Category Archive: United States

5 Fun Facts for Friday: Irvine, California

Irvine, California, is located in the center of Orange County, just 45 miles south of Los Angeles and 90 miles north of San Diego. The center of the city is only seven miles from the . While its main activities were once missions, cattle grazing, and agriculture, today it’s the 8th largest city in the U.S. and is one of the nation’s largest planned urban communities. In 2017, Irvine has been named the 10th  “Best City to Live in America.” (Niche) and #3 on the list of  “10 Happiest Cities in the United States” (WalletHub). Yet, many travelers have still not heard of it directly, instead confusing it with neighboring Anaheim or lumping it together under the label of Orange County. John Wayne Airport (SNA) is located less than five minutes from the majority of Irvine’s hotels and is served by both […]

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5 Fun Facts for Friday: Anchorage, Alaska

My high school English teacher used to start class on Friday with 5 words or phrases written on the board.  He’d then regale us with information and history about the words or phrases, varying from tidbits about their etymology to the translation of foreign phrases to quotes and more.  He called it Five Fun Facts for Friday.  If we walked into class and there weren’t 5 words on the board, we’d start asking about that day’s five fun facts. Years later, and I do mean many years, I still remember this teacher and the way he made learning fun.  I’ve also noticed when I come across little tidbits of information that I often think of them in terms of five fun facts, so today I’m going to share some fun facts with you. While I’m not promising that I’ll have […]

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Review: The Doctors House, Fort Casey Inn

When visitors head to Whidbey Island, they typically think of Langley (at the south end) or Oak Harbor (the naval air station at the north end), but tucked away in the middle part of the island is Coupeville. Coupeville is the county seat, and with a population under 2,000 is a historic district within the federal Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. The reserve includes farmlands, Fort Ebey State Park, Fort Casey State Park, beaches and shorelines, parks, trails, and 91 locations on the National Register of Historic Places. For a place to stay in keeping with the town’s historic significance, the Fort Casey Inn provides a modern take on officer housing from pre-World War I. The row of historic cottages date back to around 1909 when they served as Non-Commissioned Officers’ Quarters for the neighboring defense installation. They have been modernized […]

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Tips for Planning Your Universal Orlando Vacation

I thought I was a pro when it came to visiting Universal Orlando. After all, I’d been to Halloween Horror Night last year and had been to Universal Hollywood just a few months ago. But with the ever-evolving attractions, hotels and restaurants, and now a waterpark, it sometimes feels like I’m at a brand new destination every time I go. That means my strategies and tips for visiting Universal Orlando Resort are evolving, too. Here are my tips for maximizing the fun, while minimizing vacation stress, when planning your Universal Orlando vacation. Select Your Dates to Visit Universal Orlando I’m a big fan of shoulder and off-season travel as it often means fewer people and better prices. Mid-September through October is probably my favorite time to visit – the weather is warm but not stifling and the crowds are manageable. If you’re […]

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100 Free (and Almost Free) Things to Do in Washington, DC

With all the attention on Washington D.C. during the presidential election cycle, it’s easy to think that the city is all about bickering between the various branches of government. In one of the United States’ most visited cities, there are plenty of attractions and things to do that are budget friendly – free or almost free – whether you politically lean left of right. This list should provide you enough ideas no matter what time of year you’re visiting. If you’re looking for something family friendly: Marvel at the National Zoo’s conservation efforts firsthand along the Asia Trail. Pay a visit to giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as well as their offspring, Bao Bao and Bei Bei (the youngest cub). Be sure to take a peek at their tiny neighbors, the red pandas, too. Stare up at the […]

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Universal Orlando Resort: I’m So Excited

I am an unapologetic Universal fan, whether it’s Universal Orlando Resorts in Florida (I went there last year for Halloween Horror Nights), or Universal Studios Hollywood (I went there on a getaway last month with a family teenager). So you can imagine my enthusiasm when Universal Orlando Resorts asked me to join their Blog Squad, a year long ambassador program to discover and write about the theme parks (and a water park opening early next year), special events, world-class hotels and entertainment venues, shopping, food, and more. (You can read the announcement here.) This opportunity to discover more about Universal Orlando starts tomorrow! I’m excited to spend five days on site in the company of other bloggers, photographers, and videographers, many of whom I’ve not yet met. My stories of discovery and fun will come weeks and months down the road, […]

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Fall Travel Getaway Guide: Providence, Rhode Island

Fall is a wonderful time to plan a getaway. It’s shoulder, or value season, in many destination, and that usually means fewer people, better availability, and lower prices, while the weather is still reasonably good. Another day exploring Providence. A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on May 4, 2016 at 7:04am PDT It’s easy to think of Providence, Rhode Island, as just part of the massive Boston area, but it deserves consideration in its own right. This capital city is one of the oldest in the United States, and its own special flavors and culture. With a population of under 200,000, it is a big (not huge) city, yet still keeps a small town heart. Here’s my guide to a fall getaway in Providence. While some of these recommendations are good all year round, some are quintessentially fall. […]

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15 Ways to Experience the Real Hawaii

Hawaii. Our 50th state is comprised of 137 islands, although only six of them are typically vacation destinations. We tend to think of Hawaii as a fly-and-flop destination, we fly in, flop on the beach or by the pool, and spent our days relaxing in the sun, often with a drink in hand. After going there a number of times, you may want to venture off the beach and out of the bar. When it’s time for that, my recommendation is to take time to learn more about the story of Hawaii, the stories and histories of multiple cultures over hundreds of years. From the indigenous Hawaiian culture, which was the first to mālama ka ‘āina (“care for the land), to the Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, Okinawan and Puerto Rican citizens who began arriving in the mid-19th century to work on […]

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Getaway to Universal Studios Hollywood

Heading to Universal Studios Hollywood during summer vacation was a frightening idea. The crowds, the lines, the mass of humanity crowded together pushing and shoving! But summer was the only time I could schedule a getaway to celebrate the 13th birthday for a family member. I set out to find a way to make it work both for the new teenager and for me. Here’s what I did as well as tips and recommendations for your own trip. Note:  This article was written in collaboration with Expedia.com who asked me to share my personal getaway guide to Universal Studios.  Choosing Your Dates Summer is vacation time, so there are a lot more people at Universal, and my top recommendation for timing is to go off-season, during the week while kids are in school, and to avoid weekends and holiday seasons. That […]

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Weekend Getaway: Gig Harbor, Washington

The Pacific Northwest town of Gig Harbor, Washington, is located across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma and is about a 45-minute drive from Sea-Tac Airport. The town has taken its rich history of commercial fishing and boat building and turned its downtown area into a historic waterfront community that attracts visitors with its galleries, parks, public and private docks and marinas, shopping, and dining. It is also one of the many small towns that promote itself as the gateway to Olympic Peninsula. It’s easy to think of Gig Harbor as a summer destination, and it is a great one, but don’t overlook the value that can be found in the shoulder or offseason. Fall is a beautiful time in the area, sunny and crisp days, but the rainy season means fewer people and lower prices. Things to Do Enjoy a […]

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