Walt’s Barn

Hey guys! It’s been awhile, but now that our wedding has come and gone, we should have more time to blog. Maybe one day we’ll do a blog about our wedding, since it’s the ultimate excellent adventure. Just before the wedding, we decided to take a trip to Griffith Park. The third Sunday of every month next to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, you can visit Walt Disney’s old barn. The barn used to be at his house and he used the barn as his personal workshop. The barn was moved to Griffith Park in 1999 and as mentioned, is open to the public once a month. Both the parking and the admission are free, but they do accept donations. We have been to the barn once before, but this time we heard that one of the original cars from the monorail in Disney World would be on display so we decided to go back. To our surprise, Disney Legend Bob Gurr was also there. As we were taking pictures of Monty, Bob Gurr happened to walk up to the monorail, so we were lucky enough to get pictures of both of them together.

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After getting that shot, we headed into the barn area. Inside the barn there are many trains as well as tools that belonged to Walt. There are many volunteers both in and around the barn who are more than happy to talk about the history of the items on display. The barn isn’t too big, but you can definitely spend easily an hour or so inside just taking everything in and hearing the stories from the volunteers. Just outside the barn there’s a little booth with a gift shop inside so if you wanted to get a souvenir there is a place to do so. This trip we didn’t stop at the Railroad Museum next door, but I’ve been there before with my dad and remember enjoying it. It’s probably been close to 15 years since I have been there, but it really is right next door so if you have kids or are into trains, it would be a good place to stop off at as well. Like always, whenever we check out a new place for the blog, we also try to eat at a new place. Even though it wasn’t close by or even on the way home for us, we decided to try out the Escondite in Downtown. It was okay, but I don’t think I would go back there on my own. They have burgers with a lot of unique ingredients in them, but we love Grill ‘Em All so much that it’s hard to compete with them in our eyes. If I went back I would likely try a sandwich or an appetizer. Overall it was a fun day with new experiences. Now that all the wedding planning is done and over with you’ll be getting more regular blog updates!

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Springfield at Universal Studios

Rick and I love both theme parks and The Simpsons, so we have been waiting patiently for Springfield to open at Universal Studios Hollywood. A few weeks ago, we read an article that revealed Springfield was finally open! Since we live so close to Universal we decided to buy the “Buy a Day, Get the Rest of 2015,” tickets and spend the weekend checking everything out. They are still doing construction on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as a few other things in the park, but I was really excited to see the progress on Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. My excitement for all things Harry Potter quickly disappeared when I saw how amazing Springfield was. It’s much more fun to see what’s fully open ratherĀ  than a work still in progress. When you first enter the area Springfield is in, you immediately see The Android’s Dungeon, Lard Lad Donuts and Phineas Q Butterfat’s. As you continue walking further into Springfield you find even more familiar sites including Krusty Burger, Springfield Elementary, Springfield Penitentiary, Moe’s Tavern, and Duff Beer Garden. Everything is extremely detailed and great care was taken to make sure Simpsons’ fans and non-Simpsons’ fans alike will enjoy it.

Our first official stop, after taking a bunch of pictures, was Moe’s Tavern. We heard they served Duff Beer and Flaming Moe’s. We found out that they actually serve three varieties of Duff beer; regular Duff Beer, Duff Light, and Duff Dry. We wanted to try all three, plus a Flaming Moe, but we were disappointed to find out that the Flaming Moe was non-alcoholic so we decided to skip the overpriced drink. Our first round of beers was the regular Duff Beer. We both ended up liking this one the best out of the three. After enjoying our beers in Moe’s we wandered around a bit more before heading to Duff Beer Garden’s. There I ordered the Duff Light and Rick ordered the Duff Dry. These were a little disappointing as they tasted like beer we were already familiar with. The Duff Light tasted like any generic light beer and the Duff Dry was essentially Guinness. For some reason, they only serve the Duff Dry out of bottles, but they won’t let you actually keep the bottles and instead they pour it into a plastic cup.

We didn’t try any of the food, even though the chicken at Cletus’ Fried Chicken smelled really good. It was fairly hot the weekend we went and theme park food just didn’t sound appetizing to us, especially since we knew we could just eat at home. We thought we made the right decision, but after reading the reviews of the chicken I wish we had at least tried it. I know we’ll be back though and can try the chicken soon enough. We didn’t get it this trip, but we’ve previously purchased the original Lard Lad doughnut, which is delicious and huge. They now have other flavors which all looked yummy. The doughnuts are big enough that one could easily be shared by 3 or 4 people. I think we ate half of ours one day and saved the rest for the next day when we first purchased ours. Either way, expect to save it or share it if you end up buying one yourself.

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Venice Beach

This past weekend our budget was fairly tight, but Rick and I still wanted to go out and do something. Even though I’ve been to the Venice Boardwalk before, I’ve never actually walked around the canals. We didn’t make the decision to head down to Venice until after 11 or so, which we realized upon getting to Venice was a mistake. Parking was a nightmare. It easily took us 20 to 30 minutes just to find a place to park. The public lots were charging $25 to park, which is completely outrageous. After we finally found a metered spot, we were on our way. We first started walking around the canals, which was very pretty. It was a little weird essentially being in people’s backyards, but I have to assume the residents are used to it. We walked around there for a little bit before we decided to walk down to the beach and over to the boardwalk. The walk from the canals to the boardwalk was about a mile and fairly crowded.

We walked around the boardwalk for a little bit before quickly realizing we’re not tourists or high school students and we were very out of place. Rick remembered there was something called the Venice Beach Freakshow on the boardwalk and decided to make our way over there. Along the way we passed through Muscle Beach and saw all of the people who are in much better shape than I am. When we finally made it to the Freakshow, I quickly realized that it was not at all for me so I sat on the beach while Rick went inside. After walking through, Rick confirmed I would have hated it. He said that it’s essentially an episode of Ripley’s Believe it or Not in the building.

After the Freakshow, we realized our two hours on the meter were almost up and decided to walk back to the car. Since the boardwalk was crowded we decided to walk back to the car on side streets. While we were walking back we happened to randomly walk by an apartment complex called El Bordello Alexandra Apartments. The owners of the apartments have decorated the outside with gargoyles and other wood carvings. It’s a really unique building in a place full of unique buildings.

By the time we made it to the car, we were starving and were struggling to think of some place to eat. After suggesting roughly 589584295 places, we decided on The Federal Bar in North Hollywood. We had been there once before, but it was when there were a ton of food trucks there, so we only drank at the bar and didn’t actually try the food. We got there just as brunch was ending and it seemed like almost everyone in there was there for the brunch, which I definitely want to try one day. We had heard the Federal Burger was delicious so we both decided to try that. I was pretty pleased that the fries that come with the burger were garlic fries, but I love garlic fries more than any human should. The burger was amazing! It’s definitely in both of our top 5 favorite burgers now and we love burgers. The Federal Bar is so close to us too, that we will definitely be returning regularly. It was another great weekend without breaking the bank, which I love.

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The Gentle Barn

This weekend, Rick and I decided to visit more animals, because we are basically children in adult bodies. There are a few animal rescues on our list of places we want to visit and this weekend it was The Gentle Barn. They are only open to the public on Sundays from 10-2 and they’re located in Santa Clarita. I’m from Santa Clarita and Rick has lived there before, so we were familiar with the area and knew it’d be an easy trip. We arrived a little bit before 11 and there was already a little bit of a line. Since all of the animals are rescues, they don’t like to overwhelm them and only allow small groups of people in at one time. To visit the barn they request a $10 donation per person, and it can be given via cash or credit/debit card, which is nice. When you first walk into the barn they give you a little orientation and let you know where everything is. They have an upper barn and only allow visitors to go up to that barn at either 11, 12, or 1pm as the animals up there are smaller and again, they don’t want to overwhelm the animals. They also have a food stand which serves snacks as well as vegan sausages with a variety of toppings. I’m not a huge fan of vegan food items made to represent meat, but I have to admit the Witch dog was much better than I was expecting.

Our fist stop for the day was the area with the cows, which they highly encourage their visitors to hug. In the area with the cows there were multiple volunteers that directed everyone where the best place to pet each cow was and provided the cow’s history. Some of the cows were saved from slaughterhouses and dairy farms and now live happy lives on the farm. After we hugged the cows and brushed their fur, we made our way over to the horses and donkeys. The barn sells bags of carrots for $5 if you’d like to feed the animals. We didn’t buy any carrots, but it looked like the people who did were enjoying feeding the horses and donkeys. Our time to visit the upper barnyard was still half an hour way by the time we were done with the horses and donkeys so we decided to try the vegan sausages. After we ate it was time to head up to the barn. Before allowing visitors inside the barn they do a presentation in the amphitheater. The presentation is partially bringing awareness to how we can all help save animals and partially a way to let the kids know when the animals want to be pet and when they don’t.

The upper barn area contains probably the most beautiful peacock I’ve ever seen, multiple pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, llamas, and an emu. During the presentation, the owner of the barn, Ellie, told us all that some of the animals in the barn were still in the early stages of healing from the abuse they had suffered and that they may not want to be pet. This seemed to be particularly true of the turkeys and chickens. Most of the goats were fine with being pet, but there was one that wasn’t quite ready for the large crowds. There was one turkey that was very friendly and let pretty much everyone who came up to her pet her. The sheep was my personal favorite animal that we encountered. There were quite a few people in the upper barnyard so I didn’t get a chance to hear the sheep’s story, but looking at the website and the different sheep that they have, I’m pretty sure the one I liked was Toulouse.

After about half an hour in the upper barnyard we decided to head out. We weren’t quite ready to go home yet, but weren’t hungry since we ate lunch at the barn, so we decided to stop at the Wolf Creek Tap Room. One of Rick’s friends told him about the tap room a few weeks ago and we had visited it last weekend as well. The actual location of the tap room is in an extremely random place in Santa Clarita. It’s in part of the industrial complex in Santa Clarita and is specifically located in a biomedical complex located in the complex. I had actually been up to the area previously, when I worked at a hotel down the street and had to drive corporate guests to their work in the hotel shuttle. When you first turn left on the street the tap room is actually located on, there is a sign with Wolf Creek’s hours and actual address. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it’s extremely helpful to take note of the address. Once you’re in the biomedical complex, everything is essentially on the same road, but there are a lot of different buildings all over the place. The easiest way to describe where the tap room is, would be to just constantly go left and up the hill until you’re in the upper left corner. On Saturday afternoons they serve sausages, but you’re welcome to bring in your own food. Both times we have been there, people brought their own pizza. They have board games, a large Jenga game, and corn hole. There is seating both inside the tap room and on the patio outside. It might be my new favorite hang out place in Santa Clarita. The beer wasn’t Rick’s favorite, but I enjoyed what I had. The first time I had the Desperado IPA and this weekend I had the Golden Eagle Ale. The tap room also has a restaurant across town and a few local restaurants also carry their beer on tap. If you buy a Wolf Creek beer from a non Wold Creek location and bring the receipt into the tap room you can get one of their beers there for $1, which is a really great promotion.

All in all it was a very nice weekend filled with animals and beer, which are two of our favorite things. If you ever find yourself in Santa Clarita looking for something to do on a Sunday, The Gentle Barn is worth the donation. You’re helping out a great cause and you get to hug a cow.

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Wildlife Learning Center

We took a brief hiatus (the holidays are a crazy time), but now we’re back. We had a weekend free from wedding planning and decided to take advantage of it. We wanted to be fairly cheap, so we started racking our brains thinking of things we could do. We just started watching Face Off last season and remembered there was an episode where the contestants visited a wildlife rescue center that is relatively close to us. We looked up the information and decided to visit Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar. It’s only $7 for adult tickets so we decided we wanted to spend our Saturday with adorable animals. The center is pretty much right off the freeway, so it was super easy to find and they make it very clear the parking is street parking as you’re driving by which was nice. After we paid our admission we noticed we had passed right by a Macaw when we entered the admissions office. The actual center is fairly small and we only spent about 30-45 minutes there, but it was time well spent. The center does a wonderful job of explaining why each animal is there and gives details about the species. My personal favorite animals there were the squirrel monkeys; they were so small and cute with a lot of personality. We arrived very shortly after the center opened so it wasn’t too crowded, but by the time we left there were more groups of people coming in, so I would definitely recommend getting there close to open.

After we were done we decided we wanted lunch and have been wanting to try Dog Haus for awhile. We saw there was a Dog Haus in Burbank so we decided to head over. If you haven’t heard of Dog Haus before, it’s a pretty simple concept: hot dogs and sausages. I ordered the Scott Baioli, which has bacon, white American cheese, garlic aioli, and caramelized onions on it. Rick ordered the Pig Lebowski, which is a polish kielbasa with slaw and BBQ sauce on it. We both really liked our meal, but ordered way too much food. We each got our own side, but neither of us could finish it all. We would definitely go back again to try something new and just split a side in the future. All in all it was a really nice, inexpensive way to spend the afternoon.

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The One Up

One day while craving Italian food, Rick and I found one of our favorite new spots, Antonio’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant. It’s right on Ventura Blvd and it’s delicious. After we were done eating there we noticed a new bar was being built next door. The bar is called The One Up and it finally opened a few weeks ago. The One Up is a barcade; a bar and an arcade in one, which is a fairly new trend. Rick had to travel to Philadelphia for work earlier this year and he went to a barcade there and really enjoyed it. We both like nerdy things and alcohol, so needless to say we’ve been counting down waiting for The One Up to open. Since it’s still brand new, it seems like they are still working out some of the kinks. Mainly the menus they had seemed like place holders until they get their real menus. They didn’t have the prices listed on them, which is kind of annoying, but other than that it was a fun time. The prices were pretty average for a bar on Ventura, but the games were free, which was awesome. The space is pretty open and it’s a little too trendy for me, until you get to the back room with all of the games. They had waitresses constantly coming back there to see if anyone needed drinks or food, which was nice if you wanted to keep playing the games.

We went around 4 in the afternoon and most of the tables were reserved, so we just got a seat at the bar before playing games. By the time we got our drinks and headed to the game room, most of the games were taken. It seemed like everyone was just playing until they didn’t want to anymore, which I can imagine will cause issues when the place is busy and everyone wants to play. We had recently had lunch before we went there so we didn’t eat, but it seemed like the food was typical trendy bar food. I’m a big beer drinker more than any other kind of alcohol, so the beer selection was a little underwhelming. They had craft beer, which was nice, but if you compare it to someplace like Blue Dog Beer Tavern, the selection was a joke.

The games are definitely the big attraction here. They had a TON of old school 80’s arcade games. Each game machine has all of the games within them so you don’t have to wait for a specific machine with a specific game. I personally played Frogger, Asteroids, and Centipede, but they had easily 60 games available to play. We absolutely would come back to the One Up again to play the games.

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Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

One of our favorite things about fall is Halloween, especially since we live in Southern California where fall doesn’t really exist weather wise. Before we even started dating it had been a tradition for one of my groups of friends to visit Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Scary Farm every October. This was a much easier task to accomplish when we all lived in the same town and were in college. Now that we all have real jobs and are spread out over Southern California, it’s a lot harder to make this an annual event. Luckily, Rick loves Halloween so even if we can’t go to Knott’s as a big group, the two of us can (and do) still make a trip to some Halloween event at a theme park. If the group doesn’t make it out to Knott’s, Rick and I will just stick with Universal. It has it’s downsides compared to Knott’s, mostly the crowds, but the effects in the mazes and the fact it’s so much closer to us, make it the preferable choice. My biggest issue with Universal Studios versus Knott’s is that in order to see everything at Universal you really do have to pay for the front of the line pass. There are usually less mazes and attractions at Universal and the lines, from my experience, are considerably longer at Universal. I’ve heard stories from others that Knott’s gets insane, but we usually try to go earlier in the season to avoid the crowds. We learned a few years ago that even if you to Universal as far from Halloween as possible you still won’t be able to do everything. I believe it was in 2012 when we went and came across the dilemma of having to choose one of three mazes to try and do before the park closed due to the long waits at the mazes and how close it was to the park closing. After that we just decided to pay a little extra for the front of the line pass and I can tell you that it is definitely worth it.

We purchased our tickets and front of the line passes for Friday’s Horror Nights. It was the second weekend of the event and one of the cheapest weekends. Since we knew we wanted the front of the line passes we thought it was worth it to go in September in order to save some money. As I said before, the front of the line passes are hands down worth the price. We got to the park just before it opened and managed to do every maze and ride by 10:30. We’ve learned the hard way that at Universal it’s best to go to the mazes as far away from the entrance first. Everything gets crowded fast and if you book it down to the lower lot, you can usually get do 2-3 mazes without much of a wait, if you decide not to buy the front of the line pass. One of the mazes this year was clown themed and I hate clowns, so I wanted to get that one done first, regardless of it’s location in the park, but fortunately for me it was in the lower lot. I must admit, before we arrived at the park we had a few drinks and for me, it was mostly to make it through the clowns. I apparently can’t read maps however and we ended up doing An American Werewolf in London before Clowns 3D: Music by Slash. We both agreed American Werewolf in London was our favorite maze. If you enjoy the movie you will love the maze, the details were astonishing. As soon as we were done with that maze I found Clowns 3D: Music by Slash so I could just get it over with. As terrifying as I find clowns, there was nothing exceptionally scary about it. It was just clowns for the sake of clowns.

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After those two mazes we made the long walk to the next three mazes; The Walking Dead: End of the Line, AVP: Alien Vs. Predator, and From Dusk Til Dawn. Last year there were two mazes in the same area, but a tram took you to these mazes, instead of walking there like you do this year.The Walking Dead: End of the Line was the farthest one, so we decided to do that one first. We are both fans of the show and thought it was really done. It starts out in the prison and then ended at Terminus. The exit of this maze takes you right to the entrance of AVP: Alien Vs. Predator and I personally felt like this maze had a lot of good special effects, but not enough people. I can’t remember if we even saw anyone in the maze or if it was all effects. The effects were all done really well, but there were no unexpected scares. The last maze in this area was From Dusk Til Dawn, which was based more off of the show by Robert Rodriguez than the movie. We have only seen the first episode of the show, but it look really well done from what we saw and from seeing the movie. The best thing about Universal is their attention to detail. They make mazes based off stories we all know and love and really do them justice.

Most of the mazes are in the lower area, so after we finished all of the ones already mentioned, we only had three more left. The first one we did was the terror tram, which was themed to The Walking Dead again this year. This one had less of a storyline compared to the other Walking Dead maze; it was basically just zombies. Every year I have a love/hate relationship with this maze. I absolutely love walking through actual sets, mainly the War of the Worlds set. I think its awesome they let guests get so close to different sets. At the same time, this maze is essentially one giant cluster fuck. Getting onto the tram is almost always an issue and the maze starts with an extremely wide path which then bottlenecks and creates unbearable crowds. After fighting the crowds and finding a seat on a tram back, we went through two of the scare zones next; Mask-A-Raid and Dark Christmas. I really enjoyed the Dark Christmas zone. It was well themed and provided a lot of scares. From there we went into Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood, and I honestly can’t remember it one way or another. I vaguely remember being underwhelmed by it, but I have no idea. The final maze of the evening was the one I was least excited about, Face Off: In the Flesh. I was right to not be excited. This maze was essentially the same maze as a few years ago when the theme was dubstep. It wasn’t clear what was going on and you were subjected to really crappy music. It was a disappointing way to end the night. However, after that maze you walk back through the scare zone themed to The Purge, which we both really enjoyed. We didn’t like the movie very much, but we thought the idea of them opening the park to the start of the annual Purge was a great idea.

Overall it was a really fun night and if you are thinking of visiting the park for Horror Nights I would definitely recommend it. I would also recommend skipping the Face Off maze, unless you enjoy disappointment. If the front of the line pass is available it’s worth the extra cost and if it’s not, my can’t miss mazes are An American Werewolf in London and The Walking Dead: End of the Line.

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