After giving a couple of think piece blog posts, it's time to return to a more travel oriented post. In this post, I'm going to put my top experiences from around the United States. This will be based on my experience while I was at a particular place, event or simply life experience. These can range from food to monuments to nature to concerts or to more adventurous experiences. I will eventually make one for international travel as well. This is also not a top 10, so I'm not quite sure if or how many Part 1 and 2's I will have.
Skydiving in San Diego: If I'm going to do this crazy act then I couldn't think of any other place to do it than San Diego. Hoping out of an airplane is an extremely bizarre idea when you think about it. However, there's a lot of safety skydiving and one of the safest extreme sports you can do. What made this special was being at home and seeing my home from a low flying zone. Along with that it was striking to actually see the border wall (it is definitely there). Lastly, the experience itself was a freefall rush! Before the stabilizer you have no idea what's going on. When that parachute comes out you're relieved. However, there was more as the chute was trick chute so we did some spins. I highly recommend it!
New Orleans Mardi Gras:
Having gone to this event twice, I have to say it was mystical time. While both times are post-Katrina, the first time I saw the parade which was hilarious with all the ladders and dads grabbing beads for kids. The bead throwers are also hilarious in how they throw them at people sometimes. We also experienced a little of the wealthier Tulane university area. The second time ended with a strip club so that too was an absurd experience. Both times walking down Bourbon street with the flying beads (Will Ferrell throwing and more boobs the second time) I have to say that everyone is a bead zombie and at first you feel bad for having no beads, but then your neck gets heavy with them. One of the best experiences you can have in your life....until you leave the country for a carnival.
Chicago Culture Hoping: From Wrigley Field, to dancing in Sears Tower skyboxes, to chilling in the cloud gate and Lakeshore Dr to looking at the Loop from the L (above ground train) to the south side to Navy Pier in summer and Frank Lloyd Wright, Chicago is simply fun to be in. Now, everyone knows about Chicago winter, but other than that this city is a whole lot of fun to see. There is tons of authentic American food, architecture, neighborhoods and sports. It's a great city that overall works really well in a different way than NYC, LA or DC work.
DC National Mall: I think of the introduction to House of Cards with this one often. Still, DC's National Mall is a lot of fun even though now I visit to party (Howard some day?) or simply chill with old friends. No matter what though, you have to see all the statues, monuments, Smithsonian museums and more to really appreciate how much pride America has in its past. I personally enjoy the Lincoln and WW2 Memorials the most. Be sure to check out the Arlington Cemetery too.
MLKJr. House and Surrounding Area on Father's Day: The Father's Day is important because when I moved to Atlanta with the help of my parents, we arrived on Father's Day. We saw the house, graves, church and exhibit. As such, it was a great bonding moment for my dad and I as it was basically a transposition of education and history for one man to his son. This was a topic we also bonded on and seeing it live was great. Plus this was the beginning of my true pride for blackness which I will never forget.
Bonnaroo: I think Governor's Ball is the only comparable music festival that I could put here. Yes I've always wanted to go to Coachella (I've been there, just not when the concert was happening), but Coachella was nowhere as wild back in the day. However, Bonnaroo has always been camp for multiple days. Honestly, I never saw anything like it. It was such a huge ordeal with drugs both organic and synthesized, smelly people, watering stations and camelbaks (so useful!), hot mud, people almost dying, constant wild night raves, silent disco, beer tastings, and some of the best music ever. I'll just hit some highlights: Major Lazer, Twin Shadow, Tune-yards, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Flogging Molly, Alice in Chains, Blackstar, Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown, Santigold, The Roots, Flying Lotus, Foster the People, Childish Gambino, Ludacris, Yelawolf, Battles, SBTRKT, Phantogram, Das Racist, Gary Clark Jr., Feist, Alice Cooper, Little Dragon and more. Which is wild when you think about it. It is was an epic festival that will stay burned into my mind.
Portland to Seattle Northwest Traversing: These cities seem as if they were carved out of nature rather than placed upon it. Both cities have some of the prettiest natural surroundings I've ever seen. Yes I can talk about Powell Books, Pike's Place and all that, but what I really enjoyed about the Pac Northwest is this seamless blend of city of nature. Portland is surrounded by Mt. Hood, bridges over a river, and so much woodland it's insane. On the flip side, Seattle is right around the Puget Sound and it is calm, beautiful water that also has Mt. Rainier looming in the background. Both cities are easy to traverse and talk almost no time to hop into nature. It's one of the prettiest parts of the country.
St. Louis and Detroit the Underrated Urban Zones: Even though I had a great tour guide for St. Louis I think this city surprised me. I had great BBQ and Cajun food, little bit of blues, a romp around a great college, a few decent walks around museums, a look at the big arch, urban decay and serious gentrification. Somehow this city works, I think a lot of people don't like it, but I respect it. Furthermore, I respect the D, you can clearly see how much has changed from the amount of urban decay and abandoned structures (large buildings even) juxtaposed with the myriad of monuments in Hart Plaza as GM looms above. Both of these cities have been forever changed by a shift in economics revolving around cars and music in the US. Blues and Motown also is big here and I do wish I saw that in the D. Still, you've just got to respect the people of these cities and the heart that is here.
Pulling an All-Nighter in NYC: NYC and Miami are the only two places that legally go past 3am. Miami's varies from place to place,but not only can NYC stay open until 4, it can serve alcohol until 4 in some cases. Moreover, there are many places that go 24 hours or have that 5am afterparty shift and it remains to be one of the only cities I have been up for 24 hours on more than one occasion. From crack of subways, to walking between skyscrapers at dawn to apartment or rooftop music bumping until 5 it's an insomniac experience that takes the sense on a natural trip.
Theme Parking - Specifically Orlando and LA: Theme parks are cool anywhere and while there are some older (Tivoli Gardens) and pretty epic (Japanese theme parks) theme parks around the world, nothing is quite like Disneyland or Orlando's huge haven of Theme Parks. Special shoutout to Six Flags as a whole with its LA institution having about 16 roller coasters. Still, the original Disneyland is magic and there's some genuine excited feelings you get while walking around the place. Also, Orlando and Busch Gardens in Tampa equal about 10 different theme parks. This can either be nightmares or wild dreams, but they are always memorable. I personally am a huge fan of roller coasters so I will always love this adrenalin rush.
Working on a Film Production in LA: I miss being a film major, no seriously, that's a whole other life I once head where I got to work on student films and with my biggest moment the OMG video for Usher. There's a whole world out there for the industry and you really get into the know of it and who does what and how strange operations can be. It's great to get craft services, hang with sound crew or the grips & gaffers, it is also cool to meet the celebs, but the whole energy of a film production is alive with all the efforts of creativity. The finished product is also the true treat.
Little Havana in Miami: This is a small, but vibrant part of Miami near Calle Ocho that exudes all the qualities of Cuban food, clothing, music and culture that most Americans will ever see (changing with the new access to Cuba). However, it is one of the most culturally transporting places in the US along with San Francisco Chinatown or NYC's Koreatown, you really do feel like you left Miami and went to Cuba when you hear the shuffling of dominoes and rhumba.
Surfing, House in the Park, Comic-Con, and Brooklyn Bridge Walking:
Since each of these are city repeats. Surfing and Comic-con in San Diego, House in the Park in Atlanta which is all day dance festival and the pacing and thinking time of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge are all solid experiences that I recommend. I won't get into detail since they are city repeats, but all are worth it.