VR Universe, Buena Park

VR Universe, Buena Park - cagesThe Source at Buena park is four-story shopping, dining, and entertainment complex. 

It is mainly geared towards the Asian population of Orange County, with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese stores and restaurants, but it is becoming more international with American, Italian, and Mexican choices.

If you have a couple of hours to kill while at the source, head to VR Universe on the third floor for some mindless fun.

Destin, FL

Florida Emerald CoastDestin is a small beach town full of fun attractions and activities. Located on Florida's Emerald Coast, Destin is known for its white beaches and emerald green waters. It is now a major tourist destination, started as a small fishing village. 

The city is on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay. This makes for beautiful beaches and views on both sides, facing the Gulf of Mexico and the bay.

The sand on Destin's beaches (and the rest of the Emerald Coast) is some of the whitest in the world. The sand comes from the Appalachian Mountains and is made of finely ground quartz crystal, giving sugar's appearance. 

Hoover Dam Tour

Hoover DamHoover Dam is a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas, so you can carve out a few hours and visit this engineering wonder on your own, and we did that many times.

But to get a different perspective and let someone else do the driving, I decided to go with Comedy on Deck tours for a VIP experience that included a visit to the new bypass bridge, the power plant, the visitor center, and a hot lunch.

The tour started with a pickup from our hotel, and we had to endure four more pickups before we were on our way. Our guide entertained us with jokes and a running commentary about Vegas and Hoover Dam. 

LA Arboretum

LA Arboretum lush gardenWe landed at the Arboretum by mistake, and I am glad we did. I passed this place many times on my way to hikes close by but never stopped to explore.

On this day, we were heading to Eaton Canyon for a great waterfall hike but were blocked by a roaring stream with a dangerous crossing. So we decided to check out this botanic garden in Arcadia.

The 127-acres beautifully landscaped garden is nestled against the San Gabrial mountains. It provides a sanctuary of nature, where flora and fauna thrive in harmony, and visitors can escape the urban chaos and immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural world.

Chino Hills State Park

Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center

Many people are flocking to Chino Hills to admire the wildflower bloom after the wet California winter, but in May 2023, it is a little disappointing. 

Although wildflowers are everywhere, I couldn’t find the multicolored poppies in abundance. I could only see a lot of yellow mustard flowers on the hills and especially along the trails. 

Watching poppy super blooms is a matter of timing. I think people who visited in March had better luck.  

The park is still beautiful and always worth a visit for hiking, biking, jogging, or picnicking. 

That Park extends over 14,173 acres on the borders of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. 

Irvine Spectrum

Irvine SpectrumThe Irvine Spectrum is an entertainment and shopping complex in Irvine, considered one of the best places to live in the US.

The center has grown over the years from its humble beginnings in 1995 until the latest expansion in 2020.

It now features stores like Nordstrom, Sephora, Apple, and Target, a Ferris wheel, and a Regal Cinemas 21-screen movie theater.

It also has an eclectic selection of restaurants and snack outlets. 

The little ones can enjoy a Merry-go-round, the ferris wheel, and a new children's playground. They also love running through ground fountains and steam areas.

Holy Jim Falls Hike

Holy Jim Falls Hike

I am surprised to find a flowing waterfall in the middle of summer in Southern California – and this one is in my backyard in Orange County. 

The Holy Jim Falls hike is a 2.9-mile out-and-back trail near Trabuco Canyon, California. It is generally considered a moderately challenging route, with an elevation gain of 600 feet (ca. 183 m). 

Our trek to this trail started on the rough dirt road, Trabuco Canyon, with many bumps and potholes. I strongly recommend a high-clearance vehicle for this road. 

But once we arrived at the parking lot, we forgot about the rough ride and enjoyed the hike.

Luxor, Egypt

Egypt - Luxor - Nile River CruiseWe have always wanted to visit this Arab country to experience its culture and history. So we booked a two-week tour to places like Cairo, Giza, Luxor, Edfu, Aswan, Sharm El-Sheikh, and ancient monuments and temples like the Great Pyramids, Sphinx, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings.

After a hectic three-day tour of Cairo and Giza, we flew on Egypt Air to Luxor, were whisked away to our cruise ship, Steigenberger Minerva, and checked into our fabulous cabin. 

The cabin was more like a hotel room than a cruise ship cabin, with a king bed, a large window offering splendid views, and a full bathroom. It also had a flat-screen TV that we never turned on because we were too busy exploring the ancient monuments.

The plan is to cruise the Nile for four days from Luxor to Aswan, stopping at important ancient sites along the way.

Luxor is a modern city in Upper (southern) Egypt near the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.

Luxor has frequently been characterized as the "world's greatest open-air museum", as the ruins of the Egyptian temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. 

Immediately opposite, across the River Nile, lie the monuments, temples, and tombs of the west bank Theban Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.