T-Minus 15 Days: Parties, Parks, and Bucket List Items

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It wasn’t so long ago that I put together and shared the itinerary for my upcoming US trip. But part of what makes travel so damned addictive is that it throws you some curveballs and that there is always more out there that you want to see.

Since I decided to make the US my travel destination for 2012 (aside from, y’know, moving to China) – I had a few places that were must see. DisneyLand was one of them and many of you insisted that New York should be, but a big one for me was getting the chance to see Florida.

I don’t know if it was the lure of Orlando’s parks, the Latin culture that seems to pervade everything there, the beaches, or my fascination with Dexter – but Florida was my #1 priority outside of seeing friends and seeing a certain pretty girl I don’t doubt will soon grace the pages of this site.

So, I’ve reworked things and am happy to say Florida now gets a week of my five week tour. And as things are getting closer flights have been booked, accommodation has been found, and a few shiny press trips have been added on to things.

I’ve also purchased my travel insurance through the fab folks at World Nomads and lined up my US sim card thanks to the good people at travelgear.com.au.

So, here it comes…

Shanghai

Wrapping up work on a Friday morning at 10am (two weeks from now, holy crap), I’ll catch the bullet train across to Shanghai after lunch and spend my afternoon exploring some of Shanghai’s iconic spots. I’m thinking a leisurely walk around Fuxing Park, some time people watching at The Bund, and the People’s Square. Or I could immerse myself in China’s 5,000+ year history at the Shanghai Museum.

With my flight not until late Saturday, I’ve done some research and am pretty excited to explore China’s largest city. Then I’ll have a laid back Saturday breakfast and take the bullet out to Pudong Airport to get things well and truly rolling.

Potential Bucket List Items

#230 – Couchsurf

People's Square, Shanghai
People’s Square in Shanghai

Maryland

“Why on earth are you going to Maryland?”

That’s generally the first thing people ask when I lead off my US tour itinerary with one of the lesser known States.

The simple answer is: a girl.

But I’m not just going there for romantic reasons. There’s a lot about Maryland that fascinates me. I can’t wait for my first time noshing on blue crab in Annapolis or Baltimore. I’m excited about the opportunity to explore King’s Dominion in neighbouring Virginia; spend some time sipping cold beers on the waterfront; and hopefully catching up with long time travel blogging man-crush, Ryan from Just Chuckin’ It.

While I certainly hope to check off a few more of my more risque bucket list items while in Maryland, a gentleman certainly doesn’t tell. Will Peach will be heart-broken to learn that no tawdry tales will be gracing the pages of TravelSexLife.

Potential Bucket List Items

#204 – Seduce a pretty girl from Maryland
#273 – Eat blue crab in Maryland

There’s a whole bunch of sexy or romantic ones, but I’m not going to put the wagon ahead of the horse. We’ll see how I play my cards.

Annapolis waterfront
Annapolis (and its waterfront) will be my base for three weeks. Photo from Wiki Travel

Philadelphia

Philadelphia was originally scheduled in for a visit on July 3rd so that we could sink our teeth into some Philly Cheese Steak and help me check off item #272 on my bucket list (Eat a Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia).

But with Florida having claimed seven days of my trip, it may be that my hankering for a heart-stopping steak will go unfulfilled. Sad face.

Potential Bucket List Items

#272 – Eat a Philly cheese steak in Philadelphia

New York

When I asked readers and friends where I should go on my trip, New York was amongst the most vocally supported places. But damned if the place isn’t expensive. It makes Sydney look like South-East Asia.

While I won’t be able to dedicate the time to NYC that the city undoubtedly deserves, I’m still hopefully we’ll be able to catch some of the more iconic sights in our one night-one day stay.

Our agenda includes visiting Times Square & Central Park, taking in the Brooklyn Bridge, taking a ride out to see the Statue of Liberty, and an all important romantic dinner before catching a show on Broadway.

AirBnB has been our best friend in planning our trip. It’s provided our accommodation in New York, Chicago, and all of the Florida leg of our trip. Love that site!

Potential Bucket List Items

#16 – Take a pretty girl out to dinner and a show on Broadway

Washington D.C

Maryland puts me ridiculously close to the nation’s capital and it would be remiss of me not to see what America’s political heart had to offer.

Day trips are a definite possibility and I’m pretty excited about the chance to rekindle my friendship with Heather from There’s No Place Like Oz and explore some of the city’s monuments and museums. There’ll be a Bite with a Blogger to come, for sure.

But my Maryland friend and I will also be spending some time there. I’m particularly excited about seeing the Lincoln Memorial, snapping some shots of the White House, and exploring the Smithsonian.

Florida

This may just be the leg of the trip that I am most excited about.

My friend and I fly down from Baltimore on the evening of July 3rd. We’re then spending two days (including Independence Day) in the beach and night life Mecca that is Miami. Me? I’m braced for two days of pulled pork sandwiches, unbearable humidity, attractive women in bikinis, beers, and fireworks on the beach.

Then it’s off on a mini road trip.

Our first stop will be Shark Valley in the Everglades for a bit of alligator spotting. It’s not quite the in depth exploration the park deserves, but it’s enough to qualify for my bucket list.

Later that day we’ll cruise into Fort Myer, which will act as our base of operations for two days of exploring Sanibel Island. White sandy beaches, seashells, and blissful quiet? Sounds good to me.

We wind down our joint portion of the trip with a day and night in the circus city of Sarasota. I dare say I’ll alternate my time between the beautiful beaches and the local attractions such as the Ringling Museum, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, the South Florida Museum, or just catch a show of the Circus Sarasota. Spoiled for choice!

My friend jets back to Baltimore after that, but I’ve still got two more days in Florida visiting a friend from Orlando. My time there is certain to include a little Disney World action and I’m tossing up between the Kennedy Space Center or checking out Busch Gardens. Or do I hit Universal Studios? What is the best theme park in Florida?

Potential Bucket List Items

#33 – Go crazy at a decadent beach party or boat party
#40 – Explore the Florida Everglades
#88 – Visit the 10 biggest theme parks in the world (Progress)
#114 – Attend a 4th of July BBQ on the water
#271 – Visit every one of the Disney theme parks (Progress)

Sanibel Island
Between Miami, Sarasota, and Sanibel we’re spoiled for beaches. But doesn’t Sanibel look spectacular?

California

The real road trip starts a week after Florida when we set off for two weeks on the west coast. We fly into Los Angeles on the Friday and we’ve got two days to soak in as much as possible from our base at the Surf City Hostel on Hermiosa Beach. Thanks to the duo at yTravel blog for the Hermiosa Beach recommendation. It looks like my kind of place.

One stop in L.A. will be DisneyLand, but we’re tossing up for our final day. Do we hit Universal Studios or California Adventure? Spend some time people watching at Venice Beach or Santa Monica? Go touristy and check out Hollywood?

What is your Los Angeles must see?

From there it’s off to Yosemite National Park for three nights of camping out in one of the world’s most beautiful parks. We had a bit of a nightmare tracking down affordable accommodation and even more trouble finding available camp sites, but really lucked out in finding one on short notice.

From roughing it in Yosemite, it’s off to Monterey via Big Sur. We’ll spend a night in the beautiful Monterey Hostel and do a little exploration before the final leg of our own California adventure – San Francisco.

I’m a little dismayed that we’ll only got a single day and night to experience San Fran, but I’m intent on making the most of it. I’ll be doing a review for HI’s San Francisco City Center hostel while there and hopefully taking a cruise with Blue & Gold cruises out of Pier 39. But I really am open to San Francisco recommendations. Hit me with your best!

Potential Bucket List Items

#88 – Visit the 10 biggest theme parks in the world (Progress)
#101 – Visit Yellowstone and Yosemite (Progress)
#159 – Spot a celebrity in Hollywood
#171 – Explore San Francisco
#271 – Visit every one of the Disney theme parks (Progress)

Big Sur
Big Sur is my companion’s favorite spot on the west coast. I can see why.

Portland

If you followed my previous adventures in the United States, you’ll know that I fell head over heels in love with Portland during my time there. Between the great food, good people, and utterly mind-blowing microbrew beer – I’d found my special place.

So when I decided to return to the US of A, Portland had to make an appearance.

We touch down in Portland late on the 28th of July and hopefully there’ll be some kind of shenanigans on tap for the evening. Sunday the 29th sees me amongst the press at the Oregon Brewfest where I’ll be sampling enough boutique beer to kill a rhino. All for the good of my readers, I assure you.

Monday takes me back to the Oregon coast. After visiting Astoria and Seaside in 2009, I figured it stood to reason we’d hit Cannon Beach. This not only completes the Goonies Tour I started back in ’09, but also looks like it will be a beautiful spot. My friends and I intend to camp for the night on the beach before we head for our next destination.

Potential Bucket List Items

None 🙁

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach
Haystack Rock is the last stop on my Goonies Tour. Photo provided by Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Seattle

We drive across to Seattle where I’ll spend the night catching up with good friends from my time in South Korea and meeting their newborn bub. The very next day it’s time for a whale watch tour out to the San Juan Islands and that will be righteous.

That night we’ll hit up a Seattle Mariners game and drink copious amounts of beer, and that leaves me Thursday morning to recover before it’s time to catch one last flight to our last destination.

Potential Bucket List Items

#166 – Spend a day at the baseball
#184 – See Killer Whales in the wild

A stunning view of the San Juan Islands

Chicago

The last stop on our trip will be the Windy City. While we’re there for my friends’ wedding, that doesn’t mean we won’t be having a bit of fun. We’ll hit up the last of our AirBnB hosts for some tips, but I’m mostly excited about Chicago’s fantastic food scene.

With the wedding not until Saturday, we’ll have Thursday night for a bit of deep dish and Friday to do some exploring. Definitely need to check out the bean and then have a low key evening sipping martinis in a blues bar.

After the wedding festivities it’ll be teary goodbyes at the airport and a long flight back to ‘reality’. And really, when you work less than twenty hours a week and live in one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world – reality ‘ain’t so bad.

The Bean, Chicago
What the hell is this thing?

Back in China…

After a ‘two day’ flight (thanks to time difference) it’ll be straight back to work, but there’s no rest for the wicked.

Not only is my good friend Anthony visiting from Australia, but my old comrade and drinking buddy Crystal from South Korea is coming across to visit me as well. While Nanjing isn’t short of things to show here, I might need to start trying to explore my options nearby too.

So, that’s my July. How are you spending yours? And how does my US itinerary stack up? Any glaring omissions? 

 

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15 comments

    • I’ve got no day in DC planned, unfortunately. I’m good and close (in Annapolis) and have most days to myself while my host works, so we could (and should) definitely try to arrange something. I’m headed off to Florida until the 10th tomorrow. When works for you?

  1. Dude! No bucket list for Portland? That’s pretty sad. I’ll whip one up for you.
    1. Oregon Zoo is a super cool modern zoo that embraces the “habitat” theory of zoo design and is accessible by light rail. Simple!
    2. Powell’s Books: All good travelers struggle with carrying books. I am always on top of book swaps at hostels and pubs. But Powell’s is BEYOND any concerns you have about the weight of your pack. I am not joking. A SQUARE MILE OF BOOKS.
    3. THE FOOD! Oh god the food. Adam Richman, of Man Vs Food, has started filming his new show Best Sandwich of America, and I was lucky enough to be visiting friends in PDX a week after he graced BUNK in the Industrial District with his presence. The Pork Belly Cubano might be the best meat I ever put in my mouth (apologies to my husband…) Foodwise I recommend Little Big Burger, Fire on the Mountain, Little Bird, anything in the Food Cart Pod at N Mississippi and N Skidmore is going to blow your mind, and Prost! is an amazing pub. (I just Love Mississippi Avenue!) 😛 PS Eat all the tacos. DOOOO ITTT.
    4. The Bridges: Walking across any Portland bridge is just a stunning and leg-stretching treat.
    5. In San Francisco or Mississippi Avenue PDX check out http://www.paxtongate.com/ a really cool and creepy taxidermy and curiosity shop.
     I’m running out of room! If you like old arcade games have a look at the Musee Mecanique in San Francisco’s waterfront (by Ghirardhelli) You’ll blow all your quarters but it’s awesome. Cross the road for an In n Out burger afterwards and you’re practically MAKING money.

    Just discovered your blog today, btw, via my cousin Baron, I am LOVING it. If you’re ever in the UK/London/Bristol just hit me up haleydelano AT gmail DOT com. Or if you want more rambling Portland tips 😛

    • Hehe, glad you’re enjoying the site.

      I do love Portland and would love to spend more time there. I did manage to hit up Powell’s and the Oregon Zoo when I was last there, and I found a lot of fantastic food places. None of the ones you’ve mentioned though, so I thank you for the tips!

      And for making me laugh out loud at the apology to your husband, hahaha!

      Is the Musee Mecanique like Ground Kontrol?

  2. Sounds like a whirlwind, fantastic tour! Have a great time touring the sights and taking it all in. As far as your Universal Studios/Busch Gardens/Space Centre dilemma (and the similar one in California), I say skip Universal in Florida if you have the opportunity again later and see the Space Centre. Where else will you get to see the NASA ships broken down and open for viewing? 
    Have fun!

  3. Baltimore is such a random city to have on your itinerary (as is Sarasota) but both places will help you experience “the real America”.  As far as whether you should do Busch Gardens, Kennedy Space Center or Universal… that’s a tough choice.  If you’re already doing Disney, however, I would do the Space Center.  While you’re over there you can check out Daytona which isn’t far away.

    • Baltimore/Annapolis is basically there because the girl I’m visiting is from Maryland and can’t travel the entire five weeks with me. I’m actually looking forward to some quiet time to start. It’s similar to my Coeur d’Alene home base in 2009.

      I may have to follow your advice and checked out the Space Centre too. Wasn’t it you who suggested I add Sanibel Island to my itinerary?

      • Yes, I did suggest Sanibel to you.  It makes for a nice, quiet beach break.  Did you know that it made this list of 1000 Places to See Before You Die?  The Space Center also made the list.

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