9 Incredible Experiences To Have In Louisiana Before You Die!

Credit: NewOrleansOnline.com

I’ve sort of become a Louisiana travel writing pro.  I didn’t start out that way, but after writing a few articles for Matador Network, I discovered they were desperate for content on my home state.  Then those few articles turned into commissioned articles from Louisiana Travel and Tourism and I was Matador’s go-to guy.  So here is my latest and I have to admit I haven’t done a lot of the things on this list, but now I want to.  Well, maybe not spend the night in the haunted plantation home.  🙂  Enjoy my latest article… “9 Incredible Experiences To Have in Louisiana Before You Die!”

A Tropical Island Near NYC? YES! Welcome to Fire Island

For the last several years during the summer, I have traveled to Fire Island, off the coast of New York, about 2 hours outside New York City.  And usually when I tell people where I’m going, they ask, “Where is that?”  Well, here’s a map.

Fire_Island-NY-USA-Location_Map-01Fire Island has several communities, but the ones my friends and I frequent the most are the Pines and Cherry Grove, both extremely gay friendly.  Fire Island is also a nationally protected seashore. Getting to the Pines or Cherry Grove is a bit of a challenge.  Once landing in NYC, you go to Jamaica Station and catch the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) to Sayville.  The LIRR will run you $10.25-$14 each way depending on the time of day you travel.  At the train station in Sayville, you can catch a shuttle bus for $7 that takes you to the Sayville Ferry.  The Sayville Ferry to Fire Island Pines or Cherry Grove will cost you $8.25 one-way or $16 roundtrip.  The ferry takes 20 minutes to travel from Sayville to Fire Island Pines or Cherry Grove.  And then, finally, you have arrived in paradise.

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Visit “Jurassic World.” Yes, You Really Can!

Universal Pictures Jurassic World opened this weekend to massive box office success.  The film grossed the second highest US box office opening ever with $204.6 million.  The dino pic also earned the title of biggest global box office opening ever with a take of $511.8 million.  While “Jurassic World” is a not a real place and you can’t visit, you can travel to the beautiful sites where the movie was filmed, and best of all, you don’t have to leave the US.

The main location used is Kualoa Ranch on the island of Oahu.  Kualoa Ranch now offers its own movie studio tour taking you to all of the stunningly gorgeous locations used in the film.  The original “Jurassic Park” also shot here.  Check out Kualoa Ranch’s video tour above.

Some of the exhibit scenes from “Jurassic World” were shot at Honolulu Zoo, right across the street from beautiful Waikiki Beach on Oahu.  One of the majestic waterfalls featured is Manoa Falls, also on Oahu.

Photo: Jurassic Kahili Ranch

Photo: Jurassic Kahili Ranch

But not all of the tropical scenes were shot on Oahu.  The island of Kauai was also featured in “Jurassic World.”  Jurassic Kahili Ranch is home to some of the wide open vistas used in the film.  Manawaiopuna Falls in Hanapepe Valley was another waterfall featured in the film, as was Blue Hole. These locations were also featured in the original “Jurassic Park.”


One of the coolest places in “Jurassic World” is the “Jurassic World” Theme Park.  The theme park does exist, but it’s not in Hawaii.  It’s in New Orleans.  Yes, you read that right.  The theme park locations were shot at Six Flags New Orleans which was severely damaged after Hurricane Katrina and never re-opened.  The former Six Flags was used in a few movies, but none quite as prominently as “Jurassic World.”  Check out this Wired.Com story on “Jurassic World” shooting in New Orleans.

And as a final note, if you haven’t yet seen “Jurassic World,” run, don’t walk to the theater.  The film is a great summer flick.





How To Become A Chicagoan in 17 Easy Steps

Originally published by MatadorNetwork.com; May 14, 2015

Photo by: Bert Kaufmann/flickr

Photo by: Bert Kaufmann/flickr

1. Don’t say “The Windy City.” It’s an advertising moniker more than anything. Locals never use it. And “Chi-town” is out too.

2. Love the Cubs or love the Sox, but you can only choose one so choose carefully. There’s no going back and your loyalty to a Chicago baseball team, or lack thereof, is going to be taken seriously.

(And if you choose the Cubs, you have to love them even when they lose, which is a lot.)

3. Respect that Chicago is known for deep-dish pizza, but don’t eat it all the time. We don’t do that. When you do want the real deep dish experience though, go to Pequod’s or Burt’s.

4. Always order your hot dog “Chicago style.” It’ll come with yellow mustard, green relish, onions, tomato slices, pickles, sport peppers, and celery salt all served on a poppy seed bun. Don’t even think about asking for ketchup. And for the real deal, go to Gene and Jude’s in River Grove.

5. Lower Wacker Drive is your friend. You’ll hear people trash talk it, but a real Chicagoan knows if you want to get around town quickly, Lower Wacker is the key. Continue reading

20 Signs Louisiana Is The Most Underrated State In The US

Originally published by MatadorNetwork.com on April 13, 2015.

Photo: Katie Harbath flickr/KatieHarbath

Photo: Katie Harbath

1. Two words: Open container.

2. We’re too cool for counties. We do parishes.

3. We gave you Mardi Gras.

4. And Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, Ellen DeGeneres, Jared Leto, Tyler Perry, Jared Leto, Harry Connick, Jr., and did we mention JARED LETO?

5. And jazz! And Satchmo! If you even have to ask…

6. We are the Festival Capital of America with 400 festivals every year. Happy Contraband Days Pirate Festival, ya’ll.

7. We also have the Crawfish Capital of the World in Breaux Bridge — that means we’re the best at sucking heads and pinching tails. Continue reading

Chicago is “EPIC”

The city of Chicago wants you to know it’s an Epic place.  That is the theme of its latest tourism campaign to attract more visitors to this epic city.  Now that I have lived here for four years, I will say it’s a great city to visit.  So much to see and do and our shoreline is spectacular.  Spring, Summer, Fall are great times to visit Chicago.  Winter? Uhm, not so much.

10 Quirky Expressions You’ll Need In The American South

This article was originally published by Matador Network on April 8, 2015.

For more great travel articles, check out MATADOR NETWORK.

Want to be a travel writer?  Check out Matdor’s fantastic program, MATADORU.  Yours truly is a student!

  1. Photo: Daniel Foster flickr/DanielFoster

    Photo: Daniel Foster

    Southerners don’t “get angry”…they have a “hissy fit”.

Loraine threw a hissy fit when she found out Billy crashed her car.

  1. Southerners are not “very busy”…they’re “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”.

This term refers to farmers beheading chickens. The chicken still runs around like mad after it’s decapitated.

I have so much stuff to do I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

  1. Southerners don’t order a “soda”…they want a “cold drink”.

You’ll never hear the word “pop” down south, but many people will ask what kind of cold drink you want. You may also be asked what kind of Coke you want. It’s the same question.

What kind of cold drinks do ya’ll have? Continue reading

Explore The Magic of Walt Disney World

Disney WorldIn 2013, Chicago talk show “Windy City LIVE” traveled to Walt Disney World to showcase the wonder and magic that defines the U.S.’s most popular tourist attraction and destination.  Full Disclaimer: I not only work for “Windy City LIVE,” I also produced the Walt Disney World shoot for the show.  It was a great experience and many viewers said they learned so much to help them plan their next Walt Disney World vacation, so check out the segments below and start planning your trip to see Mickey & Friends today.

Part 1 – An overview of Walt Disney World plus an interview with author Jim Korkis who wrote, “The Revised Vault of Walt.”

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Budget Travel: Best-Kept Secrets of NYC

Photo:  Adriel O. Socrates

Photo: Adriel O. Socrates

BudgetTravel.com has a great article right now called, “Best-Kept Secrets of NYC from the City’s Savviest Celebs and Insiders.”  It’s all about FREE stuff to do in NYC.  As a former New Yorker, I highly recommend checking it out.

One paragraph jumped out at me:

Visitors often overlook the neighborhoods that locals love, but spending time off the beaten visitor path is the best way to experience New York City like a local. Make sure you spend time in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island before heading home. You won’t regret it! —Marty Markowitz, former Brooklyn borough president and current VP of borough engagement and promotion for NY’s tourism org, NYC & Company

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It’s Crawfish Season in Louisiana, Ya’ll!

Yes, this is what crawfish look like before they hit the pot. And it’s CRAW-fish, not CRAY-fish. That’s my niece in the background, by the way.  She’s 8.

Each Spring, Louisianians eat these seasoned critters like there’s no tomorrow.  Crawfish are caught fresh from the Gulf of Mexico and for many, it’s a weekend tradition. I traveled home to Louisiana last weekend for the family crawfish boil.  It was our pre-Easter celebration since we all won’t be together.  We had so much fun last year that we did it again.

Having a crawfish boil is more than just eating these “tiny lobsters.” It’s about coming together with family and friends, cracking open a beer and waiting for the crawdads to come out of the pot. The crawfish are not alone though. Baby potatoes, onions, garlic, ears of corn and sausage boil in the pot with them, soaking up the special Zatarain’s seasonings (that’s a blend of New Orleans spices from the Zatarain’s company).

The crawfish only boil for about 15 minutes or so, but they soak about 20-25 minutes.  Soaking allows them to soak up the spices.  Then pull them from the pot, pinch the tails and suck the heads. Although I prefer to pop open the claws and suck them instead. That doesn’t seem as gross as sucking the head.  Whatever the case, crawfish boils are a Louisiana tradition and when you come to Bayou Country in springtime, this is one tradition that should not be missed.