Saturday, May 26, 2018

Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn

Date of Visit: May 15-22, 2018

Pretty much immediately we hated this hotel and not just because we couldn't check-in when we arrived around noon and had to wait even after the normal check-in time of 3 p.m. to get a room key and then still wait 10 to 15 minutes for them to finish cleaning our room. The real thing that made us dislike this hotel immediately was that we learned it doesn't offer free breakfast, which of the nearly 100 Best Westerns I've stayed at all over the country (and China) have always had and the only reason I chose this hotel over the ones next door that were priced at $10 to $30 cheaper per night.

The room quickly added to our dislike of the hotel as the bathroom is not designed for the wheelchair to be rolled next to the toilet and, in fact, is barely large enough to even take in there.

The lack of a roll-in shower wasn't a big deal as I don't recall it specifying what kind of mobility accessible room it was when I booked. However, the location of the grab bars for the toilet was a major problem as Mik couldn't use them. I don't so much mind having to help him, but it meant that when he was worn out for the day I couldn't go do stuff on my own like usual (or at least not for long enough to really to anything).

The layout of the rest of the room was relatively spacious and reasonably easy to maneuver even the wheelchair around it. It was nice that it had a bed and a couch, although the sink's location was rather strange and would probably be awkward to annoying if you actually used the foldout aspect of the couch.

Another reason why I tend to go with Best Western is that you almost always get microwave and fridge. The fridge was rather small, but not that unexpected. The microwave worked adequately, but was rather annoying in that it was the style you turn to how long you want making it difficult to accurately select the desired time. The Keurig was probably the only good feature here, though.

Overall there just really isn't anything that makes it worth staying at this hotel, especially considering it was more expensive than the nearby hotels that are probably just as good if not better and slightly closer to Hollywood Blvd. We were particularly annoyed that most days we had to go without getting our room cleaned because they never got to our room before 2:30 p.m. or even 3 p.m. some days. At least the internet was decent except for the one afternoon it was out, but that was understandable as the cable company was there working on it. As for TV, it's standard def, which would've been fine if it hadn't also kept freezing for 10 to 30 seconds every 5 to 10 minutes.

Destination Info:
Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn
2011 N Highland Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90068

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hollywood Museum

Date of Visit: May 20, 2018

The Hollywood Museum was by far our favorite museum of the trip (We also think the Hollywood Heritage Museum might have been a favorite of ours, but it ended up not being open when we tried to go on Saturday). It was interesting in that it was in the historic Max Factor building and contained some of the history related to the makeup on the first floor. The museum also has a wide variety of props and memorabilia from various movies.

The main entrance to the Hollywood Museum has steps, but they have a lift to get up into the museum lobby if you enter through the diner next door. Also, the diner doors have a button to open them.

We spent the most time on the first floor of the museum. Here there are four different color rooms designed for makeup consultation for different hair/skin types. The doorways for some of these were barely wide enough to get Mik's wheelchair into and we actually had to backtrack through the blond one when we found we couldn't get out the other door of the brunette one. It's understandable, though, as these are originally from the 1930s and the part of the museum dedicated to the buildings historic usage.

To access the other levels of the museum you a staff member has to operate the freight elevator for you. The freight elevator is kept on the first floor as it is actually part of the exhibit space with an Eiffel Tower prop and Moulin Rouge playing on a big screen. Once we notified them we were ready to go up, the staff member took us up to the third level and then came back for us after 15 to 30 minutes to move on to the next level until finishing back on the first floor and operating the lift to exit back out through the diner.

The highlight of the third floor is an exhibit on the original Batman TV series. There is also an exhibit on the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars. This floor also seemed to have the most TVs playing parts from the movie/show related to the costumes/props on display.

Mik's favorite part of the museum was the Harry Potter wands on the second floor. The second floor also had a large Mouseketeer/Annette Funicello display.

The final level of the museum was the basement, which is dedicated to horror movies. We didn't much care for this level since it isn't a genre we have watched much of, so didn't really know any of the movies/shows represented. However, while waiting for the freight elevator, we did find the documentary about one director that was playing interesting.

Overall we found the Hollywood Museum to be a great museum representing a good variety of shows and movies both old and more recent. The layout is also pretty well done to navigate through, although there were a few parts that Mik couldn't get to on the third floor because the exhibit stuff was too close together. The freight elevator was actually pretty interesting, too, as when it was the Max Factor building the trucks would be driven into it and taken up to be loaded with product.

Destination Info:
Hollywood Museum
1660 N Highland Ave
Hollywood, CA 90028

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Madame Tussaud's Hollywood

Date of Visit: May 18, 2018

We had kind of higher expectations for Madame Tussaud's than the Hollywood Wax Museum, which may be why we ended up liking it less, but really it came down to it just not having many figures of interest to us. Also, Madame Tussaud's D.C. is just way better in terms of interactive things along with figures that we were more interested in.

For everyone, the visit starts with an elevator ride to the third floor. Then there are stairs (or you use another elevator, which has a fun mural) to go down floor by floor.

The signage is pretty good, but the lady that scanned the tickets also clearly explained how to navigate through the museum (not just for us, but in our case explained about the elevators instead of the stairs). This especially was helpful in that she told us you have to backtrack at the end of the second floor exhibit as the sign by the stairs tells you to go through double doors, but those were locked.

Since we skipped the stairs, we also almost skipped my favorite part, which was the little display about the history of Madame Tussaud's at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor (go down the hall to the left after getting off the elevator on G-R).

Mik's favorite area was the one featuring figures from action movies such as Jackie Chan, James Bond, Spiderman, and The Hunger Games.

Overall we like the layout of Madame Tussaud's being more open than the Hollywood Wax Museum and thus better for navigating. However, there really isn't more here and the figures and props at the Hollywood Wax Museum were more fun.

Destination Info:
Madame Tussauds
6933 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Hollywood

Date of Visit: May 17, 2018

Ripley's Believe It or Not! was probably my favorite of the three museums that are part of the combo ticket. Mik also enjoyed it, but not quite as much as the Hollywood Wax Museum. He did like that there were a lot of actual items along with information about them, but it was kind of overwhelming and a lot to take all in at once.

The Ripley's Belive It or Not! has two levels. The ticket taker immediately told us to tell him when we were ready to go downstairs so he could show us how to use the lift. It is pretty much also explained on the wall with the buttons right by the stairs, but it was helpful to know.

Downstairs we enjoyed wandering through the exhibits including seeing some of the Brown Derby portraits. Mik's favorite was the Minas Tirith Matchstick Model.

The downstairs part ends back at the stairs. There is a gate to open in the railing to go back to the lift. Just remember that you hold down the down button to get the lift and not up like you would call an elevator to go up. Once back at the top, there is a gate in the stair railing to continue on with the upstairs part of the museum.

The upstairs area was actually our overall favorite part. One of the most interesting parts is how they kept the bank vault entrance from the buildings previous use. Mik also liked the part of the Berlin Wall on display.

Destination Info:
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
6780 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

Guinness World Records Museum

Date of Visit: May 17, 2018

The Guinness World Records Museum was the museum Mik was most excited about seeing. Unfortunately, it ended up being the worst of the three that are part of the combo ticket. I think it mainly was disappointing in that it is just walls and walls of information with very few items on display to go with them.

One of the few interesting parts was the weigh yourself to compare to the heaviest man and that was only because the other day Mik was telling me he weighs 130 pounds and I couldn't believe that was true, especially since he clearly made it up as he hasn't been weighed in at least 5 years. Accounting for it being tared at 76 and not 0 it seems quite accurate as I know my weight. Not sure what his wheelchair weighs (and the stuff in the backpack probably added a few pounds), but it seems his 130 estimate may not be that far off.

Of course, since they had facts about elevators in the elevator, that was our favorite part, which reminded us that one of these days we really need to put our mental list of favorite elevators down as a real list.

The pop quiz game looked like it would be fun, but it ended up being very disappointing. The main problem was that the questions were put up on the screens and you didn't have much time to answer them on the screen in front of you. It would've been fine if it read the questions aloud or perhaps even if you could just look at the one screen. Also, Mik had trouble with the touch responsiveness of his screen.

What really made us not like the museum is that when you get to the end of the second floor exhibit an arrow points downstairs that the museum continues and nothing tells you how to continue via the elevator. We ended up just taking the elevator down and exiting the way we entered the museum, but we feel like maybe we missed part of the museum, especially after doing Ripley's, which had a decent amount after the final stairs (its signage wasn't much better, but its layout made it reasonably obvious how to continue if you didn't use the stairs).

Destination Info:
Guinness World Records Museum
6764 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

Hollywood Wax Museum

Date of Visit: May 17, 2018

The Hollywood Wax Museum was one of the things we planned for Hollywood that Mik was most interested in and it didn't disappoint him. It was particularly enjoyable in that we went when it first opened and were the only ones there.

The museum does have some almost too steep ramped parts as you go through it (and one tight fit hallway by the Ninja Turtles), but overall it is nicely laid out. We especially appreciated its one level design after visiting the other two museums that are part of the combo ticket.

Mik enjoyed posing with several figures, especially with the weight props.

Our favorite was Nicolas Cage in his National Treasure role.

Mik also loved that there was a figure of Indiana Jones.

Destination Info:
Hollywood Wax Museum
6767 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

Thursday, May 17, 2018

El Capitan Theatre

Date of Visit: May 16, 2018

I've wanted to see a movie at El Capitan for awhile and we even planned to see one (I think I even bought tickets) back when we used to have Disneyland annual passes and visited several times a year, but instead decided to do an extra day at Disneyland. This year we decided to finally just do Hollywood (and maybe also Disneyland later as its own trip) and, in particular, finally see a movie at El Capitan. Mik wasn't sure he'd go for just whatever was currently playing, but it worked out that we planned our trip while a movie (Avengers: Infinity War) he was actually going to see in the theater anyways was playing.

Mik really enjoyed how there were props and costumes from the movie to set the atmosphere including the Infinity Gauntlet in the lobby by the concession stand and costumes on the balcony in the theatre.

However, there were even more in a small exhibit downstairs by the bathrooms that he missed out on because I'm pretty sure there's no elevator down to it.

The wheelchair seating was somewhat disappointing. The fact there are only two areas in the back isn't bad considering it's an old theatre. However, online when you select seats it makes it seem like there are spots for two wheelchairs with one companion each per area. However, in reality, there are four seats in each area and only enough room for one wheelchair to go in between the two sets of seats. The seats can be moved, so I guess you could put more than one wheelchair, but then the companions wouldn't necessarily be able to sit next to them. Also, Mik didn't like that the seats are not in the middle of the theatre, but really the view was just fine.

I purchased the VIP tickets, which were only $10 more and included popcorn in a souvenir bucket and a bottled soda. Mik says next time he would just buy the ticket and food separately. Not that it's a bad deal, but the concession stand has other things he would've gotten instead if we hadn't done the VIP tickets, especially since he ended up not really liking the popcorn.

Overall we enjoyed the experience of seeing a movie at the El Capitan Theatre. If we ever did do Hollywood again, which we really don't think we will as it seems like a do it once kind of thing, we probably would only do this theatre again if it was something Mik was really into seeing as he doesn't think he would've enjoyed the experience at all if it hadn't been a movie he was really interested in.

Destination Info:
El Capitan Theatre
6838 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Disney Studio Store

Date of Visit: May 15, 2018

We've been here twice before, but the last time was probably something like 2010 and it was still the Disney Soda Fountain (or something like that). We knew it wasn't the same now that it became a Ghirardelli's and didn't plan to go, but it ended up being a convenient place for a snack when we had to kill time waiting for our hotel room to be ready.

Overall it's still a great place for ice cream, but it's sad there's no longer the giant Sorcerer sundae even though we wouldn't have gotten it this time. Also, the tables were difficult for Mik to really roll up close to, although I don't remember if that was or was not a problem in its old layout.

Destination Info:
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Disney Studio Store
6834 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Monday, April 2, 2018

National Museum of American History: Cultivating America's Gardens

Date of Visit: April 1, 2018

Since we had about half an hour before seeing America's Musical Journeys, we checked out the exhibits on the first floor, which includes several that are temporary exhibit spaces that had changed since our last visit. In particular, we enjoyed the "Cultivating America's Gardens" exhibit, which I had forgot all about wanting to check otu.

This exhibit is the current one in the Smithsonian Library Gallery, which has been my favorite temporary exhibit space since we saw the "Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910" exhibit back in 2015. I just love how they use mainly books as the artifacts to give thematic history even when it's not really even so specifically about books like the science fiction one was.

Destination Info:
National Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington DC

Metro Accessibility Note: Closest metro station is Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver). Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) is often also recommended as nearby for this museum and if you take the escalator exit it probably is closer or same distance as Federal Triangle, but the elevator is several blocks further, so Federal Triangle is definitely closest if you are exiting Metro via elevator. We used to just use Archives (Yellow/Green) since it was a shorter train ride for us to take Yellow instead of Blue into D.C. and it's only a little more walking. Now that we live in the District, though, we just walk since it's free as well as usually faster.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

National Museum of American History: Warner Bros. Theater

Date of Visit: April 1, 2018

I had been wanting to see America's Musical Journeys movie for over a month and we originally planned to see it at the Air & Space Museum since it is closer to home, but we took too long to get around to seeing it there. Thus, we decided we better go see it at the American History before it stops playing here as well.

Before this movie, we didn't even know this museum had an IMAX. Well, it turns out that, in fact, they don't despite it clearly saying IMAX 3D Showtimes right on the movie page. Thus, we were kind of disappointed as soon as we got in the theater.

However, the theater actually is good. In particular, Mik enjoyed how they had a place for wheelchairs at both ends of two rows about half way down (there's also spots at the back). It was just disappointing that we expected a huge IMAX screen and it was smaller than most movie theaters.  Plus, it costs the same as the Smithsonian's actual IMAX showings.

We both enjoyed the actual movie. The musical journey through the U.S. as Aloe Blaac went on tour and showcasing different genres and their development was interesting and well done. Unfortunately, the 3D and visuals were not so good, but we think that was mostly due to it being meant as an IMAX movie and it didn't translate well to a smaller screen. Also, there was light (green exit sign, I think) coming from behind us that caused a glare in my glasses. Basically, we learned our lesson to just go right away when something comes to the real IMAX at the Air & Space and not go here unless it is a non-3D movie.

Destination Info:
National Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington DC

Metro Accessibility Note: Closest metro station is Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver). Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) is often also recommended as nearby for this museum and if you take the escalator exit it probably is closer or same distance as Federal Triangle, but the elevator is several blocks further, so Federal Triangle is definitely closest if you are exiting Metro via elevator. We used to just use Archives (Yellow/Green) since it was a shorter train ride for us to take Yellow instead of Blue into D.C. and it's only a little more walking. Now that we live in the District, though, we just walk since it's free as well as usually faster.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Royal Farms Arena: Blake Shelton w/ Carly Pearce, Brett Eldredge, and Trace Adkins

Date of Visit: March 16, 2018

Seeing a Blake Shelton concert is something Mik has been wanting to do for awhile, especially when the County Music Freaks tour was announced with openers he particularly liked. Because the ticket buying process is totally messed up at least for Royal Farms Arena, it was almost another one of his tours we were going to skip hoping eventually he'd play a reasonable venue nearby (or actually just go somewhere farther from home).

The main thing that made me annoyed with Royal Farms Arena is that they don't allow you to buy accessible tickets during presale. This in itself doesn't bother me, but then when they go on sale for everyone you cannot buy them online. In general, it really wasn't that difficult to call when they went on sale other than the phone number didn't open on time and the person had trouble understanding that my card was a Visa and thus kept failing to make the charge go through. It also is annoying that if you bought tickets online you got a free digital copy of Blake's latest CD and the way they handle accessible seating means you miss the special offer and it's a deal I've seen offered for several tours visiting Royal Farms Arena.

I really tried to give the venue the benefit of the doubt and that it wasn't going to be as bad as all the reviews make it sound. To some extent, it really isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Mainly, it's just a really old venue and it's age shows including that it seems there are only two sections with wheelchair accessible seats at the top on each side of the stage area (i.e. four total sections). However, what really made us frustrated with the venue right away was that we tried to enter from the first side entrance we came across the lady went as far as letting us in the door and almost scanning our tickets before realizing that the steps right behind her might be a problem (I wouldn't give the tickets because I saw steps and wanted to know if there was a ramp if we came in that way) and had to ask several people before someone finally pointed out that we had to go around to the Baltimore Street entrance to get in.

Once at the correct entrance the staff was good including being very patient with me having trouble getting the backpack off Mik's chair to be searched. The usher for our section was also good.

We sat in section 103. Overall it was good and at least probably the best wheelchair accessible section (or at least as good as the one across from it). However, I was rather disappointed in that when I bought the tickets the lady made it seem like I was buying tickets for right in front of the stage. I mean, I knew it wasn't true as in we didn't have floor seats and the sections were going to be raised, but she really made it sound like it was at the front of the section and not at the top, although I kind of knew it was based on the seating charts on the arena's website. I guess what she really meant by close to stage was I was purchasing the closest possible wheelchair accessible seats.

Initially, it seemed like the view of the stage would end up being a problem because of people standing in the row in front of us. Luckily, it seems that they may not actually seel this row except as companion seats for the wheelchair row (we actually had one ticket in that row, which thankfully they didn't end up having to use because we actually had seats for opposite ends of the row). Thus, the row only had a few people. Also, the people in front quickly realized they were blocking the view and were good at staying aware to not block our view.

For the most part, the view of the stage and performance was pretty good, but the stage is set up so you mostly are getting a side view and while the openers, especially Carly Pearce, actually did pretty good at also performing to the sides Blake and especially Trace didn't as much. Because of this, it seems the farther away accessible section might have actually been preferable because the angle would've allowed you to see the stage front on, although I still think the closeness to the stage and not needing to look up the screens to really see the artists was still probably better.

Overall Mom and Mik were glad we saw this concert, but I doubt we will ever go to Royal Farms Arena again. I will admit the main reason I wish we didn't go to this concert was that after I had purchased the tickets it was announced the Oak Ridge Boys were playing The Birchmere the same night and they're like my favorite to see in concert and The Birchmere is our favorite concert venue. However, I also was disappointed in that the sound quality and really I am not the type to really notice that kind of thing except Mom and I saw Blake when he played Wrigley Field and that just was way better. Also, that tour was just plain the best ever because of Neal McCoy and not just because he's my fav entertainer, but because of how they set it up to have him perform while they did the stage changeover between sets was just the best concept ever.

Destination Info:
Royal Farms Arena
201 W. Baltimore St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

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