Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is a global city with picturesque skylines of its high rise buildings and a beach alongside Lake Michigan. It can be somewhat chilly due to the harsh lake winds, even in the warmer months, so dress accordingly.

I recommend going to the popular touristy areas, like seeing the Chicago Bean, strolling down the Magnificent Mile for a look at clothes and other shops, and taking a visit to the beach/boardwalk on Lakeshore Drive along the edge of Lake Michigan, if you’re just in Chicago for a day or two.

Chicago bean. Image by Paul Veglos.

Chicago is also host to many world-known musical acts and theatre showings, which you can catch playing at many of its venues. One thing about Chicago is that while you can take the El trains around the city, they are often somewhat crowded and often smell bad due to the number of homeless that ride the trains daily. Unlike Europe, the trains are not as popular a transit option for the majority and are less taken care of by its passengers. This can depend on the poverty of the areas the trains go to, however.

Another thing I recommend doing in Chicago is taking an Uber/taxi instead of trying to rent a car for yourself, if you’re only visiting a few days. Parking is expensive, ranging from roughly $15-30 an hour unless you have a discounted voucher from a business you’re visiting, and there are plenty of taxis/Ubers/Lyfts around for hire at a low fare.

It is well worth visiting the museums in Chicago, as well. The Children’s Museum, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art are some of my personal favorites.

Hotels in Chicago range from modern hostel rooms to expensive luxury suites. There is a wide range which you can choose from, or you can pick from Airbnb.

Enjoy Chicago.

As always, opinions are my own.

Miami & Tampa, Florida

A view of Miami’s high rises and white sandy beaches.

This photo pretty much sums up everything you might imagine Miami and Tampa to be.

Visit Miami or Tampa to find stretches of white sandy beaches, lively nightclubs, sprawling urban and commercial areas, and plenty of hot sunshine. You might be amazed at how much Spanish is spoken if you are not from the region.

Miami and Tampa are both known for their beaches, which are sometimes crowded in popular areas. They are fairly close to one another by car or plane (only a few hours drive and a shorter flight). I went from one to the other on Spring Break of 2009 with girl friend, and it was quite a popular destination for college aged students. I wouldn’t go again, however, during that time as it was not my scene.

If you want to avoid crowds, don’t go during the busy season which typically lasts from March through August. A car is definitely needed to get around.

All opinions are my own.

California Redwoods

Located in the northern area of California, the California Redwoods are truly majestic and a sight to see. If you have the time, spend a few days in this area, because while a day trip will allow you to see the old-growth forests, the surrounding towns are good spots for booking a pleasant retreat.

When I stayed in the Redwoods (way back in 2007), I had a room in a rustic wooden house in the mountains about an hour or two away from the Redwood forest itself, with a vegetable garden on the premises and an open-air hot tub on the wooden deck. It made for a beautiful few nights spent underneath the stars, which were plentiful and highly visible.

These ancient trees are not to be missed, if you are planning a trip to Northern California. Alternatively, it is worth the few hours drive up from Los Angeles, although you would need to rent a car for the quickest travel.

Ojai, California

Ojai, California is a beautiful small town located in between Ventura and Santa Barbara in Southern California. The population is about 8,000-10,000 with a few main streets. It is mostly surrounded by mountains. One cool thing about Ojai is that the mountains are situated in a different orientation than most other mountain ranges, which the locals say gives the town special energies for art and healing.

The location for the US blockbuster film, Easy A, Ojai is mostly a spa-resort town for those wanting to escape the traffic and bustle of the Los Angeles metropolis and surrounding areas.

Some fun things to do in Ojai:

You can take a short 2 mile hike amongst the mountains, lined with orange orchards, and look over the valley in some areas.

Visit the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa for some rest and relaxation.

Watch the annual Ojai Tennis Tournament, held in the end of April.

Walk around the quaint streets (Ojai is easy to get around on foot, but renting a car will make getting around elsewhere much easier, for example, if you want to reach the beach from Ojai).

If you visit Ojai, prepare for sunshine and a small-town luxury resort atmosphere. A great day-trip from Los Angeles or surrounding areas, or perfect for a weekend or a few nights before moving onwards.