Saturday, November 9, 2013

Where to Drink: Happy Hour @ Five0Four Hollywood

The Drinks: Authentic New Orleans libations and eats

The Location: Hollywood

The Vibes: Outdoor, vibrant, spirited

Good for: When you’re looking for an animated ambiance to kick back a few shots/cocktails

When-To-Go: Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sat. & Sun. 11 – 2 a.m. anytime of the week; there’s tons of specials depending on the day

With-Whom-To-Go: Great for groups

The $ Factor: $; Many good deals so you won’t have to pay too much for anything

I’ll Be Back…: For more of the daiquiris in those white Styrofoam cups

One thing I absolutely love about New Orleans is how vibrant and festive the French Quarter is. It fascinates me that I can walk around with two daiquiris in my hand, at 2 a.m., along with thousands of my new-found friends and no one so much as blinks an eye.

One bar in particular that transports me back to the hustle and bustle of New Orleans is FiveOFour Hollywood, a bar that looks like it’s been picked up directly from the French Quarter and dropped right smack in the middle of Hollywood.

Aside from the authentic New Orleans décor—the wrought iron gates, hanging plants and open-air patio—FiveOFour has true authenticity when it comes to the city's food and beverages.

A must to order is at least one Daiquiri, served in NoLa’s style in Styrofoam cups, which come in many flavors that you can mix and match together. My favorite is the watermelon, pictured below.

Another one that’s quite tasty that I haven’t seen in many other places is the Bellini flavor. You can also opt to add an extra shot, as my friend did, pictured below.

I can’t forget to mention the food, which has a Southern flair, like the BBQ pork po’boy, smothered in a tangy BBQ sauce, served on a crisp French roll.

Other menu options also have their own unique identity, like the chips with three dipping sauces, pictured below. A great happy hour snack to munch on.

FiveOFour Hollywood has been going strong for the past three years, and it’s no surprise, especially when there’s literally something going on every day of the week, ranging from happy hour, $1 food specials and 2 for 1 drinks. Definitely check out the Facebook page for different specials to see what’s happening on any given day.

So the next time you find yourself longing for the joie de vivre of New Orleans but don’t necessarily want to hop on a plane to get there, I highly recommend heading to Five0Four Hollywood. Grab an infamous Daiquiri, munch on a po’boy and I guarantee you’ll feel like you’re there in no time.

See you there soon!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where To Be Merry: Totem @ Cirque du Soleil

The Merriment: Another Cirque du Soleil production

The Location: Southbay

The Vibes: Daring, intense

Good for: Nonstop entertainment, from start to finish

When-to-Go: Friday, October 11 to Sunday, November 10, 2013

With-Whom-to-Go: Dates, friends, etc.

The $ Factor: $$$ ($45+ per ticket); There are so many different ticket options to choose from, ranging from regular seats to group and corporate seats.

The 4-1-1: The Totem website has a great explanation of all of the scenes. Definitely worth reading before or after you see the show.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a weeknight show for the Cirque du Soleil’s latest production, Totem, at The Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. Having already seen two Cirque productions—Iris in 2011 and OVO in 2012—I was pretty sure that I knew what to expect: lots of daring, mind-boggling stunts that test the human ability to defy gravity, fatigue and body-bending capabilities.

And this time around, it was no different, but still so much fun to watch.

From the moment it begins, Totem grabs your attention, with “amphibians” jumping and exuding their strength and prowess on a giant “turtle.” According to its website, Totem is the story that is “a fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind.” And while I wouldn’t say that the plot precisely follows the chronological evolutionary timeline of man starting from amphibian to current smart phone junkie, it does pay nod to the various significant milestones throughout our history as humans on this earth, including contributions to science, and man’s desire to go beyond the boundaries of his home planet.

What sets Totem apart from other Cirque productions that I’ve seen is that the entire atmosphere is a little more subdued. Compared to the dazzling lights of the Hollywood & Highland Center for Iris or the striking beach background for OVO, the San Pedro port area is a lot calmer, darker and more silent. Though the atmosphere may not be as over the top, that’s not to take away from the visuals inside the chapiteau. Everything from the costumes to the lighting and the stage looked magnificent. Quite honestly, probably some of the best visuals I’ve seen. And these were some of the most daring acts that were pulled off without any sort of glitch. There was one roller skating act where a man skated on a tiny circular platform, spinning round and round and round, with a woman hanging from his neck, her body projected as a straight line in the air.

And, there were so many other acts like that, that pushed the envelop and left you wondering, “did they really just do that?!”

So yes, Totem is entertainment in its purest form. The next time you’re in the mood to be highly amused, turn off the television, get off the blogs and instead, head down to San Pedro to see Totem. But don’t wait too long; the last performance is Sunday, Nov. 10.

See you at the next show soon!

For more information:

 ** Roller skating photo taken from Totem website 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Where to Eat + Be Merry: The "Get Your Phil: Dinner & Concert" Package @ LA Phil and Participating Restaurants

The Eats + The Merriment: A multi-course, prix fixe dinner designed exclusively for LA Phil patrons and a ticket to an LA Phil concert

The Location: Downtown

The Vibes:
Upscale, mature, intimate, refined, musical, educational

Good for:
A relaxing, intimate dinner with good food and an inside glimpse into the LA Phil

When-to-Go: Friday Oct. 18, Friday Oct. 25, Friday Nov. 8 and Saturday Nov. 30

With-Whom-to-Go: Great for dates, couples, pairs of friends

The $ Factor: $$$; Dinner is $32 per person (tax and tip included) and LA Phil tickets range from $67-$75; the package must be bought through the LA Phil website

The 4-1-1: The prix fixe menu varies at each participating restaurant, and includes two, three or four courses, and sometimes desserts, tea and/or coffee. Alcoholic beverages are additional.

Last Friday, I was invited to the inaugural “Get Your Phil: Dinner & Concert” series,
held at a #WilsonsGuide favorite, CHAYA Downtown.

The LA Phil has launched the four-night series, which takes places on select nights of LA Phil performances, from 5 until 7:30pm at participating restaurants, and then at 8pm for the show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s indeed a very intimate night of dinner and classical music!

The way it works is that you start out at the restaurant, with the option to get happy hour-priced drinks. Around 5:30pm, all guests are led to a reserved dining area for a prix fixe dinner menu and a presentation from a member of the LA Phil. The entire dining experience ends just in time so that you can make the 8pm LA Phil performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

One of the best aspects of this series was the ease and intimacy of it all. Although CHAYA was pretty packed as usual, the setting for LA Phil diners was very mellow and calm. It wasn't too crowded or noisy. It’s nice to roll up to one of LA’s top restaurants for a fantastic, leisurely dinner, and then get a glimpse into what it’s like being in one of the leading orchestras of the world. And, since it was a small group, David Allen Moore, the LA Phil bass section’s 4th chair and guest speaker last Friday, was able to elaborated extensively on the music we were going to hear that night. He also gladly took questions from the audience (shout out to David for answering my question about his rehearsal regimen!).

The “Get Your Phil: Dinner & Concert” series is only happening for three more nights in October and November, including tonight. CHAYA Downtown was the first restaurant where it took place, but other participating restaurants include Leka, Border Grill and Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar, all located in the downtown area. I haven’t been to Blue Cow, but I’ve been to Leka and Border Grill, and have nothing but great things to say about both. Their prix fixe menus can be found online, on the LA Phil website.

So the next time you’re planning to see the philharmonic and are in the mood to grab dinner at one of downtown’s top-notch restaurants, I highly recommend taking advantage of this “Get Your Phil: Dinner & Concert” package before it’s too late.

See you at a dinner and performance soon!

For more information:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

And Where Do You “Where To?”: FREE Giveaway/Contest Winner

Over the weekend, I announced another giveaway for a FREE Oktoberfest Package for Two to the Oktoberfest celebration held at the Fairplex in Pomona this upcoming weekend. One lucky winner will receive all of the following, a $60–$80 value:

- Two Oktoberfest admission passes, valid any day from Thursday, Oct. 24 to Sunday Oct. 27
- Two 16 oz. beer coupons
- Two meal passes and one Oktoberfest hat

Entering the contest was easy; you just had to answer:

In the spirit of Halloween, what will your costume be?

Winner was selected randomly, and it is:

"@WilsonsGuide Halloween costume. "Sheets and Pillows". Also a good way to have people lay with you. Two people go as pillows, you, a sheet."

Hmmm...interesting costume. I'll have to see a picture of that...

Thanks to everyone who participated; I hope that each and every person has a fun—and save—Halloween. Look out for another giveaway/contest soon!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Giveaway #10: Oktoberfest Event Package for Two

Once again, I’m giving away a FREE Oktoberfest Package for Two
for the Oktoberfest celebration currently going on at the Fairplex in Pomona!

Upgraded from last year’s giveaway, one lucky winner will receive all of the following, a $60–$80 value:

- Two Oktoberfest admission passes, valid any day from Thursday, Oct. 24 to Sunday Oct. 27
- Two 16 oz. beer coupons
- Two meal passes 
- An Oktoberfest hat

Entering the contest is easy! Simply answer the following question:

In the spirit of Halloween, what will your costume be?

All answers can be left in the comment box below, emailed to or tweeted to @WilsonsGuide on Twitter.

Contest goes until Wednesday, Oct. 23, 11:59pm PDT. One lucky winner will be randomly selected and announced on the #WilsonsGuide blog on Thursday morning, Oct. 24.

Since this contest only runs for three whole days, what are you waiting for?? Hurry and enter! Can’t wait to hear your costumes, because I need some ideas!

A very big THANKS to the Fairplex at Pomona for providing the giveaway package!


· This giveaway/contest/drawing/competition is free and open to anyone over 21 years of age.

· Please note: all entries received may be potentially retweeted and/or posted on at a later date. If an entry is posted and/or retweeted, only the entrant’s first name or Twitter username will be posted in conjunction with the entry.

· Once selected, winner will be given specific instructions on how s/he will receive the free package.

· By accepting the Oktoberfest giveaway package, winner releases the Fairplex in Pomona, Wilson’s “Where To” Guide and Miss Wilson and all of their respective officers, agents and employees from any responsibility or liability in connection with the awarded prize. Winner also agrees to release the Fairplex in Pomona, Wilson’s “Where To” Guide and Miss Wilson of any injuries, losses, or damages of any kind resulting from acceptance, use, misuse, possession, or loss of the package.

· By entering this giveaway, entrants accept and agree to these rules.

*Photo courtesy of the Fairplex in Pomona 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Where To Be Merry: FREE Admission to Museums @ “LA Museum Season”

The Merriment: Book 2+ nights at a participating hotel through and receive a voucher for two FREE adult admissions and/or discounts to 30 participating museums

The Location: All throughout the Los Angeles area

The Vibes: Very diverse; there are museums on a variety of topics, from specific ethnic groups to science, nature and even automobiles. They address social and environmental issues of the past, present and future. They are housed in massive, modern buildings to quaint houses and even outdoors. Varying art periods and styles, and interests and subject matters.

Good for: Getting to know L.A.’s cultural side

When-to-Go: Monday, Oct. 7 – Sunday, Nov. 17

With-Whom-to-Go: Good for two adult admissions

The $ Factor: A $500 value, complimentary when booking 2+ nights at a participating hotel

The 4-1-1: The arts pass not only offers free museum admission; it also offers 10% - 50% discounts and complimentary gifts at select museums

Last autumn, I wrote about the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board’s inaugural “Museum LA” program, which offered two free adult admissions at 30 participating museums when booking 2+ nights at a hotel through the LA Tourism website.

I’m beyond delighted to announce that it’s happening again.

There are a few slight updates from last year. The six-week program now sports a new name—“LA Museum Season”—and two new partners—Metro and Amtrak—are onboard. But the gist remains the same: get FREE access to some of the most prominent and popular museums in Los Angeles.

A highlight for the 2013 season is that three iconic art institutions are celebrating anniversaries this year, and to commemorate the occasion, are implementing new exhibitions, permanent and temporary alike.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in South Los Angeles is celebrating its 100th anniversary with its largest exhibit yet: the 14,000-sq.-ft. Becoming Los Angeles exhibit that explores L.A.’s history, from its early days under Spanish rule, through World Wars and up until present day.

 It’s the 25th anniversary of The Autry National Center in Griffith Park (pictured to the right), so it's celebrating with the addition of three new permanent exhibits: Art of the West, Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery and Western Frontiers. They all pay homage to the inventions, art, people and landscapes that hail from the West.

And finally, one of my absolute favorites, The Getty Center, is marking its 15th anniversary perched atop the hills of Brentwood. Three new exhibitions will be launched for the remainder of the year, focusing on photography, GrecoRoman mythology influences in Western culture, and the correlation between sea travel and cultural exchanges.

Other interesting facts to note: Two museums that participated last year aren’t participating this year (LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and El Pueblo Firehouse Museum), but four new museums have been added: Art Muse Los Angeles, Battleship USS Iowa, the Chinese American Museum and the Norton Simon Museum of Art.

Here is a complete list of participating museums:

* Denotes that they provide various discounts instead of complimentary museum admission. 

So if you, or friends, family members, colleagues, etc. are in the need to book a three-day hotel stay in LA anytime from now until mid-November, make sure they do it through the LA Tourism website so that they can take advantage of visiting the city’s most attractive cultural and art institutions, and to celebrate some of their anniversaries, too.

See you at a participating museum soon!

For more information:
**Photo credit: LA Tourism for the first, second, fourth and sixth photos 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Where To Drink: Handcrafted Cocktails and Table Cocktail Service @ Warwick

The Drinks: Handcrafted cocktails and tableside cocktail service

The Location: Hollywood

The Vibes: Upscale, intimate, cozy, trendy

Good for: When you want top notch cocktails in a classy lounge setting

With-Whom-To-Go: Ideal for small and large groups

When-to-Go: Wednesdays through Saturdays, 9 p.m. – 2 a.m.

The $ Factor: $$; Handcrafted cocktails are $17; tableside cocktail service starts at $300

The 4-1-1: Opens for the first time on Saturday, October 5, 2013

I’ll Be Back…: For the Kaffir Melon Cooler, made with gin, kaffir lime, and watermelon, pomegranate and lime juices

Earlier this week, I was invited to a private preview of Warwick, the newest lounge on Sunset Blvd., in the heart of Hollywood.

With great interest, I entered a nondescript, grey building lit by a few overhead lights and marked by a massive door. Outside revealed nothing of what was beyond, which is an enticingly sexy interior that feels like “old boys’ club” meets upscale, urban loft.

And it’s all so breathtaking.

Vintage meticulously blends with modern. You see it in the paintings by Renoir, Picasso and Rembrandt—right alongside the enlarged black-and-white photos of nude models. You feel it in the comfortably worn oversized leather couches you sink into, and their adjacent sleek black tables. You sense it underneath the faint glow of soft lighting and ceiling-to-floor walls of exposed bricks…in the toasty fireplaces, and the floors made from reclaimed wood from Frank Sinatra’s home.

Warwick pours out the same amount of sophistication and class that it did in its décor as it does into its biggest selling point: its cocktail program. Instead of the typical, standard bottle service options of alcohol and a few uninterestingly bland mixers, Warwick pays homage to the handcrafted cocktail phenomenon that’s swept over L.A. these past few years through its tableside cocktail service. Move over vodka and cranberry; make room for Manhattans, mojitos and margaritas—and even Moscow Mules and Blackberry Bucks—which can be delivered to your table all night long.

Now if you really just want your drinks straight up, no frills involved, Warwick can do that as well. There’s the option to order bottles and mixers, but don’t expect just any kind of mixers. The focus is on fresh, premium ingredients, so think freshly squeezed pineapple and orange juices, bottled Mexican Cokes and ginger ale, and seasonal items from Farmer’s markets.

And the best part is, if you don’t finish your bottle for the night, they will save it for your next visit.

There are also several bars to grab handcrafted cocktails at, on
the first and second floors. Of course, I tried many, many cocktails throughout the night, including the Peach Cobbler (pictured to the right), the Coco Pina Fresca and the Kaffir Melon Cooler. I fell in love with Kaffir Melon Cooler, an exciting fusion of sweet and salty.

Now, you may be thinking what I was originally thinking; all this sounds great and amazing, but how hard is it going to be to get in this place???

Fantastic question.

Fortunately as a few of my contacts explained to me, the goal is to make all guests feel as though they’re VIPs (yeah!). So if you make reservations, you should definitely be good to get in; and if you don’t have reservations, you should still be able to easily get in, so long as the lounge hasn’t reached capacity.

Already, there’s been quite a few private events, but Warwick is still young and brand new. It’ll be interesting to see how it grows and matures within the upcoming weeks and months, and years.

So for now, the next time you’re in the mood to sip premium, high quality beverages while you’re hitting up the nightlife scene, I highly recommend Warwick. Get your drink and party on.

See you there soon!

Second photo from top - photo credit: Alen Lin

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Where to Eat: Gourmet pizzas and more @ Sammy's Woodfired Pizza

The Eats: Gourmet pizzas and more

The Location: El Segundo

The Vibes: Casual, laid-back, open, chill

With-Whom-To-Go: Great for large groups and kids

When-To-Go: Open daily starting at 11am; daily happy hour 3-6pm

The $ Factor: $; Everything a la carte is in the $8-$15 range

The 4-1-1: There are more than 18 locations in Southern California and Nevada. The original Sammy’s opened in La Jolla more than 30 years ago; the El Segundo location opened as the first LA location slightly more than two years ago.

I'll be back: For the pizzas, but also the appetizers, the salads, the entrees, the desserts, and definitely the Messy Sundae, yes, definitely that...

I’ll admit—I judge books by covers.

My downfall?

I have a thing against chain restaurants. Applying a cookie-cutter approach to a throng of establishments feels against everything my blog is about: finding those unique, one-of-a-kind, L.A. gems that can’t be duplicated.

So with some hesitation, I ventured into Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in Plaza El Segundo, mostly because the positive reviews I kept reading and reading and those tempting pictures of the Messy Sundae (more on that later) had more than sparked my curiosity enough to put aside my irrational bias towards chains to find out what made this place so special that it could not only stay in business for 30 years, but continue to expand year after year.

And thus my admiration and respect of Sammy's was born. 

The first noteworthy fact to mention is that while yes, Sammy's is a chain, each location has its own individual flair. The Studio City location is completely different than the El Segundo one, which is very laid-back, very casual and super kid-friendly. The manager explained to me that even customers’ orders differed by location…multitudes of martinis in Studio City, but never in El Segundo. Here, the cocktail of preference is the margarita, pictured below, made with agave nectar and Cointreau, and other key ingredients, like tequila, lemon and lime.

That brings me to my next point … Sammy’s cocktails are pretty decent. The ones I sampled met the three simple standards to which I hold all my cocktails: be pretty to gaze at, be tasty to sip and most importantly, do be strong. The menu of handcrafted signature cocktails balances a good dose of originality and classics, along with a versatile range of options.

But onto more important things like their namesake: the pizzas. Sammy’s uses organic flour and a woodfire oven to create little round masterpieces with their own little personalities. The crust is more on the thin side, very crispy and very light. It compliments all of the different toppings and isn't mushy or too overbearing. Check out the “LaDou’s Barbecue Chicken” and the “Prosciutto” pizzas, pictured below, respectively.

But honestly, as much as I enjoyed the pizzas, I really enjoyed everything else on the menu: the appetizers, the salads, the desserts. I cannot stress enough; Sammy’s is so much more than pizzas. They have exceptional light, California-fare, so don’t be afraid to venture out and try something amazing, like the Crab & Shrimp Dip with artichokes, served with herb-encrusted grilled flatbread, pictured below.

Or...try the Organic Kale Salad, tossed with figs, feta cheese, almonds, crisps and a pomegranate dressing. It truly bursts with fresh flavors, the perfect balance of all of its featured ingredients. Don’t wait too long though; it’s on a special Mediterranean menu that will only be at the restaurant for a limited time.

And, you absolutely cannot walk from the table without first treating yourself to the Messy Sundae. Talk about fireworks in your mouth. The crunchiness of the walnuts juxtaposed to the smooth, velvetiness of the warm chocolate and caramel sauces—all slithered on top of ice cream and underneath a mound of frothy whipped cream—is divine.

So the next time you’re in the mood not only for delicious pizza, but for light California-inspired fare that won’t leave you in a food comatose, in a chill environment, where you can kick back in your Bermudas and rock your open-toed sandals, I highly recommend heading down to Sammy’s in El Segundo.

See you there soon!

For more information:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where to Eat: Global Cuisine @ Grand Central Market

The Eats: An array of foods, products and beverages from around the world

The Location: Downtown L.A.

The Vibes: Lively, crowded, colorful, intriguing, authentic, historic

Good for: To try something new

When-To-Go: Although open daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., lunchtime is a great time to go because that's when the market is the most animated

The $ Factor: All depends on which food stand you order from

The 4-1-1:
1 hour free parking, with $10 min. purchase

I’ll Be Back…: To try one of the food vendors I haven’t tried yet 

Fresh produce, spices, specialty drinks, international dishes, a liquor store and even a jewelry stand…Chinese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine…It might be hard to believe, but all of these aforementioned items share something in common: they’re all housed in downtown’s Grand Central Market.

Proudly claiming to be Los Angeles’ oldest and largest open-air market, in business since 1917, GCM is a reflection of the many cultures that exist in L.A., a true example of why this city is arguably the most diverse city in our nation.

Weaving in and out of the stands, you’ll notice many sights, smells, sounds and tastes: the sizzling, crackling pop of pupusas being made…the butchers selecting, cutting and packaging fresh fish…frothy smoothies and boba juices being blended…decadent desserts staring at you from behind glass fixtures. Taking the time to wander and get lost within the maze of aisles upon aisles of GCM is truly a sensory delight.

For the most part, everything is reasonably priced. A well-proportioned lunch shouldn’t cost more than $10 and the prices for produce (pictured below) are well below the norm than from your typical chain grocery store. Now don’t go expecting gourmet food served up on the finest china, with crisp white linen tables and beautifully folded napkins. But what you lack in high prices and a fine dining atmosphere, you make up in originality, character and simply put, amazing out-of-the-box food options.

There’s also plenty of seating areas to choose from—both inside and outside. The hardest part will be choosing where to go and where to sit, but fortunately, you can always come back!

So the next time you find yourself interested in being immersed in LA’s cultural food scene, I highly recommend that you head to the Grand Central Market to do so. Grab lunch and also a few seasonal fruits for later.

See you there soon!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Where to Travel: One Week in São Paulo @ Brazil

A good friend of mine, Nicole and her boyfriend Tariq (both pictured above), recently spent several months living and traveling throughout in Brazil. She always had a strong desire to visit the country, so with admirable courage and a bold spirit of adventure, she quit her day job in the Bay area and headed south to turn her dreams into reality.

Although thousands of miles separated us, that most certainly didn’t stop me from incessantly nudging her to write about her travels so that I could vicariously live through her, as she jumped around from Salvador to Rio and eventually to São Paulo.

Thus, this blog post was born.

Nicole graciously shared her experiences of wandering through Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, encountering vegetarian restaurants, romantic date spots, festive parties and so much more. If you're ever wondering what Brazil is like or planning to visit in the near future and need ideas on what to see and where to go, read about Nicole's adventures in the following paragraphs. I'm ready to pack my bags and go!

From Nicole:

After two months of urban beach living in Rio de Janeiro, I was ready for another escape, this time to Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo. I headed to Sampa or SP—as the Paulistas like to call it—with my partner Tariq to conduct research interviews for the feature film we have been working on. Our plans were only to spend a few days there. But on our descent into Congonhas-São Paulo Airport, we quickly realized that a few days of work wouldn’t leave nearly enough time to experience all that this rockin’ metropolis has to offer. Good thing we only bought one-way tickets!

I like São Paulo for a number of reasons:

1 – You don’t need a car and you don’t want car. It’s true that Sampa is a concrete jungle, often difficult to walk around in without getting lost or lightheaded from the fumes of ethanol gas and cigarettes. I don’t dread public transportation, and the city’s ultra-modern and clean metro system can get you to each of its zones efficiently. Where the metro doesn’t go, buses and trains can take you. Just keep in mind the city is MASSIVE! It can take an hour to get from one side of the city to another, even on the subway! Step into a boteco (bar) and have a cerveja (beer) during hora do rush (rush hour), and forget about driving in this city unless you want to waste hours of your life in traffic.

2 – You can have a great time on a budget.
While São Paulo is Latin America’s economic powerhouse, it also is a cultural mecca. It has an incredible amount of museums, parks and cultural events happening on a daily basis, and most of them are free.

3 – More diversity, more international cuisine than any other city in Brazil!

Here are my recommendations for anyone living or visiting the city soon:

Where to Lunch/Vegetarian: Gopala Mãdhava

The Eats: A lactovegetarian restaurant; Indian-Brazilian fusion

Location: Centro (near Paulista & Consolação metro stations)

The Vibes: namaste

The $ Factor: R$18-$R30 ($9 -$15 USD)

When-to-Go: Lunchtime only

The 4-1-1: Only two three-course plate options to choose from, but the menu changes each day. Not open on Sunday. No alcohol served.

Why I’ll be back: More like a food retreat than a traditional restaurant. With items on the menu like creamy polenta with tomato sauce and artichoke, and deep-fried milk balls in rose syrup, come hungry. This food is divine, even for non-vegetarians! On your way in, help yourself to complimentary sweet ginger juice and on your way out, try the chai tea.

Where to Have the Best Date Spot: Terraço Itália

The Eats: Italian

Location: República in Centro

The Vibes: Romantic and chic, with breathtaking 360-degree views of the entire city

The $ Factor: $$

When-to-Go: 7 p.m.–later

The 4-1-1: You’ll break the bank at this $100-a-plate joint, but they also have a lounge/piano bar next door where you can enjoy the incredible views with a cocktail. The piano bar has a cover charge starting around 9 p.m.

Why I’ll be back: Soaring 40 floors above the ground, it’s the kind of place that makes you feel like you are in a James Bond movie. It’s also a popular meet-up spot for Americans and foreigners.

Where to Museum: Museu Afro Brasil

The Vibes: cultural, historic

Location: Parque Ibirapuera Portão 10 in Zona Sul

The $ Factor: Free

When-to-Go: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The 4-1-1: The museum features more than 3,000 works highlighting the cultural heritage and history of Afro-Brazilians. When you visit, take a person who speaks Portuguese with you, if you can, to help translate and explain some of the history and significance.

Why I’ll be back:
We spent three hours in the museum and still didn’t get to see the entire collection! It’s also located in Parque do Ibirapuera, the central Park of São Paulo!

Where to Nightlife: Samba Rock Party

Location: Jabaquara (centro-Zona Sul)

The Vibes: Old-school meets new-school

The $ Factor:
Cover R$5 for women, R$10 for men

The 4-1-1: Black paulistas were heavily influenced by the American soul music of the 1960s and 1970s. They combined soul with samba beats and unique dance moves to create Samba Rock. The popularity of Samba Rock continues in São Paulo with beautiful black people getting together every Saturday night and showing off their dance moves.

Why I’ll be back:
The party starts at midnight and goes on until 5 a.m.!