Free Things to do in Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara is often deemed a playground of the rich, but this doesn’t mean that this part of California doesn’t offer enough free attractions and activities for visitors of different ages. Here are some ways to enjoy it in style without breaking the bank, according to 10Best.com.

Image source: Santa Barbara Outdoors

Old Mission Santa Barbara
This structure, founded in 1786 by a Franciscan friar and with its architectural details reworked until the 1830s, is called the “Queen of the Missions” for its sheer beauty. It’s the 10th of the 21 missions built in the state, and it boasts twin bell towers and outstanding city views.

Inspiration Point
This popular hiking destination provides a scenic view of Santa Barbara coupled with an intimate look at the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands beyond. Start on Tunnel Road and venture into a 3.5-mile hike taking about one to two hours.

Santa Claus Beach
A favorite among locals, this beach is among Santa Barbara’s well-kept secrets, with its soft white sand, mild waves for a range of watersports, and array of shops and restaurants.

Carriage and Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara
Founded in 1972, this free museum is steps away from West Beach and features carriage-related art, including historical pieces. It’s open on weekdays for free and unguided tours.

Skater’s Point
Opened in 2000, this skate park is open to guests of all ages. It’s right on the beach, too!

Image source: California Beaches

Coronado Butterfly Preserve
From late October to early March, monarch butterflies migrate here to spend the winter, hanging in clumps and clusters from eucalyptus tree branches. It’s free to the public, and it showcases rich wildlife, trails, and open areas for gatherings.

Diana Wylde is a 19-year-old computer science student at Duke University who enjoys visiting Santa Barbara in CA. Read more of her writings on this page.

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Proper Sushi Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

Japanese dining has its own nuances and there are quite a number of rules for eating sushi in a traditional restaurant. There aren’t any absolute requirements besides general politeness and dining etiquette, but there are do’s and don’ts that can enrich one’s sushi experience when observed. Here are some of them, according to Thrillist.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Don’t: Use a lot of wasabi

Chefs typically grate fresh wasabi to-order on the piece of sushi. The stuff could overpower the fish’s delicacy when there’s too much.

Don’t: Get scared when the sushi chef yells in Japanese

They say “irasshaimase” really loud when customers arrive, and it’s to welcome guests and express enthusiasm about new people coming into the sushi place.

Don’t: Discount the rice

There’s a great deal of time and sushi chef skills spent on the rice, and it’s a show of one’s excellence in sushi making. Don’t let it go to waste.

Don’t: Rub chopsticks together

You likely won’t get a lot of splinters when dealing with wooden chopsticks. And it’s rude practice, meaning you believe they are giving you poor-quality chopsticks.

Do: Eat your sushi right away

Eat a piece of fish right away when the sushi chef hands it to you, as it’s when the quality is at its peak.

Do: Observe cleanliness

Trust your instinct when you see a sushi place dirty, disheveled, or cannot be bothered to keep up appearances. Imagine what they could be doing with the fish where you can’t see it being prepared.

Do: Eat sashimi with chopsticks, nigiri with your hands

Sashimi isn’t served on rice or anything on top, so eat it with chopsticks. With nigiri, turn it upside down and put it in your mouth.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Do: Wipe off your hands with the towel

It’s to get refreshed and to cleanse one’s hands, as sushi involves plenty of eating with hands.

Diana Wylde is a 19-year-old computer science student from North Carolina who loves exploring the best new sushi restaurants in town. Get updates on her Twitter page.

Sights and Sounds: Top Things to do in Solvang

Known as Little Denmark, Solvang is as scenic and beautiful as the Santa Ynez Valley in California can get. This wine country offers a roster of distinctly Danish architecture and historic attractions that one definitely shouldn’t miss.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In this Danish village, one may have a luscious taste of history by visiting Old Mission Santa Ines, a well restored Catholic Mission established in 1804. One may also tour the Wilding Art Museum, or see a performance at the Solvang Festival Theater. One may also simply admire vintage motorcycles at the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. There are further options for families with kids in tow, including the Hans Christian Andersen Park and the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art.

Indulge in authentic Danish pastries at one of the many world-famous bakeries, or stroll through the village and be in awe of old-world European architecture. Get a souvenir or two at the charming boutiques and shops, or ride the Solvang Trolley, an historic, wooden, horse-drawn street car that’s just one example of how Solvang brims with cultural heritage.

Food and wine lovers are in never in want of things to do here with the over 120 wineries and vineyards to explore near Solvang. Rusack Vineyards, for instance, is a boutique winery and vineyard producing world-class wines as it’s nestled among the oak-dotted rolling hills of Ballard Canyon. The family owned Lincourt Vineyards, too, is a wine estate tucked away in the hills between Buellton and Lompoc towns in Santa Barbara County.

Image source: SantaBarbaraCA.com

A well-planned visit to Solvang is a delight for visitors of any age and eyeing historical, art, or culinary adventures. Make it happen today.

Diana Wylde is a 19-year-old computer science student at Duke University in North Carolina, and she is keen to learn more about her family’s Danish roots. Learn more on this page.

Girl Power: Video Game Heroines I Love

I don’t always pick women characters when I play, but I will admit that seeing strong female characters in games, especially playable ones, does make me feel empowered and represented. And over the years, I’ve come to have a couple of favorites.

First off, from one of the more recent games I’ve played, is Max Caulfield from the five-episode graphic adventure game “Life is Strange.” Perhaps I love Max mostly because she’s a mostly relatable character – I don’t have the power to rewind time (yet), and because she’s a smart, creative, mature, and kind person and players can see her grow from being very self-conscious to more confident during the game.max_plays_guitar-wordpress-i

Image source: wikia.com

And there’s Samus Aran from the “Metroid” series. Admittedly, it was a big surprise when I realized Samus was a girl just like me because up to that point in my life, I was only exposed to women being saved as opposed to being the heroes of the game. Thanks to her Power Suit, Samus has enhanced strength, but she was also endowed with superhuman agility and has a strong sense of justice that makes her the perfect hero.

And then while I do realize that most people who played the epic “Final Fantasy VII” game were attached to Aerith, and I do love her, I mostly gravitated to Tifa Lockhart. For some reason, playable girl characters were typically relegated to healer or mystic roles before then but then there was Tifa, who used her fists to beat up monsters and villains. Her independence, loyalty, and bravery were inspiring to me, as were her awesome boots.

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Image source: gamefaqs.com

Other favorites of mine are the ultra-cool free-running protagonist of “Mirror’s Edge,” Faith Connor, Crash Bandicoot’s adorable, tiger-riding sister, Coco Bandicoot, and Nana, the pink-clad mountain climber from the retro game, “Ice Climber” because she’s an equal to her companion, and she has a huge mallet that she’s not afraid to use.

Hey there! I’m Diana Wylde a computer science student who’s familiar with spending hours upon hours playing video games. Check out my Google+ account to find out what I’ve been playing recently, as well as updates on my other interests.

Why Grand Theft Auto 3 is the Best Game in the Series

Okay, let’s just make one thing clear: Grand Theft Auto is really about destruction. For the most part, the series revolves around stealing cars, running away from the police, and earning as much money as you can. Each game features a different city and protagonist. The game is inherently funny, and a lot of the characters are endearing despite their more questionable life choices.

My favorite game from the series is Grand Theft Auto 3: San Andreas. Allow me to explain why.

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Image Source: takesontech.com

There is an actual story: Fine, it’s not an Earth-shattering story, but it’s good enough to keep the ball rolling and make you want to exact revenge of Tenpenny in the end. Unlike the other games that have vague storylines, GTA3 keeps you readily involved in Carl’s life. Additionally, a lot of the side stories are fun and engaging. My particular favorite was the mini storyline involving the Triads.

Best.Soundtrack.Ever: GTA3 was the first game that introduced a fully comprehensive radio list that suits everyone’s needs. When the game first came out, the top comment was that it had the best soundtrack ever. Most games have their own composer, but GTA3 made it truly like real life, with several stations to choose from, each with their own DJs, song selections, and commercials. It is arguable that while the previous GTAs had their own radio list, none were as comprehensive as GTA3.

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Image Source: tcrf.net

Grand Theft Auto 3 is quite a long game, especially if you’re interested in completing all the mini-games and submissions, but I found the entire experience to be incredibly fun and exhilarating. There is something uniquely special about GTA3 – perhaps it’s the soul or the story – but I’ve never felt the same way I did when playing the other games in the series.

My name is Diana Wylde and I love playing computer games. When I need to take a break from my games, I dream of traveling to Santa Barbara, CA, and its charming cities, Santa Maria, Goleta, and Solvang. Learn more about my interests when you subscribe to my blog.

Videogame History: Pac-Man

Lately, I’ve been having the desire to play old videogames. Aside from those that are easily available online like Space Invaders and Asteroids, I have been enjoying Pac-Man. Unlike the other two games I’ve mentioned, Pac-Man is pretty much alive in other platforms like the X-Box Live.

Image source: Backofthecerealbox.com

Like a true videogame fan, I dug up the history of Pac-Man and realized that it has been around since my parents were teenagers. I remember hearing a lot about the 80’s from my parents and this is one of the things they loved from the era. Since 1980, Pac-Man has been capturing the hearts of players fr0m Japan, to the US, to the rest of the world. Released by videogame giant Namco, the brains behind the Tekken and Soul series, Pac-Man was the front-runner of arcade games. In the 90’s it raked in approximately $2.5 billion as the highest-grossing videogame of all time.

But did you know that creator Toru Iwatani was inspired by pizza? I get his love for pie, but apparently, the two missing slices from a box resembled what would be Pac-Man’s shape. Aside from this, Popeye’s spinach-fueled strength also inspired Toru and his team for the Pac-dots. The maze and the ghost elements of the game were added to appeal to audiences other than teenage boys who spent most of their time in the arcade. The cute ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde are an annoying bunch but I have to say that they are an effective addition to the game’s fun factor. What would the game be like without these apparitions chasing our hero all around the maze?

Like Pac-Man, it’s nice to know that the games we enjoy have a legacy. It reminds me that good things take time and last long. In the meantime, I’ll go back to playing my classic videogames. See you around!

Image source: Wikimedia.org

Hi! My name is Diana Wylde and I’m a 19-year-old Computer Science student from North Carolina. I love videogames and sushi. Though my parents are Danish, I have only been to Solvang, CA, USA’s “Little Denmark”. It’s my happy place. Visit this Facebook page to know more about me.

“Warcraft” The Movie In The Eyes Of a Game Fan

All my friends know how much of a “Warcraft” addict I am. I’ve been a fan for so long, I barely remember how and when I started spending hours in front of the computer with the orcs.

Image source: blizzardwatch.com
Image source: blizzardwatch.com

But how I feel about the movie is a different story.

I waited in line to watch the film despite reports of how disappointing the plot was. I did not want the spoilers to ruin the fun for me (I won’t write much about it here in this post, I promise) so I skipped posts from Rotten Tomatoes and other movie review sites. But as I watched the movie myself, I understood where the bad reviews came from. To be honest, the movie did not bring justice to what “Warcraft” stood for.

CGI and other effects were on point. In fact, the visuals were so good, I was awake the whole movie because of what I was seeing on screen. But no matter how good the effects were, the movie just missed a lot of elements. Maybe writers tried their best to put a thick plot that would show real action between the humans and the orcs, but their efforts failed to put essence on what the story really is about. There were too many characters, but there was no one protagonist that stood out. Some of the scenes were unnecessary, too.

Image source: gamesradar.com
Image source: gamesradar.com

Maybe I just had high expectations for this first movie. I hope the sequel will be longer and put enough justification as to why the first one did not work out the way game fans wanted it to be.

I’m Diana Wylde, a huge video game enthusiast and a travel bug. I like exploring new video games and places in the Santa Barbara County, CA. Learn more about me by visiting this blog.