Amanda DiGiondomenico

Amanda is a freelance blogger and considers herself a resident of both Baltimore and Washington, DC. She loves taking road trips up and down the East Coast, but looks for any excuse to escape to California. She’s perfected the art of traveling with just a carry-on and finds airports oddly relaxing. Amanda spends her time tweeting and writing for her personal blog, The Spendicate.

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Posts by Amanda DiGiondomenico

San Francisco is a huge tourist destination, with Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge all drawing crowds. Sure, on my trip out west, I had to see the sights, but right across the famous red bridge was the best part of my getaway: The often-overlooked Mill Valley, located 14 miles north of San Francisco in the beautiful, mountainous Marin County.

What feels like a combination of beach town and Swiss mountain hamlet, Mill Valley offers a quiet taste of NorCal life, with boutique shops, eco-conscious restaurants and enough outdoor space to fill days and days with hiking. When I escaped to warmer climes for a week, stumbling upon Mill Valley was a happy accident.

My Top Picks in Marin County:

Mill Valley Inn
Imagine an upscale beachside hotel. But at the foot of a mountain. Surrounded by woods. With free breakfast, a free wine and cheese reception, a fireplace in the room and a balcony overlooking redwoods, this is my new favorite hotel. They’ll also offer you a bike, if you’d like to explore that way. But beware: there are a lot of hills.

El Paseo

Tucked away in a stone-covered alleyway, El Paseo is Tyler Florence and Sammy Hagar’s take on a traditional chophouse, serving up finely aged steaks and local, sustainable ingredients. The pair worked together to restore this historic restaurant, which was originally opened in 1948. El Paseo retains its rustic feel with exposed brick, reclaimed wood and plenty of candlelight. Also, you have to order a steak. And perhaps the crispy duck wings.

Bungalow 44
A stylish bar with large, cushy booths, Bungalow 44 prides itself on its California cuisine, as well as its creative cocktails. It doesn’t get much fresher than their cucumber margarita and perfectly cooked ahi tuna. Even though I ate here before the live Jazz started, I still felt like I was dining in a 1940s supper club.

Super Duper Burger
This place may claim to serve fast food, but it is anything but typical. There are 5 locations throughout San Francisco, and luckily there is one right down the street from the Mill Valley Inn. The beef is delivered from San Fran’s own Niman Ranch and ground fresh daily. The pickles are homemade and the buns are toasted. Top it all off with fries finished with fresh garlic and 6-month aged cheddar. I mean, come on.

Stinson Beach

Even on a foggy day, Stinson Beach is a beautiful place for a walk. Climb over rocks and watch the waves crash below you, or sit along the shore and watch the surfers take their chances. Hidden on the other side of Mount Tamalpais, (if you’re prone to car sickness, watch out – the road is CURVY) this beach feels worlds away from Mill Valley. On the drive back, pull over wherever you can find a parking spot, because sure enough, there will be a trailhead with spectacular views of the water.

Marin Headlands

If you pull off the road right before getting on the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll come across the Marin Headlands. Drive up the road a little and you’ll find overlooks that’ll take your breath away. After grabbing pics of the San Francisco skyline, hike a little further. Not only will the Golden Gate look so close you could touch it, but there you’ll also find the historic Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite. Or what’s left of them.

Tonight at 9|8c on an all-new episode of Ghost Adventures, the guys return to the Goldfield Hotel in Goldfield, NV – the site of their very first investigation.

A boomtown with a rich mining history, Goldfield is considered a paranormal hotbed, especially to Zak, Nick and Aaron, who have had some terrifying experiences in the town’s hotel.

A fire destroyed much of the town in 1923, leaving only the hotel and the high school. The abandoned Goldfield Hotel is listed on the Nevada State Register of Historic Places, but its past is filled with some twisted stories. The owner of the hotel is believed to have chained his pregnant mistress, Elizabeth, to a radiator in room 109 until she gave birth. But after he threw her baby down a mineshaft, Elizabeth disappeared. Does she still haunt room 109? The GAC is on a mission to find out.

Get ready for tonight’s lockdown with behind-the-scenes photos and this overview of the guys’ own history with the Goldfield Hotel:

Have you ever dreamed of going to space? Well, you’re not alone … Kevin Michael Connolly has, too. Tonight at 10|9c on the season finale of Armed & Ready, Kevin heads to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to see if he’s got what it takes to go to space.

From a Navy Seal-style swim test to zero-gravity simulation, astronaut training isn’t easy. Will Kevin be able to handle an actual zero-gravity flight, or will the freeze-dried food be the extent of his astronaut experience?

Tune in to find out! But, before then, get a taste of the space life:

Remember the days of Man v. Food? Of course you do! How could you forget the days when Adam Richman would go around the country to see if he could tackle a 12-egg omelet or a 7-pound burrito?

Well, get ready to reminisce — because we want to know: What do you think was the best Man v. Food challenge? Vote now for your favorite throwback moment from our top 10 picks!

And this Sunday starting at 2 p.m., get your fill of Man v. Food Nation, with back-to-back episodes all afternoon!

With all eyes focused on Vatican City (and a certain seagull) for most of the day, it’s hard not to be a little curious about the world’s smallest independent state, tucked inside the cultural hub of Rome and packed with history and intrigue.

Today’s election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as Pope Francis I ushers in not only a new era in the Catholic Church but also renewed interest in travel to the always-intriguing Vatican City. This walled enclave — its own sovereign city-state since 1929 — is home to some of the world’s most famous artwork, from the Sistine Chapel to Michelangelo’s Pieta. You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the sheer splendor of Vatican City, but with so much history to take in, where can travelers begin a sightseeing journey?

Skip the lines, and check out these agencies that partner with the Vatican Museum to offer numerous tours.

Presto Tours: Vatican Tours
Another officially recognized partner of the Vatican Museums, this tour company will lead you on a journey through Vatican City. The best part? The sightseeing group is small — 16 guests or fewer are allowed on a tour.

Italy With Us
Daily tours, offered in English, begin at 8 a.m. Each tour covers the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and, when possible, Nicholas V chapel. Bring a friend or significant other — you’ll need a minimum of 2 people to book a tour.

Vatican Museums: Guided Tours
Take a 2-hour guided tour of the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel — but keep in mind the dress code: No sleeveless blouses, no miniskirts, no shorts and no hats allowed.

Vatican Guided Tour
Among the intriguing tours offered by this company is a journey through the Vatican’s catacombs. Also tour the Vatican Grottoes below the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica where many popes were laid to rest.

Fun fact: Vatican City is 1 of 3 independent city-states in the world — the other 2 are Monaco and Singapore.

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By Lisa Singh and Amanda DiGiondomenico

Tonight starting at 10|9c, catch 2 all-new episodes of Armed & Ready. In tonight’s episodes, Kevin Michael Connolly tries 2 things he’s never done before: jousting and street luging.

In Fort Collins, CO, Kevin visits a medieval fair where extreme sports take a historic turn. But will a man who has never been atop a live animal – never mind not having legs – be able to stay balanced and defeat his opponent in a jousting tournament? Maybe with a custom saddle and a little practice!

Then, Kevin heads to LA, the birthplace of the freeway and the skateboard, to try a sport that combines the two. Kevin skates everyday – in fact, his skateboard is his main mode of transportation – but can he handle going down a highway on his back at breakneck speed? Maybe if he can find a skateboard with brakes …

Tune-in tonight to see what kind of trouble Kevin gets himself into, and in the meantime, check out his photo journal!

Tonight at 10|9c, Kevin Michael Connolly visits Fort Benning, GA, to train with the Army Rangers. From the obstacle course to water survival training, Kevin attempts things that challenge the strongest and the bravest — leading him to ask himself “Am I a quitter?”

And of course, this is Jump School, which means that Kevin must face his fear of heights … by jumping out of an airplane.

Will Kevin “be all he can be” in this boot camp? Tune in tonight to find out!

Also, don’t miss Kevin’s travel photo journal on TC.com!

Can you handle the lockdown? Tonight at 9|8c, the guys investigate a century-old theater that now houses a strip club. The dancers and the bouncers report encounters with malevolent spirits. Could they be the spirits of the janitors who died in the theater so many years ago? Also, Zak meets a psychic who truly terrifies him with what she knows.

See sneak peek photos, and check out Aaron’s Vlog below to see what happens behind the scenes:

Tonight at 10|9c, don’t miss the premiere of our new series, Armed & Ready, starring X-Games athlete, writer and photographer Kevin Michael Connolly. At 10|9c, he keeps up with the lumberjacks when he attempts to climb a 50-foot pine in the Smoky Mountains. Then at 10:30|9:30c, he faces his fear of cliff diving in Hawaii.

Legs or no legs, we don’t think we’d be able to keep up with Kevin on these extreme adventures. From zorbing to log rolling, Kevin will try anything once.

Want to learn more about the man behind the skateboard? Meet Kevin and see a day in his life.

With all the attention New Orleans has been getting lately, how could Bourbon Street not be the most popular pin on our Pinterest boards last week? Despite its raucous reputation – or perhaps because of it – Bourbon Street is a New Orleans must-see, even if you’re just going to “admire the architecture.”

Take a photo tour of the Big Easy or follow in Tony’s footsteps with his travel guide from the New Orleans episode of The Layover.

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