If in Chicago during the summer an afternoon at "the ball game" is hard to beat and is a fraction of the price you'd pay to watch football in the UK.
Chicago even offers you two teams. On the north side are the world's greatest under-achievers; the Cubs. The fact that they haven't won anything for approaching a hundred years only seems to fuel the fanaticism of their supporters. On the south side are the traditionally working-class White Sox, world series winners in 2005. Strangely, a baseball game is the nearest thing in the US to the atmosphere of a football match in Britain. Both are within easy reach of the Loop via the red line subway.
Tickets can be booked online well in advance on each team's website. One word of warning though, beer prices inside both grounds are extortionate. So enjoy the build up in the pubs near the stadiums, particularly at Wrigley Field.
Cubs at Wrigley Field. Clark and Addison.
Sox at US Cellular Field. 35th St. Subway: Sox/35th St.
DIY Dining. Good for two people, better for more. I've heard several times that Koreans consider this the best place in town. This is as far as you could get from the touristy places, and it's about dining experience, not decor. Most of the customers will be Korean families, and the staff speak passable English. The prices are quite reasonable, especially if you share dishes.
Definitely go for the barbeque dishes. One order is enough to feed two or more people. They will promptly bring out a smoldering charcoal pot and grill, then bring you at least 20 little bowls of spicy vegetable side dishes, and a big plate of marinated meat, which you now have to cook on the provided grill. Between sampling all the bowls, and keeping track of what's cooking, you'll have plenty to keep you busy. Dining should always be this fun.
5247 N. Western Ave (773) 334-1589. Western or Foster busses, Brown line Western station is 15 min walk.
This charming little cafe is one of those places Chicagoans take guests to, because they love it so much themselves. Well-known for tasty breakfasts and lunches, but their delicious dinners are one of the best-kept secrets in the city. Expect long waits for breakfast or lunch on the weekends, but at night, you'll find it sparsely populated.
For all Hitchcock freaks!
Santa Rosa lies north of the Golden Gate Bridge about 1.15 hours up on the 101 FWY. It is the city where Hitchcock filmed his personal favourite, "Shadow of a Doubt" (1942) with, among others, Joseph Cotten in an against-type villainous role.
Those of us familiar with the film (and those who aren't, see it!) will recall the white family house where a lot of the action takes place, and it can be found on MacDonald Street, in the historic district. It basically looks like the same house even now, though the back of the house where young Charlie falls on the outside steps, has a high white fence surrounding the garden, to stop film buffs encroaching on the owners' privacy.
There are many location shoots one can spot in Santa Rosa, including the old train station (no longer in use) where the infamous Uncle Charlie arrives and departs. Unfortunately, the old library and also the "Till Two" bar are no longer there, but there's enough for any Hitchcock fan to delight in finding numerous locations where The Great Man shot his personal favourite film.
Just up the street from the house is a huge mansion where "Polyanna" (with Hayley Mills) was shot.
Do yourself a favor if you go: pick up a copy of "Footsteps in the Fog," a wonderful book that gives information on all Hitchcock's location shoots in northern California. Also, if you drive out to the coast and south about an hour, you'll find the small town of Bodega Bay, and the Hamlet of Bodega (about 4 miles inland), where Hitch shot "The Birds" in 1963. The famous "Tides" resturant is still there, though it's been modified quite a bit. The old white schoolhouse still looks the same, and can be found in Bodega, inland. Enjoy!
Santa Rosa: North on 101 FWY about 1 1/4 hours from Golden gate Bridge in San Francisco. MacDonald Street is in Historic District; train station is at back of shopping mall, a few blocks west of 101 FWY.
In the centre of China Town, this is where they sell loads of designer copies if you are into that. I got a Prada bag for $10. You must NOT accept the first price they offer, you need to haggle.
My bag started off at $30, I soon whittled her down. She wasn't happy but these people make a fortune. I also found fake Tiffany copies which were really good as I was wearing the genuine article and was able to compare.
Don't believe everything they tell you. I can only wear real silver and on various stalls they were telling me their jewellery was real silver and it wasn't, so you need to keep your wits about you. Great bargains to be had!
A Youth Hostel on West 83rd Street in a great neighbourhood. It cost me $20 a night to stay - as you would expect, it is basic but clean.
I had a private room with shared bathrooms which are kept clean. Rooms are warm and came with a TV, fridge, microwave and sink.
A stone's throw from central park and a couple of blocks from two different subways that take you to most central locations. There is also internet access and a games room downstairs if you feel like being sociable.
Friendly and helpful multilingual staff. I would give this place a go, you can't lose.
106 West 83rd Street
It's not on the menu, but if you ask for the steak special in the restaurant at the Ellis Island (one block off the strip behind Ballys) you get a choice of soup or salad followed by a 10oz steak cooked to perfection with a choice of fries, baked potato, mashed potato and gravy or rice for $4.95. It's far and away the best value meal in town!
Wannado City in Fort Lauderdale Florida is a whole city created for kids where they can become adults for the day and get a job and earn money or 'wongas' as they call it. My daughter was a model whilst my son had a stint at being a fireman, doctor and a cook. They earn money at the city which they can spend on treats for themselves or pay into the bank. This is a great educational but enjoyable day for children and quite fun for adults to.
Eat at the Oystercatcher for 'fine' dining in an informal atmosphere or at the Mad Crab for wonderful sunsets over the bay. For accommodation avoid the Capt. Whidbey Inn which is overpriced and very 'tired' and stay at the Anchorage Inn. Great breakfasts and Dave and Dianne are lovely hosts. A 5 minute drive from Coupeville takes you to Ebey's Landing where you can beach walk for miles looking out across the Pacific and encounter no one. Brilliant even when the fog comes in.
Wishbone (there are two- one is across the street from Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios) is a great restaurant that specialises in real American food - southern food. You won't find food like this easily in big American cities, so give it a try.
All the food is fresh and made from scratch. A Wishbone breakfast will take you well into late afternoon. Try the corn pancakes with sweet red pepper sauce, shrimp and grits, red eggs, or the crab cakes or vegan black bean cakes. For dinner, try the hoppin' John (also available as a side dish) or jambalaya. People come here for the side dishes alone - mashed sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, sauteed spinach, spectacular home fries, and cheese grits.
Both restaurants are bright and airy, with some unusual and delightful folk art on the walls. Friendly servers and a good attitude.
This is real down-home American food - fresh and delicious!
If you're visiting Chicago, please don't waste your time with this tourist trap! It's just a corporate-designed mall with no soul. Instead, see some of Chicago's neighborhoods, where the REAL Chicago lives. Head to Pilsen to see the Mexican Fine Arts Museum, to have some real Mexican food, to enjoy a cup of icy fresh mango spears from a pushcart. Head up to Devon Avenue, a crazy bazaar packed with sari shops, Orthodox Jewish delicatessans, and the best Indian food in the city. Try Andersonville, which used to be the Swedish neighborhood and is now Swedish and Arabic and full of wonderful boutiques and shops, not to mention great Swedish food. Wander around the botanic garden and greenhouse in Lincoln Park. Go to the zoo and rent a bike - take a leisurely ride on the many miles of bike paths along Lake Michigan.
Take one of the tours run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. You'll be able to go inside some of our greatest buildings. Or take their river tour by boat.
Avoid Navy Pier and Millennium Park. They have nothing to do with the real Chicago!
Last summer I went to the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead, Long Island, NY. It is about one hour in the car from Manhattan but there is also a train. I looked at a giant octopus and at a tank with a giant turtle with big sharks. There is a cage you can go in to be near the sharks but you have to be 12 years old or more to go in the cage. There are seals and penguins outside and the seals do tricks. But the most exciting bit was when me and my dad went swimming in a big outdoor pool with leopard sharks, rays and other fish. You wear a wetsuit and a mask and snorkel and you can touch the sharks if you want but they are quite fast. The rays are friendly and they are easier to touch. This aquarium is much better than the London aquarium, which I also like a lot.
From Finn Bennett (age 7).
431 East Main Street, Riverhead, NY 11901
Tel: 631 208 9200
Totally customized private tour of New York City. Very personal and personable guide. Before you arrive, they work out an itinerary with you by email. Then, their guide takes you all around. It is much cheaper than you might think. Depending on the number of people in your family or group, it may actually be the best tour bargin in New York.
The Eleventh Street Diner, an authentic diner with the look of a railroad car, used to be one of my favourite eating places on South Beach, with its friendly efficient waiting staff, varied menu, large helpings and a reasonable selection of vegetarian dishes, available at any time of the day or night. Alas, no more.
A change of ownership resulted in other changes. Why didn't the new management work on the principle “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”?
The first indication that things weren't right was when my wife and went to the Diner after a spell abroad. We ordered and waited, and waited. Eventually my wife's meal arrived and my side order of fries, but no main course. When I managed to attract someone's attention, I was told that they were out of the item I'd chosen. Until then no one had bothered to tell me.
We decided to give it another try, as any restaurant can have an off day. The service was slow. A friend arrived while my wife and I were eating and asked for a menu. She never got it. We tried to attract the eye of the waitstaff and even called to them several times. In the end our friend left without ordering.
A week later we went to the diner for a late lunch, as we had many times previously, and were told it was now closed in the afternoon.
On our final visit, again in the afternoon an unfriendly gorilla barred our way, and told me they were closed. I'd forgotten they were no longer open 24 hours. When I asked if they were now working on the communist system, closed at lunchtime so that the staff could eat, the gorilla was furious. He moved as if to eject me physically, but I retreated before he could touch me. “Don't come back again,” he said menacingly.
I won't, but it saddens me to see a place I liked go downhill so rapidly.
If the staff of the Diner don't think 2:30 pm is lunchtime, they should go to the Big Pink at Collins and 2nd, where they would see with their own eyes that lots of people disagree with them.
Washington Avenue, South Beach, Miami Beach, FL.
Cute cafe and wine bar in North Beach run by a Brit. Cold beer and decent wines. Free Wi-Fi, Premiership on the telly, great sandwiches, delicious fondue. On Mondays and Fridays local musicians and poets perform.
700 Columbus Ave @ Filbert
Tel: (415) 392-9290
Hotel in Tribeca, excellent value for money.
Near Ground Zero, a subway stop, walking distance to Battery Park and South Street Seaport.
I've now stayed there twice and would stay there again. Best rooms are the ones with two double beds, but these are more expensive.
95 West Broadway (At Chambers), New York, NY 10007
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