City Walk: From Grand Central to the West Side

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Welcome to my first City Walk blog! My favorite way to get around in New York City is by taking long walks, so I’ve decided to share some of my routes/urban trails in blog form since some of my followers requested it.

City Walks can be great for tourists looking to experience NYC from a more residential perspective or for city dwellers trying to gain a new appreciation of their area while exercising more. Try this one or other upcoming ones the next time you’re in the city and share you experiences with me in the comments! Just be sure to wear comfy shoes and stay hydrated.

Alright, now onto this lovely and very doable walk from Grand Central, through Central Park, and to the West Side. 

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10 Summer Self-Care Products under $20!

10 Summer Self-Care Products under $20!

To me, summer is an ideal time to indulge in a little extra self-care. For some, that’s jetting away on a vacation or taking advantage of Summer Fridays, but not everyone has or can afford those perks.

The good news is that self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or require any traveling! Try one of these ten self-care products this summer in your room or by the pool. These items could also make great gifts for the summer-lovers in your life, and they’re all under $20!

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My Whimsical Stay at the Madonna Inn

My Whimsical Stay at theMadonna Inn

In the midst of planning for my solo California trip, I decided to book a hotel to break-up my drive from Disneyland in Anaheim to San Francisco. I’m so happy I stumbled upon the Madonna Inn in my search. It ended up being a major highlight of my trip.

The Madonna Inn was constructed for just that purpose: to create a place to stop in the otherwise rural Central California town of San Luis Obispo. It opened its’ doors in 1958 with twelve rooms.

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40 Radical Acts of Self-Love

40 Radical Acts of Self-Love

In the age of crippling college debt and chaotic headlines, showing yourself love is harder than ever. It feels impossible to find inner peace in a world full of pressure.

Who can pursue passion projects when the rent forces many of us to have multiple day jobs? How can we appreciate our own bodies when society continues to support the idea that some of them are not good enough?

Capitalism sets us up to always want more, and this affects our mental well-being. We are not supposed to be satisfied with what we have and who we are; we must always try to be better, richer, known. If we’re not productive as possible, we’re useless. If our latest post on Instagram doesn’t get any likes, we are failures. It’s an endless loop that is exhausting.

Screw all of that.

In fact, I think you should screw that with a nice dose of radical self-love.

Practicing self-love in a significant way can be the ultimate middle finger to the societal constructs that aim to limit us, particularly for people of color, trans folks, differently-abled people, and women.

I believe that self-love is radical in various ways. It challenges the white patriarchal standards that define our culture. It empowers us to think about ourselves and other differently. It causes us to act out of kindness instead of fear or anger.

Don’t confuse radical self-love with basic self-care. This isn’t about brushing your teeth. Radical self-love is deeper. It is performing actions that are purely for your mind and spirit. It is selfishness that helps you own and celebrate yourself. This selfishness leads to you feeling your best in a culture that wants you to struggle.

I’ve been consciously practicing radical self-love for the past few months. It all started in March with a solo trip to Paris in the midst of heartbreak. That journey was a gift to a weary soul: it made me think differently about how I deserve to be treated by myself and others. It helped me believe that I have an inner-power that can guide me through dark times.

Since then, I’ve been striving to prioritize radical self-love. It isn’t always easy, but practicing it more consistently has continued to help me heal little by little.

I strongly encourage you, unique reader with lovely personal qualities, to consider how you treat yourself. What is the tone of your inner thoughts? Do you judge yourself? If you realize you’re kinder to strangers than you are to yourself, then maybe you should give radical self-love a try.

The best part about radical-self love is that it can be practiced in various ways. Acts can range from minuscule to grandiose. Your personality and interests will dictate what types of radical acts will be impactful for you.

Get inspired by this list of forty possible acts of self-love you can try. I’ve tried to include a huge range of activities ranging from physical to mental, free to expensive. Try one that immediately to speaks to you or maybe one that you’re afraid of. Practicing any of the radical acts of self-love could change your view of yourself and the world around you:

  1. Start a new journal and write down at least one good thing that happened daily
  2. Spend some time in nature, whether that be for a walk at your local park or a longer camping trip
  3. Compliment yourself every time you look in the mirror
  4. Prepare and eat your favorite meal
  5. Exercise with the intention of enjoying it instead of doing it because you have to
  6. Curate a list of your favorite inspirational quotes and look at the list whenever you’re feeling down
  7. Listen to your intuition and act on it – do what feels right rather than what is expected
  8. Turn on some up-beat tunes and dance
  9. Hang out with your pet or visit a friend who has a pet you can hang out with
  10. Express your feelings openly
  11. Sing with the car windows down
  12. Stay in bed when your body wants to rest – push that snooze button
  13. Book a solo vacation and do whatever you want once you reach your destination
  14. Meditate a little or a lot
  15. Visit a nearby beach, river, pool, or lake and take a swim – feel the water hold your body
  16. Say no when you want to and don’t feel sorry about it
  17. Donate clothes or items that have negative feelings attached to them – keep anything that brings you joy
  18. Sit outside when it is sunny and soak up the rays (with proper sun protection of course)
  19. Write yourself a love letter and read it
  20. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers
  21. Turn off your cell phone for an hour, day, week, or longer
  22. Write down your regrets on a piece of paper and proceed to light that paper on fire in the safest way possible (or rip it into tiny pieces to avoid the pyro aspect)
  23. Give yourself a pep talk when you need one – think about what you would want a coach or mentor to say to you and say it out loud
  24. Pamper yourself with a massage, facial, or pedicure (maybe do all three if you’re feeling fancy)
  25. Stretch in the morning, in the evening, and whenever you want to in between
  26. Enjoy a favorite childhood movie or book
  27. Cuddle your pet or say hi to a friendly dog on the street (with permission from the owner of course)
  28. Talk to a therapist often or occasionally when you’re suffering, thriving, and existing
  29. Leave an encouraging post-it note for a stranger to discover and let the good vibes flow
  30. Cry unapologetically
  31. Learn a new craft and make art for yourself and others
  32. Buy yourself a scoop of your favorite ice cream and pay for the next customer’s order as well
  33. Look at old photos and feel the nostalgia
  34. Send a thank you letter to someone who has made a positive impact on your life
  35. Watch a comedy special or funny video online and laugh out loud
  36. Cease communication with someone who makes you feel bad
  37. Improve your sleep with a new pillow, mattress pad, or relaxing essential oils
  38. Give meaningful compliments to others and accept the compliments people make about you instead of shrugging them off
  39. Complete a nagging task that has been on your to-do list – feel relieved when it’s done
  40. Live in the present and do what you want now – not tomorrow, not this summer, not next year – now

 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your favorite acts of self-love in the comments – I’m always open to new suggestions to try!

 

Why Disneyland is My Happy Place

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I’ve been a Disney fanatic for as long as I can remember. I wore out VHS tapes of The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella throughout the 1990’s and my mouse love was cemented during my first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in 1999. I’ve been back to Florida several times and even visited Disneyland Paris this past spring.

So when I started planning my solo trip to California, I just knew I had to visit the original Anaheim park. My two previous stops at the Disneyland Resort had only lasted a couple hours each, so this time I purchased a three-day hopper ticket and booked a room at a nearby motel.

Unsurprisingly, I had the loveliest time. Maybe it was because it was my first time going to one of the Disney parks alone, or perhaps my broken heart simply needed the magic more than ever… For whatever reason, that little park in Anaheim charmed the heck out of me. While Disney World will always be my first park, my recent experience at Disneyland was so wonderful that it just might be my favorite one now. Here’s why it’s my new happy place out of the Disney resorts I’ve been to:

It Has the Classics

Since Disneyland is the first Disney park and the only one Walt lived to see, celebrating the history seems to be more of a priority there than at any of the other parks. Old staples that Walt himself worked on have longer lifespans than they do at other parks (though they have received some updates and seasonal overlays over the years.) In general, attraction changes seem more likely to happen at the newer California Adventure (Tower of Terror turning into Guardians of the Galaxy, Pixar Pier’s arrival for example.)

Many of the opening day and early attractions are still running, and it was neat to experience a few of them in near original condition as a Disney geek. They might not be the most technologically advanced (the animatronics in the Enchanted Tiki Room are practically antiques), but the magic is still there and the nostalgia is palpable. It was particularly exciting to go on some of my dark-ride favorites that are no longer at Disney World, like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Who doesn’t love the classics?

mr. toad's wild ride disneyland

It’s A Manageable Size

Disney World’s size is great in terms of being able to house multiple, large parks but it can also feel pretty intimidating if you’re spending less than five days there because there is just so much to do. It can be a hassle to park hop, and I always leave feeling like I didn’t make enough of a dent on my to-do list.

Disneyland Resort, on the other hand, can be fully experienced in two days (even a one day visit is adequate) and it is very easy to go between the parks. The main gates for both are directly across from each other, and Downtown Disney is only a short walk or monorail ride away as well. Only the parking lot requires bus transportation, but I avoided that by walking to the parks from my motel. It was very convenient to get around.

I was able to experience more rides and entertainment over three days than I typically do in Disney World over six days, and I attribute that to the smaller size. I bounced back and forth between the parks each day with ease (I even booked fast passes for rides in a park I wasn’t in, but more on Max Pass later.) Walt may have regretted not obtaining more land for his first park, but bigger isn’t always better. Disneyland is accomplishable, and the quaintness adds to the charm.

The Food is Superb

Disney World may have many more options and variety in their dining (Epcot alone is culinary experience), but the food at Disneyland is special in its own right. The corn dogs from the Little Red Wagon are perfection, the Dole Whips are in an league of their own, and eating in New Orleans Square should be a requirement. That Beignet Monte Cristo at Cafe Orleans (pictured) rocked my world. The sweets at Pooh Corner, a bakery tucked away in Critter Country, actually tasted homemade. The restaurants and snack options at California Adventure are pretty creative too.

The dining team has had over sixty years to perfect some of these dining staples, and it shows in most baked goods and savory snacks. I’m thinking about hot churros as I type this.

monte cristo disneyland new orleans square

Easy Riding with Fast Passes & Max Pass

Disney World may have digitized fast pass first, but I’m a firm believer that Disneyland currently has the best Fast Pass system stateside. Disney World guests can reserve fast passes up to 60 day in advance as part of FastPass+. This is great for planners and anyone staying at a resort hotel but really bad for Florida residents and other on-the-fly visitors.

Some of the more popular Florida rides, like Toy Story Mania, are nearly impossible to reserve day-of because most passes are already taken 60 days in advance. Toy Story Mania in Disneyland is a lot easier to get on, and that’s because the California parks only allow day-of fast pass booking. I believe this is generally fairer to all park guests, particularly considering that many visitors are annual pass holders and California residents. They shouldn’t be blocked out from attractions.

Guests can upgrade their fast pass experience, however, by purchasing Max Pass on the Disneyland app. Max Pass introduced digital fast passes to the California park at an additional cost of $10 a day per guest or $75 per year for pass holders in 2017.

The cost is a bit obnoxious (and it could be prohibitive to larger families on a multi-day stay), but I found it to be really worthwhile, especially considering that WDW’s FastPass+ privileges depend on whether you’re staying on or off site. As soon as I entered a park, I was able to book three fast passes on the app, and all rides that offered fast passes were fair game (no tiered rides like FastPass+ has.) Throughout the day, I would receive an alert whenever I could book a new one, and it was more often than I expected. Max Pass also includes additional perks like unlimited access to Photo Pass.

I was actually surprised at how many fast passes I managed to use throughout the day. I rode e-ticket attractions like Hyperspace Mountain, Radiator Spring Racers, and Splash Mountain with fast passes multiple times, which would never happen at Disney World since they limit the amount of top tier rides you can book. Less waiting, more magic!

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The Weather is Ideal

Anaheim’s weather makes visiting Disneyland pleasant. It’s often sunny and warm, and precipitation is rare. It can be a bit cold in the mornings and evenings, but I was fine with just a sweater and didn’t need any additional layering.

Compared to Orlando’s humidity and seasonal hurricanes and the chance of snow in Paris, the weather at Disneyland is a happy medium. Just don’t forget to put on sunscreen (even if it’s overcast!)

Most of the Visitors are Annual Pass Holders

As I mentioned above, the California parks tend to have more annual pass holders visiting than out of state tourists (though this can depend on the time of year.) While overall guest behavior wasn’t noticeably different between the resorts, it was a treat to meet and chat with Los Angeles area locals at Disneyland.

Ranging from young families who visited on a monthly basis to senior citizens who lined up for rope drop every morning, I was among various pass holders while waiting for the gates to open and for Fantasmic! to start. I quickly sensed that Disneyland has a homey, comfortable vibe that makes it truly unique. This makes moving to the west coast and becoming an annual pass holder myself all the more tempting!

I’m so glad I included a multi-day stay at the Disneyland Resort on my California trip. If you haven’t been to Disneyland yet, I highly encourage you to check it out! It may just become your new happy place too.

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