Officially caught the travel bug and, spur of the moment, took a solo trip out to California. It's hard to believe that it's almost been three years since I spent the summer out in LA, aka the best summer of my life. And, even harder to believe that I hadn't been back since. So, I took advantage of MLK Weekend and some comp days I had coming to me and booked a ticket.
Extremely glad I did and proud to say I jam packed an entire summer's worth of activities into five days. Shoutout to my roomiez Glo and Grace for their hospitality in LA and San Diego.
For those of you wanting to tackle Southern California, on a relatively cheap budget, here is my list of must see/dos.
TIP #1: USE THE TIME CHANGE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Wherever you're flying from, fly out early. Don't waste a vacation day getting there. There are plenty of non-stops into LAX that get in EARLY. 100% worth the extra money and you can sleep on the plane.
TIP #2: RENT A CAR
Unless you want to quickly rack up an Uber tab, I suggest renting a car. California and public transportation just don't mix.
Next, find the nearest In-N-Out and order a cheeseburger, Animal Style. You won't see it on the public menu, but just trust me on this one and get it. And, if you're feeling extra wild, you can get your fries Animal Style, too.
Looking to spot a celeb? Head to the In-N-Out in Universal City. I met Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper) from House of Cards...celebrities, they're just like us!
After you've munched on a burger, or three, head down Barham Blvd. (I used to live there) and ride past Warner Brother Studios. (If you see da' police, warna' brother.) Got the time? Stop for a tour...it's worth it. From there, ride through Tuluca Lake and Burbank. (My old stompin' grounds!)
TIP #3: HOLLYWOOD SIGN
You're in California, you want to see the Hollywood Sign, duh. Whatever you do, don't waste your time Googling how to get there. I promise, you'll be disappointed.
If you want a good view and you're on a time crunch, go to Lake Hollywood Park. You'll get the Insta you want in under 10mins.
If you've got some time to kill and want to check "hiking" off of your list, you can get up, close, and personal with the sign via the "Mt. Hollywood Drive" trail that leaves from Griffith Park Observatory. Park in the LOWER parking lot, which is located immediately after you pass under a bridge. If you've gone up the big hill, or you see the Observatory, you've gone too far. Look for the "Mt. Hollywood Drive" trail. Take that to "Mulholland Trail," which will take you to "Mt. Lee Drive," and on up to the sign. All in all, it will be about a 7 mile hike, but worth it. You can also leave from the Observatory via the "Charlie Turner Trail" for some great city views, but it will take longer, and you'll probably get lost, like I did - lol!
View from Lake Hollywood Park
Charlie Turner Trail - View of Griffith Observatory
Mt. Hollywood Dr.
TIP #4: EXPLORE LA
Check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame, see the Chinese Theater, window shop your way down Rodeo Drive, visit the iconic Urban Light at LACMA, and view the Great Wall of Los Angeles. All bucket list items, for sure, but once you've seen them, you've seen all there is to see.
Planning a trip in the summer? Head to a Dodgers game, just to say you've been. Don't have time? Take a tour! They're only $10. Or, if sports aren't your thing, picnic and see an outdoor movie in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Couldn't get a ticket? Griffith Park also presents outdoor movies. Plus, they have dozens of food trucks - yum!
If you're looking for a night out, but not sure where to go, sign up for a bar crawl. That's what we did to get the lay of the land without having to wait in any lines, or pay for covers! Pasadena also has some great bars and clubs. FYI, a lot of places charge a HUGE cover, I'm talkin' $60 - $100. Avoid them by getting in early, usually before 10pm.
TIP #5: CALIFORNIA IS GREAT FOR ROAD TRIPS
I have a new found appreciation for solo road trips. If you ever have the opportunity, do it! It's fun to explore by yourself and you gain an incredible sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, California was getting TONS of rain when I visited, but it was still fun to reminisce on some of my favorite spots.
I started just north of Malibu at El Matador State Beach. If you're looking for a beach day, this is my favorite place. Secluded and drop dead, out of a magazine, gorgeous. Just north is Neptune's Net - BEST crab cakes around!
Then, I drove down the 101, past Zuma Beach, and through Malibu, stopping in Santa Monica. If you're looking for a lunch spot with good views, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., right on the pier, is the way to go. From there, it's a short drive to Venice. Definitely take an hour and rent some roller blades - "so cali."
From Venice, I took the 101 the entire way down to San Diego quickly stopping in Huntington, Newport, Laguna, and La Jolla. It's such a cool drive, and even cooler when it's sunny!
TIP #6: EXPLORE SAN DIEGO
I've always said that if I ever moved out to California, I'd move to San Diego. It's an awesome city that's more laid back than LA.
Top 10 Things to do in a weekend:
- San Diego Zoo
- Balboa Park
- USS Midway
- Coronado Island - Grub on Some Mexican, too!
- Sunset Cliffs
- Drink Some Brewskis - San Diego has Breweries on Breweries!
- Put Your Party Pants on in the Gaslamp District
- Brunch in Pacific Beach (PB) - Recommendation: Isabel's Cantina
- Eat Your Way Through Little Italy - Recommendation: Landini's
- Acai Bowls After a Workout (again, "so cali")