Whether you have lived in NYC all your life, are visiting for the first time, or are a local looking for a fun and unique activity to entertain out of town guests, I can’t think of more worthwhile daytime activity than going on a Foods of New York Tours’ Gourmet Chinatown Food and Culture Walking Tour — which I took a couple weekends ago and had the best time ever!
The Gourmet Chinatown Food and Culture Tour is NYC’s only walking tour that includes multiple sit-down food tastings as well as an unequaled opportunity to learn so many fascinating things about the Chinese people and the amazing heritage they bring to New York City (which is home to the largest Chinatown in the US)! During this tour, you get to taste a diverse selection of dishes from three acclaimed Chinatown restaurants and one of Chinatown’s favorite bakeries, so you will enjoy several varieties of Chinese cuisines. You also get to celebrate the tradition and etiquette of this rich culture by searching out historical and cultural landmarks of the area on your way from tasting to tasting. Let me share a little bit about my experience of the tour.
Dim Sum GoGo Interior
You’ll start your tour by meeting up with your group and guide at Dim Sum GoGo (located at 5 East Broadway near Chatham Square), and this where you’ll have your first tasting. Our host and tour guide was a super friendly and knowledgeable guy named Raheem, and he was just fantastic. Dim Sum GoGo served us a selection of five different Hong Kong style dumplings over the course of about 45 minutes, during which time Raheem told us all about the history of Dim Sum, which was fascinating.
Unlike the Ballroom Dum Sum places, where servers wheeling carts of readymade dumplings and other dishes will circulate around the dining room, all dishes at Dim Sum GoGo are made fresh to order. Raheem described the ingredients of each dumpling as we ate it. I appreciated the food vibe, which made each bite taste special!
No matter where I am, I love having a new adventure. Just last month, I spent a few days vacationing in Boston (my first visit) on the back end of a cruise to Bermuda (recommended) and was a bit overwhelmed by all of the fun things there are to see and do in this historic, seaside city. If you find yourself in Boston and want to make the most of your time there, I suggest making a point to check out the New England Aquarium, a destination which is fun for all ages!
I have visited public Aquariums all over the country and would say that the New England Aquarium is comparable in size and scope to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, although it also has many impressive distinguishing features.
The New England Aquarium, which opened in 1969, is a global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation, and is one of the premier visitor attractions in Boston, with over 1.3 million visitors a year. It is a great place to bring kids because the focus is very much on education, and they have lots of animal shows and talks that you can attend for free as part of your paid admission. Please enjoy some photos and highlights from our visit!
One of the first things we did during our visit was attend a Fur Seal Training Session. Many of the seals at the aquarium were at one time sick or injured/abandoned animals that were rescued and rehabilitated at the facility where they now have a safe home.
There are moms and dads and brothers and sisters all living there together. The show is about 15 minutes and you get to meet a family of Fur Seals and hear facts about them while the swim and do simple tricks like waving and spinning around, being rewarded with some tasty fish. Kids will love it.
They have very interesting feet!
This one, above, is still a baby.
On the ground floor, there is a huge habitat for adorable African Penguins, where they have lots of informational signage about these birds as well as feedings, facts and presentations ongoing throughout the day.
It is lots of fun to watch them swim!
They have a huge touch pool also where you can “pet” the stingrays and small sharks. Everything is very well-supervised by Aquarium employees who give informational talks about the inhabitants of the touch pool.
This is a North Atlantic Right Whale Skeleton suspended from the ceiling, and below you can see the Penguins swimming.
The most impressive feature of the New England Aquarium is its four-story Giant Ocean Tank, located in the center of the building. The massive tank features a brand new coral reef, an underwater communications system and hundreds of Caribbean reef animals including sea turtles, stingrays, eels, small sharks and multitudes of colorful fish. I took the above photo from the very top of the tank just as a presentation was about to begin.
Be sure to pick up a visitor’s guide when you buy your ticket so you can check the schedule of all of the various talks, shows and presentations and plan your time to attend as many of them as you can.
Even though I grew up in Southern California, there are a lot of tourist attractions I never had a chance to see when I lived there. These days, when I go back to visit my family and friends I try to check out some of the places that especially showcase what a naturally beautiful area California is (which of course I never appreciated until I moved to the concrete jungle of NYC).
On my most recent visit at Christmas, I had a fun time with my friend Sue at the Japanese Garden, located in Balboa Park in the city of Van Nuys. If you’re a fan of the fun Tattoo Artist reality competition series Best Ink, then you might recall the Japanese Garden from this season’s episode where the Best Ink contestants visited it to get inspiration and sketch during the “Design an Asian Tattoo” challenge.
While the Japanese Garden is an ideal place to spend some quiet time enjoying nature, it has a constructive purpose as well as being beautiful to look at. The Garden is actually built on the site of the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which was designed to produce reclaimed water that will meet the requirements of the California Department of Health Services and the County Health Department. The filtration process takes a total of about 11.5 hours, producing reclaimed water can be made available for specific reuse, with any excess being discharged to the Los Angeles River.
These photos were all taken in December, just a few days before Christmas (during the spell of 75 degree, sunny days that Californians refer to as “Winter”), so you can imagine how much more lush and floral this place looks when things start to grow again in the spring.
In the uncropped version of the above photo, you can clearly see the reclamation plant in the background.
The Garden is also an ideal spot to practice your amateur nature photography skills!
This photo was taken from inside the on site Tea House.
The Japanese Garden is Located at 6100 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys, California, 91406. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM, and Sunday from 10:00AM until 4:00PM (the last gate entry each day is at 3:15PM). The Garden is closed to the public on Friday and Saturday, on all LA County Holidays and if it rains within 24 hours of opening time and during open hours. It is suggested that you call (818)756-8166 on the day you wish to visit to make sure the Garden is open. Admission to the Garden is only $3.00 per person, $2.00 for Seniors 62+ and Children under 10. Exact change is appreciated.
This Koi Fish Mural is painted across the walls inside the Visitors Center.
It was a very hot and sunny day in late December when my sister and I visited the Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach, California. Formerly a luxury cruise liner specializing in North Atlantic crossings (between US and England) for the Cunard Line, the ship has been retired since 1967 and now has a permanent home at the Port of Long Beach, where it does a brisk business as a luxury hotel, special exhibit venue, event space (get Married on the Queen Mary!) and one of Southern California’s most popular tourist attractions.
Having been on several cruises myself, it was especially fun for me to explore the ship and appreciate how all of the interiors and finishes have been preserved in the ship’s original Art Deco design. While some people might say that these finishes and interiors should be modernized, on the contrary, I think it would be a shame to obliterate so many visual remnants of this ship’s rich history.
Wood Inlay Mural of the Ship
I have a background in architecture and interior design, so I found myself drawn to photographing a lot of interior details that some people might miss, but I think these photos will give you a good feel for the historic atmosphere on board the ship. It is no secret that the ship is haunted and, in fact, you can choose to purchase several different self-guided or guided tours which will clue you in on the history of the various ghosts and hauntings that figure into the Queen Mary’s personal story.
Bar with Haunted Piano (Far Right)
What I was reminded of most is the Overlook Hotel, made famous by Stephen King’s The Shining. I can only imagine how eerie it would be to roam the ship at night. This might be reason enough to investigate staying the night as hotel guest if that works with your plans.
Observation Bar and Deco Lounge
Located around the ship are tons of display cases that hold items for the ships history, such as serving dishes, china, bar ware, furnishings and souvenirs from the time when the Queen Mary regularly transported passengers across the Atlantic.
This Deco Planter Flanks Two Rows of Glass Cases Filled with Historic Items
Each case has a write up on the background and history of each item.
Deco Ceiling Fixture
Deco Pendant Light
The Pendent light above can be found inside this very cool shop, Royal Gifts and Fashions, which sells dresses and other clothing and accessories, as well as jewelry and fun items similar to what you might find in a cross between a vintage clothing boutique and a Hot Topic. Very Fun!
The Dragon Shoppe is an tiny import store that sells all kids of imported chotskies, collectibles and souvenirs.
Miniature Tea Sets Sold in The Dragon Shoppe
This is the door that leads to to the ship’s indoor swimming pool. Although it is not accessible to the general public, I believe there could be a guided tour you could purchase that would take you through that area.
The ship’s original Ticket Office has been preserved with its original furniture, brochures and old fashioned office equipment. When the ship was functional, this is the place that passengers could go to book land transportation, trains or whatever they needed once the ship docked in the UK.
The Queen’s Salon is still used for banquet and wedding functions.
These elevators are no longer in use.
A few of the public rooms have been preserved or recreated to show them as they looked more than fifty years ago. One of those rooms is the Children’s Play Room. I imagine that children did have a nice time playing in this room, but to me it seemed rather sterile and reminded me more of a Pediatrician’s waiting room from the sixties.
I bet there are some ghosts in here.
This is the Grand Salon, which is massive, and where the famous Sunday Champagne Brunch is served. You can find out more about Sunday Champagne Brunch aboard the Queen Mary at This Link.
If you can’t afford $50 for brunch, the ship has many excellent restaurants, including the Promenade, where we enjoyed a fantastic BBQ Pulled Chicken Flatbred Pizza and an awesome Club Sandwich!
I had a great time exploing The Queen Mary and recommend you check it out when you are in Southern California. Find out more about all of the different tours and attractions that the Queen Mary has to offer and plan your trip by visiting This Link!
Look How Excited Sue is to Ride the Merry Go Round! (All Photos By Gail)
Now that the snow and frigid cold are kicking off the New Year here in Manhattan, I am looking back fondly at my recent week long holiday trip to Southern California, where I enjoyed clear blue skies, bright sun and warm temperatures each and every day! California!
It Almost Never Closes!
On the Sunday before Christmas, my BFF Sue (Pictured above) and I went on an adventure to Griffith Park in Los Angeles, where we rode the vintage Merry Go Round with extreme glee!
I don’t know what this is about
Located in Park Center between the Los Angeles Zoo and the Los Feliz park entrance, the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round was built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company and brought to Griffith Park in 1937. It features 68 horses, each of which moves (in other words, it’s “a jumper”). Each horse is finely carved with jewel-encrusted bridles, detailed draped blankets and decorated with sunflowers and lion’s heads.
A Stinson 165 Military Band Organ, reputed to be the largest band organ accompanying a carousel on the West Coast, plays over 1500 selections of marches and waltz music. It is pretty cool and reminded me of Disneyland for some reason.
This is my horse, which I named Lightning Bug. The Merry Go Round goes remarkably fast and will actually make your hair blow back with the wind it kicks up, so I am guessing that if you are just a little bit stoned or drunk it is much more fun to ride than if you are sober. Fortunately, seat belt-type things are provided, so you can secure yourself onto your trusty steed!
I Like It
It costs just $2.00 (what a bargain!) to ride the Merry Go Round for what is probably just a few minutes but feels like a good amount of time. Wee!
They sell these pinwheels there as well.
Here is another photo of the Organ, which I believe may have been fancied up for the Christmas Season.
Here is some additional Christmas Fanciness! I believe in this display, animals in hats are meant to be selling shoes, or perhaps specifically; horse shoes.
As is the case with anything these days, there are a few rules that should be followed. At any rate, I recommend you visit the Merry Go Round if you happen to be in the area, and have yourself some fun!
The Merry Go Round at Griffith Park is Open Weekends throughout the Year and Weekdays during the Summer, and over Christmas and Easter vacations, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Sometimes, you can see something so beautiful that it invades your imagination forever. I have been a fan of Glass Artist Dale Chihuly for years, but have never seen a comprehensive exhibit of his large scale works in person until I had the opportunity to visit Chihuly Garden and Glass during my recent stay in Seattle. While it is inarguably a beautiful city with innumerable natural attractions and tourist destinations, if you can visit only one notable spot on a trip to Seattle, go to Chihuly Garden and Glass. This place will completely and totally blow your mind and it is absolutely unlike any attraction you can see anywhere else.
I have been to museums and botanical gardens of all kinds all over the country, but have never before seen works of art and nature as consistently gorgeous as I did at Chihuly. Made up of eight exhibit galleries, a theater, a glass atrium and an outdoor garden, the “Oh Wow” factor of Dale Chihuly’s magnificent glass works is just insane, but I am going to let some of the photos I took during my visit do most of the talking.
Click on Any Image to Enlarge for Detail
After passing through an introductory hallway where you can read brief, informative paragraphs on the history of Dale Chihuly’s career, you will come to the Glass Forest, the only Gallery in the museum featuring glass pieces where artificial light (in this case, neon tubing) is incorporated into the glass. The Glass Forest installation is so beautiful, it took my breath away. I could not even imagine how much more amazing it would get.
Each stage of Chihuly’s work represents a series, and in the Northwest Room you can see the glass baskets he created based on traditional woven baskets made by Native Americans. The Northwest Room also contains a small cross section of Chihuly’s extensive collection of gorgeous Navajo Blankets.
The Focal Point of the Sealife Room is a ceiling-high blue glass sculpture dotted with pale amber blown glass Sea Creatures. This large piece is a good example of the modular nature of Chihuly’s sculptures of this type, in which individual glass limbs or bulbs are hung on a central, grid-like pole. This type of construction allows each installation to be site specific.
Thousands of pieces of blown glass of all shapes and colors reflect their beauty behind the glass panels of the Persian Ceiling gallery.
The Mille Fiore (Thousand Flowers) Gallery is an indoor garden of otherworldly delight. I think I took a thousand photos in this room alone.
IKEBANA AND FLOAT BOATS
The glass pieces in these two boats represent works inspired by fishing floats and also the Japanese art of Flower Arrangement known as Ikebana.
The Chandeliers in this gallery were previously included in the 1996 exhibit, Chihuly Over Venice, where Chandeliers were hung adjacent to or over the canals in Venice, Italy.
These flower-like bowls are lit only from above but they appear to glow from within due to process of layering colored glass on top of a white glass base. Hilariously, Chihuly’s Mother referred to these stunning works as “The Uglies.”
At the end of the indoor galleries there is a small theater where you can sit and watch a series of fascinating short films about Chihuly’s many ambitious projects including those in Las Vegas, Venice, The Citadel in Jerusalem and Finland. Do yourself a favor and watch all of them.
The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse, a 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space. The Glasshouse – the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories – draws design inspiration from two of his favorite buildings: Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Crystal Palace in London. The installation in the Glasshouse is an expansive 1,400-piece, 100-foot long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber. Made of many individual elements, it is one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures.
Just when you think you have seen every beautiful thing that could possibly be made of glass; get ready for your head to explode when you see the garden. On a beautiful sunny day (they do happen in Seattle) you will think you are in paradise as brilliantly colored glass flora mingles with complimentary species of living plants and flowers. Insane!
The Worley Gig cannot pile enough praise and hype on Chihuly Garden and Glass as the number one Must See Attraction for residents of and visitors to Seattle alike. We would also like to say a special Thank you to April, the museum’s in-house Head of PR, who was kind enough to not only comp our entry but to also give us a personal tour of the galleries. Chihuly Garden and Glass is fortunate to have such a passionate and knowledgeable employee.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is Located at 305 Harrison St. (right next to the Space Needle and the Seattle Center Monorail Station), Seattle, WA 98109. Open Every Day, Hours are Monday to Thursday 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM and Friday to Sunday 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Visit This Link for Admission Prices and Additional Information on Special Events.
On my last day in Atlanta, I took a trip to the Georgia Aquarium, which has been open for just one year and is the largest aquarium in the world. Seriously. Here are some of the cool sea creatures I saw on my visit.