Experience Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island rich in history, culture, friendly people… and we can’t forget delicious cuisine! If you are unsure what to expect or contemplating whether you should visit the island (since the destruction from hurricane Maria) than read on! My answer is simply – YES! Here are my reasons why and what you can expect.

Support

Many parts of Puerto Rico were without electricity, water, food and other supplies when hurricane Maria made a direct hit on the island September 20, 2017. With slow federal response the island is doing its best to go back to normal. Our tourism helps the island tremendously. When speaking with many of the locals they want all of us to know that Puerto Rico is still a beautiful island open to tourists. Many of the popular tourists locations such as Old San Juan are in great shape and ready for your arrival.

No Passport needed!

For some this is not a big deal as you may already have one. However, when traveling with a large family buying passports in addition to vacation expense can cost you a hefty penny. Once everyone has their passports the world is your oyster. But, if are anxious to travel somewhere exotic and tropical in the meantime visit our beautiful islands that are part of the United States; Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hawaii.

 

Plane tickets & Car rental

Our tickets were a reasonably priced roundtrip for about $300 in January. Not bad at all to visit paradise. There are some tips you can follow to find the best days and times when to purchase tickets by reading my previous article Travel tips for the SMART consumer Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is one of largest airports in Puerto and most closest to the popular city Old San Juan. The airport was clean and well organized.

car

Other important takeaways:

If you arrive after 10:30 pm the airport was pretty empty. You can expect most of the restaurants and bars within the airport to be closed as well. No worries though! There will be plenty of delicious places open when you leave the airport to start you on your adventure!

The car rental kiosk at the airport closes at midnight. There is also only one kiosk open for renting with all companies that time of night. Renting a car is the same process and same companies that you find here in the United States (Enterprise, Hertz, Budget).Your current auto insurance policy with full coverage should cover you while in Puerto Rico. The roads and highways looked no different than your typical drive in the United States. There were a few toll roads depending on what part of Puerto Rico you are visiting. In some areas you could definitely see the devastation from the hurricane, but overall the roads were safe to drive on.

Puerto Rico does offer ride sharing if you decide not to rent a car. Unsure about the parking,  we caught an Uber a few times when heading into Old San Juan. Our Uber drivers were friendly and very knowledgeable. It was interesting listening to how they and their families survived hurricane Maria and how they were doing today with the recovery. Each driver we had said they were thankful for people visiting the island. Every bit helps including our tourism! (By the way there were a few large paid parking garages in Old San Juan)

Where to stay?

Most hotels will cost you $220 a night and up depending on what you are looking for. We decided to book our stay with Book VIP and stayed at the nearby beautiful Wyndham Hotel. However, if I could go back in time I would have decided to stay in an Airbnb in Old San Juan. For the same price you can stay in the city near all the action of night life, restaurants and have a local experience in beautiful architecture.

dorado

If you would like to splurge and experience a true island resort type of stay I highly recommend The Ritz Carlton in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Located on a beautiful golf course and beach, this resort is very top notch and exclusive. You can also purchase real estate or stay in a beautiful villa.

Cuisine

monfongo

Coming from someone who does not eat pork or beef, my Puerto Rican food was still delicious! The islands most popular dish Mofongo (typically made with fried green plantains) is mashed together in a pilon which consists of a wooden mortar and pestle, with broth, garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings or bits of bacon. It can also be made vegetarian with carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. I also had a delicious chicken dish paired with homemade hot and fruity hot sauce. Just devine!

Hanging Out

We woke up early to Uber into Old San Juan. We were told on the weekends go into  town early enough before the cruise ships come in. Our first stop was finding a coffee shop to enjoy the islands espresso with a hint of Grand Manier. Eager to get out of a warm rainforest down pour, we stumbled upon Café Berlin. Café Berline was  perfect! Great espresso, beautiful décor, vegetarian dishes, and very friendly staff.

After we left Café Berlin it was still raining so we stepped into one of the local mom and pop shops to purchase a durable umbrella for only $5! We step out onto the cobble stone lined streets to explore Old San Juan. Here were some of our favorite places:

 

haitian

Haitian Gallery

367 Calle Fortaleza

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

A must see for beautiful, unique art for well over 30 years. Don’t forget to venture upstairs for more.

cigar

The Cigar House of Puerto Rico

257 Calle Fortaleza

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Purchase cigars or chillax in the beautiful cigar room. Enjoy full concierge service which includes a backroom tour of the most exquisite cigars. Enjoy a cognac at the table while you blow one back.

umbrella

The Colorful Umbrellas

Fortaleza Street

Beautifully colored umbrellas decorate the sky of this popular street.

 

pigeons

Pigeon Park “The Parque de las Palomas” (Bird Watching area)

Calle de Tetuan, San Juan Puerto Rico 00901

Whoever thought you could find such peace sitting amongst birds?

 

monastary

The Monastery Art Hotel & Suites

250 Calle de Cristo

San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

One of the most beautiful places to stay in the Old San Juan District. Close to nightlife,

monuments and museums.

lady pizza

Bari Handcrafted Pizza

Calle del Cristo #154

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Delicious oven baked pizza (try the artichoke heart!). Beautiful open garden setting, delicious espresso, music (Bob Marley was playing!), friendly staff.

 

names

Los Yeyos la Casa del Mofongo

353 Calle San Francisco

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Great tiny bar that serves great food and best Mofongo on the Island. Be sure to write your name on the wall in marker before you go!

 

fort2

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

501 Calle Norzagarary

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

A Historical landmark citadel from the 16th century named in honor of King Phillip II from Spain. Bring your walking shoes to explore this beautiful site.

San Juan has so many beautiful things to see and do. This is the type of place where you don’t necessarily have to plan. On a typical weeknight you could hear and see live music playing in the streets. Enjoy!

mom

If you would like help planning your next relaxing vacation try travel designer www.travelroute365.com

Want to plan it all yourself? We like Book VIP

 

 

 

 

Free Family Event: A Harp Quartet, Coloring and Cocktails

I live for finding free family events for my family. And when the event includes an opportunity for a musical exposure – the better!

LES DELICIES

The group Les Delices, directed by Debra Nagy performed at the Cleveland Bop Stop to an audience of children aged 5 to 12. Monthly, the Cleveland Bop Stop offers several musical events for children during the day. By night they are a full fledged jazz club where every cocktail purchased goes towards funding their musical education department.

ANGELS
Angelic harp coloring sheets

 

The setting for the event included several small round tables outlining the stage. On each table were unique coloring sheets that included a few pictures of the Harp’s past history: The Pharaoh, and angelic angles. While we colored Les Delices (a quartet of piccolo, violin, cello and harp) played several delightful songs including a silly story of the mouse and the frog led by vocalist Debra Nagy.

PERFORM
Les Delices performing at the Bop Stop

 

Should you find yourselves thirsty or hungry during these events, the Bop Stop offers a small appetizer menu such as ranch popcorn and flatbread pizza to name a few. Parents can sip on wine, beer, and other cocktail favorites.

To our surprise, we were pleased to find out Les Delices gives free family musical events and paid performances throughout the year! If you would like to go to one of Les Delices events, or visit The Bop Stop for a family/adult jazz event, check out the links below for more information:

View Les Delices live performance here:

Les Delices: http://www.lesdelices.org/outreach/

The Bop Stop Calendar: https://www.themusicsettlement.org/calendar

outside
Outside the Bop Stop

Local Guide: Top 5 Events to Visit in Cleveland with Kids this Holiday Season

Kid tested…mother approved!

1. Crocker Park Christmas Tree Lighting- Westlake, Ohio

CRO

Enjoy decked out holiday shopping in this open air shopping center. Each year Crocker Park comes alive with their annual Christmas tree and lighting countdown. Eat at popular restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory and the Yard House. You can walk the plaza while the kids drink warm hot cocoa cooled with vanilla ice-cream from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Invite family and friends to experience their new outdoor ice-skating rink that opens on November 18th. Top the tiresome evening off with a movie and a stay at the beautiful Hyatt Regency within the center.

 

2. Snow Tubing – Boston Mills Brandywine, Boston Heights, Ohio

BOSTON MILLS

This wintertime activity is safe and enjoyable for family members 3 and up! For only $25 per person, grab a snow-tube (no worries, you get a nice lift up the hill) and slide down the best hills ever! If your family is feeling extra adventurous, enjoy sliding down the hills at night too. Afterwards, enjoy a small snack bar which does carry hot cocoa.

3. Coventry Village Holiday Festival – Cleveland Heights, Ohio

COVENTRY

This eclectic, hippie, earthy street is known for its love of nostalgia. A trip to Coventry Village is great anytime of year, and the Christmas theme just adds to the fun. Among shopping at the cool unique shops such as Big Fun, and City Buddha, Coventry sets out a money machine (fake money can be used at stores on Coventry only)!

The B-Side Liquor Lounge turns into a kids only club for the afternoon. Kids can dance with a DJ and sing to Frozen (among other kid favorites) on the Karaoke machine. Other activities include photos with Santa at Piccadilly Vegan Ice Cream, and a throwback movie. Grab a selfie with Rudolph, The Grinch, and Frosty!

Enjoy great eating at Tommy’s Restaurant who is know for their great handmade milkshakes, handmade french fries, and huge vegetarian selections.

4. Winter Lights Lantern Holiday Circlefest and GLOW – Cleveland Museum of Art & Botanical Gardens

ART MUSEUM

Known as one of the top art museums in the country, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens creates a beautiful “Glow” theme on its lawn during the Christmas holiday. Admire beautifully glowing art pieces on the lawn. Throw on those ice skates and don’t fall eating freshly made kettle corn from the local vendors. Come early before the Museum’s annual artsy night parade to enjoy a craft. Watch chefs prepare you an exquisite dish in the cafe, or snack on fresh baked cookies along with a glass of wine or champagne. Of course, there will be plenty of hot chocolate. Best of all – entry into the art museum is FREE!

5. Light Up Lakewood! Lakewood, Ohio

LAKEWOOD

Usually happening on the first weekend in December, this outdoor walk around festival caters to both the very young and old at heart. This annual event is full of plenty of activities for the kids such as Santa pictures and crafts in the library (come early enough to grab a number to meet him!). Eat at the nationally known, Cleveland born restaurant Melt Bar and Grilled for fantastic grilled cheese and beer. Grab glow sticks and free hot cocoa while you pass people dressed as Star Wars and other characters on the street (was that just a black Santa Claus? YEP!). Don’t forget to stay for the night parade and tree lightning. Did I happen to say that a DJ spins the tunes while you’re taking this all in?