Monday, December 19, 2005

Hittin' up the USA West Coast

First time cruising on Singapore Airlines via Tokyo's Narita Airport and truly appreciative of the on-board entertainment on SQ flights.

Universal Studios Theme Park
No trip to LA is complete without visiting Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Kodak Theatre in downtown LA along Hollywood Boulevard. This is where you find the Hollywood stars on the ground and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Kodak Theater is also the location for many annual Hollywood award shows. What you can expect outside of Mann's Chinese Theater would be mimes and costumed characters who will allow you to take a photo with them for a fee.

Another major reason to visit LA would be the Universal Studios Theme Park. This park is one of the largest Universal Studios parks and is home to many movie-themed attractions.

Rides and shows that I managed to try:
  • Shrek 4D
  • Universal Studios Tour - visit the movie sets where actual filming takes place. See the sets of Desperate Housewives, War of the Worlds, Jaws
  • Terminator 2 3D
  • Jurassic Park Ride - water ride with a very steep drop. Naturally, you will get drenched
  • Revenge of the Mummys - awesome roller coaster ride in the dark
  • Waterworld show - think Bruce Willis in the same movie
  • Animal Planet live show - typical animal show involving parrots, ferrets etc

Disneyland & Disney's California Adventure Park
Another must-see in LA would be Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Every kid and adult's dream come true, much patience is required when visiting Disneyland as queues can get long and long waiting times will test your patience as well.

Rides and shows I managed to catch in Disneyland:
  • Indiana Jones - roller coaster ride that takes you through Indiana Jones' adventures
  • Pirates of the Caribbeans - mild ride, like rafting on a river
  • Splash Mountain - water/roller coaster ride with steep 5-storey drop
  • Haunted Mansion Holiday - Nightmare before Christmas themed
  • Christmas parade - Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and the princesses from all your great Disney classics
  • Fireworks Display - do check the schedule for the timing of the Fireworks Display. It is prudent to wait 1.5-2h prior to nab a good spot in front of Cinderella's castle to have a great vantage point during the fireworks

Rides and shows in Disney's California Adventure Park:
  • Soaring over California - Think IMAX in the air
  • Grizzly river run - water log ride with the potential of getting really drenched
  • A Bug's life 3D
  • California Screaming - Wild roller coaster ride with a crazy loop. Rides starts off at the speed of light without warning
  • Aladdin Musical - ' Nuff said. Directly adapted from the movie
Shopping then Laughlin, Nevada
Being on tour really limits the time one has to shop. Whatever little time there was, some outlet shopping was squeezed in. Barstow Factory outlet houses Timberland, Quicksilver, Vans, Levis (priced at US$20.99 per pair of jean) etc and Tanger Factory outlet houses Gap, Coach, Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nine West etc.

Heading into Arizona and Las Vegas
Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon and this is a MUST SEE en-route to Las Vegas. Temperatures at the Grand Canyon can vary drastically year round so do check the weather forecast and dress appropriately. The view at the Grand Canyon is breath-taking and really worth the trip to see this natural wonder.

Post canyon, we finally headed into Sin City. The tour managed to pack in a night trip to Fermont (amazing light display), Caesars Palace, the Mirage (volcano eruption in front of the hotel), Bellagio (5* hotel with musical fountain upfront) and the Tropicana (nude entertainment). There are actually many free shows in Las Vegas for travelers who are not keen on spending a bomb at the paid shows.

Las Vegas
Sin City is famous for its casinos and the myriad of hotels on the Strip. A day tour of all the major hotels on the strip took us to the Luxor, New York New York, Excalibur, Paris, Aladdin, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Wynn. The Wynn especially is worth seeing no thanks to the gold taps in their restrooms.

Shopping is the other past time in Las Vegas and shops cater to both the rich and famous. Fret not, budget traveler. The Las Vegas Premium Outlets carries major brands like Ralph Lauren, Nike Factory Store, Nine West, FCUK, Banana Republic Factory Store, Adidas Factory Store, D&G etc.

Valley of Fire + Hoover Dam, Nevada
The Valley of Fire (U.S. National park) is home to red rocks and the famous Elephant Rock. Brave souls can climb to the top of the Elephant Rock for a photo op. From the Valley of Fire, Lake Mead can also be seen. Lake Mead is a man-made lake which contains the water leading to the Hoover Dam.

The Hoover Dam is a human construction spectacle. The speedway is 2000km deep and yes, this is the same dam James Bond (Pierce Brosnan... Mr Bosnan!) dived down from in the 007 movie! Went on to the M&M Chocolate factory and Ethel M Chocolate factory. Read: free samples! Wootz!

Give me Frisco anyday
From Las Vegas, you have to take a domestic flight from Las Vegas McCarran International to Oakland before coaching into Frisco. Crossed the famous Bay Bridge on the way and had lunch at the Fisherman's Wharf. A MUST-EAT at the Fisherman's Wharf are the giant Dunganese crabs. These huge monsters have succulent meat and taste so good when they're steamed plain. The oysters here are extremely fresh too. On to the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peak (mountains) and Castro Street. Castro Street is definitively gay in nature and apparently gay parades are held here annually.

San Francisco continued
Frisco is known for its steeps streets and taking the cable cars is a MUST-DO here. Lombard Street is another tourist spot and is coined the steepest street in the world. Stand at the base of this street and marvel at the cars making their way down. Great photo op too.

Overall, the West Coast of the States is truly enjoyable if you manage to hit all the major tourist spots in LA, Vegas and San Fran. For a more in-depth peek into the West Coast, you will definitely have to stay longer than 14 days.
Posted by fongie on 12/19/2005 01:40:00 PM in , ,

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