Los Angeles

Five Cities Around Los Angeles That You Need to Visit

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While Los Angeles itself has plenty to offer, the city can be quite overwhelming, especially for people who aren’t used to cities of this magnitude. During the month I spent in the West Coast metropole last year, I became increasingly frustrated about the long drives and traffic several times – can it really take 90 minutes to cover an eight mile distance? I found myself wishing for small town conveniences on various occasions (usually while stuck in a traffic jam on the 405), and that’s when I realized it may be a good idea to check out some nearby cities of a more manageable size to see what they have to offer. Luckily I had enough time for several day trips from Los Angeles, which allowed me to check out several cities right in Los Angeles county. Some cities along the coast, some just outside the L.A. city limits. Each one was special and unique in their own way, and worth a visit for things that the others didn’t have. If you visit L.A. and want to escape the ‘Big Smog’ for a day, here are five cities near Los Angeles that are worth visiting:

best day trips from Los Angeles

Five Cities that make for great day trips from Los Angeles

1. Long Beach, California

Long Beach is LA’s big neighbor to the south, California’s 7th largest city and second busiest container port in the U.S. The massive port has led people to believe that Long Beach is nothing more than a big industrial city, but I found out that the city itself is actually a fine escape from L.A., offering a downtown area that is walkable and, as its name suggests, a pretty long beach.venice beachThe coastline is actually divided into different smaller beaches, but what they all have in common is that they are wide, sandy, and have a bike & running path that follows the shore for miles.

I was surprised to find more independent coffee shops that I could possibly try in a day (Rose Parks and the Library Coffee House were among my favorites), colorful street art (especially in the East Village Arts District), and the quaint Belmont Shore neighborhood with its Spanish-style homes from the 1920s and 1930s and palm-fringed streets.

The one thing that really had the ship lover in me the most excited weren’t the freight ships that majestically glide in and out of the port, but the original Queen Mary ocean liner that is retired in Long Beach and can be visited, which is best done by having drinks at the Observation Bar.cities near Los Angeles worth visitingIf you arrive hungry in Long Beach, for breakfast head to the Coffee Cup, Sweet Dixie or Fuego At The Maya. If you get hungry later in the day, head to Los Comprados for Mexican or to Nick’s for classic American comfort food. For beer lovers, Belmont Brewing right by the beach is a must and its happy hour makes it a perfect sunset hangout. Long Beach is one of the best cities near Los Angeles worth visiting, but it also has enough to offer to make it a destination in itself.

There are quite a few hotels in Long Beach, most of them conveniently located in the Downtown area, in walking distance to the beach.

2. Malibu – a MUST-DO day trip from Los Angeles

Malibu is located west of L.A. and is known for its stunning cliff views over the ocean, as well as lovely Zuma Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach, which is especially popular with surfers. The city stretches along the ocean for nearly 30 miles and a ride along the Pacific Coast Highway is the perfect way to get a first glimpse of what is some of California’s finest coastline.Untitled

The other big draw of Malibu is that it is right near some hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, where you can hike through canyons and to waterfalls. A great hike that is not too difficult and only takes two hours is the Solstice Canyon hike, but if you want a bit more of a workout, head up the Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak, which inclines 1,600 feet and offers amazing views over the Malibu coast, and on a good day, all the way to the Channel Islands. Check out this article for more Malibu hikes – the 7.5 mile Puerco Canyon hike is already on my to-do-list for my next California stint.

The Malibu Pier is also not to be missed, and while you’re there, have dinner at Malibu Farm, an organic cafe right at the end of the pier. The best time to visit is at sunset, but their breakfast dishes are also absolutely delicious.cities near Los Angeles worth visiting

3. Pasadena – a food lover’s paradise

Pasadena is located northeast of L.A., and is a food lover’s paradise: There are over 500 restaurants here, including the only Michelin-rated hotel restaurant in Southern California, The Langham Huntington, and don’t miss the 46-year-old Pasadena landmark Pie ‘n Burger. If you are a foodie, this one should top your list of the cities near Los Angeles worth visiting.

Architecture buffs will love Pasadena for its historic homes: Bungalow Heaven is a Landmark District made up of 800 small craftsman bungalows built between 1900 and 1930, the Gamble House being the most famous one, known as the masterpiece of the Arts & Crafts period.

Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Norton Simon Museum, an extensive art museum with a wonderful sculpture garden and a remarkable contemporary art section.


4. Anaheim

Anaheim is home to the ‘Happiest Place On Earth’ – Disneyland! And because of this, it’s one of the most popular day trips from Los Angeles. If you’re a theme park fan, Anaheim will surely be included in your L.A. itinerary already, but even if you are not a Disney fan or an amusement park aficionado, you’ll appreciate Anaheim for the historic Packing District, including the gorgeous Farmer’s Park with an olive grove, gardens and a weekly farmer’s market on Sundays.

The Packing District is made up of three 1920s commercial spaces which have been refurbished and now house some of the city’s greatest eateries. Make sure to stop at the Old Packing House, a historic 1919 citrus packing house turned into an upscale food court with local vendors and bars. Beer lovers flock to Anaheim for its numerous microbreweries which resulted in Anaheim being named the ‘Beer Capital Of Orange County’. Check out this list of breweries to plan a self-guided brewery hopping tour around Anaheim.cities near Los Angeles worth visiting

5. Santa Ana – for its historic Downtown

Santa Ana sits southeast of Los Angeles and its primary draw is the Historic Downtown district which is famous for its art deco houses. If you enjoy interesting architecture, Santa Ana is definitely one of the most interesting of all day trips from Los Angeles for you. In addition to the historic architecture, you’ll find the Artists Village downtown, which is an area filled with art galleries and studios as well as some fantastic restaurants.

The Artists Village was part of an initiative to bring abandoned downtown areas back to life, and it has certainly worked here. The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art and the Cal State Fullerton Grand Central Art Center are both worth a visit.

Historic ‘Calle Cuatro’, or 4th Street, is also part of the historic downtown and lined with restaurants, independent shops and boutiques, craft beer breweries and the 4th Street Market, which is an indoor food market.

Santa Ana, California

Any other day trips from Los Angeles you would add to my list? Share them in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Photos used via Flickr’s Creative Common license. Pasadena by Graham, Santa Ana by Jasperdo.


day trips from Los Angeles


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Five Outdoor Activities to Do in Los Angeles

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Are you headed to Los Angeles? If it’s your first time coming to this dynamic, sprawling city, you are probably wondering about the outdoors. LA is known for its weather just as much as the entertainment industry. While you could spend your time in a hotel, restaurants, bars, and other indoor establishments, a better choice is to spend your time outside. With so many options for outdoor activities, you won’t be disappointed by the things to do in Los Angeles. Below are five outdoor activities to do in LA.

Go Hiking

Hiking is popular among people who live in Los Angeles. One great way to combine hiking and a tourist activity is to hike up the Hollywood sign. There are plenty of options for trails in the area. You can drive out to Angeles National Forest, Topanga Canyon, or even further out to a place like Joshua Tree if you want to get out of the city. You can also hike around Griffith Observatory and look through some telescopes afterward. Whatever you are doing in Los Angeles, set aside a day to hike and enjoy the scenery and natural world.hollywood sign dani california

Work Out

One great way to experience Los Angeles is to go to the local gyms found here. If you are a bodybuilder and want to work out in the sun, you can’t miss Muscle Beach in Venice. Even if you don’t want to work out, going to see these muscular men lift weights is a sight to be seen. Los Angeles is known for its gyms and its gym culture. Whether you want to work out outside or need gyms with childcare, LA has it all. But if you can work out outside, you should. The weather is great, and you will get a chance to show off your body.

Venice Beach
There should be more beaches that come with work-out equipment like here in Venice Beach, California

Go to the Beach

Los Angeles isn’t just known for its sunshine; it is also known for its beaches. Whatever beach experience you want is available in LA. If you want to experience the eccentric beach community the city has to offer, go to Venice Beach. There are plenty of cool cafes, you can do some shopping in the trendy stores along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, or just take in what’s happening in the area around Muscle Beach, which I’ve already mentioned above. There’s always something to see, and it’s a great spot for people watching.

Venice ❤️ A more wholesome boardwalk experience is a few minutes’ walk north in Santa Monica. Malibu provides unparalleled beauty and seclusion. You can also head down to Orange County for even better beaches to swim and lay out in the sun. If you don’t go to the beach, did you really go to LA?

Griffith Park

Griffith Park is an amazing place for a picnic. Go to a high-end store and buy some meats, cheese, bread, and wine. Bring a blanket and some friends. You can sit, eat, enjoy some craft beverages, and walk around the park. This is also where Griffith Observatory is. When you are done with your picnic and your hike, head to the observatory, which is free to visit. It’s a Must-Visit for anyone interested in astronomy, stars and space. Griffith Park is also a great place to enjoy fantastic views over Los Angeles – not just for sunset, but any time of day.Griffith Park

Joshua Tree

At some point, you might want to get out of town. Joshua Tree National Park is a popular spot to get some air, hike, and contemplate in the desert. Joshua Tree is known for the trees of its namesake and the spirituality the region has to offer. Bohemians and mystics have flocked to Joshua Tree for years. Depending on the time of year, it might be hot so bring some sunscreen and a hat, but if you catch it at the perfect time, you will be able to find peace in the desert.desert

When you are coming to Los Angeles, you just must make sure to spend some time outside. You will, of course, want to go to restaurants, bars, museums, and more, but doing outdoor activities is a great way to experience this legendary city in a new way. Locals love to hike and get out of the city. While a lot of locals don’t necessarily go to the beach, you must experience the coast of California while you’re here. Whatever you are doing in Los Angeles, make some time to spend outdoors and above all, enjoy yourself. 

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7 Famous Landmarks of LA & Hollywood You Have to See

Santa Monica Beach

As one of the most iconic places on Earth, Los Angeles deserves its grand name. It truly feels like the City of Angels, especially when surrounded by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Unlike New York or San Francisco, however, Los Angeles doesn’t have a large number of sights per se – so what to see in LA?

There are quite a few must-do experiences in Los Angeles, ranging from seeing your favorite celebrities immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, taking a glimpse at the Hollywood Sign, or marveling at the lifeguard towers in Malibu, which have become world-famous thanks to “Baywatch”.

These are the famous sights you have to see in LA:what to see in LA

The seven best landmarks to see in LA

1. The Hollywood Walk of Fame

What’s so special about the Hollywood Walk of Fame? From abroad, it may be difficult to see the irresistible appeal of a mile long trail.

But the Hollywood Walk of Fame is simply breathtaking. Over 2 500 stars, each celebrating a Hollywood legend, bring home the significance of where you are. They’re a living history of La La Land, and the modern entertainment industry.

With millions of visitors following the route every year, and buskers and vendors setting up shop, it is a vibrant, exciting experience. Visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a must-do thing in LA. what to see in LA

2. The Hollywood Sign

There is perhaps no other sign as recognizable as the Hollywood Sign. Anyone born in the last century has a special attachment to it. So much so that when the sign was rebuilt, after a 3 month absence, the coverage of its unveiling was watched by 60 million people around the world! And this was before live coverage could be broadcast even to the furthest corners of the globe. I hiked up to the Hollywood Sign and loved it, not just for the sign, but also for the marvelous views over the city. Definitely one of the best things to do in LA! sights to see in LA

3. Venice Beach

Moving away from the silver screen, let’s give a quick mention to LA’s most beloved beach. Venice Beach is such an important part of Western culture, that since 1996 live visuals have been streamed online. It’s always summer at Venice Beach. Although be warned that the weather can be temperamental, so be sure to bring a jersey!Work out beach

4. The Venice Ocean Front Walk – the “Boardwalk”

The Boardwalk is the perfect place to take in LA culture – it’s one thing that’s on my “what to do in LA” list every time I visit the City of Angels. With visitors from all over the world, year round, there is an eclectic mix between the local and the foreign. Performers are to be found every few steps. Bring a few dollar bills as tips!sights to see in LA

5. Universal Studios Hollywood

This Los Angeles film studio and amusement park is thing you must see in LA, especially if you’re a movie buff. Guided tours, rides, famous characters, oh my! It’s a film lover’s paradise, with Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Transformers, and even Hogwarts to keep you busy all day.


6. Staples Center

If you get the chance, go to an event at the famed Staples Center. Sports events are a great way to take in American culture. Concerts performed by a wide range of artists are a special treat. There are plenty of things to do in the area before and after the event, so that you can make the most out of your day.what to see in LA

7. Disneyland

No list would be complete without mentioning Disneyland. The most coveted theme park in the world, just the name has had children’s hearts racing since it was opened in 1955. There are countless videos on YouTube of kids’ reactions to their parents’ announcements. And it’s not only special for the kids. If you’re a Disney fan, Disneyland is one of the places you must see in LA.

What are your favorite sights in LA? Share them in the comments below!


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Unusual Things to do in Los Angeles

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Tourists, emigrants to Los Angeles, or even lifelong residents will probably still not have seen everything cool this amazing city has to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or novice, improve your street cred with these offbeat, behind-the-scenes attractions and unusual things to do in LA, and discover another side to a city which everyone thinks they have figured out…

unusual things to do in LA

Museum of Jurassic Technology

This museum is located at 9341 Venice Boulevard in Culver City. The museum provides a ‘hands-on’ experience of what life in the Lower Jurassic period was like. Although the artifacts exhibited differ, depending on the time of year and which collections are currently visiting, patrons can expect to see scientific experiments, innovations and inventions of mankind from millions of years ago, such as a collection of thousands of decomposing dice. It’s only open from Thursday to Sunday, but this quirky find is certainly worth a visit.

The Wildlife Learning Center

For those who love nature but are opposed to zoos, this wildlife sanctuary will be a memorable trip. Located at 16027 Yarnell St, Sylmar, the center is open on most days from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Housing animals rescued from zoos and abandoned by private owners, you can view a sloth, a Burmese python as well as over 70 other species of animal. The olive grove setting also makes for a beautiful and natural backdrop.

los angeles bride by meesh on

Venice Canal Historic District

Located in the historic Venice district, visitors to California can get a feel for what Venice looks like, for only the price of flights to Los Angeles. Having fallen into disrepair, many canals from the early 20th century were simply filled in. However, the canals were restored and reopened in 1993 and this neighbourhood has become stylish and highly desirable as a result. See the eclectic mix of old and new LA, along this series of waterfronts and walkways.

Museum of Death

For $15 and a bus ride to 6031 Hollywood Blvd, visitors can take a 45-minute self-guided tour of this most leftfield of museums, educating them on many unusual death artifacts. These include artwork of serial killers, photos of crime scenes and even the severed head of Bluebeard of Paris!

2011-12-23 01-01 Kalifornien 252 Los Angeles, Watts Towers
Los Angeles, Watts Towers by Allie Caulfield on

The Watts Towers Campus

Located at 1727 East 107th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90002, this folk arts center houses galleries, a museum and access to the ‘homemade’ towers themselves – built out of broken glass and bottles that are 99.5 feet tall. Admission to the campus includes admission to the Watts Towers Arts Center, the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia and the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center. Listed as both a National Historic Landmark and a Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument, this is one attraction that has bags of personality.

Watch me fade through
L.A. by Ryan Vaarsi on

So next time you’re thinking of taking a stroll down the Walk of Fame or checking out the boutiques of Beverley Hills on a trip to Los Angeles, why don’t you add one of these more unusual things to do in LA to your itinerary…?

Images used under creative commons license.

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Los Angeles on a shoestring

Santa Monica Beach
Los Angeles evokes images of star-studded Hollywood, the hidden mansions of Bel Air and the palm-tree lined boulevards of Beverly Hills. No doubt about it, the City of Angels can be a place of excess and luxury like no where else in the world, and if you’ve got the budget, you can go eating, partying and dancing with the stars. But is it possible to see the glitter of Hollywood on a small budget – can you experience LA on a shoestring?
LA on a shoestring
For travelers like us who are trying to stretch our budget as far across the globe as we can, the key is to minimize spending but having a top time wherever we are. With some careful research/planning, you can have a  ‘So L.A.’ time without breaking the bank. Read on for ten ways to see the best of Los Angeles on a shoestring.

LA on a shoestring

1. Rent a car

Los Angeles is car territory, and there is no way to see the sights without one. The drivers in L.A. are reckless and lord, look out for the LAPD on a Saturday night around Sunset and Hollywood. However, sticking with public transportation in L.A. limits any chance to fulfill any of those Hollywood moments you had in mind before your trip, and if you want to get around via Uber, you will definitely not be able to do LA on the cheap, because distances are far and fares add up quickly.
Most of the rest of this post requires a car, but luckily, car rentals in LA are inexpensive and it’s possible to find a good deal for a car in Los Angeles on a shoestring budget. Compare prices on Expedia, Priceline or for the best rates.
*$17-$50 per day depending on model*

2. Mulholland Drive

This winding road through the Hollywood Hills is the way from the TV or music studio to the countless celebrity home nestled throughout the Hills and beyond, so odds aren’t bad you might see a few. Couldn’t care less about celeb spotting? This road climbs up, up and further up to offer some of the most spectacular and well-known views of Los Angeles.

3. Runyon Canyon

Located just a 15 minute drive up Mulholland Drive from Highway 101, Runyon Canyon is a  key vista of L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. Park the car, slap on your sneakers and jog up and down the well-paved path which leads from the Hollywood Hills above to Sunset Blvd in Hollywood below. These two locations being havens for celebrities and their hangers-on, you’re bound to see more muscles, plastic, collagen and recipients of Botox than on any run at home, but the workout is intense and there is no need for any ‘South Beach Diet’ after a run through Runyon Canyon. If you like being active, this is a must-do in LA on a shoestring.

4. Griffith Observatory

Like Runyon Canyon, Griffith Observatory offers spectacular views of Los Angeles and the chance to see the stars – and the moon, and mars. Brush up on your knowledge of Astronomy atop the hill in Griffith Park and see the chaos of the city from one of the most peaceful spots in Los Angeles, plus unrivaled chances for pictures of the Hollywood sign.

5. Santa Monica Pier

This 101year-old pier off the coast of Santa Monica beach is as traditional as they come. Ferris wheels, easy roller coasters, pier games, margaritas, funnel cakes and fishing off the end of the Pier. Trying to win a giant stuffed Spongebob for your girlfriend/boyfriend/son/daughter? Sure, that will cost you a pretty penny, but for a walk up and down the pier, an ice cream and a dollar bill in the hat of a Spanish guitar playing busker, a visit to Santa Monica pier is pure California for next-to-nothing.LA on a shoestring
*Parking is $10 for the day on the pier, or $1 / hr in one of the nearby lots. Get there early to get a spot.*

6. La Brea Tar Pits – Hancock Park

Not what might normally be associated with Los Angeles, the bubbling pits of tar in Hancock Park house the remains of mammoths and other mammals from hundreds of thousands, even millions of years ago.  The La Brea Tar Pits, right in the middle of the city, are an amazing site off the side of a beautiful park, art museum, and research facility which is more closely examining the findings of one of the more recent digs at the tar pits.

7. Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame

Yes, it’s a tourist trap, and it stretches for much further in either direction than you would expect. But the Walk of Fame is fun. You walk along, pointing out celebrities you love (or love to hate – does David Hasselhof have to have a star?!). Walking up and down Hollywood Blvd also gives you the chance to check out the shops, tattoo parlors, restaurants and bars of one of L.A.’s most visited and famous areas.LA on a shoestring

8. The Original Farmers Market

This ain’t your average Farmer’s Market, so it’s best not to expect stalls spilling over with fresh fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. This is an L.A. farmer’s market, so while it might be the ‘original’ dating back to 1934, times have changed since that July when “a contingent of farmers pulled their trucks onto an expanse of empty land at the property known as Gilmore Island at the corner of Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles”.
Today the Farmers Market is home to dozens of restaurants and food stalls with French breads and cheeses, fish tacos, Italian and Greek restaurants, and stalls filled with hot sauce or sweets or baked goods (even for your pets). While I wouldn’t likely purchase the $15 bottle of Italian olives from the French bakery, the Farmer’s market is the perfect place to grab a table and a snack and people-watch in this clash of  the uber-cultured, the tourists and the regular Angelinos as they all convene in this space on Third and Fairfax.
*$15 lunch for 2 on the cheap.*

9. Hollywood Bus Tour

It’s fine to cruise Mulholland Drive and crane your neck in every direction hoping to spot a celebrity in every Maserati or luxury SUV that drives by, but odds are, while you may soak up the Hollywood/Beverly Hills feeling, you’d never actually know it when you passed [insert your fav movie star here]’s house.
Whether you like it or not, jumping on one of these Hollywood Movie Stars tour buses is a necessary evil if you have any interest in film at all. See the location which served as Julia Roberts’ hotel in Pretty Woman, check out Hef’s Playboy Mansion, see Michael Jackson’s final home (Elvis Presley’s was strangely right across the street) and squeal with delight when you see the house which serves as his kingdom, he was finally there, to sit on his throne as the Prince of Bel Air – the Fresh Prince of Bel Air house. (Maybe that last one was just me, but I did, in fact, squeal as soon as we rounded the corner. The house needed no introduction from our tre-geek tour guide)...
LA on a shoestring
*$25 plus $5-10 tip. Choose any of the ones on Hollywood Boulevard*

10. See a live TV Show taping

Catching a live taping is one of the best things you can do in LA on a shoestring. See The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Maher, Craig Ferguson, the Price is Right. Register on the wish lists on each individual site. If you’re lucky, you can get tickets for Jimmy Kimmel for the taping on that same day on Hollywood Boulevard, or other tickets for shows like Catch 21 – just look out for the guys with the lists around the Chinese Theater.
LA on a shoestring
Have you been to LA? What are your Los Angeles on a shoestring tips? Share them in the comments below!
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Top 5 stops along the Pacific Coast Highway – L.A. to Laguna Beach

Santa Monica Beach

Cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Laguna Beach is exactly the trip you expect it to be. The sun, sand and surfers are just like out of a movie. In fact, on our trip down the coast on Monday, we even saw a film crew on location. Read on for the Globetrottergirls top 5 stops along this stretch of the PCH.
santa monica sunset pier

Five amazing stops on the Pacific Coast Highway (from LA to Laguna Beach)

1. Santa Monica and Pier

Santa Monica beach and pier are pure California, and though right off Interstate 10 not 30 minutes from West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip, the town center  runs at such a slow pace you forget how close you are to the celebrity-centric metropolis of L.A.  Shuffle down Main Street and you’ll pass dozens of restaurants and bars, from chic to mom-n-pop, and hundreds of relaxed locals taking in good wine, good food, and plenty of California sun along all the year-round outdoor seating. If you are hungry, have breakfast or lunch at one of these places: Holy Guacamole (Mexican), or the amazing Urth Caffe. Make sure to park at the pier and take a walk out onto this classic American pier.

Pacific Coast Highway LA to Laguna Beach
Sure, it’s family-friendly with it’s ferris wheel, easy roller coaster, funnel cakes and coffees and popcorn, but combined with the amateur fishermen at the end of the pier, the seals, the cheap margaritas at the Mexican restaurant and the fact that the it’s open til 10pm, the pier is well worth a visit for everyone. Even if you can’t catch fish, everyone can catch an amazing golden sunset over the hills.

Parking in the main lot at the pier is $10 at an all-day flat rate, or the nearby lots run at only $1 an hour. Well worth it!

2. Venice Beach

Just a ten minute drive down the PCH is Venice Beach, the punk/cool older brother version of comparably quaint Santa Monica. Home to the famed hard-core Muscle Beach, Venice Beach is also piled up with bars and restaurants and a slightly grungy block of market stalls selling everything from t-shirts and ‘hand-blown glass’ (bongs) to sunglasses, key cutting, donuts and useless but cool knick knacks. The beach here is filled with character (and characters!) and the views out into the water are breathtaking. The morning of our visit there were at least 20 surfers out catching waves, as well as a film crew at Venice Beach, though we don’t know whether it was a movie or a commercial.

venice beach at dusk

3. Seal Beach

Passing through the mega-port city of Long Beach which has it’s own charms (the Queen Mary, trips out to Catalina Island and the shops at the Ports of Call), Seal Beach is just 10 minutes down the highway on a slight peninsula. The beach itself is simple and large, plenty of room to grab a spot and a tan and the pier is plain, though surprisingly open til midnight. You do peek out at a few oil rigs offshore and of course the port is up the coast to your right, but easily ignorable. What makes Seal Beach so great is it’s Main Street. Galleries, restaurants, diners, ice-cream parlors, cafes and benches outside several shops for a chance to just sit and relax as you make your way from friendly shop owner to friendly shop owner. We were both immediately transported to the 50s or 60s (or how we imagine that era to have been) and felt completely relaxed. We picked up some delicious bakery goodies at Sweet Jill’s and ate some excellent pizza at Sunset Pizza & Pasta.

seal beach california

4. Newport Beach

This was a must-see stop for one of us (ahem….you know who you are), as this is the location of the OC. Much larger than Seal Beach and very touristy, this does not harm Newport Beach in the slightest. In fact, this is a perfect place to hang for a longer period of time. You’ve got miles of gorgeous beach and every type of restaurant, bar and tattoo shop you can imagine. We only stopped here for a quick coffee break (at Newport Coffee Company) and some 5 o’clock sun, but I’d definitely like to go back and soak up more sun here at Newport Beach.

Pacific Coast Highway LA to Laguna Beach
5. Laguna Beach

For those of us who prefer reality to a made-up TV show, Laguna Beach was an ultimate destination for a certain fan of MTV’s reality show of the same name  (ahem, guilty as charged). Laguna Beach was much larger than I expected, and very spread out. The beaches are a dream and the marina is giant and breathtaking to think about how many millions of dollars were splashed on those yachts. No celebs were spotted in the making of this post, however.
Pacific Coast Highway LA to Laguna Beach

Have you driven the Pacific Coast Highway Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Laguna Beach? What are your favorite spots along the way?

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Polaroid of the week: Sunset over Santa Monica, California


polaroid of the week usa california santa monicaIt seems like the travel gods aren’t on my side this year: I wish I could say that my journey to the U.S. went without a glitch, but I almost didn’t make it here. I wasn’t allowed on the plane – again. (Does this sound familiar?!) I will talk about it in more detail in my monthly round-up; at the moment I am still digesting this little major travel mishap.

I eventually made it to L.A., and a few days under the Californian sun helped me recover from the incident and to relax before starting my housesit. I stayed one block from the beach in Santa Monica, the perfect location to enjoy the nightly spectacle of the magnificent sunsets over the Pacific and to go on long runs along the promenade.

Most of my days were spent in Santa Monica and Venice – even though it wasn’t like I hadn’t been to a beach in ages (my last beach day was about a month ago in Thailand), I cherished my beach time, knowing that these would be my last beach days for a very long time. However, I ended up braving the L.A. traffic to venture into the city to visit some of the museums I wanted to check out, hunt down new street art in West Hollywood, and try some of the restaurants that had been recommended to me. I have to admit that after the stress earlier in the week, I cut down my ambitious itinerary considerably and decided to take it slow instead, knowing that I’d be back in L.A. sooner or later anyway. Overall, I couldn’t have chosen a better place to kick off my U.S. summer travels – thanks for the great time, L.A.!

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Top hiking trails in Los Angeles for the hiker in you

redondo beach california

Hiking is one of the most fun activities to do in LA, allowing you to take in the stunning scenery around – and right within – the city. Whether you are someone who has been raised in the city or a traveler visiting LA for the first time, you should check out one of the many hiking trails in L.A. The hike doesn’t have to be overly strenuous or long: there are plenty of shorter hikes in L.A., too. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, trust me: you will enjoy every single of the hikes below – all of which are trails I consider to be the best hikes in Los Angeles. Get packing today and return with a backpack full of memories and adrenaline rushes.

Head out to the Hollywood Hills

Though this is a three-mile tame loop, which doesn’t sound like much, it’s the 1,821-foot elevation is that makes this hike quite challenging – especially for novice hikers.  The Wisdom Tree at the top should be your goal as it is said to be the only survivor of a 2007 wildfire. Check out the tree on its personal Instagram page. If you wish to extend the loop, climb further up to see the Hollywood Sign. The downhill journey is easy, and even though you’ll huff and puff your way up to the top, the views from the top are absolutely worth it. Don’t forget to pack water and sunscreen! Since there is no proper trailhead parking lot, you’ll have to park your car in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, ideally along along Lake Hollywood Drive. Don’t leave valuables in the car while you’re on the trail, especially if you want to head up to the Hollywood sign for sunset (in that case, make sure you pack a flashlight for the way down, or make sure your phone has enough battery). Luggage storage services in Los Angeles can be found easily, if hikes in Los Angeles

Malibu’s Grotto trail is fascinating

You must be wondering what gave this trail such a name. Well, it is the standing water that has done the honors. But there’s more – the surrounding geographical features are just as stunning, which is why the Malibu Grotto Trail is considered one of the best hikes in Los Angeles. There are tall boulders, some of the friendliest frogs, and shady nooks that complete the scenery. Though the hike is fairly easy, you can expect to get stained clothes by the end of it since you will be scrambling into the grotto, so don’t wear your fanciest hiking attire on this trail. If you are heading out with a car or bike, park at the Circle X ranch campground.

Take your dog to Wilacre Park

Are you a dog-lover? Are you traveling with your dog? Then why not go on a hike with your furry, woofy, paw-buddy? Wilacre Park at Studio City has a dog-friendly trail with moderate inclination. There will be a point when you reach the fork. Continue to the right for a quick hike, or turn left for a longer, more challenging and beautiful route. The local fauna is bound to leave you enchanted. Also good to know: the parking lot at the trail head is free!

And if you want to take your dog on more than just one hike – here are seven more scenic off-leash dog walks in Los Angeles.

Explore the less traversed Los Liones Canyon

Los Angeles can be overwhelming – the traffic, the smog, the noise.. If you are someone who is looking for some time away from people and want to get some solitude, then the Los Liones Canyon is the best hike in L.A. for you. It is one of the most stunning spots on the Westside where you can sit and sip coffee, enjoy a book, or walk and explore and vicinity. The trail isn’t very long – it stretches for approximately 1.5 miles and is perfect if you’re looking for a short pre-lunch hike. If you want a longer loop, then you can opt for the 7-miles Parker Mesa Overlook trail, which starts via the Los Liones Canyon trail but goes further into the Santa Monica Mountains. If you opt for the longer hike, don’t leave any valuables in your car. Luckily, luggage storage Los Angeles is never a hassle for anyone.

How about the rock pools at Malibu Creek State Park?

For some of the best hiking trails in LA, head to Malibu Creek State Park. There are a number of hikes here: the Cage Creek Trail, the Lookout Trail, the Cistern Trail and the most popular one: the Rock Pools Trail. The rock pools are easily accessible and make for a picturesque spot for photography lovers. Since this is one of the most popular spots for hiking in the area, you’ll definitely come across other hikers on the trails here. Diving into the creek is forbidden yet it is not uncommon to see people in the water here. This is a trail that is perfect for the entire family – kids will love it, too.

Read also: Five cities surrounding Los Angeles that you need to visit

Malibu Creek State Park

These hiking trails in L.A. have something for everyone: stunning ocean scenery, rugged forest tracks, and rocky canyons. There is no perfect age or time to go hiking – just do it. Some hiking essentials you always need to have: light backpacks, comfortable shoes and clothes, a water bottle, and some snacks.

Photo Credit: Images 3 and 5 used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (3) Los Liones Trail by Megan Rosenbloom; (5) Malibu Creek State Park by Melody
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Polaroid Of The Week: L.A. At My Feet

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa california hollywood sign los angeles

This week I finally made it up to the famous Hollywood sign – a hike that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. After two failed attempts (traffic, cloudy skies), I found myself scrambling up the rocks to a small hill above and behind the actual sign, which me and my hiking buddy reached after about an hour’s walk, just in time for a brilliant sunset. You can’t get to the sign by car, the only way to get up, close and personal with these giant white letters that have become an American icon, is on foot or by horse, and you can’t get in front of the letters, only above them.

Funnily enough, the sign didn’t have any association with the movie industry when it was put up in 1923. Instead, it was supposed to promote local real estate during a time when the Hollywood Hills weren’t the prime real estate location that they are today. Back then it still read Hollywoodland. After years of deterioration, Hugh Hefner started a fundraiser to save the sign, and $250,000 were raised to restore the sign that had fallen into disrepair.

It used to be a bit tricky to get up to the sign until a few years ago, unless you were a local and knew your way around. The Trust For Public Land, that is in charge of protecting the sign and the surrounding lands, has made it much easier now to find the right paths and not get lost in the relatively remote and rugged southern side of Mount Lee, on which the sign is located. There are now several hiking routes: the Mt Hollywood Trail (short and moderately difficult), the Canyon Drive Trail (longest route), and the Cahuenga Peak Trail (the shortest, but most challenging). We took a shorter version of the Mt Hollywood Trail, which can be started at the Griffith Observatory (3.5 miles round trip) or at Sunset Ranch at the northern end of N Beachwood Drive. The ranch offers guided horse rides up the sign, by the way.

The hike is pleasant, with sweeping views over parts of L.A., Glendale and The Valley from various viewpoints along the way – but the star of the show, the sign itself, stays out of sight for the most part. We started our hike at Sunset Ranch, but next time I’d start at the Griffith Observatory for a longer hike and better views of the sign itself.

When you get to the sign, the most astonishing thing is seeing how big these letters actually are: each letter is 45 feet tall (14 meters) and all of them next to each other are 350 feet (110 meters) long! My height compared to it: 5.8 feet.

If you’re thinking about climbing the security fences that fence off the sign, be warned: the charges are no joke. Trespassers face a $1000 fine, restitution to the City agencies involved in the trespasser’s arrest, a one-year probation period and 20 days on a Cal Trans highway crew.

You can find more information on the hikes to the Hollywood sign here.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Street Art In Silver Lake, Los Angeles

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa california los angeles silver lake

While I admittedly didn’t get around to doing everything I had on my Los Angeles To-Do-List due to my tight work schedule this month, I managed to return to some of my favorite neighborhoods like Santa Monica Venice and West Hollywood,, but there was one neighborhood I really wanted to see before leaving LA: Silver Lake.

This neighborhood had been described to me as the Brooklyn of LA or the Williamsburg of LA, to be more precise And not only that Forbes Magazine even went as far as giving Silver Lake the top spot on its inaugural list of America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods and CNN Money followed by putting it in the Top Ten of its list of best big city neighborhoods in the U.S.

So of course I had to check this uber hip neighborhood for myself to see what all the fuss was about.

The stretch of Sunset Boulevard that runs though Silver Lake felt indeed very Williamsburg-like, and just like the famous hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn, it is lined with trendy cafes, quirky independent shops and little eateries, and street art fills many a wall stretching into the side streets off of Sunset Blvd.

I couldn’t help but fling in love with silver like within fifteen minutes of getting there – this is definitely my kind of neighborhood! Unpretentious, with inventive yet affordable restaurants but also hole-in-the-wall Mexican street food, funky bars and shops that go beyond your usual chain stores: instead you find spice stores, comic book stores and guitar shops.

There are two basins – the neighborhood’s namesake Silver Lake Reservoir and the Ivanhoe Reservoir, both offering walking and running paths and a natural setting to escape the noise along the busy main streets. Speaking of walking: I found Silver Lake to be walkable and cycleable, something that can’t be said for all neighborhoods in this car traffic-heavy city.

I wish I would’ve had time to check out the bar scene on my visit but I guess it is good to have an excuse to come back to Silver Lake next time I’m in L.A.!


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