Vintage Signage Post: Merrill Motel & The Polar Bear

I’ve been a longtime fan of old signs. I think they’re so much more interesting than today’s common backlit box signs. They’re more expensive, but are a great detail for any business.

Driving around Southern California there are still a lot of cool old signs around, although they are being torn down on the regular. I lost all my old pictures on my last computer (an expensive and sad lesson learned about the values of external hard drives) so I often bring my camera with me to recapture old faves and stop whenever I come across new-to-me vintage gems.

Over the Summer I took a trip up in the PNW where we passed through many interesting towns. One of them was Merrill, Oregon. I loved the look of a small motel and diner.

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This sign is a bit more contemporary than what I usually stop for, but I loved the wooden “welcome” sign underneath the motel sign.

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Just off the road are the rooms– I don’t know if it is just these 3, but I love their shade covering; it has a little Googie vibe.

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Then just down the road we came upon the Polar Bear. It looked like an awesome classic diner.

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Their neon sign has some deco details and I thought the painted windows were pretty cute!

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Their burger & fries sign with arrow may have seen better days, but it has the patina of classic advertising. Both businesses were pleasant surprises to the vintage traveler out on the road.

Retro Building Revamp on Whittier Blvd.

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In 2015, Friendly Hills Bowl on Whittier Blvd. closed its doors. It had been a staple in Whittier for many years and I was concerned about losing the awesome “Googie” architecture on the famous street. Last Fall, Aldi supermarket and BevMo opened their doors on the property and I was happy to see they worked in some of the vintage elements from the original property.

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This sign once read “BOWL” with purple diamonds. I was so excited to see that they reworked the signage.

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You can see the stone wall and strong lines on the roof– these were all from the bowling alley.

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I shot these in October when BevMo had just opened and Aldi was nearly open. You can see the “Friendly Hills” sign which is original design but with updated color. The diamonds below used to read “bowl”– I love that signage from the bowling alley was still able to be used.

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LOVE IT!

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This image is from the Whittier Daily News site and you can see the original “bowl” signage before it was redone. The link to the story is here.

Vintage Signage Post: Sno-Flake Drive In

I’ve been a longtime fan of old signs. I think they’re so much more interesting than today’s common backlit box signs. They’re more expensive, but are a great detail for any business.
Driving around Southern California there are still a lot of cool old signs around, although they are being torn down on the regular. I lost all my old pictures on my last computer (an expensive and sad lesson learned about the values of external hard drives) so I often bring my camera with me to recapture old faves and stop whenever I come across new-to-me vintage gems.
I came across Sno-Flake Drive-in in the Lake Tahoe area over the summer. I’m a big fan of old burger joints anyway so when they have retained their vintage vibe it’s even better.

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Unfortunately it was too early in the morning to get a milkshake when I took these pics, but hopefully I’ll visit again to try them out and admire their sign. I love the detail in the ice cream and the little snowflakes.

Did you know that January 4th is National Trivia Day? To keep on the milkshake theme– did you know that they are called “cabinets” in Rhode Island? But these shakes do not include ice cream. Thanks to Aviva Trivia for having a trivia page on milkshakes!

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Vintage Signage Post: Trade Winds

I’ve been a longtime fan of old signs. I think they’re so much more interesting than today’s common backlit box signs. They’re more expensive, but are a great detail for any business.
Driving around Southern California there are still a lot of cool old signs around, although they are being torn down on the regular. I lost all my old pictures on my last computer (an expensive and sad lesson learned about the values of external hard drives) so I often bring my camera with me to recapture old faves and stop whenever I come across new-to-me vintage gems.

This is the Trade Winds Motel. Found in a very busy area just off the freeway in Long Beach, you’ll come across it if you’re cruising down Carson to get to the LB flea. It’s across from a giant shopping center, so it may be easier to park across the street and shoot from there.

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I think it’s interesting that the “MOTEL” sign is what is so large and can be seen from driving by. It’s not until you’re close that you actually see the name. The star accents and minty color makes it an old favorite.

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Between the insane number of wires strung on the street and building and the giant strip mall sign behind it, I wasn’t able to find an angle with a perfectly clear view. But hey, this is what it looks like. Maybe some day I’ll learn photoshop and figure out how to edit out phone lines.

Vintage Signage Post: Doll Hut

I’ve been a longtime fan of old signs. I think they’re so much more interesting than today’s common backlit box signs. They’re more expensive, but are a great detail for any business.
Driving around Southern California there are still a lot of cool old signs around, although they are being torn down on the regular. I lost all my old pictures on my last computer (an expensive and sad lesson learned about the values of external hard drives) so I often bring my camera with me to recapture old faves and stop whenever I come across new-to-me vintage gems.
I came across the Doll Hut sign after leaving Disneyland and cutting through cross streets to hit up a local thrift shop. It’s situated on this little caul-de-sac that looks more industrial than dive bar.

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I looked it up online and it turns out it’s a bar & venue for bands– not all that far from Chain Reaction if you’re a concert goer in Anaheim. I love the house graphics on the sign; the roof and window are fantastic. I haven’t seen it at night so I don’t know if the neon is still working.

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This is my first “signage” post, but I have many local sign photos and am always on the lookout for new ones, so check back for more in the future!

A Trip to Universal Studios Orlando! (Part 2)

Hello! This post is going to cover some photos and information on the Diagon Alley section of Universal Studios Orlando. I have a previous post with non-HP spots to check out if you scroll down.

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After a fun morning of walking around the park (and hiding during a rainstorm for a half hour), we finally arrived at Diagon Alley! I had re-watched the films before visiting and was so impressed by the attention to detail. Before actually entering the area, you will see some familiar landmarks such a Kings Cross station as well as a tall bus that sure looks familiar!

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(as fun as the bus looks, it is gated up and you cannot enter. I shot this through the back door gate.)

There is an unassuming brick wall with a walkway and when you walk through– you’ve arrived at Diagon Alley!!

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It is a bit overwhelming, so give yourself time to enjoy all the nooks and crannies of this new world. There are many shops that have items the characters would buy, like: quidditch supplies, wands, etc.

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Display in quidditch shop.

One of the funnest (and most crowded!) shops is Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. You will feel like you walked into the movies.

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There are many shops to check out– pack your patience because it seemed to only get more crowded as the day went on.

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For lunch, we ate at the Leaky Cauldron. It was very tasty and had a casual bench and table seating indoor. If you happen to be at the park in the middle of a rain front, this is definitely a nice spot to dry off and eat. Also– my mom loved that they served a traditional “scotch egg” which you don’t often find on menu’s.

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One of the many incredible signs inside Diagon Alley. I could’ve spent another hour checking out all the signage and window displays.

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Inside of the Leaky Cauldron. It was a pleasant spot for a sit-down lunch.

Diagon Alley also has beautiful statues that look centuries old and tie back to the films– I loved these especially. *TIP– if you plan to purchase a wand, do it at the beginning of your walk through the area as there are many special effects you can create with them!

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They also have a perfectly aged owl post, I thought it was so cute!

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Even if you aren’t a big shopper, I recommend checking out the stores for the decorations. They’re so beautiful and specific to the “wizarding world” you can truly appreciate the work that went into making the alley come to life when you stop and appreciate the details. This was inside one of my favorite shops:

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This shop sold HP theme stamps and postcards, which you can send with a special postmark in the Hogsmeade area.

Easily the most popular area was the bank that holds the “Escape from Gringotts” ride. & it is truly the most remarkable theme park rides I’ve ever been on! The mix of roller coaster and 3D imagery is so impressive. My dad is not a big HP fan, but when we exited the ride he said it was the best he had ever been on, too. But, with a big ride comes a big wait– even though I visited off season and mid-week, the wait was well over a hour. They do their best to distract you with fanciful decor and taking your photo for a ‘wanted’ poster, but just be aware if you want to go on this ride (& you do!), be sure to pack your patience!

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Because my family only had planned one day for both parks, we headed off to Kings Cross to visit Hogsmeade.

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I will post my Hogsmeade photos in a separate post. I will say that my #1 recommendation would be that if you’re going to Universal Orlando and love Harry Potter, make sure you visit over multiple days. Pushing through the see both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade was difficult, especially with an early Winter closing time. You will be more relaxed if you visit over 2 days and devote a day to each park.
Thanks for looking and I hope this will help you while you plan your trip! Please comment if you have any questions or advice from your own experience to share, thanks!

A Trip to Universal Studios Orlando! (Part 1)

Hello and thank you for checking out my post! This will be the first of three posts dedicated to Universal Studios Orlando and what my trip there was like. My family and I are from California and last year we took a trip to Orlando to check out some of the theme parks– it was great fun but if I can stress three important facts for your future trips to these theme parks, they would be:

1. You can’t be too prepared (read the books and blogs, make dinner reservations months in advance, etc!).
2. You can’t walk enough beforehand to build stamina (your feet will hurt, no doubt!).
3. You can’t save enough money to take on your trip (you will want to buy all the things!).

*BONUS NEED TO KNOW: You need to know the park operation hours. They vary from day-to-day and it’s important to know if the park you’re visiting closes at 6pm or 11pm to determine how much time you spend in certain areas. The day of this trip, Universal closed at 6pm and Island of Adventure closed at 7pm. Because of the early close we moved quickly through some spots I would’ve like to see, but there wasn’t enough time.

*TIP* For out-of-towners– if you do not have access to a car, or just don’t want to drive, I recommend using a service like Dreams Unlimited. We purchased our tickets through them and for about $10 more per ticket, it also included a ride to and from the park. This, of course, limits your time because you will have to schedule a pickup and drop off, but it was worth it for my family for the convenience.

I purchased the tickets before we left then called the day before to schedule a pick up time. They picked us up from our hotel (a Disney property) and had a few other pickups. We then did a drop off at Sea World and then were dropped off at the entrance of Universal City Walk. Had I known how many stops we’d have in the morning, I would have requested the earliest pick up time (they have specific pick up times available each day and I picked the second earliest) to have more time in the park. Because it was out first time there, my family and I were total tourists having breakfast at Starbucks and checking out the little kiosks along the way. Near the entrance are self serve machines to print your tickets. You just need to bring the confirmation number from the order and the credit card used to purchase.

Now, let’s get into the park!

Like many people, I was most excited for the Harry Potter “lands” located at both Universal Studios and Universal’s Island of Adventure (Yes, it’s split between both parks– meaning you will need tickets to both or a dual park ticket if you want to see it all). Because we spent most of our time in those spots, this first post will be the “HP free” section of Universal, which is quite enjoyable!

Our first stop was to check out the Despicable Me ride. I love the minions, but I want to stop short of calling it a ride and say it’s more like watching a cute minion movie in a seat that moves. It’s not the traditional ride where you move on a track, but everyone is corralled into a large room with rows of seats boxed out. There are also non-moving seat options if you have any health concerns.

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You exit the ride into a shop full of minion-y merchandise that is too clever for words! I definitely bought a pin or two before leaving. It’s a very fun ride for fans of the movies & you will get a kick out of all the little touches (like fun posters) while waiting in line.

Now, we may enjoy our theme parks, but a “roller coaster family,” we are not. & Universal does have some interesting coaster offerings but I didn’t partake in any. Hearing the screams from the “ROCKIT” while waiting for my lemonade were legit terrifying (the ride, not the lemonade) and I noticed longer lines near “Revenge of the Mummy” and “Twister.” But I was looking forward to walking around the “New York” section of the park and checking out the shops.

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I was determined to eat in Diagon Alley, but I just had to take a picture of the Monster Cafe sign. I love the classic Universal characters & was happy to see them in use.

There were cute shops and eateries in the NY streets, and the Blues Brothers also drove by and had a show in one of the cut out porches. I loved all the facades and signage– everyone that knows me know I will break for a good retro sign, and Universal did not disappoint!

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This dancing sign was an easy favorite!

The “Hollywood” section of the park (behind Shrek 4-D) also has a beautiful facade that is just nice to walk through. Some doors open to actual shops but I was too busy snapping away to stop at them all.

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One of my favorite spots wasn’t even a ride– it was the Lucille Ball exhibit in the “Hollywood” section. Growing up, I loved watching old Lucy reruns. She was so silly and I loved all of her outfits.

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I loved seeing a few of her outfits on display– I was surprised at how tall she was!

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The exhibit is rather small (with a Betty Boop shop bleeding into it), but it’s definitely worth a look around. They have all sorts of pieces on display, including some personal holiday slides. We were there mid-week during the off-season, so it was very relaxed and quiet in there– I imagine this would be a nice spot to take a break and cool off during the Summer months.

A cool thing I’ve never seen before at a theme park was that at the end of a parade (we just happened to be walking up at the end), the floats and characters just stopped and let the fans walk up and take pictures up close. You could walk right up to the float and pose for pictures! I don’t know if this is a regular occurrence or just because it wasn’t very crowded, but it was pretty cool; you could tell the kids were all very excited!

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The beginning and end of the parades in located in the Hollywood section behind Mel’s Diner and next to Cafe La Bamba. *TIP Ask employees when you first arrive when the parades are and hang out near the cafe to see if they stop and pose. This parade was not listed in the program map, so they might have varying times.

Passing through the HWood section we stumbled across an old favorite– E.T. Adventure! This ride is long gone from the Los Angeles location, so it was fun to go on for old times sake. I remember being scared of this ride I went in LA (I think I must’ve been about 6 or 7?); it was a nostalgic ride that’s showing it’s age but still enjoyable!

There were no kiddos in our group, so we skipped over the “Kidzone,” but it looks like a very cute section for the little ones to blow off some steam. There was a play land and animal show, so it would be a great stop to take the kids while maybe others in the party want to check out a roller coaster.

Next up was a section I was looking forward to… The Simpson’s Springfield!

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Springfield feels like you have walked right into the cartoon– the colors are so bright and there are even a few characters around to take pictures with!

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Easily my fave is the Lard Lad and his donut stand, so cute! You can even get a giant boxed donut!

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One of the few characters that make great photo ops!

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The Simpson’s ride is a lot of fun, even for non-Simpson fans. My dad has never seen the show and laughed through the whole ride! My favorite stop was at the Kwik-E mart. I didn’t get a pic because I was too busy searching for penny smasher machines (which are in the mart, not too far from Millhouse). There were plenty of food spots and some carnival games in this area.

That’s the non-HP coverage of Universal Orlando. Have you been to Universal Orlando? What was your favorite spot? I will be covering Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in their own posts, be sure to check back. Thanks!