Every town on the Jersey Shore has a distinct personality.
One summer, we landed in Wildwood because of our interest in neon signs and mid-century architecture.
The thing that attracted us to Wildwood were the dozens of mid-century motels still standing, though sadly, many have been razed to build condos.
There are three distinct towns on the barrier island: North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest — where the greatest concentration of mid-century modern resorts still operate. The motels, are themed, with Vegas-like neon signs, plastic palm trees, and fantastical architecture.
Doo Wop Motels in Wildwood Crest
In Wildwood Crest, which is the family-oriented southern stretch of beach, you’ll find the Jolly Roger, the Astronaut, the Apollo, the Gondolier, the Safari, the Aztec, the Tangiers, the Viking, and many others.
The architectural style is known as Doo Wop, Googie, or Populuxe. These terms describe the kitschy style of Wildwood’s 200 motels built in the 1950s and 1960s.
We stayed in a wonderful old hotel in the heart of San Francisco that we got on Priceline for $32 a night.
Our hotel was several blocks from Japantown, and we ventured there a couple of times for sushi and sukiyaki. Japantown in San Francisco is much less touristy than Chinatown.
There is a mall, the Japan Center, with a large bookstore, many restaurants, some boutiques, and a discount store with imported goods. The surrounding area is several blocks of residences, restaurants, and the Miyako hotel, as well as a Japanese market, a hardware store, and other shops.
This is the neighborhood to shop for manga and Hello Kitty merchandise!
One of the shops we visited was a stationery store, The Paper Tree, that had a large selection of origami papers and books. The Paper Tree is a family business, and the owner’s daughters are origami artists.
We must have spent two hours in that shop.
They sell origami books and all manner of origami paper, including the beautiful handmade washi paper. One of the daughters showed us how to fold tiny origami stars from paper strips, and we picked up some beautiful origami paper and stationery to bring home.
A DIY Japanese Origami Birthday Party
When it came time to plan our daughter’s birthday party, she chose a Japanese theme.
If you can look beyond the chain restaurants, you will find that Cedar City, Utah has its funky side.
Most people come to Cedar City for ready access to the National Parks of southern Utah.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is a stunning park just outside of town, and Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park are within striking distance. The outdoor recreation opportunities are outstanding, whether hiking in the spring, summer and fall, or skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in the winter.
What to Do in Cedar City
Beyond the abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, Cedar City boasts some fun cultural events. Cedar City calls itself Festival City USA, so check before you go to see if any special events are happening.
Cedar City’s most famous festival is the Utah Shakespeare Festival held every summer on the campus of Southern Utah University. This professional theatre festival hires equity actors and features contemporary productions as well as traditional Shakespeare plays performed in a replica of the Globe Theatre.
The best kept secret about the Shakespeare Festival is the free outdoor pre-show entertainment called the Greenshow.
The Greenshow is an re-creation of Elizabethan street theatre, with period refreshments and a crafts fair to boot.
There is also a post-show Cabaret every Thursday night throughout the summer season. Company members from the festival put on a variety show at The Grind coffeehouse on North Main Street.
Acts include singing, dancing, instrumental music, impressions, skits, improv games, magic tricks, poetry, bird calls, and juggling.
Off the Cuff Comedy Club
On Friday nights, check out the local comedy and improv club, Off the Cuff. Many of the performers are students in the theatre department at Utah State University.
Historic Cedar Theatre
Another great year round venue is the Historic Cedar Theatre. Movie tickets are just $3 for children under 12, and $4 for adults. This theatre was established in 1914, and restored in 2012, bringing some vitality to the downtown area.
Kannaraville Slot Canyon
Twelve miles south of Cedar City is is a beautiful slot canyon and a popular hiking area. The Kannarville slot canyon offers waterfalls, slides, and beautiful red rock scenery. You can find details of the hike here.
Where to Eat in Cedar City
The Centro Pizzeria serves just one kind of food but does it very well. The fresh ingredients are straight from that morning’s farmers’ market and the pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven. The food here reminded me of the famous Two Amy’s in Washington, DC.
Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain
If it’s lunchtime, you can get ice cream for dessert at the old-fashioned soda fountain in Bulloch drugstore in the center of town. There are not too many traditional soda fountains left, so I am always happy to find one.
Where to Stay in Cedar City
Cedar City has dozens of chain hotels, but if you are looking for a bargain, Priceline is your best bet. I always cheek Hotwire first, to get a sense of general availability.
Our favorite place to stay is the Best Western Town & Country Inn in the center of town. We’ve gotten this hotel on Priceline for $38 to $48 per night.
I bought a couple of pairs, and now I am a convert.
There are a variety of styles for men, women, and children: socks for hiking; socks for skiing; socks for running; and socks for everyday wear.
The socks come in different weights, sizes, lengths, and colors, and they all have an unconditional lifetime guarantee.
If our socks are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned, return them for another pair, or your money back.
These socks are expensive, but sometimes you can find bargains on last year’s styles. I wear mine around the house, for walking the dog, and when I know I’ll have to take my shoes off at airport security.
They are also available from outfitters like REI or on Amazon.com.
We found a huge display of Darn Tough Vermont socks at the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham. This is a really fun store that sells all kinds of old fashioned candies, toiletries, toys, and everything else made in Vermont, from cheese to maple sugar candies, to rugged clothing. Be sure to check out the upstairs loft for discounted merchandise!
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The holidays are the best time of the year to visit New York. There’s extra energy in the city, and the holiday lights and decorations can be magical. Not to mention the shopping!
We visited our family in New York over Thanksgiving — and took in the best of the holiday season.
Over the course of our visit, we managed to bust several pervasive myths about holiday time in New York City.
1. You have to arrive at 6 a.m. to see the Thanksgiving Day parade
Everyone warned us that the parade route would be packed and if we wanted to get a spot we’d have to arrive very early. We sauntered over to 6th avenue at 50th Street at 10 a.m. and had a great vantage point with Radio City Music Hall in the background. We weren’t in the front row, but back where there was space to move around.
In 2013, miles and points coupled with some other travel tricks kept us afloat and allowed us to travel “in style.” Our style is value domestic travel — free flights and Priceline rooms to enable family visits.
I learned a lot about miles and points by reading other travel blogs — but stories about trips to the Maldives were not relevant to my situation; there are too many other places I want to go. Frankly, if I make it to Paris, I’d be more interested in checking into a 2 star hotel in a funky neighborhood, than in staying in the Grand Hyatt Vendome.
If you are having an illicit affair, I can think of no better place to meet your lover than Point Lookout on the Palisades Parkway. It’s beautiful, romantic, easily accessible from New York City, yet quite isolated (at least on a weekday.)
We drove to New England one Tuesday in early September, to drop our daughter at school. Traveling north on I-95, the New Jersey Turnpike ends in Fort Lee, New Jersey. You can continue on I-95 to New York City and beyond by taking the George Washington Bridge, or you can travel north above the Hudson River via the Palisades Parkway.
We wanted to avoid traveling through New York City because our car was loaded with stuff.
I couldn’t believe the natural beauty that awaited us just minutes from Manhattan!
Teens and tweens can be tough customers to please on a family vacation. We are back from a week in Salt Lake City where we discovered some fun attractions that appeal to this age set.
Salt Lake City and Utah in general are an outdoor lover’s paradise — but these suggestions mostly focus on quirky attractions of the urban variety.
The Tracy Aviary
We enjoyed a stroll through this bird zoo at the southeast corner of Liberty Park. Liberty Park is an 80 acre retreat in Salt Lake City that offers all manner of outdoor recreation. The Tracy Aviary displays 400 birds representing about 135 different species in a tranquil wooded setting.
The Aviary is an old-time zoo with large, attractive enclosures. Our teen was captivated by the strange, beautiful and diverse birds on display. Plan about an hour for a visit. If your family includes younger children, they might enjoy the retro amusement rides,including a ferris wheel, adjacent to the aviary.