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California


Whenever people visit California, they always ask for the best things to do. Well, here is the holy grail of lists. I have lived in LA for the past four years and have traveled up and down the entire state. This blog includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, road trips, day trips, food, nightlife, Halloween events, and more. There is a lot of information packed into here, in various forms. Take your time reading and planning out your California trip!

 

LOS ANGELES


Let's begin in Los Angeles, public transportation is not the best, I would recommend renting a car. Use the Turo app to find cheap cars to rent, ranging from your dream Lamborghini to a Kia Forte. LA is H U G E. This city is very spread out, which is why a car is recommended. When you are in Venice, Santa Monica, or Hollywood, I normally use the Bird app to get around. These are electric scooters you can rent for shorter periods of time, and they’re also super fun! Bird is the most popular, but there is also Lyft, Lime, Jump, and electric bikes as well. These scooters do not work on the beachside pathways, they are more for getting around the town without the hassle of parking a car and to avoid excessive walking.

  • Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a beautiful place to start your time in LA. It is close to LAX so you shouldn’t have to deal with too much traffic. In Santa Monica, I recommend checking out the Pier to ride some rides and play boardwalk games, renting bikes or roller blades to skate down the path along the ocean, and visiting the Third Street Promenade for shopping and street entertainment. You can walk along the water and find places that rent bikes, no need to schedule this beforehand. Along your walk, you’ll run into a beachside gym/ gymnastics area. To find it on your maps type in “Traveling Rings Set 1”. Take some time to play here! This is one of the most unique parts of Santa Monica and it is always busy. It is a great place to meet locals who may be able to give you more tips and places to go.


  • Venice

Venice is very similar to Santa Monica, just 3 miles south. Venice has a skate park right on the beach, tons of street vendors, and a wide variety of restaurants. The street vendors and artists are a great place to get souvenirs for cheap, don’t be afraid to barging with them! Gjelina is an incredible restaurant. I was there with five other people and every

single one of us was extremely satisfied with our meals.


  • Malibu

The Malibu Wine Safari is a special experience that is simply a great time. A lot of big groups do this excursion, but I went with just my fiancé and it was unforgettable. Not only is California known for its wine culture, but here, your wine tour is combined with feeding giraffes, visiting buffalo and zebras, and a ride on a safari truck.

  • Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills is another iconic place to visit when in LA. Rodeo Drive specifically, is a nice place to window shop and browse. If you want to take a bus tour, it can take you to some celebrities' houses and around Beverly Hills, but you just look from the outside awkwardly, it’s not worth the entire day in my opinion. If you’re just walking around, Beverly Hills should only take about an hour.


  • Hollywood

From here we move into Hollywood! Hollywood is filled with things to see and do, and places to eat. Great places to eat in Hollywood include: Mama’s Shelter, Tao, Kitchen 24, The Body Energy Club (smoothies & acai bowls), Sweet Green, The Highlight Room at Dream Hollywood, and 25 Degrees. Thai food is super popular in LA. I have always gone to It’s Pho on Cahuenga, but you really can’t go wrong.


Things to see in Hollywood: Hollywood Blvd, The Chinese Theater, Sunset Blvd, Amoeba Records on Sunset, Crossroads of the World, the Escape Hotel, and Capitol Records. I have a recommended walking tour you can do yourself, if interested keep reading. If not, skip ahead to “Places to hike”...

 
  • Hollywood self-guided walking tour:

  • Start at Hollywood and Highland. This is where Jimmy Kimmel is filmed, and where you can find the Chinese Theater and Dolby Theater. Just walking around here you will see all sorts of interesting characters, literally. I’ve seen Elmo hiding behind a corner, headless, while taking a cigarette break and Ironman and Elsa just hanging out together…. Don’t have high expectations for Hollywood, it’s very dirty and not what it’s made up to be. Just take it for what it is.

  • Move down Hollywood Blvd to the Escape Hotel Hollywood. The is the best of the best escape rooms. They have 11 rooms to choose from and are always changing them. They create an entire atmosphere with actors and scenery, it’s an incredibly eerie feel. We did the Attic room and were able to escape but it was HARD. We made it out with a minute to spare. People pop out of the room and scare you, trap doors open up, it’s w i l d, and such a blast. This will take a little over an hour and a half.

  • From here, continue to see the Capitol Records building. You can only look from the outside, and its curb appeal is low, but hey it’s still cool to be in the spot where incredible impactful music has been made.

  • If you are hungry, now’s a good location to take a break. I love the smoothies at Body Energy Club. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices, including their acai bowls! If you are in the mood for a meal, walk down Cahuenga Blvd, between Hollywood and Selma Ave. There are SO many quality food options here with a wide variety. You’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for.

  • Back to our walking tour, take Vine St. down to Sunset, and take a right on Sunset. Amoeba Music will be one block ahead on the left. Take a couple of minutes to explore this store, if you’re lucky, sometimes they have mini-concerts going on in there. If you continue down Sunset Blvd, you’ll pass Crossroads of the World. This is said to be the first outdoor shopping strip in America. While it is gated off it is still a cool sight to see. That will wrap up most of the things to see in Hollywood.


You can also opt to take a scavenger hung around the city, I’ve heard great reviews about this but have never done it personally. Visit the Tourist Scavenger Hunt to see if it’s a good fit for you!

 

o Places to hike: I recommend doing a Hollywood hike in the morning. This could either be Griffith, Runyon, or the Wisdom Tree. The biggest spots to hike in Hollywood are Griffith and Runyon. If you love dogs, Runyon allows dogs to be off-leash so this might be a better time for you. It’s basically a big loop that looks over the city and you can see the Hollywood sign from it. The perks of Runyon is dogs running freely. If you want a more visual hike, go for The Hollywood sign in Griffith Park. Visit the Observatory but do not start your hike to the Hollywood sign here, it will take 4-5 hours. Instead, park at the top of Canyon Drive, this hike will take 2-3 hours and is 4 miles round trip. There is also the Wisdom Tree hike. This is one of my favorites. It. Is. Steep. But it’s quick and rewarding. It will take about 30-45 minutes to get to the top. The Wisdom Tree is awesome. It’s a single tree up top of a mountain that survived an 817-acre fire in 2007. There is a chest up there filled with notebooks that people write their personal stories in. Feel free to read theirs’ and write your own.


  • Melrose is a great place for shopping. The street is lined with boutiques, thrift stores, book stores, cafes, costume shops, and clothing shops. You can find unique clothing here and sometimes for a really great price, take your time looking to find those hidden gems. This is also where the Paul Smith "Pink Wall" is, as well as many wing murals like the photo to the left.


  • The Valley

The Valley is where all the artsy-fartsy people are located. This is where most of the dance, acting, and recording studios are located. If you are traveling to LA to take any classes in the arts, find an Airbnb in this area.


Warner Brothers Studios is located in the Valley and you can take a tour of the lot. I have never personally done this, but the friends of mine have spoken highly of it. It is also where Ellen is filmed. If you go online to https://send.ellentv.com/tickets/, you can submit to possibly get picked to be in the audience. This is a very fun thing to do if visiting LA and unfamiliar with the world of TV production.


Take a walk down Ventura Blvd for unique shops and restaurants. Here you will find Casa Mega, which has been featured in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and Anejo, an incredibly fun Spanish restaurant/ dance club catered towards big parties who want to eat and dance in one place.


Not on Ventura Blvd but other great places to eat include Sun Café (vegan but so delicious!), Crave Café, El Tejano, and the Republic of Pie.

 

o Nightlife

  • Hollywood

The nightlife in Hollywood is really fun. There’s No Vacancy, probably one of my favorite bars. The atmosphere they have created is casual yet elegant, beginning with a mysterious way of getting you into the bar. I will leave that surprise for you when you go to visit!


Adults Only is also a distinct, exciting club. To enter, you have to walk through a mini porn shop, and a little door in the back opens up to a decently sized bar. You also may be confused as to where the entrance to the bar actually is because it is hidden in the back corner of a little strip mall. The drinks here taste wonderful, and the whole club has an old film, 1980’s feel. The music was fantastic, I remember absolutely loving the DJ. Adults Only feels “LA” without the snotty, bougee atmosphere.


For the EDM fans out there, check out the schedule of Avalon. Pretty big names come to perform here and it’s right in the heart of Hollywood. If you plan on visiting here, be prepared to experience immense strobe lights, crowded dance floors, and that ringing in your ears until you go to bed. The music here is l o u d. It can still be a great time, just make sure you know what you’re in for.


El Escarga is a blast!! I do want to ruin the experience for you but if it is your first time here, go through the door on the right. Each room has a different style of dancing, and there are a lot of rooms. It doesn’t feel overwhelming, it just is a blast. If you can make your way here I highly recommend it!


  • West Hollywood

If you travel west on Melrose it will lead you to WeHo (West Hollywood). WeHo is one-of-a-kind. As you walk you’ll find rainbows painted on the sidewalks and feel like you were teleported into a fairy-world. If you want to dance your butt off and don’t care who’s watching this is the place for you! The clubs are always playing classic Britney hits mixed with the latest hip hop music. Great clubs to go to are: Micky’s, The Abbey, The Chapel, and Flaming Saddles.


If you are looking for a chill, traditional bar feel, head towards The Den. Dark rooms with wooden walls make the place feel cozy, but the music is great and it’s a cool vibe. Close to The Den is Pink Taco and Skybar. Pink Taco is a bar/ restaurant with great drinks and fantastic food. They also have a happy hour special this is a great place to start your night at! I have only been to Skybar during the day, it is basically a big pool party. It’s a fun time but I was expecting more out of it. You have to pay to sit at a window seat with a view, the people there think very highly of themselves, it’s a very “LA” feel. If you’re here for a bachelorette party, this might be just what you’re looking for! If not, feel free to skip this.

 

o Other things to do in LA

  • Elysian Park

This park is located in the middle of downtown LA, and there aren’t any breathtaking views. However, there is a swing up there that makes for a cool photo opp. To get to it, type into google maps “Secret Swing Angels Point” and after a short walk up the hill, you will lead right to it!


  • LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a great place to explore if you have some time to kill. While it does cost $25 to enter, they have plenty of sculptures to see outside the museum for free! The most popular are the lamp posts, but if you walk around you’ll find all sorts of things.


  • The Grove

The Grove is an outdoor strip mall, decorated with fountains, patio restaurants, and street vendors. You can catch a movie here, shop, get some food, or just walk around. There is a food court right next to the grove that sells fresh fruit, veggies, fish, meat, and desserts. It is covered in awnings, so even on a hot summer day, it’s not exhausting to walk around here. There are places to get food to go and eat outside as well! Definitely make a stop here to see what there is to offer.


I went hiking here with my friend and my dog, and I do not recommend bringing a dog. There is one part that is extremely steep to get into and even tougher to get out of. If you bring kids make sure they can somewhat hold their own and if you bring a small dog make sure you can carry it somehow. Round trip it’s almost 2 miles and there is easy street parking right at the entrance to El Scorpion Park.


  • Six Flags Magic Mountain

The roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain are what bring people to the park. There is not much else to this park so if you’re not a fan of roller coasters, skip out on this one. The best coasters are: X2, Tatsu, Twisted Colossus, Goliath, and Superman. If it’s a busy day, it is worth getting the Flash Pass, you will save a butt load of time and really get to enjoy your day. If you need a break from the heat, check out the show happening in the Gearworks theater. I was part of that show and it is an impressive cirque-style show for a theme park.

  • The Last Bookstore

What a unique place the Last Bookstore is! Located downtown, this shop is more than your average book store, it’s mixed with themed rooms and photo opportunities around every corner, as well as a huge, yet cozy reading area in the middle. If you happen to be downtown when it’s open, pop in for a peak, you never know what you’ll find!


  • The Broad

The Broad is a free museum of modern art located Downtown. You can reserve a spot online or show up in person and wait in line. I waited in line and it was only a 15-minute wait. If you want to visit the mirror room, you will definitely need to make a reservation for that since there is a limited amount of people allowed in one day.


  • Abandon Zoo

Located in Griffith Park, the old Abandon LA Zoo still has its foundational animal enclosure walls up. If you walk around the back you can actually climb inside of the secret spaces where the zookeepers would enter in and out of the enclosures. To get here, type Abandon Zoo LA into google maps and it’ll bring you right to it.


  • The Magic Castle

To have a name like “The Magic Castle”, you got to live up to the expectation. And word of mouth does not disappoint. I have been to the Magic Castle myself and it was in fact magical. While with a group of friends, I wandered off and found endless secret rooms and doors, sat down at a bar to have a drink, and ended up having my palm read by the guy sitting next to me and the guy on the opposite side doing hand magic just for me! The best part is, you think these people are here to enjoy the ‘scheduled’ entertainment as well, but they end up being magicians hired as atmosphere to completely immerse you in the environment. My goodness, it is w i l d. The night starts with dinner, we were upstairs, and from there you get to go explore! There are many scheduled shows, as well as one main room where the biggest magic show takes place. There is a catch though, you have to be invited to be able to go. It is a “Members Only” club, so if a member invites you to go, you must go. It is a great place, and a truly magical night you will never forget. I sincerely hope you get the opportunity to go during your visit to LA.


  • Universal Studios Hollywood

If you have ever visited Universal Orlando, don’t bother visiting Universal Studios Hollywood (unless it’s Horror Nights which we will touch on later). The property is pretty small, and most of the rides are 3-D simulators. However, the backlot tour is something specific to Hollywood and is very interesting to see. It will take about an hour, and you sit on a tram that takes you throughout the Universal Film Stages. To me, this is the most interesting part of Universal Hollywood. There are plenty of other interesting and exclusive things to see in California.


  • City Walk

Located right outside of Universal is City Walk. City Walk a glorified strip mall, mainly filled with restaurants but also featuring retail shops, movie theaters, and entertainment spaces. I would recommend going here if you want to get dinner but aren’t sure where to go. The options are endless! There is a good fee for parking, but most restaurants will offer you free parking with your dinner. If you have a night you aren’t sure what to, head to City Walk and explore.


  • Downtown Disney

Similar to City Walk but located in Anaheim is Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is a longer, more glorified version of City Walk, and of course, Disney-fied. Most of the shops here are overpriced, but this is a great place to get out and walk around. There are many restaurants here as well, this adds a nice pit stop in all the walking. If you want a Disney experience without the cost of a day ticket, check this place out.


  • Disneyland

The motherland, the “happiest place on earth”, the place where dreams come true, Disneyland! Let’s not get too excited though, on a scale of 1 to magical phenomenon, it’s about a 4. If you have ever been to Disney World, your expectations are higher than what Disneyland can deliver, so either anticipate less, or just skip this entirely. It is split into two parks, Disney California Adventure or Disneyland. In Disneyland, check out Haunted Mansion, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star War’s Galaxy’s Edge, Space Mountain, and Fantasmic. In California Adventure, ride Radiator Springs Racers, Incredicoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy, Toy Story Midway Mania. If you have to choose between the two, California Adventure has more fun, thrilling rides, and Disneyland is geared towards little kids. If you do have the option for a pass hopper, I think it is worthwhile. Every time I have gone to Disney, I have had a park hopper and we used it frequently, jumping back and forth between parks as many as 4 times! We were able to do both parks in one day, multiple times.


  • Cobb Estate / Enchanted Forest

Well, this one is quite an interesting story. I have experienced paranormal activity twice in my life, once back from in New Jersey, and once here. It is known for strange activity, and rumored that the KKK used to gather up in the forest. To make a long story short, we went at night. About five of us were gathered in a circle in front of the steps that used to lead to a house, it has burned down and is now just a field. My friend Omar was to my right and looked at me in the middle of everyone talking and asked if I scratched him. I had been standing with my arms crossed. We looked and on his neck was a red scratch, turning a brighter red and digging deeper as we watched it… it was f r e s h. I’m talking, this happened about 5 seconds before we all looked and none of us touched him. From here we all freaked out and ran out. When we got back to the car the scratch was still there, but this time it was not getting any worse. It was extremely evident we were not welcomed there and I will not be making any more trips there at night.


To get there, simply put Cobb Estate into google maps and it will bring you right to the location where you park. From here, go through the gate on the right side, and walk along the driveway. You’ll curve around to the left and go uphill, eventually, you will arrive at a fork in the road. If you go left as we did, you will be lead to the stairs and the front path. If you go right, you will be lead around the back which is said to be more haunted. Either way that you go, if you keep walking you will discover it is a small loop. Have fun with this one but also be smart!


  • Helipad in Griffith

The Helipad in Griffith is a cool hidden gem where you feel like you’re on the edge of the world! It is a short hike up, a little over a mile, and a great spot for sunset. To find it, put Griffith Helipad into Google Maps. From here, you will park on Commonwealth and begin your hike. Take a left at the first fork and then a right. Hike around a few bends and you’ll be there.


This is a moderate trail to a waterfall and swimming pool! Dogs are welcome and the entire hike is about 3.5 miles. I have heard that you now have to make a reservation to go, if you plan on hiking this trail, make sure to schedule it!


This is a very common spot for dance video shoots or commercial shoots. It is difficult to get into, but there are ways. We parked under the 7th street bridge and wiggled our way through. It paid off for us, if this access point is no longer open, explore around this area. You’ll be sure to find a way through.


These colorful stairs are the perfect spot for a photo op! Get a small workout in or just put on a cute outfit and take some pictures.


  • Hillsong LA

Hillsong is quite literally the heart and soul of LA in my eyes. I found this church my very first week in LA, and it was incredibly welcoming. In a city full of facades and material things, it is easy to get caught up. Even if you are not religious, this place is a nice breathe of fresh air to help lift your mood for an hour or two. Head over to the Belasco Theater in Downtown LA on Sundays and fill up your soul! They occasionally do move locations, so before you go be sure to check out their Instagram @hillsongLA to double-check the location.


  • Comedy Mashup Santa Clarita

My friends Dan and Paul started this event known as Comedy Mashup. I find myself driving up to Santa Clarita whenever I can to see this show. It is about an hour-long with special guests and improv games prompted by the audience. Every time I go, I am almost in tears because of how hard I laugh. These guys are funny and they know and study their craft. Give them a visit!


  • Taco Trucks/ Stands

The food in LA is incredible. It is extremely health conscious but also delicious! You will find taco stands and trucks randomly throughout your visit and while here, you MUST try one. My favorite is on La Brea by the Hawthorne corner. But honestly, you can’t go wrong.

  • Fruit Stands

Similar to the mass of taco truck options are fruit stand options. You will find little carts positioned by traffic lights or in busy touristy spots with rainbow umbrellas for shade. You can pick out whatever fruit you want for about $6, and the fruit is always fresh and juicy! This is a wonderful snack on those hot summer days. I used to be obsessed with these stands and go about every other day!

 

o Day Trips

  • Pumpkin Rock

Pumpkin Rock is so cute! I like visiting this hike in September to get me into the Halloween spirit. Located about an hour outside of LA, this hike takes half-hour an up to a big rock someone decided to paint as a pumpkin! It is an easy hike for dogs and you can get some cute, festive photos out of it!



  • Vasquez Rocks

Located half an hour outside of LA we find the Vasquez Rocks. These rocks have been featured in many films and TV shows, and it is free to go walk around them! Animals are welcomed and kids love this natural playground.



  • Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is 2 hours north of LA. It is a beautiful, secluded beach getaway that can easily be done in a weekend. We fell in love with Santa Barbara! Highlights of our trip included: dinner at The Lark, shopping downtown, bar hopping down State St., and going to the beach. From here we continued to Ojai for a hike and dinner



  • Ojai

We only drove through Ojai but wow, was it beautiful! We made our way to Rose Valley Falls, which is about 40 minutes past Ojai, and got to hike to a waterfall! It is a short hike, a mile out and back. We had a magical, all-encompassing experience, something we will never forget. I highly recommend this day trip and hike.





  • Imperial Sand Dunes

Located in the southernmost part of California are the Imperial Sand Dunes. Seeing these first hand was astonishing. I had no idea something like this existed in the States, let alone, 4 hours from where I was living! These could be part of a day trip to the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach, and if you have it in you to continue, these are definitely worth the drive. We were unable to figure out how to rent quads while there but I for it is a possibility. Plan ahead and you can go off-roading on the sand dunes.


  • Sunken City

This spot has a lot of meaning in my heart because it was my fiancé and I’s first date! We went at sunset, which was the best decision we could have made. You are right on the ocean, looking out onto the blue, vast horizon, and all you can do is stop and take in the moment. There are a bunch of collapsed concrete platforms you can climb on that have colorful graffiti on them, making this spot one of a kind. To get here, type Sunken City into Google Maps, we slipped under a hole in the fence, but apparently, there is a way around it where you can just walk in. Hey, it’s about the journey right? Plan to spend at least half an hour here and take in the tranquility of the ocean.


  • Korean Friendship Bell

Located just above the Sunken City is the Korean Friendship Bell. If you visit the Sunken City, make a pit spot here first! This huge, detailed, picturesque structure was given to the people of Los Angeles from the Republic of Korea in 1976. It symbolized traditional friendship between the two countries.


  • Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park could be a day trip or a weekend trip. There are plenty of spots available to camp out. Joshua Tree is known for the energy it gives to those who visit. The rocks are said to have crystals in them, energizing and revitalizing the campers who come to get away for a weekend. There is a small town outside of the National Park where you can run to get ice, food, water, camping supplies, or whatever else you might need. Joshua Tree is 2 hours from Los Angeles.



  • Seven Magic Mountains

These neon colors rock formations are hard to miss when driving along the 15. Seven rainbow colored boulder formations contrasting the natural desert background make for some eye catching art. They are just under 4 hours from Los Angeles and about 20 minutes outside of Vegas.






 

1 week in Los Angeles


Day 1 - Start at Venice, get breakfast, and walk around to get a few trinkets. Make your way up to Santa Monica and visit the Pier, bike down the path by the beach, and visit the outside gym area. If you wanted to spend any time on the beach, now would be your best bet as Santa Monica is a nicer beach than Venice. From here, head to Beverly Hills and give yourself a self-guided tour driving through Rodeo Drive.

Day 2 – Hollywood self-guided tour as explained above. Include the Escape Hotel. Dinner at Mama’s Shelter

Day 3 – Malibu Wine Safari. Today will be an easy day. Take some time to rest and recharge. Maybe get a massage, facial, cryotherapy, Sweat Theory, or a meditation class.

Day 4 – Head to The Grove and check out the markets. This is a great place to get breakfast. From here head to LACMA and walk about the museum for a bit.

Day 5 – Downtown day! Your downtown day should fall on Sunday, so switch up this itinerary to match your visit. Head over to Hillsong LA. Get lunch downtown. Head over to the Last Bookstore and explore for a bit. If you feel up to it, take a visit to The Broad.

Day 6 – Free day to do whatever your heart desires! I would recommend a day trip to Catalina, however, I do realize that could be an excessive amount of traveling for some.

Day 7 – Take a hike in the morning (The Wisdom Tree, Griffith Helipad, or Elysian Park) and stretch your legs before the trip home!

 

o Other Trips

  • Catalina

This island, just 22 miles off the coast of California, feels like you have teleported to the Bahamas for a weekend. Catalina is accessible by ferry, helicopter, or your own boat. The Catalina Express is a ferry that leaves from different ports on the mainland, and will bring you to Avalon or Two Harbors. Total round trip is about $80. I recommend visiting Avalon, for it is the more tourist-friendly option with many day excursions to choose from. Two Harbors is the other little town on the island but it is geared more towards camping. If it is in your price range to charter a boat from California and travel over on your own, I’d opt for this. We took the ferry but if we had known this was an option, we would have chosen this. There are moorings you can rent to keep your boat at. You can sleep on your boat and explore without relying on the “tourist” options. There is a boat that you can call once you’re anchored to come get you onto the mainland.


If you have never been to Catalina before, the best thing to do first is rent a golf cart and tour the town. Golf carts are their main form of transportation. We went with Cartopia Cart Rentals, this company was okay. You don’t need to make a reservation, just show up whenever you want to take your tour. They require a cash deposit, the reason for this is if you run over the hour time slot, they can keep your money. They charge per minute over once you pass the hour mark. There are also long lines, so if the time keeps racking up due to waiting, they won’t consider that on them, you will pay for that time. I thought this company was pretty flawed and expensive, but the options are slim. I would take a look around for other companies. They charge $50 per hour for a 4 person cart. The self-guided tour will take an hour if you drive straight through. If you plan on walking around a bit, plan on paying extra.


From here we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Hermosa Hotel and it was good! The location was amazing, and the staff very friendly. The rooms are small, but compared to other hotels that were $400 per night, $196 was a steal. This hotel also has the option of leaving your luggage in a storage room. We got to the island around 11 am and dropped our stuff off until check-in at 3 pm.


There are a few sand beaches in Avalon. Two are right in the middle of town, and the third over in Descanso Beach Club. If you’re a beachgoer like myself, spend some time here! You traveled all this way, relax a bit and catch some rays.


Down for some adventure? I h i g h l y suggest doing Catalina Aerial Adventure or going Zip Lining. The views for zip-lining aren’t the greatest, so we opted for the Aerial Adventure. This was probably the highlight of our trip. You get 2 hours to complete 5 courses, and man is it a blast! Don’t feel any pressure to try every course, you can repeat some, or opt-out early if you get tired. The advanced course is actually really hard, like very hard. Some of the obstacles you will struggle with. This was so much fun and the whole family can enjoy something like this together.


You can rent snorkel gear for 24 hours and it's only $18. There is a shop on the green pier called Catalina Divers Supply where you can rent gear or schedule a water excursion. We took snorkeling into our own hands.


We rented a tandem bike and brought the snorkel gear out to Lovers Cove and had some success! (You will pass Lovers Cove on your Golf Cart tour).We found the fish actually like to be closer to shore, so no need to pay for a boat to take you snorkeling. We got a tandem bike from Browns Bike for 2 hours, $36, and it worked perfectly for us.


o Food


*We visited during Covid-19, and the restaurants were doing a special where you can eat dinner ON the beach! I was told this is not going to be an option after the pandemic is over. Dinner starts at 5pm, I would recommend going early because when the sun sets it can get cold.*


Bluewater Grill is a great restaurant for seafood. It is right on the water and has impeccable service. 10/10


We stopped at Café Metropol for lunch on our last day and it was so good, you could tell it was made with quality ingredients. I got the pesto pita and was so satisfied.


El Gideon is where we ate dinner on the beach. If it weren’t for the beach aspect I wouldn’t have liked this restaurant as much. Think very typical bar food, even though they offer steaks. A little overpriced for the quality of food, however, the service was great.


Scoops is quite possibly the greatest ice cream we’ve had. We were there 3 times in 2 days. You’ll see it right as you walk down the main road on your left. One time I opted for the gelato and this was a bad decision. The flavor options were nowhere close to the ice cream options and the few good flavors of gelato didn’t even taste like the flavors! Save yourself this mistake and get the ice cream. There is a Starbucks hidden in here, and they offer crepes (absolutely incredible) and acai bowls as well.


  • Solvang

Solvang is a town rich in its Danish heritage. This was just a pit stop for us, however, if you have the time to visit, it’s only about an hour from Santa Barbara. Walk around the cobblestone streets or visit a winery, it’s like traveling to Denmark for the day!


  • Bombay Beach

A strange, washed up desert, art hub; if you decide to visit Bombay beach, you will definitely run into some interesting characters. However, I will say the creativity in this small town is through the roof, if they choose to have one. From drive-in theaters with old broken down cars cemented in the rocks, to a vertical airplane with a disco ball for a tail wing, art reaches all limits here. It may be just a hip, pit stop of what used to be a hit beach town on the Salton Sea, but I can guarantee you will never forget the bizarre ways of Bombay Beach.


  • Salton Sea

Surprisingly the largest lake in California is the Salton Sea, it is also the smelliest. We walked out from Bombay Beach to take in the view for ourselves. It is a bit eerie, walking on a beach made of bones, and rotting fish all around. The harsh climate makes it extremely difficult for the creatures we associate with lakes and water to survive, therefore it is mostly deserted. It is beautiful in its own way, even if you don’t want to stop, there are plenty of places along its circumference to look on.


  • Big Bear

I grew up ski racing, so when some friends asked if I wanted to go to Big Bear for a day, I was ecstatic! Only 2 hours from LA and west coast skiing, we were in for a good time. Except it was a bit of a letdown. I was expecting the big rocky mountainous ski resorts and multiple feet of powder to race down the mountain on. When we arrived, I found a small hill, and then a small mountain next to it, and that was it. While the one resort did have a bit more to it than seen at first, overall, it was a disappointment. I learned Big Bear is more for the snow feel, only 2 hours from LA, tubing, and light skiing.


  • Convict Lake

Convict Lake is a place that has been on my “list” of places to visit since moving to LA. Its beauty is evident in photos, but in person, it is hard to grasp just how big the mountain is. The water is bright blue, and in the summer you can paddleboard out on it! The contrast of the white snowy mountain, driving into the turquoise water will force you to pause for a bit and take in the majesty.





** The next 7 items on the list are in order from south to north, traveling along Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway/PCH). These 6 will lead you up to San Francisco. Under the San Francisco tab, we will continue with other trips north!**


  • McWay Falls

McWay falls is part of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. When we went, the bottom half was closed and there was no way to get down to the beach, you were however, allowed to walk around up top. It was still beautiful to be able to see it from above. There is a waterfall and paths to walk along the cliffside. Traditionally, you would turn off Highway 1 and pay for parking in the lot provided by the park. We parked on the side of the highway because we knew we wouldn’t take too long. The choice is up to you!


  • Pfeiffer Beach

Next stop, Pfeiffer Beach. This one you will pay a fee to get into the park, but it is good for all day if you have the time to visit for a while. The trees and greenery here itself is amazing, but then add the ocean, and monstrous rock formations on the beach, it is miraculous in real life.


  • Shark Fin Cove

Two hours further up the coast and a mile south on Highway 1 from Davenport, you will find Shark Fin Cove. You can see the shark fin from the highway, and a little patch of dirt off the side of the road to park on. It is a bit steep walking down the path, but not too bad. I was able to do it with my dog even though it says dogs aren’t allowed. You’ll find a little rock tunnel to walk through and behind that, it will expand out to the beach area! Here you can walk around or hang out and take in the view. When I went we had the spot all to ourselves, it is not very busy, so maybe bring some food for a picnic or a good book for quality water time.


  • Davenport

Continue up Highway 1 for a bit and you will reach Davenport. Just as magical as Shark Fin Cove, these cliffs you see from the top looking down onto the beach. They are h i g h. I love heights and these got me a little woozy. There is a swing down on the beach, however, it seems extremely dangerous to take the path down to it. I’m talking you’ll need rocking climbing gear, a spot, and insanity to try that one. It is gorgeous just being on the top, in with the trees, and then out onto the open cliffs. It’s worth the stop.


  • Big Sur

Big Sur was another one of those spots on my list to see since first moving to LA, four years prior. From LA, it’s about a 5-hour drive, up the coast. Make sure to get gas around Santa Maria, once you’re on the coast, gas is scarce. There is the town of Big Sur and then the Big Sur bridge (which I didn’t realize is actually formally known as Bixby Creek Bridge). To me, this was a bit confusing at first, but if you are driving north, about 20 minutes past the town, you will drive over the bridge. There are plenty of spots to park to give yourself time to walk around and take in this space. It’s breathtaking. This should definitely be on your must-see list from California.


  • Carmel

The last stop ocean town stop of our trip up the PCH, is the town Carmel-by-the-sea. A quaint town, full of culture and a small-town feel, visiting here is always the cherry on top of a dream-like day driving up the coast witnessing mother nature’s beauty. Take time to visit the coastline, even though you may have just driven through it for 7 hours, it is ever-changing, and no spot is the same. In Carmel, rent bikes and explore alleyways filled with character and hidden gems. You can’t go wrong here.


  • Mystery Spot

For a break from the cliffside, turquoise ocean water of northern California seen in the last 6 stops, take a break at the Mystery Spot! This is a bizarre place, it really makes no sense what is happening in this small area just south of San Francisco. To put it simply, gravity seems to be pulling uphill here. A guide will take you through and demonstrate in a bunch of different ways the mysterious phenomenon that is occurring, by using your own body, a pool ball, and more. You can feel it too! Your body will be pulled in one direction and you will find yourself walking crooked. If you get motion sickness, take some ginger beforehand just to be safe. This is a great way to change up all of the vast scenery you’ve been taking in for the last day or two.

 

SAN FRANCISCO



A beautifully historic city built on the hills, San Francisco is a unique, interesting city to visit. I was there for a weekend and did the main sight-seeing things. I am planning on revisiting to visit Alcatraz. Alcatraz is a small island off the shore, that held a federal prison supposedly “impossible” to escape. Many inmates died here and of course, there are stories about inmates escaping, however, they were never found. I have only heard good things about Alcatraz tours, if you plan on taking a tour make sure to book well in advance.

Main things to see in the heart of San Francisco include: The Golden Gate Bridge, Painted Ladies, Lombard Street, and Fisherman’s Warf.


There are many places where you can check out the Golden Gate Bridge. The best view is to drive over the bridge and head up to Battery Spencer. There is parking here and it’s a short walk to the viewpoint, but bring jackets and hold onto your hats because it is windy up there! If you want a more private, secluded location, check out Marshall’s Beach. It is on the same side of the bridge as the city and off to the left of the bridge. You can walk around here for a while, it’s a great place to get a little hike in.


If you’re a Full House fan, take a visit to the Painted Ladies! (photo above). There is a park right across from them where you can hang out and have a nice picnic. These are old Victoria styled houses built in the 1890s that survived the earthquake of 1906 and are featured in over 70 films, programs, and ads.


Lombard Street (photo to left) is another location specific to San Francisco. You can drive down it, but it is so tightly woven back and forth, it’ll take you a bit with the traffic. Spend some time walking around as well for a great photo op!


Fisherman’s Warf is a great place for dinner. You will have an abundance of food options as well as a view of the water. It is very close to the city, on the North East edge looking over the San Francisco Bay. Take a walk around and you may find the sea lions sunbathing on the docks as well!

 

o Other Trips

  • Mendocino

We spent a good amount of time between Mendocino and Fort Bragg. Three hours north of San Francisco, Mendocino is a small town, not made for tourists. There are a few restaurants and hotels. However, Mendocino does have luscious fields leading right up to cliffside ocean views, known as the Mendocino Headlands State Park.



The Russian Gulch State Park is located halfway between Mendocino and Fort Bragg. We spend a day here hiking to waterfalls and enjoying our own private beach. This beach has a very special place in my heart because it is where my fiancé proposed later that night. The hike we did was called Waterfall Trail Loop. It was fairly easy, but round trip took about an hour and a half. We did spend time swimming in the brisk waterfall water.



  • Fort Bragg

The main pull to Fort Bragg is Glass Beach. In photos, it may look bright and colorful, but in person, it was a little lackluster. It was a nice place to climb around in natural grooves and big rocks, but it was not the experience we were expecting.




If you happen to be in this area, with a car, do not miss this opportunity to drive through a tree! The name gives it away, but this did feel like a special experience not many people get to say they’ve done. My car did struggle a bit to get to the location. You are driving through the woods with a lot of twists and turns and mountains. The drive felt longer than expected but it was so worth it!



  • Lake Tahoe

This spot blew us away! Wow, Lake Tahoe is SO BEAUTIFUL!! We planned to stay here for one night and ended up staying three, with the intention of going back for a full week of just Tahoe. We were in Kings Beach, where we could paddleboard, swim, bike, hike, shop, and walk around the adorable little town, all while in view of the white-capped Rocky Mountains. We hiked up to Monkey Rock, an easy yet awesome hike on the Nevada side of the lake. We also made a stop at Secret Cove beach! It is a trip to get down to it, come prepared with hiking shoes. Parking is also scarce on the road, however, we were able to find a spot around 1pm. I highly recommend giving both of these a try while in Tahoe.


  • Redwoods

These magnificent giants will leave you in awe of Mother Nature. We stayed in a little town called Angels Camp to prepare to visit the redwoods during our trip. Angels Camp is a tiny town known for its international frog jumping contest. It’s the perfect spot to get out of normal civilian life and into nature. We went in May and there was still snow on them! Be aware, when snow comes crashing down from 200 ft high, it could be dangerous, but it was an enchanted experience for us and a pleasure to witness these giants in person.


 

SAN DIEGO


San Diego is probably our favorite weekend get-away. It is only a two-hour drive and offers a miraculously different culture from LA. San Diego is elegant yet beachy, relaxed yet exciting.


La Jolla is probably one of the biggest draws to San Diego. La Jolla is a beach located a bit north of the city, filled with caves to kayak in, sea lions grazing on the rocks, and little beaches nestled into the cliffs where you can hang out for the day.


o Food


Located in La Jolla is a place called the Trilogy Sanctuary. On the roof, you can order food (vegan) and sit looking over the city, rooftop yoga, rooftop aerial yoga, and a little boutique. It’s a bit pricey, but the food is delicious, healthy, and worth the view. I have never taken yoga here but from the looks of it, it is a one of a kind experience.


Café Gratitude is a chain restaurant with a clever way to order your food and raise your vibration. Each food item is named an affirmation, so when you order you say “I am connected, I am abundant, and I am thriving” and the waiter knows you want a burger with a salad on the side, and lemonade… How cool?! The aesthetic of the café is light and open, this restaurant has become a favorite of mine due to the overall look, taste, quality, and environment.


If you want to have dinner watching the sunset over the ocean, I recommend Lahaina Beach House. It is located over in Pacific Beach, right on the water. It is casual, picture your typical beachside restaurant and there you have it. The view is what draws people to it, but they stay for the food and chill atmosphere.


o Nightlife


There are two main locations to go out in San Diego, downtown or by the beach (known as Pacific Beach). All the places mentioned below are downtown.


Country music makes me the happiest, line-dancing chick in a bar so naturally, I loved Moonshine Flats. There is a place to line dance, normal dance, play games, and chill out. They will also occasionally have concerts here, if you are interested in one, check out the schedule online. I was only able to hang out here for about an hour and some change, but the night was a blast. If you’re a country fan, give this place a visit.


Trailer Park After Dark, what a blast from the past this place was! This is an underground bar, designed to look like a trailer park… but it’s the most extravagant trailer park you’ve ever been to. The DJ was awesome when we went, playing all the songs you forgot from the 90s. My goodness, it was a BLAST. Even if this isn’t your vibe, take a stop in here and have a drink, it is worth it!


If you are looking for a more elegant environment, check out Rooftop by STK. We started the night here because it is geared more towards conversation and interaction, rather than dancing and music. With fireplaces and comfy couches, this bar is a great place to take in the view with good company.


Opposite the atmosphere of Rooftop by STK, we have Flicks. This is a gay bar located on University Ave, the gay bar strip. If you enter, you will dance. It’s as simple as that. You can also sing karaoke and dance on stage. Live your best queen life.


There are plenty of hookah bars to choose from, we went to Myst Lounge. This bar is central to all the bars downtown so it’s a good place to end your night at. They serve food as well if you need a late-night snack.

 

Road Trips

o 1 week North

Day 1 – Drive to Santa Barbara & stay for the night

Day 2 - McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, Carmel. Stay for two nights.

Day 3 – Explore Carmel by the Sea.

Day 4 – Mystery Spot, San Francisco. Stay for three nights.

Day 5 – Explore SF.

Day 6 – Explore SF.

Day 7 – Drive back to LA.

o 1 week South

Day 1 – Joshua Tree. Stay for two nights.

Day 2 – Explore Joshua Tree.

Day 3 – Salton Sea, Bombay Beach, Imperial Sand Dunes. Stay one night.

Day 4 – San Diego. Stay for three nights.

Day 5 – Explore San Diego.

Day 6 – Explore San Diego.

Day 7 – Drive back to LA.

o 2 weeks North

Day 1 through 6 – same as 1 week north road trip

Day 7 – Mendocino, Fort Bragg. Stay for one night.

Day 8 – Drive Through Tree. Drive south on the 101 to the 5 to go towards the Redwoods. Stay in Red Bluff for one night.

Day 9 – Redwoods. Stay for one night.

Day 10 – Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach. Stay for four nights.

Day 11 – Explore Tahoe.

Day 12 – Explore Tahoe.

Day 13 – Explore Tahoe.

Day 14 – Drive back to LA


Halloween Time

o Knotts Scary Farm

o Six Flags Great Adventure

o Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

o The Queen Mary


Must-do’s

o Rollerblade/bike down Santa Monica

o Escape Hotel Hollywood

o Knotts scary farm

o Big Sur

o Malibu Wine Safari


Food

o Taco Trucks

o Sun Café

o Crave Café

o Tao

o Fruit stands

o Thai food

o Trilogy Sanctuary (San Diego)

o Gjelina


Nightlife

o Moonshine Flats (San Diego)

o Trailer Park After Dark (San Diego)

o No Vacancy

o Adults Only

o Avalon

o El Tejano

o The Republic of Pi



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