By: Adriene Boone
Palm Trees. Blue Skies. Sunshine. Oh my! That was my initial reaction to visiting Southern California for the first time. Here are a few tips I found helpful during my first road trip throughout LA and San Diego.
GET A RENTAL CAR
Before you even leave LAX, the first thing you need to do is GET A RENTAL CAR. I cannot imagine trying to navigate LA without a car. Luckily for me, my travel buddy surprised me with a convertible! What better way to explore the City of Angels than with the top down, soaking in all the sunshine?! We hadn’t even left the parking lot and I was already in love. Don’t fret; the city is really easy to navigate. As long as you can figure out which streets run North/South and East/West you shouldn’t get lost. And remember if all else fails, get to LaBrea or Wilshire, and you’ll be good to go.
Most of our time was spent in the car driving and taking in the sights of the sea. LA doesn’t have major landmarks to see, so we just hopped in the car every morning and drove the streets of LA. We really took in a surprising amount of the LA landscape in just 4 days – from Beverly Hills to Compton, Santa Monica to Watts, Hollywood to Inglewood and everything in between. And then there was that moment when we were driving down Beverly Boulevard, and I looked up the palm tree lined street and saw the Hollywood sign. I literally screamed in excitement.
GOOGLE & USE APPS
One of the highlights of the trip was when we went to Hollywood Boulevard and met Jesus. No lie, I saw Jesus on Hollywood Boulevard. We went to the Walk of Fame, and word to the wise: Google the street locations of any stars you want to see on the Walk, as the stars stretch on and on for blocks. We received a tip from an LA native who suggested that we visit the shopping center at Hollywood and Vine to get an even more awesome view of the Hollywood sign. However, it was too late and that portion of the mall was closed, so we exited the building a different way and stumbled upon the Godzilla movie premiere red carpet. Security stopped us from taking pictures, but we saw Anthony Anderson, Ice Cube, Seth Green, Gene Simmons from KISS, and Michael T. Jones. Fun times!
I also recommend house-gazing in the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills – the homes are absolutely amazing. Open any real estate app on your phone while you are driving around and be astonished at some of the listing prices for area properties. We saw the most incredible views on Mulholland Drive…we had to pull over and take in the scenery. Simply BREATHTAKING! The beaches in LA (Venice and Santa Monica) also had amazing views. We were able to see mountains while standing in the sand.
EAT THE TACOS
We really did try to branch out while in LA and eat various cuisines, but we always came back to In-n-Out Burger and tacos. The tacos in LA were so simple but so delicious. We stopped at this small taco hut on Sunset Blvd and had the best tacos of our lives. Tacos will never be the same for me.
ENJOY THE WEATHER
The major selling point of Los Angeles is the weather. It is perfection! You never have to check the weather – the entire time we were there it was just so amazing. Neil Simon once said, “When it’s 100 degrees in New York, it’s 72 in Los Angeles. When it’s 30 degrees in New York, in Los Angeles it’s still 72.” After the winter we had in the Northeast, this was perfect vacation weather.
OPT FOR THE SCENIC ROUTE
After 4 great days in Los Angeles, we hopped in our car for a road trip to San Diego. We opted to take the scenic route and drove down Pacific Coast Highway. Named one of Travel & Leisure’s Best Road Trips, I highly recommend that if you are in California, drive through Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach. The views of the Pacific Ocean were marvelous!
TAKE IN THE BEACHES
We really only came to San Diego to take in the beaches – no Sea World or Lego Land for us – so our first stop was Mission Beach. Mission Beach was very lively with a nice boardwalk and carnival rides. We watched a gorgeous sunset before heading to La Jolla for dinner. George’s on the Cove was the perfect spot for a delicious evening meal. The food was delicious and the ocean view was nice. You really should make a stop in La Jolla for the amazing coves.
And finally, after receiving another tip from a friend, we checked out Coronado Beach. Coronado is a small island that separates San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It was a much quieter route, with less traffic than Mission and Pacific beaches. This was my favorite beach that we visited in both LA and San Diego. The sand shimmered gold once touched by the ocean’s waves. Note: even though we were only 20 miles from Mexico where it was 90 degrees, the Pacific Ocean was FREEZING COLD! With each wave that crashed against my body, I screamed at the temperature of the water. Do not go expecting the warmth of the Caribbean.
I really enjoyed my first trip to Southern California! I can’t wait for my next visit.