Top 5 Los Angeles Locations For Group Trips and Family Fun

Los Angeles may be more known to the world as the land of Hollywood, glamorous celebrities, the infamously cunning paparazzi, and the land of movies and music. However, you’ll be surprised at the number of attractions within the cityscape that are completely suitable for kids and their parents or grandparents. Right in the midst of all the glitz and glamor, you’ll find fun and lively gems like theme parks and some old-school amusement centers. Of course, at this point, most people would be thinking of Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame… but really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

You’ll find a play space (and delicious food and drinks for everyone else) at the unsuspecting Giggle N’ Hugs; immersive playful exhibits and real-world action about global citizenship and world injustices at The Zimmer Children’s Museum; electric bike tours around Santa Monica and Venice Beach; and a fun day-out splashing around in the waves and cooling waters of Hermosa Beach located 30 minutes southwest of the main downtown LA area.

But frankly, who can leave the theme parks and amusement centers of Los Angeles out of the list when talking about the best family-friendly attractions in the City of Angels. Here, allow me to just skim the surface with just the top 5.

1. Griffith Park & Southern Railroad
4400 Crystal Springs Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 664-6788

Little boys… and little girls too, in fact… are naturally attracted to the chuggin’ trains and locomotives at The Griffith Park. The relaxing ambiance allows for easy cognizant tours while the little ones as families sign up for the gripping affordable rides. The friendly staff is always readily available at the well-kept as it remains open every day of the year except for major holidays like Christmas. Just to be sure, visit their website or social media sites for the latest update or schedule. Visitors can enjoy the one-mile easy track along the bridge, into forested areas, and around the Old Western Town with the Southern Railroad, enjoy a mini 16″ train ride (twice for good measure) with Travel Town Railroad while exploring ancient cars and rolling stocks, or sign up for the limited number of Holiday Lights Train Ride which takes place at the end of every year.

Also be on the lookout for The Colonel Griffith Locomotive which was built by one of the world’s premier builders, The Freedom Train which is a streamliner built by the All American Streamliner Company of Los Angeles, The Stanley Diamond, Five-Seat Steel Coaches, or the Six-Seat Wood Gondolas. The last two were commonly used, back in the day, to carry bulk goods across the great continent of North America. Which is no mean feat considering the technology they were working with at the time.

2. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

(800) 864-8377

You don’t need to know how Hermione used ‘Alohomora’ to unlock doors so that she can go sneaking around the great Hogwarts castle because you’ll get to ‘Accio’ your way around the theme park to enjoy the fantastic and magical rides. The wizarding world is located on the grounds of the world-renowned Universal Studios Hollywood and the dedicated Harry Potter franchise features daring heroes and dark villains that you’re already familiar with. Apart from the rides, fans will get their fill of thrill by purchasing wands with magnetic sensors from Ollivander’s Wand Shop to perform popular Harry Potter spells around the theme park… like opening a box of candy without lifting a finger or unlocking a cabinet with a wave of the wand. Kids and adults alike will also be entertained by shows like The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, Ollivanders, Frog Choir and Triwizard Spirit Rally.

The theme park stays true to the Harry Potter stories while also helping non-fans enjoy the experience. The experience, however, will simply be more memorable for fans of the long-standing series.

3. Sherman Oaks Castle Park  
1509, 4989 Sepulveda Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

(818) 756-9459

If you’re feeling like batting a few rounds, playing some mini golf with your kids, or shooting at aliens in an arcade center, Sherman Oaks Castle Park might do the trick. A premier family entertainment center located in the heart of San Fernando Valley, it is a stellar example of how one location can meet the preferences of both adults and kids alike. While it is fun for the kids, it is also great for a night out as well. The affordable prices, coupled with its well-maintained, non-smoking environment, makes it a deal breaker when it comes to party locations. Ordering some pizza, playing arcade games like pinball, and spending about an hour navigating a golf ball around 4 different mini golf courses at the park with your family and friends is a good way to spend the celebratory weekend. The park is open from 10 am to 11 pm from Monday to Thursday, 10 am to 12 am on Friday, 9 am to 12 am on Saturday and 9 am to 11 pm on Sunday so, give them a call to book a spot if you’re visiting in a large group.

4. Six Flags Magic Mountain  
26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355

(661) 255-4100

Located approximately 45 minutes away from downtown Los Angeles, in Valencia, the 260-acre national theme park experienced a surge in popularity after it was bought over from Newhall Land and Farming Company which used to run it as Magic Mountain. The LA franchise of Six Flags firmly holds the record for having the world’s most roller coasters in an amusement park, with 19 of them open to visitors. The thrill rides have the capacity to draw more than 3 million visitors from all around North America. It, however, DID ride the roller coaster revolution of Magic Mountain that it bought over. It gained further traction as an LA tourist magnet with the introduction of a gated water park called The Six Flags Hurricane Harbor which opened in 1995. The body slides, kiddie water play areas, lazy river, wave pool and tube slides proved hits with vacationing families. It offers season passes and combos that allow you unlimited admissions at an affordable rate. It also offers benefits like sale bonus items, discounts, and admissions into the Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park events held at the park.

5. Amazing Escape Room
16933 Parthenia St #100, North Hills, CA 91343

(818) 893-6666

Always innovating and introducing new themed rooms and games into it, The Amazing Escape Room, located approximately a 35-minute charter bus ride from downtown Los Angeles, in North Hills, is the perfect place for corporate team-building events, birthday parties, and bachelor or bachelorette parties. You’ll be assigned to a group (if you don’t already have 10 to 12 people to form your own team of sleuths) so that the group can team up and work together to uncover clues located throughout the locked rooms to solve problems in an effort to code-crack their way out of the rooms. Each of the rooms has its own theme and design so, even if you’ve been to the attraction before, there’s something new to try each time. Don’t worry if you find yourself running out of time because, from a distance (albeit with a camera), the Game Master may be kind enough to point you in the right direction if you’re stuck.

Springing Into Action For Summer Vacations
Now, with spring approaching, is THE time to get started with the hashing together of the field trip, summer outing, family vacation, group trip or corporate function. Don’t wait until the final curtain call to do the last minute planning, although Bus Charter LA CAN help with that as well – it is best to give yourself some leeway to give the trip some final touches instead letting things slide under the cracks or lost in the urgent shuffle.

Injured While Using Public Transportation

Using public transit systems, such as buses and metros, are many people’s preferred method of transportation in large, urban areas, such as New York City. The concentrated population makes driving less efficient and cost-effective. While public transit systems are a great alternative to driving, accidents on public transit do occur and can result in serious injuries, and in extreme cases, even death.

Facts and Figures

New York City has one of the most complex and developed public bus transportation systems in America. In NYC alone:

* There are 4,500 city buses that run along 250 different routes

* Over 2.4 million people ride the city buses every day, and thousands more ride other bus transportation in and around the city (such as charter buses or school buses)

* There were over 500 bus accidents in New York in 2008, resulting in 860 injuries and 12 fatalities

The density of the city often makes public transportation the best option for getting from point A to point B; however, if you are one of the thousand people who were injured on a New York bus last year, you may have the right to file a personal injury claim.

Accidents and Liability

Bus accidents can cause serious injury or even death to passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers. If you have been injured in a bus accident, your case should be investigated for liability. Depending on the circumstances, a number of parties may be liable, such as:

* The bus driver

* The city’s public transportation authority

* Another motorist

* Another passenger on the bus

If you have been the victim of another party or person’s negligence or recklessness, you may be eligible to pursue compensation for medical expenses, property damages, pain and suffering, lost wages and the wrongful death of a loved one.

For more information about how to receive compensation for an accident involving a city bus, speak to an experienced bus accident lawyer to discuss your case.

Sara Palin And Promotional Products Marketing Lessons

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve seen Sara Palin’s bus this summer, you’ve been annoyed, exasperated by her comments or you’ve thought she’s great and the media’s out to get her. But, whether you like her of not, if you’re like most Americans you’re aware of what she’s doing and you haven’t thought she’s on a promotional product marketing campaign.

But she is.

She’s doing a few other things – well.

She’s not giving reporters her itinerary. So they follow her, talk about how she’s not giving them her itinerary too. Sometimes next to her bus. Sometimes, they’re in studio but there’s an image of the bus behind them.

Pay attention to the bus next time you see it. There’s the beginning of the Constitution, the words ‘One Nation.’ But not only that, there’s the nice scenery and Sara right above part of a waving American flag. Take them together. They’ve got one goal: to convey to her current clients and to prospective ones a particular message: Sara Palin loves America, the real America. America can do no better than Sara Palin.

Her bus, like her comments, annoy a lot of people. But Sara Palin doesn’t care: those are not part of her target audience. The ones she’s after receive her message loud and clear and accept it, embrace it. And they buy. They buy her book, buy tickets to hear her speak, buy that she’ll make a great president for the United States.

And her comments, correct and incorrect, have worked nicely with her promotional bus to keep her at the forefront of people’s attention.

Granted, if you’re a small business owner selling $10 widgets, a promotional bus just doesn’t make sense. But that should not stop you from learning from Sara Palin the marketer of Sara Palin.

You give promotional products to existing clients (employees count as clients) to enhance relationships. You give them to prospective clients, to establish them. Sara Palin’s bus is doing the first one, mainly. Promotional bags, promotional T-shirts are worn a few times, seen by many people (over 1 thousand, on average, according to a study by ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute).

So, when you want to increase awareness about your company, products, or services, promotional bags and t-shirts would be a good choice.

If you combine your promotional product giving with some other kind of marketing (Sara stops here and there, makes comments meant to get people talking), you’re way ahead. So, what can YOU do that’s like that? Can you give promotional products at a party? Can you hire a clown or a mime or someone to wear a cat costume, or dog costume or prince charming costume to give them away in front of your store?

Can you make the message on your promotional items something that will get people talking? Did you notice that Sara Palin’s marketing includes a touch of the outrageous? If you’re a financial adviser, perhaps an x-ray of an investment portfolio? Well, I can’t possibly cover all the business types that exist, but you get the picture.

Learn from Sara Palin’s bus as promotional products campaign. And apply. You can thank me later.

Hawaiian Cruise Aboard Norwegian’s Pride Of America

I recently spent some time visiting most of the major islands that make up Hawaii. This was my first trip to the 50th State, and I had a hard time making a decision about where to stay when I got there. I spent countless hours scouring the internet and various forums to get an inside scoop as to what island I would enjoy the most. What I found is that each island has a great deal to offer, and my ideal vacation would be spent seeing them all. That’s where Norwegian’s Pride of America came to the rescue.

THE SHIP

Norwegian Cruise Lines -Pride of America set sail in 2005, and she is the first US flagged ship built in nearly 50 years. One look at this glorious vessel; and you can tell that the name “Pride of America” goes further than just the lettering on the outside. Everywhere on this boat you are reminded of what a great country the United States is, and most of the lounges, restaurants etc… have an American theme. Some reviewers have commented that they felt this was too tacky, however, I beg to differ, to an extent, these ships are all tacky, and this one seemed to fit

the bill, however, the décor was tastefully done, and the layout of the ship itself was very functional.

One major difference on this ship is that the majority of the staff are American Citizens. The online forums are filled with mixed reviews on the level of customer service they received while onboard. Many attribute this to the staff being American; however, I find this to be much too narrow of a thought process. I did find certain instances where the service was lacking, however, you’re on vacation, try to ignore these limited instances and enjoy yourself. For the price you’re paying for what you experience, it can be overlooked.

Here’s a breakdown of the Cruise from the flight into Honolulu to disembarkation day.

TAKE WITH YOU

· Sunscreen

· GPS

· Beach Towels

· iPhone (sorry I’m impartial)

·USB Cable and charger (USB can be used with iPhone on many rental cars)

· Check to see if your Auto Insurance Policy covers Rental Liability (this will save you about $20 each time your rent a car)

RECOMMENDED APPS

· Urbanspoon – Find Places to Eat based on Users Who have gone before you

· TripAdvisor – Find things to do near you, Read User Reviews etc…

· Orbitz.Com – Use this book your Rental Cars ahead of time,and if you book your flight via Orbitz, it will send you text messages for flight status etc…

· GPS Drive – Paid app that can replace your need for a GPS

· Trip Deck – App that you can store all of your itineraries, flight numbers, confirmation #’s etc… into one app.

· My Radar- Weather App that gives you nearly real-time weather maps

· Open Table – Reservations for busy restaurants

THE PORTS OF CALL

Day 1 – My group and I flew into Honolulu International Airport and gathered our luggage at the carousel. Immediately outside the terminal is a taxi station with an employee who will assist you and your party with transportation to and from your hotel and/or the port. The fare from the Airport to Waikiki was $35. I chose to fly in a day before to allow myself time to acclimate to the time change from the East coast of the United States.

I was looking for a safe, clean, inexpensive hotel in the Waikiki area within walking distance to the beach. I found this in the Miramar Waikiki. The hotel was booked for around $145 on Hotels.com, and really exceeded my expectations.

We were all upgraded to an Oceanview room with balcony on the 15th floor. This hotel is in close proximity to many shops and restaurants, and within a couple of blocks to the beach. There is a Denny’s right outside the hotel for breakfast, and the International Market place for shopping outside the hotels door. I found a fantastic Vietnamese Pho place in this market, and was the best meal I had while in Hawaii.

You can also travel down to the Ala Moana mall and shop for hours in this gigantic shopping mall, with one of the best Asian food courts I’ve ever seen.

Day 2 – Embarkation.

We left the Miramar Hotel at around noon and took a cab to the Port. ($22 cab fare) Upon arrival, you are instructed to tag your luggage and take them via a short walk to the baggage handlers who scan the luggage. Once they take your luggage, you are required to check-in and establish your onboard account with Norwegian. This is your sole source of buying power while onboard, cash is not accepted anywhere onboard. Now that the technicalities are complete, you are ready for 7 days of seeing some of the most beautiful islands in the world.

If you notice I got to onboard around lunchtime. The ship can be boarded this early even though it doesn’t sail until later into the afternoon. The Aloha Café is available for lunch, and we took full advantage of it. I was impressed with the fact that along with standard American fare, there was an Asian and Indian section of the buffet each day. After lunch, we waited for approximately 30 minutes and they began to announce the floor number of rooms that were available. This proved to be ample time for my wife and I to get settled into our balcony stateroom and take a nap prior to dinner. We booked a balcony stateroom (7158), and once we entered the room we were a little surprised by the size of the stateroom. It was smaller than other balcony rooms we’ve booked in the past, with less storage, and a smaller TV. It should also be noted that the bathroom didn’t come with complimentary toiletries that I’ve seen onboard other ships. The size etc… isn’t a deal breaker, and once we got used to it, it became a non-issue. The balconies are sufficient in size, with 2 chairs and a small table.

DAY 3 & 4 – MAUI

The ship arrived in the port of Kahului (Maui) at 7 am and would be docked there until 6 pm the following day. Since this was an overnight stop, passengers are allowed to come and go as they please no matter the time of night. The area where we were docked is an industrial warehouse area, and after you leave the boat many of the car rental agencies provide shuttle’s to pick up rental cars. I highly recommend renting your own car on each of the islands, with the possible exception of Kona, and I’ll expound on that later. Also, you should reserve the car prior to your arrival to ensure availability. The rates are really reasonable on all of the islands.

Our next decision was: Where do we go and what do we see? I’m sure every guidebook you will ever read on Maui will command you to drive the Road to Hana. I was dead set on doing this prior to getting here, but I tend to look for signs pointing me in certain directions. One such sign came to me over a Grand Slam Breakfast… Our waitress at Denny’s in Oahu was a Hawaiian native, and as it turns out, a well-traveled sage! Her advice to me was that I should definitely drive the road to Hana if I wanted to be stressed out, stuck in traffic for 4 hours, only to arrive at a town with very little to do. She advised us to see the Haleakala Crater and to travel around the road that leads to Lahaina and see the same scenery. I know I’ll have some that will disagree with me, but I’m glad I went with my gut. So…

After picking up our rental car, we decided to drive to Haleakala National Park to see the Haleakala Crater. The cruise line offers both sunrise and sunset bike rides down the crater. I’m certain this would be a site to behold; however, we decided just to see the island at our leisure and didn’t want to be on any set schedule. The drive into the park is very simple (using a GPS), and prior to entering the park, look for the Kula Lodge. There is a small store next door to the restaurant that is your last chance to get food and snacks prior to entering the park.

I was a little concerned about visibility in the crater since it was so late in the morning, as this can be an issue; however we had 100% visibility and were astonished at the views from the summit. The drive up was great as you actually drive through the clouds on your way to 10,000 + feet in the air. I would caution anyone with any health conditions affected by altitude to consult a physician. I personally have asthma, and could feel my chest tighten and heart rate increase, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t enjoy myself. After leaving the park, it was lunch time and we chose to go back to the Kula Lodge for lunch. The food here was somewhat pricey at lunch, but we grabbed a pizza, and enjoyed the phenomenal view from off the back deck.

After lunch, we traveled to the Maui Ocean Center, a large aquarium with many exhibits located about 25 minutes from the cruise port. The exhibits were great, admission was around $22, and you can see most of the sights within about 2 hours. After our visit, we returned to the ship to relax and eat dinner. You are allowed to park your rental car overnight in a lot within close walking distance to the ship. On our second day in Maui, we decided to travel up the coast to Lahaina to see some sights,and do some shopping. The road that leads to Lahaina is filled with beautiful beaches, and mountains and it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep driving, when you really just want to pull over and hang out on the beach all day. If you feel so inclined, I’m sure you won’t regret it. I should point out that once you enter Lahaina, you will want to look for the Old Lahaina Front St.This is where the shopping is. There is another Front Street, but there isn’t much shopping.

The shopping in Lahaina consists of many chain stores, local artisans, many restaurants, and you’re right on the water, so it’s a very relaxing environment. There is a Bubba Gumps, Kimos, and several other highly rated restaurants. However, when I’m out of town, I like to eat what the locals eat. So we headed to Aloha Mixed Plate. Aloha Mixed Plate is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. They have a great outdoor seating area near the water, and they have ample supplies of cold drinks, and their mixed plates were the best I had while in the islands. The Kalua pork was outstanding! The service was a little slow; however, the one waitress that was in our area was doing her best to satisfy everyone.After lunch, we returned our rental to the agency.

You should plan on doing this no later than an 30 minutes to an hour before you’re scheduled to be back on board. You drop your car off, and then catch a shuttle back to the port.

Day 5 – Hilo, 8am – 6pm

Hilo – Same drill…. Exited the boat, caught a shuttle to my pre-booked rental agency and drove to Volcanoes National Park. This area of Hilo has lots of shops and gas stations to stop en route for snacks restrooms etc… Since we only had one day in Hilo, time was of the essence. We entered the park (for a nominal fee) and found that all of the attractions were clearly marked, and could be easily driven on your own. We first stopped at the steam vents, an area where the heat from the volcano causes steam when it comes into contact with water.

A few steps away from this you have a scenic overlook, and once you leave from here, drive directly to the Jagger Museum. Here you find information on the Kilauea, and the best views of the volcano. The loop around the volcano is currently closed due to volcanic fumes, but the areas that are open, are spectacular. On the way out of the park, make sure you take a walk through the lava tubes.

This is an underground tunnel that was formed via lava flow. It’s very interesting, and a fairly easy walk for most people. The entire walk takes about 15-20 minutes.

After leaving Volcanoes National Park, type in Mauna Loa Macadamia Farm into the old GPS, and take a self-guided tour of this enormous Macadamia Plantation. The tour itself isn’t all that entertaining, but the trees are something new to most people’s eyes, and you can stop in the gift shop for free samples, and buy some snacks for the road.

This entire process shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes from the time you drive in, until you leave.The next stop is one of my favorites from this entire trip: Akaka Falls. Once again, we found this area via typing the name only into our Garmin GPS. This destination takes you somewhat off the beaten path through a small town and through some cow pastures, but the falls themselves are worth every minute of it! You’ll know when you’re getting close as you’ll see the cars lined up on the side of the road. These cars are parked here, because there is a charge to park in the park area. I suggest you pay the price and park here. The proceeds from the parking charges are used to maintain these areas. Once you arrive you’ll see a walkway, and after about a 15 minute walk downhill you’ll see the beautiful Akaka Falls.

After leaving the falls, it was time for a late lunch, so we headed downtown Hilo. I highly recommend Café Pesto in the old downtown area. The ambiance of this place is that of 1950’s Hawaii. The food is great, and affordable, and a view of the old downtown area; and the ocean makes you want to stay until dinner!

If you’ve done all of the above, it will be just about time to return your car and head back to the ship. On your way back, make sure you stop by and see the Banyan Trees planted by the movers and shakers at the time on Banyan Tree Drive. But wait: No trip to Hilo would be complete without a trip to Hilo Hatties! On your way back to the rental car agencies, stop in and pay homage to one of the largest chain of gift shops in

Hawaii: Hilo Hatties.

The store is loaded with any kind of Hawaiian sovunier you can imagine, browse the Hawaiian shirts, coconut syrup, jewelry, etc… but be prepared to pay. This store has a great selection, but if bargains are what you are looking for, search in the downtown area, or wait to pick up that gift for Uncle Tony in Kona. Returned the car, and took the shuttle back to the ship.

Day 6 Kona – 7 am – 6 pm

Kona is the one port of call on this trip that I would consider NOT renting a car. Since you’re only in port for the day, (this is also a tender port) you could potentially lose several hours just tendering, getting to the rental agency, getting your rental car, and allowing as much time to return the car, and tender back to the ship.If you choose to rent a car, you could visit the various island attractions such as the City of Refuge, or the Kona Coffee Plantation. If you’re just looking for some R&R, the Hapuna Beach State Park is the preferred beach access area on this island. Hapuna Beach is about 30 minutes from the cruise port by car.We chose to spend the day shopping at the many shops along the main street in Kona, and at lunch at the Kona Inn. The Kona Inn opens at 11:30, and it provides a fantastic view of the ocean while you eat.

The food at lunch is pretty much sandwich fare, but the ambiance makes up for any shortcomings of the food. After shopping, we took a cab to a local beach, where many of the cruise ship staff and some locals were hanging out. Here you can get shave ice, and swim and snorkel with the local sea turtles.

Day 7 – Kauai (Nawilliwilli) 8 am until 2 pm the following day

Kauai is my favorite island in Hawaii. This island is much more laid back than the others, the scenery is magnificent, and there are chickens everywhere! Yes, chickens… According to the locals, these chickens spread like crazy during a hurricane several years ago. Hawaii law protects all native birds, and these chickens are no exception. You will see them everywhere you go, they pose no threat, and add to the flair of this picturesque island.

It should also be noted that since Hawaii has no native predators, the chicken population is not thinned out… unless they wander onto a locals property, at which point they can

become dinner!

Once again, do the rental car shuttle and pick up your ride. You would be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t rent a car on this island.

The major drawback of the rental car on this island is the parking situation. The main overnight parking area is quite a distance from the ship near the Anchor Cove shopping center. if you plan on being out past 9 pm, plan on walking with a group. The last shuttle from the

Anchor Cove shopping center runs at 9 pm. Since the ship is parked in an industrial area, the surroundings are somewhat daunting. I wouldn’t say you should fear for your safety while walking back at night, however, my wife and I made the walk past 9, and while not fearing for our safety, it was a little sketchy.

I believe that Norwegian should either provide parking closer to the port, or reach some agreement with the shuttle companies. Some of the older guests on our trip didn’t want to make the trek, so we were able to drive up close to the port and drop them off. That being said, the shuttle service is very convenient, and will take you to many of the shopping centers nearby.

The first thing on our to-do list for after arriving was to see Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is the island’s version of the Grand Canyon. Once you get near the road that leads you to the canyon, stop at the last gas station you see and grab some steamed buns filled with Shoyu Chicken for the ride. At the Waimea Canyon, you have a (very) scenic overlook to enjoy the canyon, and there is also a fruit stand right there to buy fresh fruit. Helicopter tours are also available to see the canyon and the island as a whole. If you’ve got the cash, I think this would be the island to use it to take that Helicopter ride.

You can leave Waimea Canyon and see Kokee Park, but by the time we got there fog made visibility nearly 0%. After leaving these areas, we headed over to the Poipu Beach resort area. On the way, you can stop off at the Kauai Coffee Plantation. This plantation provides free samples of some of the best coffee in world. It is available for purchase, and I highly recommend you doing so.

We arrived in the Poipu Beach area and stopped in at Brenneke’s Beach Broiler. Brenneke’s has great, fresh seafood, and it’s exactly the kind of laid back, beach restaurant that I love. You overlook Poipu Beach Park; this was my favorite place on the whole trip. If you’re looking to spend the day at a Beach on Kauai, I’d highly recommend coming right here, you won’t regret it.

To celebrate the conclusion of our Hawaiian adventure, we chose to do it the “Hawaiian” way and planned to attend a Luau. Although we all know that Luau’s on the island can be quite touristy and not true representations of the islands, I chose to book with one that has been operating on Kauai for decades. Many of you will find it difficult to steer clear of the Luau that is provided by NCL, but trust me, save your money and go to the Smith Family Luau.

The Smith family Luau is located near the Wailua River and is family-owned and operated, and has been for decades. You can tell from the opening ceremony that the Elder of this family is very proud of the business he has built and his family. The Grounds are beautiful, the food is exceptional, and all drinks are included in the price of admission, and plentiful.

The show itself is great, the performers are great, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. One very important note: USE YOUR GPS, AND TYPE IN SMITH’S TROPICAL PARADISE. The only time we got lost during our trip was using the address given to us on our tickets to this luau. Also, en route to this location allow some time for traffic, as you will be traveling through the main thoroughfare.

The following day we got in some last minute shopping and boarded the boat early, as we were asked to board around lunch time.

DAY 8 – Disembarkation

Norwegians procedures for disembarkation was very well organized, and not a hassle. The only excursion we booked via the ship was a Pearl Harbor and USS Missouri tour, so we were scheduled to meet in the main auditorium to leave the ship. The main advantage I found in booking this excursion is that we had a late flight, and this 8 hour tour allowed us to see the sights, and not wait in line to do so.

We left the boat and boarded our tour bus to see Pearl Harbor. The excursion information didn’t tell us this, but this tour also gave us a Honolulu City Tour, where you get to see the town (as well as Dog The Bounty Hunter’s office!) The tour takes you through the Punchbowl Cemetery, then to Pearl Harbor & The Mighty Mo (USS Missouri). This tour is one of the best I’ve ever taken. The time flies even if you’re not a history buff. I would recommend this tour to anyone over the age of 6. It is a very solemn and sobering tour, but something that everyone should see. It drives home the point that war is real, and greed, hatred and ignorance in any form has devastating consequences.

After this, we headed to the airport and took the arduous flight back to the East Coast of the United States.

Conclusion

This cruise is hands-down the best way to see all of the islands of Hawaii in such a short time, and for the price. It is a very port-intensive cruise, so you don’t really get the lazy days at sea as some cruises provide. The accommodations were adequate, overall the ship itself if beautiful. I would recommend having breakfast on the ship every day, but if you have the money, get out on the islands and eat what the locals eat, and support these small businesses. What I believe the ship needs to focus on for future cruises is the quality and flavor of the food they serve, and the level of customer service needs to be taken up a few levels.

Panama is Central America’s New Scuba Diving Treasure and Santa Catalina is the Crown Jewel

The Scuba diving community’s obsession with Belize has created crowded dive sites, driven up cost, and put a lot of pressure on the precious natural resources. A new gem has emerged in Central America for scuba divers. Panama has become the destination for scuba divers looking for relatively unexplored dive sites, warm tropical waters, and low travel costs.

Panama offers scuba diving opportunities in both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. It is even possible to book a trip through scuba shops in Panama City to dive both oceans the same day as well as an eerie low visibility dive in the Panama Canal the next day. In one of the indigenous languages, the name Panama itself means “abundance of fish.” The waters around Panama definitely live up to the name.

The clear Caribbean waters offer beautiful corals and ample tropical fish, but the best scuba diving in Panama may very well be the unexplored Pacific waters off the coast of Santa Catalina. Offering excellent local dives just a 15 minute boat ride from Santa Catalina Beach, the variety of fish and the shear numbers and size of the fish is amazing. It is not unusual on a single dive to see dozens of eels, sea turtles, large schools of jacks, barracuda, snapper and reef and nurse sharks.

What you will not see is other dive parties or dive related damage to the reefs. There is currently only one land based dive operator out of Santa Catalina. It is Scuba Coiba, owned by Austrian Herbie Sunk. The Scuba Coiba operation is very safety conscious. They keep their rental gear in good shape and are very diligent in protecting their natural resources.

Further out in the Gulf of Chiriqui, is Isla Coiba. A little over an hour boat ride out of Santa Catalina, Isla Coiba offers incredible variety including a large number of pelagics. Isla Coiba has been favorably compared to Galapagos and Cocos islands for its diversity of sea life as well as ecological diversity on land.

Isla Coiba and the waters and islands around it create the Isla Coiba National Park. Scuba diving and accessing the islands require a permit from the rangers. This is highly enforced and should help protect the waters and the natural resources they harbor in pristine condition.

Scuba Coiba offers day trips from Santa Catalina to Isla Coiba, but a worthwhile experience is their 2 to 3 day trips which combine diving with ecotours of the islands. To protect the island, overnight accommodations are only available at the ranger station.

The Pacific waters around Santa Catalina are warm year round, although currents around the deeper waters of Isla Coiba can create cooler thermal layers. Don’t expect the 100+
feet of visibility of the Caribbean, but 50+ is common and ample to see the awesome sites.

Santa Catalina is definitely off the beaten path, even for Panama. But its remoteness is what has kept it protected from the throngs of casual weekend warriors. Santa Catalina is located on the Pacific coast, a 5 to 6 hour drive from either Panama City or David. The road was recently paved all the way into town making driving there an easier proposition. Airport transfers can be arranged with some of the local hotels. For the truly budget minded, the public bus system is also an option.

Divers that want to be amongst the first to explore unspoiled sites and an abundant fishery, should have Santa Catalina, Panama on their short list of scuba diving vacations. It takes a little extra effort to get to Santa Catalina, but great and unique experiences usually do.

This article is written by Dennis Chafin. Dennis travels for pleasure and shares his experiences through his writings.

Argentina – South America’s Emerging Tourism Destination

With the Andes in sight, stretching as far the horizon yonder is a land synonymous with steak, Maradona, Tango and Tierra del Fuego. With its colossal glaciers, wide-open bluest-of-the-blue skies, the vast salt flats and eternal ice, fall in love all over again with a trip to the traveler’s paradise we know to be Argentina.

A land of inexplicable contrasts, diverse cultures and the languor of different worlds, Argentina is truly a melting pot filled to the brim with passion, excitement and elegance stirred together into a steamy, rich broth!

Argentina is the eight-largest country in the world and the largest among the Spanish-speaking nations. The name “Argentina” is derived from Ancient Greek for “Dimunitive Silver”. It is bordered by Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay. The country experiences varied climates ranging from the hot and dry to the extremely cold. While the capital of Argentina is Buenos Aires, its currency is the Peso. The calling code is +54.

Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN Chile are two of the major airlines that offer seamless connectivity to a number of destinations. The important airports include Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) and the Aeroparque Jorge Newberry Airport (AEP). There are wide options when it comes to entering Argentina by bus for there are a number of connections from any of the countries that share borders. Tourists may note that many destinations have airports nearby, thus ensuring that travel is hassle-free.

Revelry is a dish best enjoyed in the company of friends! And where better to make new ones than in the buzzing metropolis of Buenos Aires? Known by the locals and tourists as the gateway to Argentina, Buenos Aires is littered with looming skyscrapers, Victorian houses, tango bars and open plazas that exude a contemporary charm that gracefully blends with its everlasting colonial heritage. Expect some terrific options for shopping for it houses some of the finest designer stores and bustling outdoor markets filled with the masses on the hunt for a bargain. The options for a gastronomical adventure are almost endless; any mortal soul would surely be tempted to try out local favorites like the dulce de leche, the empanadas and the juiciest, most succulent bife de chorizo! Dress up the way the porteños do, and party till the crack of dawn!

Head out next to Cordoba, which lies in the heart of the Pampas, for a peek into some glorious history for it is chock-a-block with museums, cathedrals and parks at every nook and corner. Cordoba plays host to Argentina’s theater festival namely, the Festival de Teatro del Mercosur, featuring a wide variety of musical acts. There are plenty of entertainment options that cater to all tastes especially in districts such as Nueva Cordoba, Chateau Carreras and the areas close by.

Consider adding Mar del Plata to your itinerary which is well known for its beaches! Founded by Patricio Peralta Ramos, this destination offers some the world’s best nature reserves, picturesque landscapes and charming resorts for all! Consider spending the day golfing, sport fishing or gambling for there is plenty to choose from. You will find that the avenues for entertainment are virtually endless.

Add a must-do destination – Mendoza, a town that is known for its emblematic grape – The Malbec and some of the finest wine, this side of the hemisphere. Walk down the wide, leafy avenues, take a moment to gaze at the sparkling fountains and rest awhile at the monumental squares and plaza to take in the flair. The cuisine of Mendoza needs no introduction; there are several restaurants and eateries offering terrific tapas combined with some great service in an atmospheric setting! So folks, grab your passport, pack your bags and get ready for an epic adventure for This.is.Argentina.

Top 10 Things to Do in Houston, Texas

1. Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) was established in 1909 and is now one of the famous in North America. It has a staggering collection of several antiques and classical items including mineral specimens, space station models, Quetzalcoatl’s and 60 large skeleton mounts.

2. Space Center Houston

Another interesting thing to do is to take a tour to the Space Center Houston. It is the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and this place has interesting facilities to see. Time spent here is a one-of-a-kind experience as you can even get to meet an astronaut alongside seeing their ISS Mission Control, Buoyancy Lab, Simulation Lab and lots more.

3. Buffalo Bayou Park

The Buffalo Bayou Park is a center of attraction covering a 160-acre of land in the city. It is considered a top natural precious center and features walking and biking trails, dog parks and numerous shady places to take a break. It is a home to a huge park of Mexican free-tailed bats with the slow moving waters at its heart.

4 Minute Maid Park

This is a magnificent stadium that offers beyond ordinary. It is air-conditioned and it is Houston’s first retractable-roofed stadium with a natural grass pitch. It houses 40,000 seats and offers a wide range of selections including ballpark classics, healthy side bars, and Astros Melt.

5. Children’s Museum

It was founded in 1980 by a group of parents passionate about raising early childhood development within the community. The museum exhibitions cut across subjects such as science, history and culture, technology, and lots more. This will be a plus for all kids as the museum features The Market, which is a place for kids to catch fun.

6. Discovery Green

Ever thought of a very much spirited community? Discovery green is one of such and it offers free yoga classes, toddler story times, regular concerts and movie nights. It provides an open air reading rooms, free WiFi, playground, and a place to borrow games and balls when you feel like letting off some steam.

7. Downtown Aquarium

The 500,000 gallon Downtown Aquarium is a mix of both an attraction center and a restaurant. It houses several interesting components such as Ferris Wheel, aquatic carousel, white tiger exhibit. Frog Hopper and more. It offers a spectacular wall to wall aquarium view. It is a splendid place for sightseeing as well as a place to have a dig of interesting food list.

8. Fast Track Amusements

This is a perfect place to show off your great skills, let off steam, and catch some all-round fun. The park is furnished with arcade games, miniature golf, laser tag and Formula 1 replica of go karts. You can also get to enjoy real time games including Godzilla Wars JR, Wacky Gator Super Speedway, Mortal Combat and more. It is a great place for the family to go and get active.

9. The Galleria

The Galleria was modelled after Milan’s stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. It houses over 400 top selling stores, restaurant and food outlets, beauty salons, etc. The Galleria ranks first on the list of the largest malls in Texas.

10. Hines Water-wall Park

The Gerald D. Hines Water-wall Park features a 64 ft semicircular fountain which re-pumps a fixed amount of water per minute which flips up and down the inner and outer wall of the structure. This park is enclosed by 186 oak trees and is a unique point to enjoy games with friends, photoshoots picnic and get together.

Spring In Los Angeles – Our Top 10 Things To See

#1 – NIGHT CLUBS

From underground hip hop clubs representing the West Coast flavors to the biggest dance clubs where you’re likely to rub shoulders with the biggest celebrities and artists, you will find no shortage of dancing and the hottest music in LA.

#2 – BIG THEME PARKS

Los Angeles has some of the best theme parks in their backyard. Head to Universal Studios Hollywood for both a taste of film history and family fun. Take the old and young kids to Disneyland for a magical vacation that will create memories for the rest of your life. LA has lots of theme park action.

#3 – LOS ANGELES TOURS

You should find no shortage of tour guides in LA. Celebrity tour guides dominate the landscape, but there are plenty of other categories that provide interesting and useful services as well. Tours that detail the history of the city, hiking tours, museums, and vineyards.

#4 – FINE DINING

If you come to Los Angeles prepared to eat, you can quickly burn through your entire vacation budget in just a few days with how many five-star restaurants there are on any given street. The city’s rich Asian and Latin cuisines with that California twist is one of a kind and something you should not miss.

#5 – HIKING TRAILS

The hilly landscape of Los Angeles provides an excellent opportunity to see the city in a unique perspective and appreciate its natural beauty. These hikes are safe and can be enjoyed by anyone, even if you’re not an avid outdoorsman. Just pay mind to the California sun.

#6 – LAKE TAHOE

As California continues to press through this feverish period of drought, it’s important to get a little perspective of just how precious the State’s natural resources are. Lake Tahoe is a pristine destination that really comes to life during the spring.

#7 – SANTA CRUZ

If you’re looking for some beach action, you have a few directions you can head to catch some rays, one of those being Santa Cruz. The famous boardwalk has a nice offering of fresh seafood and carnival atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

#8 – MONTEREY

For an alternative beach destination, Monterey Bay is like no other. This beach hub is also home to one of the greatest aquariums in the country, a shopping district, and an ocean filled with flourishing sea life.

#9 – SAN ANTONIO WINERY

This is Los Angeles’ Historical Winery, where the best vineyards are but a short drive away, with food and wine coming together in perfect harmony. You should book your own wine tour in-advanced for the best deals at the height of tourism season.

#10 – YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

There’s no comparison at Yosemite, this is a once in a lifetime experience to see America’s greatest wildlife and untamed elements. The park’s waterfalls and rivers come alive during the spring, when the snow melts and adds to its volume and power that can be felt in your entire body when viewed up close.

Top 10 Things To Do In Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina Aquarium

This mega aquarium is not just the home to sea creatures. It is a perfect and beautiful mix of land creatures, reptiles, birds, plants, and sea creatures. The aquarium features a 385,000 gallon aquarium tank, in which daily shows are displayed. There are also shark shallows which allow you to touch the sharks and other sea creatures without fear or getting harmed. You should also check out the 2201b loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta, which lives in the great ocean tank

Waterfront Park

This 12acre park features a waterfront that stretches for more than a thousand feet. The views are ideal for a nice relaxation time, and here you would also find old fashioned park benches and double swings that face the water. When it gets dark, the pineapple fountain lights up and the seasonal flower gardens spice up the color to give it wonderful view.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Have you ever seen a large garden with a year round beauty? If not, the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a place for you to check. It is America’s oldest public access gardens, and was first opened to visitors in 1870. It also features one of the world’s largest romantic-styled garden, and would be an ideal place to have a romantic picnic.

Middleton Place Plantation

The beauty of the south is pronounced by the beauty of its plantations, and the south has a lot of plantations to boast of. The Middleton Place Plantation is also one of America’s oldest landscape gardens. Stretched with hedged galleries, pools, descending terraces, and even the ground has a lot of magnificence to show off.

USS Yorktown and Patriots Point

The USS Yorktown is located at Patriots Point just across Charleston Harbour, where it can be boarded. The enormous vessel was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve the U.S Navy. It received the presidential unit citation, 5 battle stars for serving in Vietnam, and also 11 battle stars for serving in the World War II. This special vessel was also the vessel selected to recover the astronauts of the Apollo 8 and was also used in the film debut of ‘The Fighting Lady’ in 1944.

Boone Hall Plantation

This plantation stretches over three-quarters of a mile, and it is popularly known for its moss-draped oak trees and preserving the original cabins of slaves. It started in 1681, and is one of America’s oldest working plantations. The trees have a beautiful appearance in photos despite their age; being planted as far back as 1743 by Major John Boone’s son. This is a site worth seeing, and the market is stocked with produce of the plantation.

Old Slave Mart Museum

This museum brings back the tales of history, a place set aside inside the building where auctioning of slaves took place before the Civil War. The eye catcher is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon where pirates were imprisoned.

Drayton Hall

The Drayton Hall is the oldest plantation house unrestored in America and still open to the public. The enticing aspect of this hall is the fact that everything was left untouched to give a very good glimpse of the past. It is one of the few halls to survive the Civil War still intact. It contains one of the oldest African American cemeteries, dating as far back as 1790, which is still in use.

Fort Sumter National Monument

This is where the American Civil War began; April 12,1861. Its ruins are still well preserved, and its stories are told by National Park Rangers on how it shaped history.

Ravenel Bridge

Named after Arthur Ravenel Jr., running across the Cooper River and joining the Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston, the bridge became a landmark after its completion in 2005. The design and capabilities of the bridge is enough to leave one in awe even aside from its beautiful design.

Spring In Washington, DC – Our Top 10 Things To See

1 NATIONALS PARK
This isn’t your dad’s baseball stadium, the Washington Nationals play in one of the nation’s top state-of-the-art parks that make everything very convenient and memorable. The biggest feature that stands out is the digital displays used for the park’s concession stands. Orders come in faster and with less mistakes, which means less time standing in lines and more time spent watching the game.

2 NATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
There is no central location for this particular festival, as there are events and festivities carried out all over the city during the spring. The hues of pinks and whites fill the peripheral view, making even the grayest of paved tourist spots look happy.

3 TRUCKEROO
Foodies unite! Truckeroo is fast food done right. Food trucks gather around every spring to show off their menus while music and entertainment kicks off the fun as you feast on new and delicious eats. There’s something for everyone here, not just fried foods and hamburgers.

4 DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
Take a trip down the Potomac River to experience a great showing of Chinese arts and cultural demonstrations, culminating with the main event of competitive dragon boat races.

5 WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL
This spring tradition speaks for itself. Each year, tens of thousands of people converge at the White House lawn to take part in the annual egg roll, as well as games and activities for the whole family.

6 PASSPORT D.C.
This is what Washing D.C. should be most known for: multi-cultural celebration. Each year in May, there is a collective “festival” that brings embassies together and teaches the public about various cultures and relations with a sampling of various arts and traditions.

7 SMITHSONIAN JAZZ APPRECIATION
There’s almost always something going on at the Smithsonian, but in the spring they dedicate the month of April to the art and heritage of Jazz. You’ll find plenty of special guests speaking and performing, it’s a must for any fan of music, let alone jazz.

8 USA SCIENCE & ENGINEERING FESTIVAL EXPO
Held at the Washington Convention Center, this festival holds hundreds of activities and workshops for anyone even remotely interested in science and technology. The envelope of what science and engineering can accomplish is constantly being pushed, you can get a glimpse of what the future may hold at this expo.

9 FILMFEST DC
The oldest and most popular film festival in DC comes around every year at the end of April to bring audiences the most anticipated and newly discovered gems from around the world. Some venues are cheaper to get into than others, so don’t think it is a festival only open to the elite.

10 FREDERICK DOUGLASS NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
This is another must-visit place while you’re in Maryland. The famous slave who escaped slavery to become one of the most revered black scholars and activists, step into the humble home that once housed one of America’s strongest minds.