Free things to do in LA

I’ve got some college buddies staying with me for the week. Two are unemployed, one is engaged, and the other is just a cheapskate, and they’ve never been to Los Angeles before. So they want a complete tour of LA…for free. Fortunately, they’ve got me as their guide and I know the ins and outs of the city and how to have packed days without spending a dime.

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Wine spas in the U.S. (mainly California)

Now there’s a concept. I only recently became introduced to the concept of the “wine spa” recently when I treated my girlfriend (who is now an ex-girlfriend, but I promise it was not spa related) to a weekend up in Wine Country that included some spa going. We discovered that it’s quite a trend to include wine and grapes in spa treatments. Apparently it’s a tradition from Bordeaux, France that made its way over to the U.S., and particularly to Northern California. Most of these spas (following) are located in vineyards or are at least nearby. I’ll list the spa and then one or two treatments offered on their spa menu that includes grapes or wine.

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The art of sightseeing while on a tight schedule

If you’re anything like my husband, you’ll have a business meeting in Chicago and then have a few hours to kill before boarding your next flight and jet setting to another meeting in San Diego, where you’ll then maybe get to sleep the night and have another few hours before you get right back on that plane and, if you’re lucky, head home. According to Linda Vaughn from the Business Traveler magazine, the average reader of BT takes about 30 round trip flights a year, rarely taking advantage of the little time he or she has in between meetings. Which is why the folks at BT have created the 4-Hour Guides, a great resource that directs busy business travelers to the must-see sites in a manageable between meetings/flights time span. But these plans are also good for all us regular people who want to have some efficient, fun, site seeing while our husbands/wives/parents are at their meetings and we’re bored of sitting around in the hotel waiting for them to get back and take us down to the lobby for dinner.

This month’s 4-Hour Guide is on Boston and since it has not yet been published online (we get the actual paper magazine) I thought I’d share it with you all! This article is by Alison Stein Wellner and I’ve taken her recommendations of the places, but have used my own experiences as explanation.

1. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – I love Boston and this is one of my favorite places in Boston. This museum is actually Isabella Stewart Gardner’s former residence, complete with her personal art collection. The building is a magnificent Venetian-style home with a garden and courtyard filled with beautiful flowers, art, and music. Works of Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler and Sargent are organized not according to era or style, but are placed aesthetically in a manner that Gardner had thought was beautiful to admire. In the summer months the Gardner Café is open. And, if your name is Isabella, you get in for free! Also, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is right near Fenway Park, so you should pop in there while you’re in the area.
2. The Backbay Fens – Beautiful urban parks that connect the Boston Common, to Franklin Park (where you can then take the kids to the Franklin Park Zoo). The park was established in 1879 and offers great respite from city noise.
3. Harvard Square and Harvard Book Store – I lived in Cambridge for a year and loved every second of it. Just walk around and enjoy the cobblestone roads, bookshops, cafes, and street performers. You can take the T here from The Fens, by taking the E train to Park Street and then switching to the red line. You’ll come out right by Harvard University. While you’re in the area, head over to Davis Square (2 more T stops away or a nice 20 minute walk) and get some ice cream at J.P. Licks. (Get the Oreo or the peanut butter yogurt.)
4. Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers – Wellner recommends this Harvard Square hot spot, and I’d have to agree with her choice. She suggests getting the onion rings, which I’ve never had, and the malted milk shake, which I have had and which is amazing.
5. The Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory – Take the T back to Park Street and then take the Green Line back to Copley Square. Besides for another J.P. Licks in the area, you should stop by the Pru for some great views, and some great food and shopping.

Have fun in Boston!
P.S. For more on Boston, check out this post that I wrote a few months ago.
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