Next time you’re in the Big Apple, you might remember the Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel on 35 East 75th Street as an intimate place to see a few wonderful musicians. I first went to the hotel Café to see Bobby Short there when I was little, and I remember how amazed I was at the size of the room. I wish seeing every musician was like this. He was singing right next to our table! While we ate and had drinks! What a wonderful room it is also. Upon a recent visit, the piano and drums literally floated in the audience. Elegant paintings by Marcel Vertes hung on the wall, with plush seating beneath them. In the back, a full bar nestled in a corner. The meal was a four-course encore and we had martinis also. We went around Christmas time and saw Steve Tyler. He’s that guy from the Father of the Bride soundtrack who sings Give Me The Simple Life, but he’s also one of the best standard singers since Sinatra in my opinion. He belted out Sinatra and Burt Bacharach songs, while we snapped pictures and recordings. He was dressed in a suit with a black tie. Although he seemed a little hot, the room felt nice and cozy to me. Highlights included This Guy’s In Love With You, The Way You Look Tonight and Bewitched, Bothered and Bedazzled. Towards the end, he did a Santa comes to town song. The set was solid and long. The price was cheap, considering. I think you can go and not eat and just have drinks, if you want to save money. Either way, go there and see him or Woody Allen’s band, they play there also. It’s literally unbelievable and unforgettable how close you are too the musicians and how intimate it is as they tell stories and rap with the audience, you feel like they’re in your living room! Steve even told a story about him and Bill Clinton when the former president showed up. Like Bill, he’s also got a Southern accent and a swagger about life that adds to the humor to the event. Check him out here!
If you’re starting out your day in the ole fisherman’s wharf town, be sure to begin by seeing the otters playing on the beach. Nothing beats touching down in Monterey’s swift cool oceanic air full of life from the sea. The beach where the otters play is also very close to Pacific Grove, America’s Last Hometown, and the ocean drive from Monterey to Pacific Grove on into Pebble Beach is just outstanding. If you’re a biker, check out the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. This is biker’s heaven! Take a drive afterwards and be sure to stop at Lover’s Point Park and Beach in Pacific Grove on your way. Although, it’s probably discouraged, there you can feed these little squirrels that are so brave they will climb up your leg. Imagine that! Afterwards, do the Pacific Coast drive all the way along 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. See the Ghost Tree on your way, and make another stop to view the sea lions and more otters at a lookout. Stop at the The Pebble Beach Lodge in Pebble Beach and see the greens, then swing by their market to pick up some awesome cheese, olives and maybe some wine for later. Get something for the road and pull off into one of the many inlets and have a small picnic. Pretend you’re in Europe. By the time you get to Carmel-by-the-Sea, it is time to shop. Go for it on this awesome coastal resort town. Home to celebrities and international tycoons alike, they have every shop you could want. Buy some old photographs at an art walk place, get a coffee and maybe eat lunch there, or you could drive inland to Carmel Valley to eat lunch at Earthbound Farms—a truly phenomenal sun splashed place to get a soup and a salad and pick up some fresh produce. After eating, head back to Carmel Beach for a little while. More craggly rocks and cool winds sweeping off the brisk ocean meet you there. You’ll see the surfers and young people hanging out and people throwing Frisbee for their dog on this dog-friendly beach. Hopefully, you’ll have a sunny day, but if not, pretend you’re in England, it feels like that sometimes.
After you’re finished, be sure to do the Carmel drive along the ocean and view the dramatic little seven dwarf homes there, one after the other, built very close to each other. Once you’ve driven past the ocean and start heading inland, stop and tour the Carmel Mission. You’ll also pass by Clint Eastwood’s Mission where his restaurant and hotel lie (a great place to eat if you’re sticking it out in Carmel for dinner or staying there). You could return to Moneterey by way of Route 1. Back in old town, spend the afternoon at the Aquarium, it’s legendary. Maybe check out The Fisherman’s Wharf area—plus, Monterey’s Cannery Row is famous. Around the old area, there is a stellar video tour of Monterey’s History in a building that I really liked. For dinner, I personally like the Monterey Fish House, which is a little drive North, but hey, you get to see more of the town that way—the Chart House sits right on the water in the Fisherman’s Wharf area if you decide to stay downtown, I’ve eaten there to and liked it. Later on, spend the evening around a fire pit at your hotel because it gets cold at night or go to see your favorite act at the Monterey Theater downtown. Schedule accordingly—I saw Brian Regan there and loved it! You could also go back to the Carmel Highlands Hyatt Hotel (by the way, an unbelievable place to stay if you can afford it), and take in the dramatic views out the huge windows, while having a glass of wine and listening to the house musician. Note: Keep an eye out for the Concurs d’ Elegance, the antique classic car show at the Pebble Beach lodge. Jay Leno is always there with some of his cars, I think. Have fun and good luck on one of the most beautiful stretches of coast on earth in my opinion. Don’t forget, you’re right next to Big Sur and you’ve just got to see that also. See my article U.S. Coastal Drives.
If you’re going to Northeast Florida, one place to not miss is the oldest city in North America, St. Augustine. There are a lot of things to do in St Augustine, FL that you won’t want to miss. Founded in 1565 and discovered by Ponce de Leon, this wonderfully preserved ancient city sits almost right on the water and boasts some of the most beautiful stretches of isolated beach in Vilano Beach just north of St. Augustine that you will find in modern day Florida. One cool thing is that there are building codes in place, unlike other parts of Florida, that discourage taller ocean front buildings. I think there’s like a three-story minimum or something, maybe less! You might start out your day in the old city by doing a walking tour up and down this historic slice of old Florida. Go for it on a cup of coffee somewhere there and get the European feeling the city has to offer as you sit outside with gentle ocean breezes blowing. While there, go see some history like The Castillo de San Marcos and the Ximinez-Fatio House—it goes back to 1573—wow! Also, be sure to stroll down St. George Street in the old area. Two very old churches in town really capture the essence of this place and are worth visiting also. Next, think about the Fountain of Youth. You will learn all about the city’s history and how Ponce de Leon thought he had discovered the spring of eternal life there. Next, you might pack a beach bag for the day and go to St. Augustine Beach by the pier. You’ll cross the incredible Bridge of Lions on your way over. Feel the wonderful energy of the natives who lived in this place that you’ve learned about and the Spanish conquistadors like Leon in the vibe of this place. Hey, go surfing for the day! After a day at the beach relaxing, you could be like me and drive south to Crescent Beach just to check it out. Hit a shell shop on the way—there’s an awesome one. There are some beautiful vistas of the ocean on Crescent you won’t see in many places in Florida. On the way back, maybe check out the Alligator Farm. I know there is also an awesome dolphin/marine park, but I’ve never been to it. After running through all the above things to do in St Augustine, you might check out Vilano Beach as the sun sets. It’s beach stretches on for miles, so it’s a great place to catch the sunset. Hey, try out Cap’s On The Water up the way there for fresh seafood and a steller vibe. Next, for night, take it to one of the many bars in the old city. Walk around and immerse yourself in this place I once almost called home. It’s that cool.
So, I grew up coming to Miami for vacations and always loved this wonderful city. Although, I never lived there, I have a list of my favorite top ten things to do in Miami. Here it goes:
1. Lay out on the beach!
2. Go for a sailboat cruise of the area (you may have to go to Key Biscayne to find one, but it works there also—they even have snorkeling!).
3. Go shopping in South Beach and see the Art Deco houses and hotels there.
4. Have a cup of cuban coffee at a cafe.
5. Tour the historic Italian Meditarrenean Vizcaya with it’s sweeping views of the ocean.
6. Go to Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Fish Market. Unlike Joe’s in South Beach which I wrote about, Garcia’s feels more like a local crab shack on the Gulf Coast or Maine and sits right on the Miami river. Boasting a fresh seafood market, it really takes you there on the quality of their fish. Everything is fresh. It may not always be the best extras or the best sauces, but the quality of seafood is outstanding.
7. Cruise over to Coconut Grove for cool bistros, a little more shopping and coffeehouses, plus a park on the water and great classical architecture to drive by. Getting some ice cream there to cool down is good idea for me.
8. Sitting right next to Coconut Grove, the wealthier enclave of Coral Gables boasts more big old sprawling Spanish style homes to wander by. Similar to Beverly Hills, it has tons of wonderfully designed historic houses for a driving tour. The houses literally hide behind swooping banana palms and tropical vegetation. You might check out the Venetian Pool while you’re there.
9. Go see the Miami Heat cook it up.
10. Have a drink at the hip Fontainebleau hotel.
*Don’t forget to explore cultural neighborhoods like Little Havana and take advantage of Miami’s awesome downtown museums and opera if you like that sort of thing. Look at Trip Advisor.
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If you need some exciting things to do in LA on the weekend just follow me and you’ll be well on your way to big laughs and fun times. Whether you’re just visiting the wonderful City of Angles or if you are lucky enough to call this city home, try starting out in Santa Monica on the 3rd Street Promenade. While you’re there, walk up and down the promenade and watch the local street performers—some truly talented singers perform there. Shop at J Crew or Banana Republic, get some custom One Star kicks made at the Converse star or even eat at Sonoma Wine Garden’s rooftop at the Santa Monica Place mall—there, look out over the breathtaking ocean and take in the sun. After you’ve finished with the 3rd Street Promenade, go to the 4rth Street area and get a cup of coffee at Urth maybe and shop some more. The Patagonia Store, my favorite, is there. Hey, walk to the beach afterwards—you’re there! This area is a great landing spot for the Santa Monica beach. If traffic is light, hop in your cruiser, hopefully, a convertible, and head down Wilshire until you get to Beverly Hills and do a driving tour of the streets for architectural gems in Beverly Hills and even Bel Air back towards the West a bit. Miles of historic residences dot these streets on and off of Sunset Avenue in all styles of architecture. Next, go visit the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills for more houses! Afterwards, either head to L.A. for the museum or go back to Santa Monica to Palisades Park and watch the sunset. From there, head over to Montana Avenue for dinner and an old movie at the Aero. There is nothing like watching Indiana Jones or Casablanca on the big screen in the town that made it all take place. Maybe drinks there or in WeHo after supper and back to your hotel or home.
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