Hotel Review: Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

I recently had a quick business trip out to Provo, Utah and stayed at the Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. A quick review is in order!

  1. The front desk staff was lovely. They were extremely kind. The bellhop was eager to help us with our bags and check in was extremely quick.
  2. The restaurant had great food choices. The group of us split some appetizers and they did not disappoint. BBQ chicken flatbread, hummus, and chicken quesadillas are all solid choices if you’re looking for a mix of food. An onsite restaurant is always convenient, too. It’s even better when the food is delicious.
  3. The view is spectacular. This was my first time out to Utah and the mountains are beautiful. When I looked out my window in the morning, I saw hot air balloons lining the sky with the mountains as the backdrop. Sigh, I miss the views already back in the flat lands of Ohio.
  4. The room was spacious and the bed was extremely comfortable. And, let’s be honest, that’s hard to come by in a hotel.

I may be biased because I truly enjoy staying at Marriott’s, but I recommend staying at this hotel if you’re looking for a place in Provo. The price was about $200 with taxes, so not terribly expensive. You pay a little more for the onsite amenities and it being a higher scale Marriott. But you’ll be comfortable and treated well!

Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

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The first thing I thought of when I decided to travel to San Francisco was Alcatraz. Why, you ask?

  1. I love history.
  2. I love shows like Ghost Hunters.
  3. I’ve always had a fascination with The Rock.

I booked my ticket for Alcatraz weeks prior to my visit, and I advise you do the same. Tours fill up fast. If you want to do a night tour, book your ticket months in advance so you can secure your time. I chose to do the day tour at 9:30 a.m. Here’s my advice for the process.

  • Arrive at Pier 39 at least 30 minutes prior to your boarding time. That’s when they’ll start lining you up. The sooner you’re in line, the sooner you can board the boat.
  • Take a seat that is in the open area of the boat. You’ll get some great views of Alcatraz and the city.
  • If you can, choose an early time. You decide when you head back to the city. If you go early, you can stay as long as you want. I explored for three hours and got back to San Francisco in time for lunch, leaving the rest of my day free. I’ve heard that during the night tours, they rush you to make sure they close on time.
  • Take the time to do the audio tour! This was my favorite part of the tour. You’ll hear from guards and inmates first hand on their experience at the prison. While the stories are being told you’ll be standing near where everything took place. It’s amazing to hear about what occurred in those walls while standing inside.
  • If park ranges are giving live presentations, join them. I listened to a park range share the story of the Escape of 1962. I won’t spoil the story for you if you haven’t heard it, but it’ll blow your mind!
  • Take your time. Explore. Enjoy the history that’s there. It’s truly an amazing place. If you’re lucky, an actual inmate will be there. William Baker was a prisoner on Alcatraz and now has a book about his experience – and was promoting it on the island. Former prisoner or not, he seemed like a cool dude.

Have you visited Alcatraz before? I want to hear all about it in the comments! It was one of my favorite experiences while out in San Fran.

Photo of the Week: Halfway to Hell

IMG_0951The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in America, maybe the world. When I went to San Francisco, all I was talking about was seeing Alcatraz and the Golden Gate. During construction, several men fell from the Golden Gate bridge and were caught by the safety net. These guys called themselves the Halfway to Hell Club. They were one of the most exclusive clubs with there only being around 20 members. You learn something new every day!

Hotel Review: Harbor Court

On the first leg of my trip to San Francisco I stayed at Harbor Court, a Kimpton Hotel. This was my first stay at a Kimpton Hotel and it most definitely will not be my last. Here’s my quick review.

The location

Harbor Court’s location is in the Financial District but also on the waterfront. The back door of the hotel lobby drops you off on the Embarcadero. From here you can walk to the Ferry Building and Pier 14 to enjoy the sunset. You can easily grab transportation from the hotel, as it seems like you can in most of the city. There are plenty of restaurants in walking distance, too, if you’re looking to eat near by.

The staff

I love the staff at Harbor Court. They were the most friendly staff at a hotel that I’ve encountered in a long time. I must say, it was extremely nice to see. They are always greeting you with a smile, doors are being opened for you as you arrive and leave, and the front desk is eager to help you with any and all your needs. However this chain is training their staff, keep it up. You’ve created a lifetime customer with the service alone.

The experience

Talk about a GREAT experience at this place. I joined their free rewards program before coming out to San Francisco and it’s the best. Being part of the program gets you free WiFi throughout your stay, a free wine/beer hour from 5 – 6 p.m. each night, a $10 credit to the mini bar, and fresh baked cookies at the front desk at 9 p..m. Like I said, the best.

The room

I had a standard room and it was on the smaller side. Realistically, you’re just getting ready and sleeping in your hotel. The small sized room didn’t bother me at all, but it may be a deterrent to some. I’m sure there are larger room options as well if you desire more space. However, the room had everything I needed. I was satisfied!

The final say

Stay here. Period. The end.

You’ve hooked me, San Francisco.

I’m leaving a piece of my heart in San Francisco.

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I’m sitting at the airport while I write this and am realizing how badly I want to stay in this city. I spent two full days exploring and there’s still so much more to see. Why only two days, you ask? I was able to add on a couple days of vacation to a quick business trip. When you’re flying all the way to the West Coast from the East Coast, it only makes sense.

So what did I love about this place? Where do I begin?

  1. The views. If you want city views, you’ve got them. If you want a views of the water, you’ve got that, too. San Francisco is the definition of picturesque, in my personal opinion. The architecture here is stunning, from the famous Golden Gate Bridge to the jealous older brother of the Bay Bridge. The Victorian homes are exactly how you see them on your favorite TV shows and movies. Piers and skyscrapers live side by side. Must I continue?
  2. The food. I’ll admit I am a picky eater, so my opinions on food can only go so far. But if you’re a foodie, come to San Francisco. This city loves to support local businesses, so you’ll find so many unique places to eat while you visit the city. The typical lifespan of a San Francisco restaurant is six months. If you’ve made it past that six month mark, you’re considered a success. You’ll find Asian, Italian, Mexican, American and more styles of food all over the city. If you’re looking for chains, be prepared to be scoffed at. Certain parts of the city are starting to ban chain foods. These people are passionate about supporting new and local restaurants!
  3. The attractions. Visiting for two days was not enough. I knew it wouldn’t be, but I didn’t realize how much there was to do in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. Alcatraz is a must see for anyone who loves history. There will be more posts to come on The Rock soon. Pier 39, the Ferry Building, Coit Tower, the Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Park, Washington Square and the list goes on. Let’s be honest, the city itself is an attraction and tourists flock from all over the world to visit.

I could go on and on about this city, and I will. A piece of my heart will remain in San Francisco. I’ll return again not to pick up the piece, but to leave more with it.

Sigh. I’m sad to leave you, San Francisco. Until we meet again.

Hocus Pocus Comes to Disney World!

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Disney announced that a new show will be coming to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in 2015. Welcome the Sanderson Sisters and other Disney villains in Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular! Are you ready for it?

Growing up Hocus Pocus was one of my favorite movies. Who am I kidding? It’s still one of my favorite movies. And it’s about time Disney brings the Sanderson Sisters back to life!

The only way to see this show is to visit Disney World, not Disneyland, between September 15 – November 1, 2015. The show is only on select nights, so be sure to check the schedule. I’ve never been to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, but I may need to make a stop there this year.

New Announcements: Universal Studios Orlando

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know how much I love Universal Studios Orlando. Yes, I’m a child and I’m okay with it. There are new attractions at Universal and more attractions coming. All my information comes from the Universal Orlando Resort blog. Go over and check it out! Let’s run through the list of attractions.

1. Raptor Encounter at Islands of Adventure: Right on time with the Jurassic World release, you can meet some Velociraptors at the park. Check out the video to get the best explanation of how this dinosaur has come to life.

2. King Kong returns to Universal: Back in the day, there was a King Kong ride at Universal. It made me cry myself to sleep as a little kid. The giant ape is coming back to Florida and taking over a park of Islands of Adventure. I think this will go in the pretty empty area between Hogwarts and Seuss Landing, but that’s just a guess. Here’s another video for more info!

3. Universal’s Volcano Bay: Meet the new water park joining the Universal family! I have to say it’s about time that Universal builds its own water park. Universal is claiming that “Volcano Bay will completely redefine the water park experience,” and I’m excited to see how. Construction has already started and the park is set to open in 2017. The mock up, however, looks fabulous.

Announcing Universal’s Volcano Bay – A Water Theme Park Unlike Any You’ve Ever Experienced

4. I saved the best for last. Universal has struck up a new partnership with Nintendo. Yes, THE Nintendo. I cannot wait to see what these two “storytelling giants” come up with for attractions. Mario Kart roller coaster? Duck Hunt games? The possibilities are endless! I’m speculating that this Nintendo-themed section will go into Islands of Adventure where Marvel currently is due to Disney purchasing Marvel in 2009. Sadly, I think we’ll see Hulk and Spiderman disappear. However, I have a feeling that great things are to come!

There are no pictures of this awesome endeavor yet, but I found this and think it’s pretty accurate to how we’re all feeling about this partnership.