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Category Archives:USA

The Best Fast Food in the USA: My Junk Food Tour

In-n-nout hollywood header

When I visited the USA 3 years ago I created a blog draft with the same name as you read above. But since I didn’t really eat that much junk food, that’s literally as far as the post went.

At the end of last year I was back in the USA for around 3 weeks and this time I made a concerted effort to ensure I enjoyed some of the finest dining experiences fast food USA has to offer. I made a list and checked off just about all of it.

If you’re visiting the USA soon and you’re a big fan of dirty burgers and seeing how the morbidly obese eat, then you are in the right place!

In-N-Out Burger

The undisputed king of the Western Conference. In-N-Out Burger believes that less is more; simple is better. And that getting it “animal style” isn’t something you’d do in the bedroom.

In-N-Out offer 3 burgers: a hamburger (meat, sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion), a cheeseburger (add cheese), and a Double Double (double meat and cheese). That’s it. Then you have fries, drinks and shakes to round out one of the simplest menus in global fast food. And it works because they nail it. The burgers are some of the greasiest around and the pickle-based sauce is what dreams are made of.

But if that truly isn’t enough for you then customise away with the “secret menu”. Well it’s actually not so secret anymore since some of it is on their website, however, one guy went on a mission to try everything on the secret menu and lists everything else here.

In n Out Double Doubles and animal fries
In n Out Double Doubles and animal fries

Shake Shack

Shake Shack is In-N-Out’s cross-continent arch-nemesis and undisputed champion of the Eastern Conference. West and East coast burger lovers are forever at odds with each over who has the better franchise but you will never truly know for yourself until you’ve had both.

Shake Shack was born in New York and has a wide variety of burgs to choose from. The burgers are good, but the franchise really comes into its own with the milk offering. Shake flavours are seasonal and at the time of writing they were Mint cookies and cream, salted vanilla toffee and mud pie.

In my view, In-N-Out is cheaper and have better burgers, but Shake Shack has better sides and shakes so it can’t be completely put to bed for me.

Shake Shack Las Vegas. One of the few in the west.

Chipotle

Taking a break from burgers, Chipotle is in my view the best spot for some quick Mexican. Burritos, tacos and enchiladas fill the room and scents of their signature chipotle sauce subtly fill the airwaves. The burritos are big, and the menu simple so your decision should be easy.

Born out of Colorado, the chain has spread all over the country so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find one where you visit. 

East coast, west coast, the Rockies. Since this list spans the entire country you might actually need to rent an RV and road trip all over to try them all!

Five Guys

Despite my fanfare above about In-N-Out and Shake Shack, Five Guys was actually my favourite burger joint across the US. A thick, juicy patty, the right amount of pickles and onion (i.e. lots), a token amount of tomato, all overflowing with yellow American cheese.

And speaking of overflowing, these guys know how to do fries. The put a tiny paper cup in the bag, and generously fill the cup a laughable amount so you have chips all throughout the bag. It’s just wonderful.

Five Guys love tooting their own horn with awards and reviews plastered all over the world, each one of them well-deserved, and many from bygone eras. They also want you to see the ingredients they use (or have little storage out back); so much so that they stack them in the restaurant!

Chick-fil-A

Despite my best efforts, I actually never made it to a Chick-fil-A. And it certainly didn’t help that they aren’t open on Sundays – the day I was most often available to go. But I still wanted to include it because of its reputation and my disappointment.

Everyone raves about the nuggets so I’d be backing up the truck.

Fuddruckers

Maybe a little left of field, but I have very fond memories of Fuddruckers. I visited one in California back in 2011. Fuddruckers’ uniqueness is that you order the size of the patty you want (and you can go BIG), how well you’d like it cooked, and then add the toppings yourself from the salad bar. That way you get exactly what you want on your burger and how much of it.

They also bake all of their buns in house, something that cannot be said for most other chains.

P.Terry’s

Special mention here must go to P.Terry’s of the greater Austin area. My good friend brought me to a P.Terry’s for one of the greasiest, dirtiest burgs I’ve ever had. Along with fresh French fries It was pure bliss after a few beers. Earlier that evening we had also enjoyed Chipotle for dinner.

The following day I came down with a bad case of the voms and it lasted a whole 24 hours. It was clearly food poisoning of some kind. Kynie reckons it was the excess of fast food in one evening. I steadfastly refuse to join those dots.

It must have been something we bought at Whole Foods earlier that day. It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

PTerrys Austin

Hooters

Hooters is on here as an honourable mention. I went to the Hooters on Hollywood Boulevard and I found it a bit overrated. This probably comes as no surprise to anyone. I mean, the service was fine, I couldn’t complain about the atmosphere, the waitstaff were friendly and mildly attractive, and the wings I ate were just ok. It just wan’t a “wow” moment for me.

However, what was memorable about that night was while we were eating, some dude was getting arrested just outside. Yep, that’s Hollywood Boulevard.

Wendy’s

Ok ok so Wendy’s is on here as a bit of a joke. Wendy’s is just awful.

Obviously, there are so many other great fast food joints in the US. Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

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5 unexpected highlights of visiting Las Vegas for the 4th time

I went to Las Vegas for the first time in 2011. It was me with a couple of buddies who were young and on a road trip around California. I visited a few weeks later without them as part of a 2-day tour from LA to the Grand Canyon. I then visited for a third time in 2014 with my wife. And late last year we found ourselves back in the States and made our way back to Vegas to catch up with some of the same friends as visit 1, plus a few extras.

Suffice to say I love Vegas. The energy and grandeur is like no place on earth. The night sky lights up with scale replicas of some of the world’s best-known attractions. And you can carry beers from one casino to the next as you seek out new places to play cards.

Everything about it is brilliant.

This most recent time in 2016, I was able to explore a little more than I had before because a) I’d done a lot of the common Vegas attractions before, and b) because I had 4 days there instead of 2. Here are some of the highlights from my most recent trip that made it all the more memorable.

Eiffel Tower Experience

The cornerstone of the Paris Hotel and Casino, the one-third scale Eiffel Tower replica dominates the Las Vegas Strip. By day it stands boldly, towering over the Bellagio fountains and by night it lights up like a beacon, a perpetual reference point.

Las Vegas from the Eiffel Tower Experience Paris Hotel and Casino-sm

I took the chance to actually go up the Eiffel Tower replica this time; I got some discounted tickets on Groupon. And while the view is a little different to that of the real thing, it is no less dramatic. We went up at night and were treated to an impressive vista of the entire strip – the Linq High Roller and beyond to the north, The Aria, the Luxor and more to the south.

However, the highlight of the Experience is being able to watch the Bellagio Fountains dance the night away with the best seat in the house every 10 minutes.

For me, it’s one of the best things to do in Las Vegas for the non-gambler.

Discovering Downtown LV

Downtown Las Vegas is a completely different experience to the Las Vegas strip. The Strip is long and feels unbridled to the point of exhaustion (in a 100% good way). Downtown is contained mostly within the Fremont Street Experience: a comparatively short, covered street bounded by low-rise, historic casinos, live music, and the obligatory flashing lights on the ceiling and on every surface possible.

Fremont Street Experience Downtown Las Vegas

Just like the Strip, Fremont Street is great to wander. Grab a roadie from a convenience/souvenir store or sit down at a bar with a cheap margarita. My group chose – actually I’m not sure what casino we chose. But the margaritas were strong and cheap.

Make sure to visit the shark tank in the Golden Nugget and if you visit in summer, bring your swimmers to take a water slide through it. You can take a brewery tour at Banger Brewing, see a what a million dollars cash looks like at Binions Casino, or enjoy some of Vegas’ best pizza and craft beer menu at Pizza Rock.

Finding Craft beer in CVS

While this may only be special to beer lovers from Australia, being able to not just buy beer, but excellent beer in a local pharmacy was something dreams are made of. Buying long necks of Lagunitas and Goose IPA was something of a novelty. Buying a big can of Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA and drinking it while walking down the street then inside another casinoa at midnight was something that is not just illegal, but impossible to do in Australia.

I recognise that this is not exclusive to Las Vegas within the USA, but the novelty was heightened by the magnitude that is Las Vegas.

Las vegas strip New York New York

Seeing the strip from the air

If you know anything about Las Vegas you will know that it was built from nothing, up out in the middle of the desert. It is near nothing and all electricity needs to be generated nearby, and water piped in from far away just so the extreme consumption of each casino and individual can be satisfied in the city.

Nothing exemplified this more than seeing the city from the sky. The whole region is flat and sandy, with the exception of Red Rock Canyon. Then there is a small section of odd-shaped high-rise buildings in the middle. It is truly something special to see and is equally spectacular in the day as it is at night.

Las Vegas Strip from the plane

I think it was so memorable for me because when you’re walking along the strip, you can usually only see a few casinos at any one time, and you feel dwarfed by them. You see exactly what the architects want you to see from the strip, and this is what most people see most of the time.

But in the air, you see it all. You can see the scale, and you can see the layout. You also get a sense of how trivial it is. I mean, I love Las Vegas, but it truly is excessive. From the air, it just looks so small.

Getting immersed in nature at Red Rock Canyon

I went to Vegas to enjoy the lights, the ridiculousness, and play some blackjack while drinking free beers – as usual. However, my highlight this time was indeed a day hiking out at Red Rock Canyon. Red Rock Canyon is a natural, rocky wonder just 30 minutes from Las Vegas Boulevard. Over 20 hiking trails of varying difficulty extend from the one-way ring road.

Red Rock Canyon summit

The hike my group chose was Calico Tanks and we couldn’t have selected better. It wasn’t a difficult hike and it took us through some incredibly vivid rock formations, winding its way through a canyon valley until finally reaching the end: a beautiful panorama of a flat Clark County with the Las Vegas Strip visible in the distance.

Have you been to Vegas? What was your favourite discovery or unexpected highlight?

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5 East Coast USA Places That are Way Off the Beaten Track

I’ve been to the USA a number of times, and each time I go, the list of places I want to see grows. One of my fondest trips was a month long loop around the Northeast, starting and finishing in Chicago. A carload of buddies and I hit most of the major cities in the area, but we also managed to balance that with a few locations closer to nature. If you’re planning to drive around the Eastern Seaboard, consider these places when you go.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

A Beach in Cape Cod, MA

I visited Cape Cod on that loop, and it served perfectly as a quiet break from a road trip itinerary otherwise dominated by cityscapes. The sleepy town of Provincetown was our destination on the furthermost tip of the hook that is Cape Cod. We walked on beaches and explored MacMillan Pier Marina, but the best thing to do in Cape Cod is to eat seafood. You don’t live this far out into the sea without mastering the art of shellfish.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City

Image via Flickr by shinya

I’m a big fan of Las Vegas, so the idea of Atlantic City also intrigues me. Atlantic City is billed as the Las Vegas of the East Coast, but it really does have its own character. With its long boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean, you can easily zip out for some fresh air, something severely lacking in most casinos.

For the kids and kids at heart, the boardwalk actually extends out into the ocean, sporting a massive amusement area, not unlike those in Galveston or Santa Monica. I’m also a massive “Boardwalk Empire” fan, so picturing the boardwalk during the Roaring 20s and pretending to be a mob boss is all I’d think about.

Ocean City, Maryland

Two states south of Atlantic City lies Ocean City. A resort town on a thin strip of land bounded by the Atlantic to the east and Isle of Wight Bay to the west, Ocean City is very much a family vacation spot. It boasts a water park, an amusement park, and plenty of sandy beach. Don’t worry, though, as there are also plenty of golf courses for the parents to escape.

The presence of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! definitely signals that you’re in tourist territory. But if you’re just after a beach break, the wide, sandy beaches of Ocean City will definitely do the trick.

Luray Caverns, Virginia

Luray Caverns, Virginia

Although not on the coast, Luray is definitely off the beaten track. Located just two hours from Washington, D.C., Luray is perfectly nestled in Shenandoah National Park. There are three reasons to visit Luray: the incredible ribs and wings at Uncle Buck’s Steakhouse, the hiking in nearby forests, and the ancient Luray Caverns.

There are three reasons to visit Luray: the incredible ribs and wings at Uncle Buck’s Steakhouse, the hiking in nearby forests, and the ancient Luray Caverns.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, ME

Image via Flickr by heipei

If you make it as far north as Acadia National Park, you might feel like you’ll run out of land soon. And you will, as the park is located on an island off the coast of Maine in the far Northeast. Acadia is a beautiful spot year round. Camping and hiking are popular in the summer, with hundreds of trails of all difficulties. In the autumn, the island is awash in oranges and browns, as the canopy becomes the trail. The winter then brings snow, where hiking turns into cross-country skiing.

As a traveller, it is a constant balancing act between seeing what you came to see and exploring serendipitously. By taking a detour to some of these lesser-known destinations, you can not only make your dollar go a little further, but also create some unique experiences that few others will.

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Space Centre Houston: How to make the most of your day

If you do a Google search on things to do in Houston, NASA’s Space Centre Houston will undoubtedly appear on every listicle you come across (like this list of 25 things to do for example). And there’s a very good reason for this: there’s actually not that much to do in Houston. Well, that is unless you get your jollies off in museums; in that case, you might never leave the place. Space nerds, regular nerds, and people with a vague interest in space travel will all find Space Centre Houston a must-see attraction.

And just to clear the air so there is no confusion: Space Center Houston is the museum or visitor centre, Johnson Space Centre is the NASA control Centre where the astronauts play.

This is what we did on our day there, and what you can do to make your day run smoother.

Rocket Park at Space Centre Houston
Rocket Park at Space Centre Houston

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Los Angeles: Fun things to do in the world’s worst city

Hollywood sign over the hills from Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles is a sprawling mess. Highways criss and overpasses cross, and despite 7 lanes of traffic they still manage to get possibly some of the world’s worst traffic jams. It’s attractions are vastly spread and you can feel like you might waste your entire vacation in transit, especially if you try and rely on public transport.

So with that wonderful introduction done, welcome to a blog post all about Los Angeles!

Alright so the above is what we generally know so far. If Florida is America’s dong (look at a map), LA must be America’s butthole. So when Kynie said she hasn’t seen any of LA before and wanted to do Disney’s California Adventure, I took it as a challenge to find some good in the city that has given me so little.

And I succeeded. I had 4 days in Los Angeles and  this is how I spent it.

Hollywood Sign, the closest you can walk to

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