USA branch FAQ
Replies: 279 - Last Post: Apr 16, 2013 10:54 PM Last Post By: nutraxfornerves
Jun 18, 2006 11:01 PM
148Highlights In and Near S.F.
(Yes, these are "touristy," but who do you think you are, visiting royalty?)
- Golden Gate Bridge, including a stroll through the surrounding park down to the water.
- Coit Tower for panoramic views of the Bay and the city.
- Ride a cable car.
- Ferry to Sausalito
- Day trip to Alcatraz Island. If it's permitted, pack a picnic lunch and eat it on the steps of the prison exercise yard. Wonderful views of the Bay and the city from there.
- Day trip to Muir Woods, Muir Beach and Pt. Reyes Light.
- The wine country, i.e., Napa and Sonoma, is something that a lot of people want to see. Temper your expectations. There are no bargains, and once you’ve seen one winery you’ve seen ‘em all. Be careful on the roads, because the local police are reputed to be tough on drunken driving; with a blood alcohol limit of .08%, all it takes is a couple glasses. The Buena Vista winery in Sonoma is arguably the best one to see, because there’s a park and some genuine history. In my opinion the best way to see the wine country is to go there on a tour bus, because then you don’t have to hunt around for wineries or worry about drinking too much. I say this as someone who generally wouldn’t be caught dead on a tour bus, but this is an exception to the rule.
- Note about the wine country: I did recommend the one winery in Sonoma but that's because of its particular attributes. The idea frequently tossed out on TT that Sonoma is somehow "laid back" while Napa is somehow "snooty" is pure nonsense and represents group-think, wish-projection and maybe a hallucination or two, but not any realities. I even ran into one poster who was under the impression that wineries in Napa charge for tastings while wineries in Sonoma do not. Wrong-o. They all charge.
Special restaurant in San Francisco:
- Tadich Grill on California St. near the Financial District. S.F.'s oldest restaurant. Very good food, unique atmosphere, popular with locals.
Try Expedia or Priceline. As of this writing (spring 2006), you can expect to pay $75-$100 a night for moderate quality accommodations in the city booked through those sites.
Here is an excellent travel article about the Northern California coast, including Mendocino and Pt. Reyes.
Also, you could go south to Big Sur. If you go there, be sure to have lunch at Nepenthe. Another 50 miles or so south, there is San Simeon, the site of the Hearst Castle. The tours are great. North of Big Sur but South of San Francisco are Monterey, which is worth a day or two, and Santa Cruz, a good place to stop for lunch on the way to or from.
Jun 18, 2006 11:39 PM
149What About Those "Driveaway" Cars?
A common question around here comes from people who have heard that you can drive a car from one city to another for free. Is this is a good alternative to renting a car in the United States, they will ask. The answer is probably not. This post will explain why not.
The best known car transport organization is called Auto Driveaway. Car owners pay them a fee. They advertise for drivers to transport cars between cities. For example, I live in Milwaukee and I'm moving to San Diego. I don't want to drive there, or it's a sudden move, or I own more cars than I have drivers for. I can spend a thousand or more dollars to have my car from one city to the next, or I can spend less than that to have Auto Driveaway find someone to drive it to San Diego for me.
It's a win-win situation for the right kind of people: A cost-conscious car owner and someone who wants to get from Point A to Point B but doesn't want to fly. Maybe that person has a bunch of luggage. Or maybe they're afraid of flying. Or maybe they'd like to see the countryside. Or maybe there's some little town along the way that you want to stop in. So why isn't this a good idea for most tourists? Here's why:
Your gas isn't included. Lately, I've seen some listings that offer a gas allowance, but you can't count on it. As of this writing (June '06), gas is running approximately 15 cents a mile. Between that and the costs of food and lodging (also unreimbursed), it costs more than flying.
You're generally limited to Interstate highways. There isn't a specific policy stating that, but you are given pretty strict mileage and time limits, i.e., four days and 1,900 miles. In practical terms, you're not going to be taking detours. So you have a Driveaway car from New York to L.A. and you'd like to see Yellowstone and stop in San Francisco for a couple days? Forget about it.
It's unpredictable. Most tourists apply some level of scheduling to their trips, often fairly tight. If a Driveaway car between a city you're in and one where you want to go, tough luck. You don't get to reserve them in advance.
The rules are enforced. How? With a $300 deposit. Driveaway is good about returning deposits on the spot, but they will deduct for driving too many miles or taking too much time to get there.
So who'd use a Driveaway car, anyway? Well, I did it about 30 years ago. Today they require drivers to be at least 23 years of age, but in the late '70s the minimum age was 18. I drove one from Seattle to San Diego. Back then, air fares were much more expensive than today, and gas was much cheaper. Plus, for me, the drive was an adventure even though it was a straight, boring shot down Interstate 5. But I had a backup plan.
Bottom line: There are better ways to travel between cities, starting with flying. Oh, and my definite sense is that shipping of cars by truck has become far more prevalent over the years. Check Driveaway's site. They don't seem to have a lot of cars available.
Jun 19, 2006 9:16 PM
150New York: The World's Most Courteous City?
I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but for years I have told people that New York is far friendlier and more civilized than its image would suggest.
New York City tops in courtesy, says Reader's Digest
Tue Jun 20, 2006 3:18 PM ET
By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York, despite a reputation as a fast-moving, tough-talking town, ranked as the world's most polite major city, according to a survey released on Tuesday. Outscoring large cities in 35 countries, New York proved best in three tests of courtesy, according to the survey by Reader's Digest.
Reporters for the magazine conducted a "door test," to see who would hold open a door, a "document drop" to see who would help pick up dropped papers and a "service test" to measure if salesclerks said thank you for a purchase. Four out of five New Yorkers passed the courtesy tests, the magazine reported.
"It certainly contradicts the popular stereotype that a lot of people have about New York," said Conrad Kiechel, international editorial director for the Pleasantville, N.Y.-based magazine.
Specifically, 90 percent of New Yorkers passed the door test, 55 percent passed the document drop and 19 out of 20 clerks passed the service test. Coming in a close second was Zurich at 77 percent, Toronto at 70 percent, and Berlin, Sao Paulo and Zagreb, Croatia, all with 68 percent.
Following down the list were Auckland, Warsaw, Mexico City, Stockholm, Budapest, Madrid, Prague, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Lisbon, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Manila, Milan, Sydney, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ljubljana, Jakarta, Taipei, Moscow, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Bucharest and Mumbai.
The more than 2,000 tests of behavior showed that people under 40 were more courteous than those over 40, men were more polite to other men and women were more polite to other women. The region that most lacked courtesy was Asia, where eight out of nine cities tested finished in the bottom 11, Reader's Digest said. It conducted the tests in the most populous cities in 35 nations worldwide from late February to mid-March.
People around the world tended to offer the same explanation for their polite behavior, Kiechel said. "People said they were polite because they had been brought up to be that way."
The study is published in Reader's Digest's July issue of its 50 editions worldwide.
Jun 22, 2006 4:50 PM
151Hostels in San Francisco
Hostels that get good reports on thi sbranch:
Green Tortoise described as "lively and fun" which mayor may not be what you want.
HI hostels. The Fisherman's Wharf hostel (which everyone calls "Ft. Mason") gets the most favorable comments. Some think it's a bit too low key atmosphere for them.
Elements mixed reviews. Some say it's too noisy.
The Adelaide Hostel
If you are willing to stay out of town, you might enjoy the Point Reyes hostel in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
You can read reviews of these & other SF hostels at Hostelz
Jun 27, 2006 4:46 PM
152Bob Dylan wrote "mr tambourine man" regarding New Orleans.
Jun 29, 2006 7:02 PM
153Buying a car in California
(parts plagiarised from posts by RoadWarrior, ElGuapo, and froude1)
This assumes that you know someone willing to sell you a car you're interested in.
1. First you take out insurance. There are two types of insurance: liability (compulsory) and insurance for the car (optional; if the car you're buying is old and relatively cheap, you probably don't want this). To take out insurance you need:
- driving license (foreign license is OK)
- details of the car (even when you're only taking out liability insurance): brand, type, year, and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN: a 17-digit number written on the car's registration papers)
- an address. They don't check the address against any record, so I don't see why you shouldn't get away with using the address of a hotel or something, if you pay the whole sum up front instead of in installments.
The AAA has no problems insuring foreigners. You can get a quote at their website, but I'll add that it turned out much cheaper (50%!) when I went to their office instead of buying it on line. The insurance costs depend on your driving history, but with a foreign drivers' license they didn't seem to care about that at all. To give an indication: I paid $550 for 6 months. You may be able to find a better deal at another insurance company, but this I don't know. If you do it at the AAA, you need to become a member ($66). (The AAA provides free maps to its members, and you can call them when you're having car trouble on the road.) You may be eligible for AAA services without becoming a member if you are a member of an auto club in another country, with which the AAA has a reciprocal agreement.
2. The car needs to be smog checked, and you need a certificate to prove that this has been done. The law requires the seller to provide this smog certificate and buying a car without a recent smog certificate is a bad idea, because you will be liable for any necessary repairs.
3. You or the seller needs to go to the Department of Motor Verhicles (DMV), in person or on line, to get the required papers to transfer the title of the car to your name. The owner should give you a signed 'pink slip', and he or she needs your signature on another form.
4. You buy the car.
5. You, the new owner, go to the DMV to register it. The seller doesn't have to come with you. You need:
- driving license (foreign is OK)
- car details (now including odometer reading and license plate number)
- pink slip
- smog certificate
- proof of insurance
- money in cash (registration fee + sales tax).
If you're a member of the AAA, you can also register it at their office, instead of going to the DMV (supposedly there are shorter lines, but you still need to pay in cash).
The California DMV lets you make phone reservations, which can save you a long wait. Smaller DMV offices are usually friendlier and more accommodating.
Be sure to check that the VIN number on the title corresponds with the number on the vehicle.
6. A visitor to California can drive on a foreign license as long as it is valid. If you're coming to the state to work or to study, you need to get a Californian drivers' license within 10 days of your arrival, at the DMV. (Small problem: for this you need a Social Security Number, which you probably won't have obtained within 10 days. I don't know in what trouble you can get if you don't take the test within 10 days.) Nationals of most Western countries don't need to take a driving test, but they do need to take a short exam about traffic signs and rules. More information about this can be found at the DMV website, where you can also download the book of traffic rules in California to read before taking the test.
Jun 29, 2006 11:27 PM
154Yes, you can insure a car in the US on a foreign drivers licence. I just got a quote from www.progressive.com for a '2004 Dodge Ram 2500' kept in Livingston, Texas. It covered both myself and my wife on UK driving licences and was $1522 a year. This includes a surcharge for a foreign licence and was fully comprehensive with all the bells and whistles and you don't need a Social Security Number. The surcharge is removed after 3 years if you stay on a foreign licence or is removed after 1 year if you get a US licence. Don't listen to the doom merchants who tell you that it isn't possible!
Jul 5, 2006 7:39 AM
Jul 10, 2006 7:54 PM
156I revealed the best places in the USA - the PACIFIC COAST in WA, really regret that found these
great sites a bit late. Maybe this would help you to open the secrets Pacific hides.
routes, weather forecast, accomodations and small hints probably will help you.
Jul 12, 2006 5:19 PM
157Save up to 50% on Amtrak coach fares with 'secret' discount codes. The details are kept up to date on the first post of this forum thread:
Jul 25, 2006 6:36 PM
Jul 29, 2006 11:42 PM
159SEE MINNEAPOLIS BY LIGHT RAIL
As a supplement to my posts 123 & 124 in this thread and in response to requests by various posters, I (with some help) have put together this stop-by-stop “tour of Minneapolis” by light rail. The Hiawatha Light Rail runs from the Mall of America in Bloomington (a Minneapolis suburb that is also the home of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport) to the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis. The train stops at both the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals of MSP airport. The trains have bike racks, if you’ve brought your bike along. Minneapolis has a well-connected system of paved bike trails called the Grand Rounds. Every light rail station features public art of some kind, including speakers that broadcast poetry written and recorded by local writers.
Light Rail Map and Schedule
MALL OF AMERICA STOP:
This stop is convenient to several hotels (none of which I have personally stayed at) along Killebrew Drive that are directly across from the Mall of America including: Country Inn and Suites Mall of America, Days Inn Mall of America Airport, and Homewood Mall of America.
Entertainment in the Mall of America includes an indoor amusement part (which is terrific place to take children on either scorchingly-hot or bone-chillingly cold days), Underwater Adventures Aquarium, Lego Land, Dinosaur Walk Museum, NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway Simulator, A.C.E.S. Flight Simulator, and the AMC movie theater complex.
Minnesota doesn’t tax clothing, so it’s a good place to shop for clothes tax-free if you come from a high sales tax state.
Unique shops in the MOA include Al’s Farm Toys, the Lake Wobegon Store, and Field of Dreams (sports memorabilia.)
Restaurants aren’t spectacular in the MOA, but if you’re in search of a place to eat, try Famous Dave’s, a local chain of barbeque for a bit of local nostalgia and good chopped pork sandwiches. The California Café, which is pricy, offers seating overlooking the indoor amusement park.
There’s also a Wedding Chapel in the MOA.
BLOOMINGTON CENTRAL STOP:
This stop is convenient to the following hotels: Holiday Inn Express, Embassy Suites, Hilton.
The Minnesota Valley Refuge Center is within walking distance (about a mile). The Wildlife Refuge offers walking paths, bird watching, and airplane watching (it’s right in path of MSP runway).
FORT SNELLING STOP:
From here, you can walk about 1 ¼ mile to Historic Fort Snelling, which offers costumed guides and re-enactments. (summer only)
MINNEHAHA PARK STOP:
This is the best stop to access the Grand Rounds paved trail system if you’ve brought your bicycle or rollerblades along. The Grand Round trails, which cover many miles, leads to the Chain of Lakes (where in summer you can rent canoes and rowboats, fish—bring your own gear—and swim), the Mississippi river, the downtown riverfront, and, of course Minnehaha Park.
Minnehaha Park offers excellent picnic facilities, gentle hiking trails, wonderful bike paths, and the star attraction, the Minnehaha Falls made famous by Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.” Also, Sea Salt Eatery is a local favorite for beer, fish tacos, and Sebastian Joe’s locally-made ice cream.
38th STREET STOP:
The Chatterbox Pub (2229 E. 35th St.) is a local favorite decorated like an early 1980’s rec room, including vintage Atari games. From the 38th Street station; walk seven blocks west to 23rd Av. S., go north three blocks to the corner of 35th St. and 23rd Av.
The Riverview Theater is a classic theater with a big screen that shows second run and art-house movies, including monthly showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
FRANKLIN AVENUE STOP:
This stop is convenient to two popular live music venues: The Cabooze and, next door, Whiskey Junction. From the Franklin Avenue station; walk one block north toward Cedar Avenue S.
CEDAR RIVERSIDE STOP:
Cedar-Riverside is a “transitional,” densely-populated neighborhood and is the home to many recent immigrants. You should keep your wits about you in this neighborhood, which is dotted with numerous clubs and bars (including Triple Rock Social Club a popular nightclub,) performing arts theaters, and the The Cedar Cultural Centre.
The Metrodome is the home of Minnesota Twins baseball, Vikings football, U of M Gopher football, and, in winter, indoor blading at the Roller-dome. Rollerblade rentals are available. By the way, rollerblades were invented in Minnesota. And, of course, the sports themselves are seasonal.
Also, you can walk (about 7 blocks) to the brand new and very spectacular home of The Guthrie Theater from this stop, as well as the Mill City Museum & ruins next door. The Mill City Museum stands in the ruins of an old flour mill and offers a fascinating look at Minneapolis’ 50-year rein as “Flour Milling Capital of the World.” The Flour Tower tour offers excellent views on a clear day. On weekends, the Mill City Farmers Market operates in the plaza between the Guthrie and the Mill City Museum. Also in this area are the Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, and Open Book/The Loft Literary Center.
Also, about 7 blocks in another direction is the The Milwaukee Road Depot,which offers ice skate rentals and indoor skating in winter.
NICOLLET MALL STOP:
If it's too rainy, cold or hot for you to walk outdoors, you can access the Skyway System from here.
The Nicollet Mall isn’t a shopping mall but a pedestrian mall: a several-block stretch of downtown Minneapolis that is closed to automobiles. Here TV buffs can find the Mary Tyler Moore Statue at 7th Street and Nicollet. The Macy’s (formerly Marshall Fields, formerly Dayton’s flagship) store presents the much-beloved, free Christmas display in their 8th floor Auditorium every December.
Show off your talents at Movieoke at (931 Nicollet Mall the Local). In summer, go lawn bowling on the roof at Brit's Pub, which is about a six-block walk. Visit the new central library..
Hear live jazz at The Dakota..
Walk four or five blocks to Kieran's Irish Pub.
WAREHOUSE DISTRICT STOP:
Hop off at this stop for the Target Center, home of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball.
The Minneapolis Warehouse District is a great place to find nightclubs (including the Fineline, Quest, Escape Ultralounge, First Avenue--as seen in Prince’s Purple Rain), restaurants (including Café Brenda, which has excellent vegetarian options, Gluek’s a classic German beer hall, and the Monte Carlo), and entertainment of a more adult nature.
Jul 31, 2006 3:08 AM
160Minneapolis/St. Paul/Twin Cities:
Update to my posts #123 and #124 in this thread:
Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America has changed sponsorship and is now “The Park at Mall of America.” It’s still a fun place to take kids if you’re looking for indoor activities when the weather is uncooperative.
Not affiliated with the MOA, but relatively nearby if you have car is the brand new Waterpark of America, a ten-story indoor waterpark
Midtown Global Market, located in the recently re-furbished and re-deployed former Sears building, is a multi-cultural bazaar that offers a broad array of international cuisines, specialty grocery items, and crafts. The public art is fun. Don’t miss the Birchberry native American crafts store. It’s a great place to buy unique souvenirs and hand-harvested wild rice.
The amusement park (for very young children) in Como Park in St. Paul has been entirely re-done as “Como Town.” Everything is fresh and new.
The Tropical Encounters permanent exhibit at the Como Park conservatory is nearly complete and is expected to open in fall 2006.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has opened a new wing. Architectural reviews have been mixed.
The Guthrie Theater has moved to a spectacular and brand new venue (next to the fascinating Mill City Museum) along the Minneapolis riverfront near the St. Anthony Falls. Cue, the restaurant at the new Guthie, features locally raised foods (eat at the Café on Level 5 for a more informal experience.) On Saturdays in summer and early fall, the Mill City Farmers Market occupies the plaza between the Guthrie and the Mill City Museum.
Minneapolis has a shiny, new central library.
Outside of the Twin Cities, if you have young children along, visit the new Teddy Bear Park in the little, touristy rivertown of Stillwater, MN (about 35-45 minutes drive from the Twin Cities.) Stillwater is full of (pricy) antique shops and restaurants for the grownups.
Aug 9, 2006 7:28 PM
161I want to spend a few days in New York and see the sites, take a few tours, etc. But budget is a concern. I'm travelling by myself. A friend advised me that it is much cheaper to stay in New Jersey and commute into New York. Does anyone have any thoughts on that? I'd like to stay out until fairly late, so don't know what the transport it. There must be a trade-off between hours and money spent commuting I guess.
Aug 18, 2006 2:39 AM
162Tipping in Beverly Hills and other large cities
As it is throughout the United States, tipping is customary in Beverly Hills (and tips do not appear on your bill except in some cases involving large parties). Although specific amounts are, of course, matters of personal preference, it is general practice to offer 15-20% of the total bill as a tip in a restaurant, a taxi, or a salon or spa.
Bellmen, doormen and skycaps usually receive $1 or $2 per bag; valet parking attendants receive the same when they return your car to you; housekeeping staff receive $1 to $2 per night of your visit; and other service staff generally receive $1 to $2 for their assistance as well. If you have requested special assistance from a hotel concierge, you should expect to tip $5-$20, depending on the type and quality of service.
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