New York : a quick guide to state attractions

The State of New York is strong and resilient. Even after having its namesake city subjected to devastating attacks on September 11, 2001, and the state itself being traumatized by Superstorm Sandy, New York has remarkably bounced back and reclaimed its position as one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

New York State is a study in contrasts – just as it is the home of arts and culture (museums, book and magazine publishing, and theaters), it is also a center for banking and finance, a manufacturing hub, an agricultural stalwart, a principal producer of fine wines, and a nucleus for conventions and tourism.

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Top 5 Tourist Spots in New York State

New York State will never run out of interesting and endearing places to offer travelers, from the most casual tourists to the dedicated and footloose adventurers.  Here are 5 of the most desirable to visit places in New York state:

  • Museums – in New York city alone, you can already luxuriate in the socio-cultural, anthropological, historical, and creative wealth found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society and Library, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, among many other gorgeous repositories of the imprints of civilization from different periods and cultures.
  • The Statue of Liberty – this formidable lady in New York Harbor is a globally recognized symbol of freedom from tyranny, of reaching out to hope, and establishing a new life in a new land that’s full of promise. Click on the given link for more information on how to get to tour Lady Liberty’s crown.
  • Niagara Falls State Park – get an adrenaline rush watching and listening to the three waterfalls that are shared by both New York State and Ontario, a Canadian province. Explore the hiking trails, take part in the special tours provided by the state park, dine at the Top of the Falls Restaurant, or have fun with your fellow tourists at the Aquarium of Niagara.
  • Westpoint (US Military Academy) – for history and military buffs, a visit to Westpoint should not be missed. Gain a good understanding of what it takes to be a part of one of the world’s highly prestigious military academies through educational videos. Take in the panorama of the Hudson Highlands and march through American history through Westpoint’s guided tours.
  • Adirondack Park – “go fish” will no longer be the name of a card game, once you visit this park in Northern New York. You can actually fish, as well as go hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and camping in this awesomely expansive wilderness park.


Top 3 Cities to Live in New York State

When many people hear the words “New York,” they usually think of New York City (NYC), also known by its nickname, The Big Apple. NYC has been immortalized by Frank Sinatra as a city that “never sleeps,” and it’s an accurate depiction of its liveliness, come day or night. But while NYC is really that dynamic, that doesn’t necessarily make it a high scorer in terms of livability.

In fact, the top 3 cities to live in, in the state of New York in terms of a stable housing market, low crime rates, high income per capita, and plenty of local amenities are (click on the links to get more detailed data):

  • Larchmont – A picturesque village in Westchester County with a livability score of 85%, Larchmont has a population of 5,864.
  • Bronxville – This is an affluent suburb in Eastcheser with a  livability score of 85% and is located 15 miles north of Manhattan.
  • Halesite – A hamlet in Long Island with a livability score of 84%, Halesite is home to less than 3,000 people and named after Nathan Hale, a spy in the Continental Army.

Top 3 Foods to Try in New York State

Does New York State have traditional food? Or is its cuisine, like that of some other states, simply a mix or fusion of immigrant influences from all over? The answer is “yes” to both. The state of NY does have its own traditional food, but its modern cuisine also reflects the influx of different cultures brought about by a high number of immigrants. Here are top 3 foods to try when in New York:

  • Apple Muffin – this was made into the official State Muffin of New York through the efforts of children in an elementary school in Syracuse, New York. This muffin pays homage to the apple, New York’ state’s official fruit. It is made up of New York State Empire apples, cloves, raisins, flour, eggs, cream cheese, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, melted butter, lemon, and vanilla. Simply delicious!
  • Buffalo Wings – no, this has nothing to do with the American bison or buffalos that used to roam wildly in most parts of the country. The name is actually from the city of Buffalo in NY. These are deep fried chicken wings that are lathered with a spicy sauce and served with a dressing of blue cheese.
  • Spiedie – this is a submarine sandwich that originated in Greater Binghamton in New York’s Southern Tier. The contents of the sub are marinated meat cubes (lamb, pork, venison, turkey, chicken, beef, veal). The sub is then skewered on a spiedie rod, then grilled. The marinade can consist of vinegar, olive oil, fresh mint, and various spices.

Top 2 Party Places in New York City

Tourists who love the nightlife will greatly enjoy NYC because it has some of the best clubs and bars in the state and perhaps even in the entire US. These are the top 2 party places that we recommend:

  • Bootie NYC – go for loud, go for crowd, go for wowed! This is one of the most well-loved and heavily patronized dance clubs ever. No dress code, cheap drinks, friendly service, and mashup music means there are many things to enjoy at Bootie.
  • Amor Y Amargo – in Spanish, Amor means love and Amargo means bitter. Put them together, and you get something like a love for bitters. When your idea of a great time is drinking as many different “bitters” that either you or the bartenders can think of (drinker’s choice and dealer’s choice, respectively), then this bar is for you.

Top 2 Shopping Malls in New York State

Remember the über -fashionable Carrie in Sex and the City? Loved the way she and her friends looked as they went about their lives in New York?  The top 2 shopping malls in New York State can easily help you assemble a wardrobe that’s to die for, among other things that you can buy, with the widest range of prices.

  • Manhattan Mall – what makes this mall that’s half a block away from the Empire State Building among the perennial favorites of locals and tourists alike is its strong base of retail shops, including JC Penney, their anchor tenant.  Trendy and upscale goods that are reasonably priced are sure attractions.
  • Roosevelt Field – this is the 2nd largest high-end mall in NY. It has 222 stores and can accommodate the tastes of shoppers of various persuasions, from the tech crowd to the fashionistas, and everyone else in-between.

Photo by:  natalie_31

California: a quick guide to state attractions

CALIFORNIA…… Just the mere mention of it already calls to mind a vibrant part of the United States that is renowned for its multi-cultural ambiance, and its miles and miles of enticing beaches and forests, perfect for beach bums and nature lovers alike.

The state of California is one of the most popular travel destinations in the US, not just because of its excellent tourist delights, but also because it is one of the more progressive-thinking places in North America.

For non-residents, it is of course the historical landmarks, the social and cultural dipping pots, and the tourist spots – both natural and manmade – that continue to attract and motivate people from all over the world to visit again and again.

 Top 5 Tourist Spots in California State

Got favorite movie dialogues running through your head? Feel like hiking in some wooded parks? Eager to be one of thousands of sun-worshippers at the beach? Looking forward to having your picture taken with a Disney Princess? California lets you do all that, and not surprisingly, even more!

Here are top 5 tourist spots in California:

  • Disneyland – Your trip to California would be incomplete if you don’t drop by “the Happiest Place on Earth.” Pamper your inner child or gift your child companion with an unforgettable journey to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, in downtown Los Angeles. Hobnob with Disney or fairy tale characters in a magical world where really do wishes come true (or not, but then again, that’s more than compensated for by the numerous attractions such a theme park, shopping and dining complexes, and 8 Lands with their own special themes, among other pleasures).
  • Universal Studios – Starstruck? Great, because Hollywood, the movie capital of the world, is the best place to “ooh and aah” over memories of great performances and outstanding movie scenes that many remember for a long, long time either because of their realism, or their grasp of imagery. Take a Universal Studios tour and immerse yourself in some of the best moments ever to come out of Hollywood.
  • Alcatraz – When you’ve got a taste for the offbeat, try an Alcatraz Island tour. The former federal prison in San Francisco Bay that operated for 30 years until its shutdown in 1963 is now a US National Historic Landmark. Choose from the Day and Night Tours of the now-abandoned prison facility and let your imagination run free about what life must have been like for the notorious once housed there. Compare that with the gifts of nature that abound on “The Rock” and be glad that you’re a law-abiding citizen.
  • Yosemite National Park – Prepare to be overwhelmed by the grandeur of creation when you take a Yosemite tour in central eastern California. Imagine 308,205 hectares of breathtaking vistas of exposed granite and a profusion of streams, lakes, waterfalls, and towering sequoia trees to deepen your love of nature.
  • Golden Gate Bridge – This is one of the busiest landmarks in California for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic (on the railings).  Tour the Bridge, enjoy the great views, and vicariously experience the extent of human emotions – from hopeful, romantic love to suicidal depression – that have been portrayed in various works of art including photographs, movies, books, music, and documentaries.

Top 3 Cities to Live in California State

At 163,695 sq miles, California is the 3rd largest American state, and the one with the most number of residents. According to Area Vibes, the most livable cities in California based on criteria such as high income per capita, low crime rates, stable housing market, and plenty of local amenities are:

  • Los Altos – This city at the southern end of the San Francisco Peninsula has a livability score of 87%. As of 2010, it has a population of 28,976.
  • Monte Sereno – This city is located in Santa Clara County and has a livability score of 86%. The name is Spanish for “serene hill” which accurately depicts this charming metropolis.
  • Rancho Santa Margarita – This is one of the most affluent cities in Orange County with a livability score of 86%.

Top 3 Foods to Try in California

Fusion cuisine is a hallmark of California dining, owing to its multi-racial and multi-cultural atmosphere.  When in California, you can feast on these delectables:

  • Cioppino –  this seafood stew with distinct Italian culinary overtones was created in San Francisco by immigrants who later became fishermen on the Bay. Immigrant Sicilians later on improvised and added tomatoes to the seafood medley, which is the version usually served today.
  •  Fish Taco – this Mexi-Cali fusion features fried or grilled fish that is sprinkled with lime juice to taste, and partnered with some avocado.
  • Shrimp Louie – depending on availability of the catch and your inclination, this features cooked shrimp or crab with Louie dressing (chili sauce, mayonnaise, peppers) over a mix of California salad standards such as sliced hard boiled eggs, asparagus, lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, and cucumber.

Top 2 Party Places in San Francisco, CAclub-1-1147773-m

After eating, many tourists would like to party hard, but since California is so big, it’s not easy to pinpoint which would be the best place to enjoy some drinking or dining. So, here are two great spots randomly chosen from the best bars and clubs in San Francisco:

  • Smuggler’s Cove at Gough Street, San Francisco – this extremely famous Tiki bar features a pirate ship theme, ginormous drinks, and a sizable crowd during most days of the week. Wait to be accommodated, and thank your stars when you get in.
  • Dirty Trix Saloon at Clement Street, San Francisco – if you’ve never been in a “dive” bar, get baptized at this fun bar that features stand-up comedy acts and is well-patronized by locals. Like all other dives, Dirty Trix serves real cheap drinks, an incentive that’s enough to make you visit if getting all-boozed up is in your agenda.

Top 2 Shopping Malls in California

Shopping is a favorite tourist activity, so, to wind up our California tourist recommendations, here are two must-visit malls in the state:

  • Westfield – this is a mall with a global presence, that is fortunately also present in the city of San Francisco. Aside from the well-known brand names on sale in its shops, this mall also has tie-ins with trendy hotels and numerous seasonal events that make it very attractive to visit.
  • Gump’s – this mall has got nearly everything covered, from dining and entertainment, to home furnishings, jewelry, bed and bath, apparel and accessories, office supplies and materials, décor, and gift galleries.  It’s the perfect place to go to if you want to buy presents to bring home.

Photo by: hdkam1(Yosemite valley)

Photo by: Ale_Paiva (club)

Illinois: a quick guide to state attractions


Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Thinking of where to go and what to do as a tourist in the state of Illinois can be challenging because Illinois has an abundance of theme parks, museums, zoos, and numerous places where exciting outdoor and indoor activities can be held.

Top 5 tourist spots in Illinois

Here are five highly recommended tourist spots in Illinois:

For those fond of history, and wish to know more about Abe Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, this museum is a perfect destination. The  simplicity of Lincoln belied his noble vision for America, a country where slavery was outlawed. The museum contains the world’s biggest collection of memorabilia related to Lincoln and his times. This museum is closed on Sundays, so plan your visit accordingly.

This is a popular tourist spot that has been in existence since 1934.  It is famous for its exceptional exhibits and design.  You can watch the training sessions for the sea lions or dolphins, or take in the dolphin shows at Seven Seas.  If you’re fascinated by simians, you can also go to Tropic World and enjoy observing the apes.

If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to drop by this museum which features natural history. Exhibits include anthropological artifacts from the Pacific Northwest, the country of Tibet, and even ancient Egypt. Kids and adults alike will have fun learning about different cultures from long ago.

For adults who are more into seeing expansive, panoramic scenery from above, then this Observatory is a must-visit destination. Make sure you don’t fear heights, because the breathtaking beauty of the city of Chicago in Illinois can only be best appreciated at a thousand feet from the ground. After you take in the splendid vista, relax with some cocktails at the 95th floor’s Signature Room.

Fans of the outdoors, hiking, and natural rock formations, trails, and cliffs will surely be enthralled with this highly frequented tourist spot. Stand on a rock outcropping and take all the photographs you want of the lush greenery that surrounds the huge rock structures.

Top 3 cities to live in

After being given a sample of lovely places to visit, maybe you’re now thinking about which Illinois cities you’d possibly like to live in. The cities of Illinois all have their unique and enticing identities, such that it’s not easy to make a choice. Chicago, the Windy City that’s been immortalized in films, poems, novels, TV shows, plays, comics, and even video games, easily comes to mind.

But, if you were to base it on a combined evaluation of the following socio-cultural and economic concerns:

  • Crime Index (should be low)
  • Cost of Living (should be manageable)
  • Housing (should be affordable and in pleasant neighborhoods)
  • Weather Conditions
  • Employment Opportunities (should be varied and not scarce)
  • Educational Opportunities (should be comparable to that found in major US cities)

…then top 3 Illinois cities to live in would be:

  • Winnetka – while the cost of living is rather high in this city, it has a very low crime index, great housing and employment opportunities, and educational institutions that are known for maintaining above-average standards of excellence. Note, however that weather here can be highly humid.
  • Orland Hills – low cost of living, low to average crime index, more than average education and employment opportunities, above average housing, weather conditions vary (can be hot, rainy, or humid)
  • Jerome – very low cost of living, very low crime index, slightly above average housing, education and employment opportunities, average weather, but can be highly humid

Top 2 kinds of food

Speaking of socio-cultural concerns, one of the best indicators for a vibrant and fun culture is the quality of the food found in the state.

Let’s look at the top 2 kinds of food to try in Illinois:

  • RealHorseshoesandwichHorseshoe Sandwich – don’t be put off by the quirky name! This is a traditional, open-faced sandwich with fillings as varied as hamburger, chicken, ham, turkey, cheese, shrimp, and crawfish, with various salad-type vegetables piled on or scantily mixed, according to taste. What makes it different from other open sandwiches is the use of toasted sourdough bread.

Photo by: Wikimedia

  • Various Mexican dishes – in Chicago, as well as other parts of Illinois, Mexican food is a big thing. Got a craving for tacos, tortilla soup, or quesadillas? No need to cross the border because many Illinois restaurants have got these for you.

As you can see, the tastes of many people in Illinois are not specific to locally-developed recipes. Many favor fastfood fare like pizza and hotdogs, and outlets for this kind of food dot the landscape of various Illinois cities.

How about trying samples of the best Chi-food? Chicago Food Planet Food Tours , an award winning food tour, offers a tour of the best Chicago specialities where you can try several delicious samples of local and international food.

A food lovers guide to Chi- food containing the best farmers market, grocery stores, speciality shops can be found here – TheKitchn.

Top 3 party places

Aside from food outlets, nightlife is also one of the staples of some cities in Illinois.

Here are the top 3 party places in Illinois that you shouldn’t miss if you’re in the mood to relax and have great fun:

  • Level Nightclub – located in Chicago at 7,000 sq ft. from sea level, and is the scene of many high end parties since 2004. Its clientele has included local and national celebrities and power players. Great music, great ambiance. A dress code is imposed.
  • Hard Rock Café – this is a fixture in Illinois and other parts of the world. If you like Bruce Springsteen and rock music, you’ll definitely want to visit this non-café (it’s actually a drinking spot, to the uninitiated). Plenty of drinks, lots of awesome music from live bands, dynamic crowds, great food, and all the elements for a terrific parteeyyy can be found here.
  • Ontourage – there are more people from out of town than locals who go here to have fun. Intelligent lighting, ideal sound system, 7 VIP areas, dance floors and 4 bars. Come here to drink and dance until you drop!

Top 2 shopping malls

Finally, to round up our list of great things to see and do, here are our top 2 shopping malls in Illinois:

  • Chicago Ridge Mall – there are 89 stores and several restaurants to choose from in (and out) of this mall that features several globally popular brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Aéropostale, Bath & Body Works, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret,  Chili’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, among others. Check out their website for coupons and events.
  • Cherryvale Mall – located in Rockford, this mall has 128 stores and at least 13 restaurants for your shopping and dining pleasure. Retail items from American favorites JCPenney,  Sears,  Bergner’s, and Macy’s can be found here. They also have a site that you can visit for more information.