Something to do in July? How about a Walk on a Pier?

SM-Lit up pier 2 FB
Santa Monica Pier

People, people, and more people.

A few weeks back I did a story on the Belmont Shore Veterans Memorial Pier.  In that story I mentioned that when walking on that pier, it was if I had gone back in time.   A large portion of that feeling was due to the design and how it reminded me of a pier I had seen in historical articles. The other reason was the lack of people on the pier.  With only a handful of residents or tourists leisurely strolling along the pier and local anglers scattered about, it seemed like a crowd from 1950 not 2014.

SM-Sign FB

Two weeks later it was feeling more like 2014 as we stepped on to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles County, California. This time sharing it not with a handful of people, but with thousands!!    There were bumper to bumper people as far as you can see.

SM-Pier activity FB

So what attracts so many to the Santa Monica Pier and not the Belmont Pier?   The Belmont Pier has a snack bar, fishing, plenty of bathrooms and a great view, what more could you ask?   In comparison, the Santa Monica Pier also has those features but with a few minor additions……  A roller coaster, a Ferris wheel,  a carousel, a two story restaurant, a flying trapeze,  shops,  carnival games and rides,  vendors, music,  and much more.  It is an amusement park sitting on top of a pier.

SM-Long distance roller coaster ferris wheel FB

The Santa Monica pier is where you go to play, eat, drink, and have fun.   We went on the Saturday after Thanksgiving so I am sure it was more crowded than normal, although I can’t be sure of that.   Summer is probably overly crowded and we also overheard someone say it was busier at night.   Plan to to spend the day here as you would any amusement park or fair.

SM-Looking towards it from parking lot 2 FB SM-Looking towards it where we parked FB

Continue reading “Something to do in July? How about a Walk on a Pier?”


Some place to go in July!

Morro Bay!!!

Morro-Photo Bomb
Morro-Sunset without seagull

The Rock
Driving up the scenic central California coast I am always impressed by the sleepy little towns dotted along the way.

One such town standing out from the rest is the seaside village of Morro Bay. Morro Bay may not be the smallest of communities in the area but it does have one unique landscape feature that the others don’t have, the enormous Morro Rock.   “The Rock” as locals call it stands 576 feet tall and looks like a landed meteorite straight out of a science fiction movie.

Morro Rock was originally surrounded by water but a breakwater was built so that people and cars can easily have access to its base. At present there is a paved road and a huge dirt area that serves as a parking lot for the surfers as well as the fishermen (and women) who fish at the harbor nearby.

Morro-Surfing right of rock
Morro-Sufing looking north 2

There is no climbing allowed on the rock as the foundation is unsteady and rocky. Locals tell us that once in a great while someone will get caught climbing the rock only to be met with a hefty fine.

How to get there
Morro Bay is a coastal community located on scenic Highway 1 and nestled roughly 125 miles north of Santa Barbara and about 140 miles south of Monterey. This picturesque city has a population of just over 10,000 as of the 2010 census.

Morro Bay From the rock

The Harbor
This part of the coast was lacking in natural harbors so the Army Corp of Engineers decided to build a small bay with the intention to house recreational and commercial boats. It is now the only harbor between Santa Barbara and Monterey that can accommodate smaller boats.

Protected by a large sand dune or sandspit , the harbor is calm and serene and home to boats moored peacefully against the backdrop of “The Rock”.

Morro orange sunset G
Morro the riock with boats in front
Morro- The rock from the harbor

Continue reading “Some place to go in July!”

Skyslide at the the US Bank Tower, Los Angeles

I wish I could give you a firsthand experience of the new Skyslide in Los Angeles but the truth is, we never tried it or even saw it for that matter.  After a long day spent in Los Angeles, this was the last thing we wanted to investigate.   Our GPS got us to the building but finding a parking space wasn’t easy.   Or should I say finding a cheap parking space wasn’t easy.

We had spent most of the day visiting the Adamson House in Malibu, Olvera Street, and Chinatown so maybe if we weren’t so tired, we would have paid a few bucks and made the trek to the 70th floor of the US Bank Building.  Our motivation and energy level was too low so it will have to be an excursion for another rime.

It was however, interesting to see the US Bank Building standing tall at 1,018 feet high and in fact it is currently the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

On the 70th floor they have an observation deck where you get panoramic views of the city and coastline beyond. Through my telephoto I could see the observation deck tower from the spot where we pulled our car over but we couldn’t see the slide.

What slide you ask?   There is a glass slide were you sit on a mat while plummeting down one story on the outside of the building.   The trip takes you from the 70th floor to the 69th on a quick exhilarating ride far above the city streets below.

Don’t worry though; they say the slide is strong enough to hold a school bus full of people. The US Bank building and the OUE Skyspace are becoming one of the premier tourist attractions in L.A.   It does cost to go up to the Skyspace observation deck and an additional fee for the slide.  I hear it is anywhere from $27-$33.

The slide and observation deck are part of a $50 million makeover for the U.S. Bank Tower, overseen by architecture firm Gensler.

The new facilities will include a redesigned lobby for the public to access Skyspace and the Skyslide.  There will also be a café, plus a restaurant and bar on the 71st floor.

As the day was coming to an end and the moon was rising right next to the US Bank building, we were okay with not trying it this time. There will be plenty of opportunities as Los Angeles isn’t that far away.

However, if you are in town, it might be something you would want to try.  Flying down a transparent slide that is hanging on the side of a building some 1,000 feet from ground level, sounds both fun and scary. We at the very least wanted to tell you about it in case you hadn’t heard.

We never did see the slide on the building as we tried to maneuver around the one way streets to get a better view.  We managed to go through the jewelry district and the garment district during this half an hour period.  If shopping for either of those is your thing, this is the place to be.

After a packed day of experiencing a few touristy things in Los Angeles, it was time to say goodbye, and hello to the Interstate freeway to go back home.

Los Angeles has so much to do and visiting the US Bank Tower might be one you would want to put on your list.

Story and Photo: Debbie Colwell







Chinatown, Los Angeles

From Tacos to Egg Rolls in Less Than Five Minutes

Olvera Street is a Mexican market place near downtown Los Angeles in which we had just spent about two hours exploring.  On our way to find the freeway, we stumbled onto Chinatown which was a mere minutes away.

Since we were in the area, we fed a parking meter a few quarters to at least see what this area was all about.

I feel weird about doing a story on Chinatown when we only spent about thirty minutes there; however my friend Google stepped in and helped me with the rest.

Chinatown is a neighborhood in Los Angeles that is full with Chinese culture. As with Olvera Street, it is also near downtown, the city’s civic center, and the iconic Union Station.

The first thing you notice is the architecture of the buildings.  Pagoda style buildings embrace the culture and bright orange lanterns prevail in the shopping squares.

There are plenty of high caliber restaurants with what is known as the best authentic Chinese food in town, a fact that packs in the locals as well as tourists.

One of many restaurants

Also, just like Olvera, there are plenty of gift shops and stores.  There are also art galleries, museums, and historical buildings to visit.

Our two quarters didn’t buy us much time but we did check out one of the busiest shopping squares on the main street.   It was enough time to poke our heads through a few stores, try on a hat, pose for photos, and throw our money into a wishing well filled with sections on prosperity, love, health, and relationships.

I saw a section that said,”Lottery Win” so my penny went flying in that direction.  Boom, perfect landing!    I bought a ticket the very next day and I won!!  Never mind that it was only a $1.00 win.  I guess I have to add a few zeros when trying to manifest a lottery victory.

Chinatown deserves more time and I made a mental note to come back again.   If I go again, I will go hungry and ready to shop!  However, what I saw was pretty cool and I am glad we took a few moments to see what we could.

Chinatown Los Angeles can be found:

LA Chinatown Central Plaza
943-951 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell


Olvera Street, Los Angeles

Have you ever gone back to your old childhood neighborhood but as an adult?   You look down your former street and wonder why it looks so small now?   That tiny block in my youth once seemed to go on for miles and felt about two football fields wide.

That is my recollection of Olvera Street in Los Angeles.  When I went there as a kid it seemed like an endless lane packed with vendors, food, and my favorite…toys!  Going there as an adult, the tree-lined street didn’t seem as long.

The aroma of authentic Mexican food still filled the air and colorful booths were packed with clothes, hats, shoes, tiles, handmade leather goods, etc. just as they were back then.

My Mom always bought me one of those wooden puppets that had four strings to control the hands and feet.   It was a must have, and I was happy to see that they still sell them there!  In fact about ten were hanging on a display where a small boy was tugging on his dad’s shirt asking him to buy him one.

With all of the high tech games today, it is nice to know that such a simple toy like that has not been forgotten.

Other than it not being as large as I remember, Olvera Street hasn’t changed much.

Even now, the sweet aroma of food floods the air, there is  entertainment in the square, mariachis, and the same vendors selling their goods.

The History
Olvera Street, known as “the birthplace of Los Angeles,”   is a block-long Mexican Marketplace that was created in 1930. It preserves the customs of early California and some of the merchants today are actually descendants of the original vendors.

Besides the tented vendors, the narrow shaded street features cafes, old structures, and restaurants.

The tree lined street has street vendors on one side

There are also brick and mortar stores which are actually brick and mortar!

The Culture
There is main center square where you can sit and watch the provided entertainment which can include bands, dancers, or singers.    On this day, a woman dressed in colorful Mexican attire was singing songs that entertained all that were gathered around.

To keep with the spirit of the place, we sat down in a hole in the wall café to test out the authentic Mexican food.  Based on the crowds, I am guessing that this is how they like it prepared.   Nearby, the ball of a homemade tortilla was gently rolled out to soon become a fresh warm delicious staple of the Mexican culture.

In our tiny establishment, the popular drink Horchata was pouring into many a glass.

I was half inclined to join in, although with a couple of Coronas instead, but I knew I had to drive.   I settled for munching on a taco in the back of that four table café while watching a Mariachi band stroll through the crowd.

Olvera Street is open 10:00 am to 6-8pm daily and until 8-10pm on the weekends.  I like how they leave it open, maybe we will close at 8:00, maybe 10:00. That is the Mexican way, family, home, and food, all important in its own way.

If you are looking for something to do in the Los Angeles area, check out Olvera Street.

The best part, admission is free.

Next time, we visit Chinatown which happens to be right around the corner.

Map of Olvera Street

Stories and Photos: Debbie Colwell