SF. It is a very beautiful place.

Catalina is also a small island off the coast of LA. You have to take a boat to get there called Catalina Express but it's a nice day trip. The major city on the island is Avalon.

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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby jro on February 13th, 2009, 6:09 pm

I just took the time to read the prior response. Glad to see someone else mentioned Santa Cruz. A great seafood mexican spot to eat is El Palamar. There is a location on the beach and in The Pacific Garden Mall.

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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby sharon slack on February 14th, 2009, 1:00 am

Hi

Thanks alot for the replies. Thats awesome information. Way more than my travel agent was able to provide.

I will definately visit Santa cruz sounds lovely and I probably dont want to stay to long in L.A.
My daughters are 14 and 19 so we aren't really into the kid stuff but thought a trip fo disney a must. Although that Magic Mountain place sounds like it may be for us as well. I was going to go to the San Diego Zoo as we are big animal people. I haven't yet booked any accommodation my travel agent is researching that for me. We will be over there 3 weeks in total. I hate driving in large cities so doubt I will rent a car. Will have to just take tour buses etc I think.
Don't know about from LA to San Francisco (note I didn't shorten it :oops: ) I can just imagine it's friggin hectic. pace not sure I would be confident enough to drive it. I will definately make sure my trip to disney is not a weekend (thanks). Thanks for the low down on tipping that makes it easy to understand.
Yeah Universal Studios is what to see, I'm more than happy with scenery and national parks etc. Is it worth going to the Grand Canyon I heard it's not far from las vegas.

Thanks jro Catalina sounds lovely thanks I will look into it.

I'm going to be hit a bit hard by the exchange rate which is a bit of a bugger but oh well.

Thanks again for the information I will be looking out for the second instalment, because this is exactly the info I need to make plans.

Sharon :) P.S can you suggest a L.A. suburb that would be good and handy to stay in.
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby MarioMangler on February 14th, 2009, 3:04 am

Thanks alot for the replies. Thats awesome information. Way more than my travel agent was able to provide.


Bah. Who needs a travel agent? You've got locals.

I will definately visit Santa cruz sounds lovely and I probably dont want to stay to long in L.A.


To be honest, I think that L.A. is the least interesting part of California. It's nice to hit the tourist spots and all, but it's such a huge state and there is so much to see and do here. You're cheating yourself if you just spend the whole time down in L.A.

My daughters are 14 and 19 so we aren't really into the kid stuff but thought a trip fo disney a must. Although that Magic Mountain place sounds like it may be for us as well.


Yeah it's kind of dumb to come to L.A. and not hit Disneyland at least once. But I'm completely serious when I tell you this. Disneyland is cute and magical and all, but they really only have about 3 of what I would call exceptional rides. I'd say Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Star Tours. But if you go up to Magic Mountain they have thrill rides that will knock your socks off. Even the tamest most family friendly ride at Magic Mountain is better than Space Mountain. But yes obviously hit Disneyland if you have the chance. Just make sure it is not on the weekend.

I was going to go to the San Diego Zoo as we are big animal people.


The SD Zoo is fun but it is freaking BIG. Just be aware that it isn't your ordinary average every day zoo. You will be doing a lot of walking. And if you're in San Diego, you might as well check out Sea World if you get a chance too. It is right next door. Another cool place to visit (that happens to be free) is the enormous Balboa Park right in the center of the city. My family goes down there all the time for cheap weekend trips. They even have a free shuttle that will drive you all over the park.

I haven't yet booked any accommodation my travel agent is researching that for me. We will be over there 3 weeks in total. I hate driving in large cities so doubt I will rent a car. Will have to just take tour buses etc I think.


This is where you could run into a problem. The problem is that out of all the large cities in America, Los Angeles probably has the worst public transportation system. There is really no reliable light rail, the subway doesn't really go anywhere, and the city is way too big to take buses or cabs everywhere you want to go. They often say that Los Angeles is the driver's capital of America, and you'll know why when you get here. It is total car culture. Even though you hate driving in big cities, unless you get creative, it might be necessary. Remember, L.A. is an hour away from Anaheim, which is 2 hours away from San Diego.

Don't know about from LA to San Francisco (note I didn't shorten it :oops: ) I can just imagine it's friggin hectic. pace not sure I would be confident enough to drive it.


Actually it's not a bad drive at all. I mean, it's long (7 hours between LA and SF) but you're really either just driving through the desert (highway 5) or up the beach (highway 101). If you are looking for a nice long break from city life, a slow leisurely drive up 101 is pretty nice. You get to see a lot of beaches and coastline. But then again you can get a cheap flight from LA to SF for as low as $39 once in a while, so for economical reasons it's usually better to fly. You just have to realize that there's a whole lot of nothing between northern california and southern california. It's pretty much the opposite of hectic. There is nobody there!

Yeah Universal Studios is what to see, I'm more than happy with scenery and national parks etc.


Universal Studios is a big draw. If your family likes movies at all, that is a must see. In particular be sure to take the tram tour when you are there. It is free and you go through a lot of famous movie sets. You even get attacked by the fake shark from Jaws.

Is it worth going to the Grand Canyon I heard it's not far from las vegas.


I have never personally been to the Grand Canyon but I'm sure if you can make it out there, it would be a must see. Keep in mind you're talking about a significant drive from L.A. A drive from L.A. to Las Vegas is about 4-5 hours, and the Grand Canyon is probably 2-3 hours past that. But again, if you have the time and the money, why not? You'll learn pretty quickly how huge this area is and how long it takes to drive from one place to another. Let me know if you're going to Vegas and I can get you some Vegas tips.

Thanks jro Catalina sounds lovely thanks I will look into it.


Catalina is one of the places I have been dying to take my kids. Dang, maybe now I should go. I heard it is beautiful.

P.S can you suggest a L.A. suburb that would be good and handy to stay in.


Heh, here's the thing. L.A. doesn't really have suburbs. It just has sprawl. There are about 100 distinct little cities all spread out in concentric circles, and you have no idea where one starts or the next one ends. So it kind of depends on what area you want to spend the most time in. Want to stay up near downtown L.A. and the Santa Monica/Beverly Hills area? I'd probably suggest staying somewhere like Pasadena or South Pasadena, or maybe Los Feliz. Want to stay near Disneyland? You can't really go wrong with Anaheim or Brea. My personal favorite area of the region is the South Bay (Torrance/Redondo Beach), but that's not really next to anything. It really depends on where you expect to hang out. Keep in mind that there isn't one central location that is close to everything. It is all spread out around here.


My San Francisco/Northern California stuff coming soon...

-Mario
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby sharon slack on February 15th, 2009, 6:47 pm

Hey,

Thanks so much for taking the time to give me all that straight forward information, I really appreciate it.
:D :D

Will probably be back for with more questions as they come!!.


Thanks again.
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby MarioMangler on February 17th, 2009, 2:18 pm

Okay Northern California.

Northern California (aka The Bay Area, aka the region that really isn't "north" but everyone calls it north anyway) is my favorite part of the state. I went to school in Santa Clara, my wife is from San Jose, we got married in Fremont, and we spent five years going up to San Francisco as often as we could. So I can definitely give you some good S.F. tips.

For starters, San Francisco is MUCH different from L.A. because of its size. Simply put, L.A. is enormous and massive and sprawling and San Francisco is just a tiny little sliver of land that overlooks the ocean. You could probably walk from one end of S.F. to the other in a day if you really wanted to. It isn't very big at all. Most people think that San Francisco is one of the biggest cities in California but in truth San Jose, to the south, is the "real" metropolis of the Bay Area. It is around 4 times S.F.'s size. So keep in mind that S.F. is nothing like the sprawling metropolis that L.A. is.

The good thing about S.F. being so small and compact is that unlike L.A., you don't need a car. You can get around pretty much entirely via public transportation. When my wife and I go, we just walk everywhere, but you can just as easily get around via cable car, bus, taxi, or subway. In fact if you're going to San Francisco at all, you should really check out their subway system, which is one of my favorite in the U.S. It is called BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and it goes under the city and even under the ocean (which will pop the hell out of your ears, but is fun). You really don't even need to go anywhere on BART, sometimes we just take our kids from one end of the line to the other so they can get a neat experience.

You can either catch BART in the city, or you can catch it out of the city and just go underground into S.F. Either way, it's something worth doing.

Okay, San Francisco. The top area that every tourist on the face of the earth goes to is called Fisherman's Wharf. This is on the north end of the city and has all sorts of tourist shops and restaurants and local SF merchandise stores. It is a must see. It is also where you can catch a boat to Alcatraz (the famous prison on an island that is now a tourist attraction). Be warned, trips to Alcatraz sell out fast, and are often not available the day you buy your ticket. So if you are going to Alcatraz, make reservations ahead of time.

The most famous part of Fisherman's Wharf is called Pier 39. You'll know it when you see it. It is where everybody goes. Just listen for the sound of barking sea lions (they sleep next door) and you will have found it. Once you are there, you will eat well. I heartily endorse the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

By the way, according to legend, true sourdough bread can "only" be made in San Francisco. Apparently there is something in the water and the air that makes S.F. sourdough taste very distinct. In fact I think it was invented there. So if you see a chance to snag some bread there, you should do it.

What else to do around Fisherman's Wharf? Well if you go about three blocks to the west you will hit the world famous Ghirardelli Square (where Ghirardelli chocolate was invented). Needless to say, you should go there. At some of the Ghirardelli stores they will give you free chocolate samples just for walking through the door.

Keep going further west and you'll hit the Presidio (a giant park/former military base), and then even further west you'll hit the Golden Gate Bridge. This is easily one of the most beautiful sights on the west coast. It costs money to drive over the GG Bridge but I think it's free to walk across. I have never personally walked across it, so if you do then I will be jealous.

Okay, other S.F. stuff. Another really fun and distinct place to visit is Chinatown. That is always a fun place to walk around.

Another neat place is the San Francisco Farmer's Market, which is on the eastern shore of the city (near the Bay Bridge). That's a good place to eat or just hang out and people watch.

There's always Haight-Asbury street, if you like historical districts.

Of course there are some bad areas in S.F., just like any big city, but in general they aren't the areas where the tourists go. Just stick to the well populated areas and you should be fine. It is my favorite walking around city in the United States. But be sure to bring a jacket because it gets COLD sometimes. San Francisco is one of those places that can be 90 degrees one minute and 40 degrees the next. This is because it is right on the ocean, so you get hit with wind. And believe me, there is very little wind quite like San Francisco wind. When it gets dark and the sun goes down, better bundle up. You'll learn that lesson very quickly.

If you leave San Francisco and head south about an hour, you'll hit Silicon Valley and a whole host of other places to go. But I'll leave that for another post.
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby sharon slack on February 18th, 2009, 12:35 am

Thanks alot.

San Francisco sounds nice. I'm gearing up for the clam chowder!!.

Thanks your a legend lol.

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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby MarioMangler on February 20th, 2009, 1:16 pm

Sharon,

Here's something that I forgot to mention, and that only a local would know about.

On Pier 45 in San Francisco (right in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf), there is a really cool (and FREE) museum called the Musee Mechanique. It houses a collection of all sorts of old carnival and boardwalk games and arcade machines, some of them dating back as far as the 1900's. It is by far one of the fascinating places I have ever seen in my life. And like I said, best of all it is free. It is located in a non descript non advertised building right off the water on Pier 45. If you happen to run across it in S.F., I highly recommend stopping in. It is one of my favorite places in San Francisco.

Here is their official website: http://www.museemechanique.org/
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3. Yes, we have all had that symptom
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7. Yes, you will be fine
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby sharon slack on February 21st, 2009, 5:09 pm

Thanks, sounds interesting. I plan on printing out all your information.
I'm really very excited about this trip, and I leave at the end of April and still haven't told my boss as Im to scared lol.
I think your temperature are similar to ours so Im guessing it wont be to cold,
We do plan on going to las vegas as well so any tips on that part would be good.
What part do they call silicon valley and why do they call it that we hear about it alot over here under that name.


Thanks again i appreciate the time you have taken . :D :D

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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby MarioMangler on February 22nd, 2009, 3:31 am

Silicon Valley is the sprawl of area in Northern California around San Jose. Cities included would be Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Oakland, Fremont, etc. It's a big area. You can tell you are in Silicon Valley because 50% of the companies are computer companies. Yahoo, Google, and Apple are based there. In fact, that's why it is called Silicon Valley. Silicon is the material they use to make computer chips. Silicon Valley is the computer and technology capital of the United States.

It won' t be cold at all in April. California is know for having the perfect weather. Count on it being between 75-90 F just about every single day you are here. The only chill you might get at all is in San Francisco, but that's just because it is windy.

Ah, Vegas. That's an adventure unto itself. I'll write some Vegas tips tomorrow.
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3. Yes, we have all had that symptom
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby sharon slack on February 22nd, 2009, 6:48 pm

Oh geez I thought it was silicon valley because of cosmetic enhancement or something lol. :o

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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby MarioMangler on February 22nd, 2009, 6:56 pm

No, that's Los Angeles. In San Jose most of the breasts are smaller and human sized.
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3. Yes, we have all had that symptom
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7. Yes, you will be fine
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Re: Anyone out there ??

Postby sharon slack on May 30th, 2009, 10:06 pm

Hey there Mario and all,

I returned from the USA on Friday, Mario your tips came in very handy. I enjoyed my trip very much. I really loved San Francisco. One thing that amazed
me was how it gets dark so late, over here its dark at 6pm. Having the shops open until 10pm was great!! (girls shopping was a little overboard)
your cost of living is cheaper than ours. Didn't make it to the Grand Canyon but did spend 4 days in Las Vegas which was interesting, not exactly my scene
but we looked through the Casinos which were awesome.
My biggest excitement was seeing a wild squirrel, lol we don't have them over here. Alcatraz was good, got out the movie and watched it
since I've been home.
I was surprised by the amount of homeless people in SF. I no most big cities have homeless people but thought that SF had alot.
Also found it sad the amount of young people you are losing in wars. Santa Monica beach had crosses for everyone person killed that
was a real eyeopener. Overall it was a great trip thanks again for the travel tips.
Regards
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Re: Anyone out there ??

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