Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

There’s just something so lovely and charming about cherry blossoms, and many believe that they symbolize how absolutely beautiful yet fleeting life is. The blossoms are only around for approximately one to two weeks where the wind then takes the pale petals and sends them scattering around like snow. Cherry blossoms have become a central focus of numerous festivals that many look forward to attending every year. In Japantown in Northern California, you can attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in April 2017. Let’s talk a little more about just some of the information you should know if you’re interested in going to this wonderful event.

Cherry blossoms

Dates, Cost, and Times
The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival® is set to take place on two separate weekends: April 8 and 9 and 15 and 16. Dates and times vary, but the majority of events take place within the perimeters of four blocks: Bush Street, Filmore Street, Geary Boulevard, and Laguna Street. Most events are free of charge while some will require you to pay an admission fee. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend, so you’re in great company to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival.

Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade
The very special Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade will start on April 16 at 1pm at the San Francisco City Hall. There are a multitude of performers expected to attend including El Cerrito High School Japanese Club, Nagata Dance Studio, Northern California Japanese Sword Club, and Yoko and the Sunshine Girls. It’s a parade full of fabulous talent that you certainly don’t want to miss.

drums

Arun123 / Shutterstock.com

Additional Special Programs and Events
When it comes to additional special programs and events, there are several others you’re definitely going to want to consider attending. For example, on April 14 is the 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration, the Film Festival takes place on April 8, 9, and 15, there’s the Mikoshi Purification Ceremony, the Kayo Parade, the Cherry Blossom Festival Scavenger Hunt, and more. It’s also here where you can learn about everything ranging from Japanese doll making and music to Bonsai and Ikebana. The festival is an incredible (and fun!) learning experience for those of all ages. Check out the festival website for the latest information on all the events and programs that will be taking place. The aforementioned is just the beginning of the special events and programs you have to look forward to; there’s so much more!

You’re certainly going to want to bring your camera when you head to the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival®. There’s so much beauty to see! If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the Japanese culture, then you’re definitely going to want to make time to attend. When you’re planning on going to the festival, it’s best if you take public transportation as parking may be difficult to come by. Should you want to volunteer as well as attend, applications are still available. Lastly, there is going to be food available to purchase, so bring your appetite.

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Lexus Culinary Classic at Cavallo Point

If you’ve never been to the Lexus Culinary Classic and you’re all about great food and fabulous drinks, you may want to check it out. In its third year, it’s a culinary experience you certainly don’t want to miss. Should the event be of interest to you, you still have time to get tickets for the 2017 event which takes place at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, California from March 24 to 26, but before you make a decision one way or another, let’s talk a little more about the event.

Chef

Tickets and Prices
If you’re considering going to the Lexus Culinary Classic, you’re likely wondering about cost. Prices range from $100 to $720 depending on what you choose. The Sausalito Supper Club: Opening Night Reception & Dinner takes place on Friday, March 24 from 7pm to 10pm at Cavallo Point in the Verbena Room and each ticket is $175. A four-course menu (with wine pairings) will be served. On Saturday, March 25 there are four different events throughout the day so it’s a full day of fantastic food. On the last day, Sunday, March 26, you’ll find the Lexus Grand Tasting event that takes place in the Callippe Room at Cavallo Point from noon to 3pm and costs $100 per person. The Weekend Event Access Package costs $720 (per person) and allows you access to five of the six events over the course of three days.

Getting into the Events
When you buy your tickets, you won’t receive actual paper tickets nor will you have to bring a receipt; your name will be on a list but you do need to bring ID. Take note that fees are not included in the aforementioned prices. If you’re a Lexus owner, you can use a promo code and receive 15-percent off the ticket prices. No animals are allowed unless they are service animals, and all the events are 21+. Since all events are going to take place indoors, it’s a rain or shine event, and there is complimentary valet so you won’t have to worry about driving around and finding a space. If you opt for the Weekend Event Access Package, it also includes transportation to get to and from events as long as you’re staying within 20-miles of Cavallo Point so getting back and forth won’t be an issue.

Chefs

Tonis Valing / Shutterstock.com

Chefs
Some of the most amazing chefs are going to be participating in the Lexus Culinary Classic, but obviously not all the chefs are participating in each event, so make sure to check where your favorites will be. Just some of the incredibly talented chefs in attendance will be Justin Everett, Tony Adams, Pablo Mellin, Elizabeth Murray, Mauricio Luna, and Nicolas Blouin.

If you’ve decided on attending the Lexus Culinary Classic, it’s better to book your tickets sooner than later for the events you’re interested in as the events can and likely will sell out (as some already have). Should you have any questions, make sure to ask (and read all the fine print) before purchasing your tickets so you know exactly what you’re getting for the money you’re spending.

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Sunset Celebration on Mallory Square

Sunset

Mother Nature is quite the artist, and a sunset is one of the most beautiful works of art that we get to experience. It’s no wonder so many love the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration in Florida. It’s essentially a giant party that you don’t want to miss. Ready for some good times with great people while watching the sun set? Check out just some of the information about the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration to help you get started on planning a little trip.

When and Where
The Mallory Square Sunset Celebration takes place daily at the Mallory Square Dock in Key West, Florida. It starts about two hours before sunset so you’ll have plenty of time to relax and unwind from the long day while you get ready to watch the sun go down. You’ll have to make sure to keep track of the sunset times as the year goes on considering the sunset times in the warmer months are significantly later than in the colder months. Before you definitively set a time to head over to the festivities, make sure to check ahead of time when the sunset will be. There is no charge for admission.

What’s Happening
Consider the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration basically a hodgepodge of fantastic entertainment. You’ll find everything from psychics and jugglers to magicians and musicians. Keep an eye out for super-popular performers such as Will Soto and Dominique and His Flying House Cats. Don’t worry if you get hungry because there will be plenty of food vendors there as well.

Key West

Where to Stay
If you’re thinking of attending the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration and you don’t live in the area, you’ll have numerous places from which to choose where you can stay. Of course, reservations can book up, so the sooner you book the better, but there are quite a few vacation rentals and hotels in the area. The best part is that, since the celebration takes place on a nightly basis, you don’t have to worry about having to stay down there during specific days to make sure you don’t miss the event.

What to Eat
As previously stated, there are going to be food vendors at the celebration, but there are also many restaurants in the area that you can head to as well. For example, you can go to Mattheessen’s, El Meson de Pepe, Hot Tin Roof, and Roof Top Cafe. Just make sure before you head over that you call and see if they’re going to be open on the day and at the time that you’d like to go and also to see if you need to make a reservation first, especially if you’ll be attending with a group of people.

Heading out for the evening to the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration, surrounding yourself with fabulous people while you’re in the midst of an incredible energy, dining on delicious eats, and experiencing gorgeous views is certainly one of the best possible ways to end the day. What are you waiting for?

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Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

There’s something so magical about butterflies. Maybe it’s their gorgeous coloring, the way they float through the air, or just how they can bring a smile to your face. At the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory in Key West, Florida, your visit is a chance to surround yourself with hundreds of beautiful butterflies while also learning about birds and nature in general. If you’re considering a visit, the following is just some of the information to know before you go.

Butterfly on flower

Hours and Admission
One of the first things you’re probably wondering about is how much it will cost you to visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and when they’re open. They’re open daily from 9am to 5pm and prices range from free for children under three to $12.00 for general admission. Those who are under 16 must be present with a parent or guardian. Should you like to get an idea of what the conservatory is like before you go, check out the webcam on their site. If you’re thinking that you’re going to be visiting the conservatory multiple times, there are various types of memberships available.

The Learning Center
If you want to learn even more about butterflies while you’re at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, then head over to The Learning Center. It’s here that you’ll be able to see a 15-minute film, live caterpillars, exhibits, and more. Be prepared to learn a plethora about these winged beauties.

Peach butterfly

The Conservatory
Consider the conservatory itself almost like a relaxing sanctuary with exotic birds and dozens of species of butterflies to keep you company while you walk through the luscious, well-landscaped grounds. It’s glass-enclosed so you can go even when it’s raining, and the temperature inside is set at about 85-degrees. It’s important to note that their butterflies aren’t taken from the wild, but instead, they’re brought in from butterfly farms. If you’re lucky during your visit a butterfly just might land on you. Don’t forget to get your camera ready!

Gift Shop
During your visit to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, make sure you stop by their gorgeous gift shop. You’ll be able to pick up a huge variety of different butterfly and nature items ranging from jewelry and books to bags and ornaments. If you didn’t have a chance to go during your trip or you just happened to browse their site and see something that you loved, you could always place your order online and have the items delivered right to your home.

Set on your idea to visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory? Before you head over, call ahead of time and make sure that they’re going to be open on the date and time you’d like to go and use the opportunity to ask any questions you have or verify information. Lastly, while you’re in the conservatory, cell phones must be off and strollers are not allowed (although you can store them while you walk around).

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Cruising to Cuba

Cuba

From the culture and the people to the music and the natural beauty, there’s so much to love about Cuba. It’s no surprise that you would want to experience the country first-hand. However, as with every trip that requires international planning, you’re going to want to take your time putting together a trip that not only allows you to experience as much of the country as possible but that also ensures you’re doing so properly. With that said, if you’re thinking of taking a cruise to Cuba, the following are some tips for planning your trip regardless of where you are in the world.

Know What the Laws Are
Every country has their own laws, and if you’re traveling there, it’s a must to respect them. It’s no different with Cuba. Not only do you have to follow their laws for being allowed into the country but also respect the laws while you’re there. Check up on what you’ll need to get into the country and don’t hesitate to read up on local laws before you even book your trip.

Don’t Do Anything Illegal
It should go without saying, but don’t do anything illegal while you’re on the cruise and while you’re in Cuba. Seriously, just don’t. For example, before you pack your bags, read up on what you’re allowed to bring in the county and what you can’t. Not only is doing something illegal disrespectful to the country and the people, but you’re going to be in a whole world of trouble should you get caught.

Cruise ship

Research the Cruise Line
Even if you’ve heard good things about a particular cruise line, do your research anyway. Look into recent reviews, see what recent customers have been saying, and check into news that mentions them. It may sound excessive, but it can help you plan a trip that goes as smoothly as possible.

Determine the Basics
When you’re getting ready to take a cruise to Cuba, there are a few decisions you’re going to have to make. For example, how much can you afford to spend, when do you want to go, how long do you want to go, would you rather be on a cruise with a lot of travelers or a small amount? Before you even start searching for cruises, those are just some of the questions you should have answers to.

Talk to Your Bank
Your debit and credit cards may not work during your trip to Cuba, so it’s best if you plan on bringing cash instead and exchange it for Cuban currency. If you’d rather take the chance and try bringing your cards – even though you should absolutely bring cash as well – notify your bank of your trip. However long your trip is, make sure you have enough money to get you through.

Sunrise in Cuba

Be Open-Minded
Cuba is an absolutely amazing country and it’s well worth the visit, so be open-minded! Listen to music you haven’t heard before, try local cuisine you’ve never had, talk to some of the fabulous locals, etc. You’re not just going to take a cruise but to experience the country, so make the most of it!

Even if you’ve taken a cruise to Cuba before, note that the laws may have changed since then, so make sure you do your research before booking your trip. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that what once was still is.

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London Games Festival 2017

Friends playing board game

If you’re into interactive entertainment, then you’re definitely going to want to check out the London Games Festival in 2017. It’s expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors and with good reason: it’s a chance to learn more about interactive entertainment whether you’re involved in the industry on a professional level or you’re a consumer. Interested in going? Check out the following information to get an idea of what to expect if you’re looking to attend the London Games Festival in 2017.

When and where
The festival is set for March 30 to April 9 in London. There’s not one set venue the event will take place, especially considering there is also the London Games Festival Fringe which is a complement to the festival and consists of a variety of different events (think product launches, workshops, etc). While some events have been announced, not all have been as of yet.

However, it has been announced that Now Play This: The Exhibition will take place from April 7 to 9 at the Somerset House. Just two of the features of the event include the Board Games Showcase on April 8 and the Strange Controllers Showcase on April 9. Another highlight of the London Games Festival is EGX Rezzed which will take place at Tobacco Dock from March 30 to April 1. Keynote speaker is Ken Levine. On April 1, there’s also the Dear Esther Live event which takes place from 7pm to 9pm at The Church of St John-at-Hackney. Ticket prices for that event are only £20.

BAFTA Games Awards
Set to take place on April 6 is the BAFTA Games Awards which is your opportunity to learn about who all the big winners are – in person. If you’re interested in attending, the prestigious event will be at Tobacco Dock and you must be 18+. To attend the ceremony only, which lasts approximately two hours, the cost of a ticket is £60.00. Take note that there are rules to adhere by including a dress code, so check them out before purchasing your tickets.

Games Finance Market
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Games Finance Market which happens from April 4 to 6 at The Grange Hotel. Essentially it’s a chance for 60 investors and 60 games companies to meet, get to know each other, make contacts, learn about new and exciting developments, and potentially have discussions that could change the gaming world. It’s a great opportunity for all those involved.

Keep in mind that, yes, the 2017 London Games Festival is a fantastic experience with a lot of fun to be had, but it’s also a chance to get to know others whether it’s fellow consumers or those who are professionally involved in the industry. You never know what the future holds. Lastly, if you have a question, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask before you buy your tickets! Check out LondonGamesFestival on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest information.

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The Cancer Research UK Boat Races

Boat race

If you’re looking to witness a fantastic boat race event, then you’re going to want to check out The Cancer Research UK Boat Races. These boat races take place between the rowing crew at Oxford University and the one at Cambridge University. The Cancer Research UK Boat Race started in 1829 and is in its 163rd year of doing the race while The Cancer Research UK Women’s Boat Race is in its 72nd year after starting in 1927. Ready to learn more about The Cancer Research UK Boat Races and how you can see them in person? Keep reading for just some of the information you should know.

When and where
The Cancer Research UK Boat Races are set to take place on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The races take place on the River Thames on a course that’s approximately four miles right between Putney and Mortlake. Grab a spot on the banks of the river to watch all the action. The UK Women’s Boat Race starts first at 4:35pm while The Cancer Research UK Boat Race starts at 5:35pm. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend, but if you can’t make it in person, don’t worry because you can watch it on BBC. The event is free!

Boat Races in the Park
If you’d rather not stay home to watch the Cancer Research UK Boat Races but you don’t want to miss them and you want to be around a great group of people, then head over to Boat Races in the Park, free events that bring together spectators who can watch the boat races on a big screen in addition to getting a good view of the races in person. There are two spots where they take place: Furnivall Gardens in Hammersmith as well as Bishop’s Park. The latter is situated at the beginning of the race course while the former is set toward the middle. The events take place between noon and 9pm.

Eating and drinking
While there are going to be refreshments at the Boat Races in the Park events, you can also head out to one of the many restaurants and bars that offer good views of the race course. Just some to check out include The Depot Waterfront Brasserie, The Star and Garter, The Black Lion, Ye White Hart, River Cafe, and The Rutland Arms. Keep in mind that you should call ahead of time to see if you need to make a reservation on the big day, and if you don’t have to, you should plan to get there as early as possible to try and get ahead of the crowds.

Public transportation is available to get to (or near) The Cancer Research UK Boat Races, but you may want to wear comfortable shoes just in case you’re going to have to walk a bit. Lastly, expect it to be on the chilly side, so plan accordingly so you’ll be able to stay as warm as possible.

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Visiting London’s Top Chocolate Shops

Preparing chocolate

We love chocolate so much that we never shy away from talking about it wherever it may be in the world. Thinking of going to London? The city has many incredible chocolate shops, but that’s almost a problem in-and-of itself. With so many excellent choices, how are you supposed to decide which one is worth a visit? The following are some tips to think about when you’re considering visiting some of London‘s top chocolate shops as well as ideas for a few places to look into.

Take a chocolate class
It’s one thing to buy phenomenal chocolate, but it’s another when you can also eat some that you made. For example, sure you could stop at Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates and pick up some decadent treats, but you could also sign up for one of their classes. Make sure to book as far in advance as possible, however, because the classes tend to fill up fast.

Check out a different neighborhood
If you’re visiting London and you’re staying in one neighborhood but have already been to the local chocolate shops, consider seeing what one in another neighborhood has to offer. For example, there are a few locations of Artisan du Chocolat in London, so don’t hesitate to check out the locations that are in other parts of the city that you have yet to explore. Don’t worry, public transportation makes it easy to get around.

Make sure they’re open
Sounds simple enough, right? Here’s the problem. Many hear about a particular chocolate shop in a specific location, that they’re definitely open on certain days and times, but they don’t actually verify that information before heading over. Some businesses may even normally be open when you’re planning on going but might have to close that day due to an emergency or vacation. Before you travel all the way to your chocolate shop of choice, verify that they’re going to be open when you’re planning on being there.

Get recommendations and reviews
One of the best things you can do if you’re planning on visiting a chocolate shop in London is to put the word out on social media that you’re looking for recommendations for spots that are a must to go to. You could easily get multiple suggestions for some places that you may find are worth checking out, such as Choccywoccydoodah or Melt. Regardless of what recommendations you get, don’t forget to do a quick Internet search and read up on the reviews from each location before you head over. Consider paying attention to the most recent reviews rather than ones that were posted quite a long time ago.

Considering how wonderful London chocolate shops are, don’t hesitate to experience more than one. Each one is certainly not the same as the next, and each offers their own special flair and take on every item in their shop. Make sure to ask any specific questions you have ahead of time if possible. With so much deliciousness to be had, you’ll be happy you made the effort.

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Visiting the Ellis Island Immigration Museum

There are a lot of places in this world that are an important part of history, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is one of them. It was here between 1892 and 1954 that more than 12 million immigrants came through the first federal immigrant processing station in search of a better life. Those are so many lives that were forever changed not even counting those of their descendants. It’s no surprise that you’re thinking of visiting the Ellis Island Immigration Museum considering how wonderful it is, but before you do, check out some of the tidbits of information to know before you go.

Front view of Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

There Are Several Types of Tours to Take
When you go to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, you can either do a self-guided tour or choose to take one that is led by a National Park Service Ranger. Take note that if you opt for the self-guided tour, you can use a brochure to help you get a feel for the exhibits, but if you go with the guided tour – which is free – it’s a way to ask some questions and learn even more information while you navigate the three floors of exhibits. There is also an audio tour available for adults as well as children (ages 6 – 10). While the adult tour is available in 9 languages, the children’s tour is available in 5.

The Hard Hat Tour
Did you know that you can take a Hard Hat Tour of the hospital complex? The guided tour is 90-minutes and you’ll be able to see a variety of areas ranging from the autopsy room to the infectious and contagious disease wards. There is an extra cost involved, but the money goes toward restoring the south side buildings.

You Can Only Take a Ferry Boat to the Island
Sorry, but you can’t just drive your boat up to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. You can only take the Statue Cruises Ferry from either New York or New Jersey. Also, you cannot take your four-legged companion with you unless they’re documented as a service or assist animal. In the case of inclement weather, call and verify beforehand what the ferry schedule is so you don’t encounter any problems upon arrival.

Great hall inside Immigration Museum

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

There Are a Few Ways to Get Tickets
It’s recommended that you get your tickets ahead of time so you’re already set and prepared. You can either call to get the tickets or order them online. Another option, however, is to go to the ferry departure point and get your tickets there. Make sure that you don’t get your tickets from a random person walking around trying to sell theirs (i.e. a scammer).

Honoring Your Family’s History
If you’re going to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, make sure to check out The American Immigrant Wall of Honor which is inscribed with more than 700,000 names. Additionally, you can also do a passenger search of manifest documents. Both searches can also be done online before you go.

Keep in mind before you visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum that there are strict security measures in place. For example, you can’t take large bags or store your items there. Make sure to plan accordingly.

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Things To Do In Jersey City

If you’re looking to spend the day in a vibrant city in New Jersey, then Jersey City is one spot you want to check out. It’s easy to get around even if you’re taking public transportation, and there’s a little something for everyone to do. There are also quite a few hotels in the area, so if you’re looking to make it a trip that lasts a few days, you likely won’t have a problem finding a place to stay. While there are so many great things to do in and around Jersey City, the following are just some that are worth looking into.

Jersey City skyline

Visit Liberty Science Center
The 300,000-square-foot Liberty Science Center is located in Jersey City and features everything from an IMAX Dome Theater and numerous exhibits to a 3D theater and LSC After Dark parties. They’re closed on Mondays but open Tuesday through Sunday. Prices range depending on your age and which type of tickets you’re interested in, and discounts are available. You can buy tickets online or in person.

Visit Liberty State Park
Liberty State Park features some spectacular views of the NYC skyline not to mention views of the Statue of Liberty. Speaking of which, it’s also from here where you can get ferry service to visit Lady Liberty herself as well as Ellis Island. Don’t forget to stop by the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial. The park is also a great place to do a little bike riding, take a stroll, take a kayak out on the water, or have a nice picnic. Liberty State Park is open every day from 6am to 10pm.

two women ordering their food

Check out the restaurants
Jersey City has a plethora of restaurants that you definitely don’t want to miss. Whatever cuisine you desire, chances are you can find it here. Just some of the restaurants to check out include Satis Bistro, Taqueria Downtown, Orale Mexican Kitchen, Zeppelin Hall Biergarten and Restaurant, Kraverie, and Skinner’s Loft. Before you head over to the restaurant, make sure to check ahead of time if they’re open at the time you’d like to get there and to see if you need to make a reservation.

Listen to some live music
There are quite a few places in Jersey City where you can listen to live music. For example, you can go to PJ Ryan’s Squared or Monty Hall. It’s a whole different experience when you get to listen to live music while watching musicians doing what they love. You get a fun evening out while at the same time supporting the local music scene.

Even on a rainy day in Jersey City, you may not be able to spend time outside, but there is still plenty to keep you from going stir-crazy in the house. If you’re planning on taking public transportation, make sure to check the schedules before you leave especially in the case of inclement weather. With so much to do and places to explore, you’ll find yourself wanting to return to the city time and time again.

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