Home Improvement Projects Worth Their Cost

With the explosion of internet connected appliances, home battery tech, and smart thermostats, what projects really add value to your home? Is it the new home tech you see in tech magazines? Or do commonly started projects like a kitchen renovation or landscaping changes provide more value to your home? It turns out, both are valuable when done correctly but it’s important to keep in mind what is valuable to your local housing market. Here’s why: 

Simple Home Maintenance: 

The absolute most important thing you can do for your home is to keep up with the maintenance. By making sure your bases are covered with your foundation, roof doors and windows you can substantially increase the value of your home and it will pay for itself when potential buyers are looking for a new place. A home with good bones can go a very long way. 

Frequent Upgrades: 

Most people decide to renovate one of the following spaces in their home: bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, basements, and outdoor areas. Which makes sense, since we truly live in these areas. Larger upgrades, however, can add up quickly and may not return your investment. Minor upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms can recoup a lot of the costs and quickly. Research suggests a remodel of about 20,000 dollars recoups about 80 percent of the initial investment. 

Tech Upgrades: 

Fancy getting internet connected refrigerator that will text you to pick up some milk and eggs next time you go to the grocery store? While the ability to organize and make note of these things is absolutely amazing, it’s to your benefit to wait for your forever home to purchase this item. There are a few tech-heavy upgrades that are worth it. A smart thermostat can save you thousands over the course of a few years by optimizing your heating and cooling to only kick on when you are home and to power off when you are away. Another great option is a consider a change in your water heating device. This resource shows you which water heaters are eligible for federal and state incentives which will allow you to ensure you are getting the most efficient model for both energy use and cost available. 

Make sure your bases are covered with the bones of your home. Siding replacements, gutters upkeep or replacement, a good front door, sound roof and adequate insulation are all things home buyers look for and can make a sizable difference when they look to purchase their dream home. Avoid expensive remodels of living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms unless you plan on staying in your home for a long time. Smaller remodels (about 20,000 dollars) offer good returns on these spaces, so use this as a guideline when planning. Some high-tech upgrades have bigger upsides than others, but look for what will give you the most bang for your buck and stick to that first. 


Things to Do First After Moving to Los Angeles

The Los Angeles lifestyle comes with a lot of perks. There’s the city life, warm weather all year round and a beach not too far away. What else is there to ask for? Here are a few things every new Angeleno must do when moving to the city:

Grab a Burger

Whether you land at LAX or drive into the city, the first thing to do when visiting LA is eat at In-N-Out Burger. The fast-food restaurant is known for its cult following and only has locations on the West Coast. While there are only three burger varieties — a hamburger, cheeseburger, or double-double — many In-N-Outs serve “secret” menu items. Try asking for french fries “animal style.” That is regular french fries with a heaping of grilled onions, cheese and In-N-Out’s special sauce on top.

Walk in the Footsteps of Stars

Los Angeles is known as the home of Hollywood. Take a trip downtown and walk down Hollywood Boulevard, a street dedicated to movie making magic. The street is home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where people can take pictures next to star-shaped plaques dedicated to their favorite celebrities. A few steps away is the Chinese Theatre, which still hosts movie premieres. Not too far away is a view of the famous Hollywood sign.

Watch a Game

Sports fans looking for things to do in LA should check out a game at Dodger Stadium. The stadium is home to the Los Angeles Dodgers and known for no-hitter games. Fans should try the famous Dodger Dog. Served either steamed or grilled, the foot-long hot dog is sold to more than 2 million fans each season. The stadium just installed a new statue dedicated to Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the Major League Baseball team.

Pick Fresh Produce

Angelenos are known for enjoying the freshest fruits and vegetables at the historic Farmers Market. The market has more than 100 vendors serving foods from all ethnicities. Try a handful of fresh cherries, a guacamole-topped taco or homemade ice cream for dessert. After visiting the market, take a trolley to The Grove next door. The Grove is a shopping area that features a beautiful water fountain in its center. Stay for a little while, and there is a good chance you can catch one of the many live shows performed near the fountain.

Party in Venice Beach

Venice Beach is home to the quirky side of Los Angeles. The boardwalk is home to a variety of vendors, street performers and food trucks. Millions visit the beach each year, making it a great place for people watching. The beach offers a variety of volleyball courts, handball courts and a bike trail. There are also basketball courts, but be prepared to bring your A-game. Professional basketball players have been recruited from the Venice courts.

Spot A Celebrity

The best chance of running into a celebrity is on Rodeo Drive. The two-mile street runs through Beverly Hills, and it’s common to see the latest luxury cars parked along the sidewalk. Rodeo Drive is the hub for Los Angeles fashion. Many high end stores are along Two Rodeo Drive in buildings modeled after shopping alleys in Europe. The street has made a cameo in movies such as Beverly Hills Cop and Shrek 2. Take a walk on Rodeo Drive keep your eyes peeled just in case your favorite actress walks by.

Take a Hike

The Los Angeles Griffith Park and Observatory are great places to get in touch with nature. Covering more than 4,000 acres, the park is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. A short hike through the park will lead to the observatory. The facility has stunning views of the city and the Hollywood sign. Admission to the observatory is free. The observatory houses a model of the solar system, a statue of Albert Einstein and a telescope that projects an image of the Sun.

Play Carnival Games

Try your hand at winning a giant stuffed animal at the Santa Monica Pier. The pier is a historic landmark that is more than 100 years old. There is an amusement park, arcade and solar paneled Ferris wheel. The pier has been featured in a variety of movies and television shows such as Forrest Gump, Iron Man and Grey’s Anatomy. Both the Ferris Wheel and roller coaster light up at night. While it is fun all year round, the pier is great to visit during the summer. There are weekly concerts and outdoor movie screenings that are often free to the public.

Sample the Juice of the Gods

California is home to many vineyards, and there are plenty that do wine tasting tours near downtown Los Angeles. Bring a few friends and try new flavors of your favorite red or white wine. A few vineyards also serve fresh cheeses from nearby farms.

As you can see, you have chosen a great city to move to. Los Angeles has an abundance of things to offer its residents spanning everything from delicious seafood to celebrity sightings. No matter your interests, your new home has something for you.

How to Drain Your Water Heater

Water heaters are often one of the most taken for granted appliances in your home, that is until they stop working. To keep things running smoothly and your family happy, there are some simple maintenance items you should do on a regular basis. A few simple items like checking on your anode rod and draining/flushing your water heater can save your thousands by extending the life of this important appliance. In this article, I will explain how to drain your water heater properly to ensure it runs smoothly.

Draining Your Water Heater

After reading over your owner’s manual and locating your water heater, here are the steps to properly draining your water heater.

  1. Locate Water Supply Valve and Shut off

At the top of your water heater there should be a water pipe and a shutoff valve leading directly into the unit. This valve when turned off will stop water flowing into the tank.

  1. Turn off electric or gas power to water heater

Electric water heaters need to be shut off from your circuit breaker box whereas gas water heaters have a gas valve that needs to be shut off.

  1. Let water heater sit overnight

The water inside your tank water heater is going to be hot, so it’s important to let it sit with no power or gas to heat the water overnight. This gives the water time to cool off before it’s ready to drain.

  1. Locate and attach hose to drain valve

Locate the drain valve on your water heater and attach one end of the hose to the water heater and the other end into a water drain inside your home or outside to the ground.

  1. Open drain valve

This valve when open will allow the water to flow into the drain valve and out the drain hose. Draining the tank can take awhile depending on the size of your tank and how dirty the water is.

  1. Turn water back on

Turn the water valve back and let if flush the tank of remaining gunk and sediment in the tank. Once the water is coming out clear from the hose turn off the water.

  1. Detach hose and refill tank

Remove the hose from the tank and close the drain valve. Then turn the water back on and refill. When the tank is filled turn the electric or gas to heat the water back on.



For the more visual learner, Danny Lipford has an excellent video tutorial explaining this process, found here.

If you feel uneasy about dealing with electricity, gas, and messing with your water heater altogether consider calling a local plumber to complete the job for you.

How Frequently Should You Flush Your Water Heater?

It’s recommended to flush or drain your water heater about once a year. Regular check ups and maintenance can extend the life of your water heater by making sure sediment building is at a minimum. Depending on how hard the water is in your local area it can be more beneficial to do more frequent draining. Hard water has excess sediment which leads to more build up inside of the tank.


How Much Does It Actually Cost To Rent In LA?


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Los Angeles rental prices went nowhere in January, remaining exactly where they were a month before, according to multiple reports.

Citywide, the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,340 per month, while two-bedroom rentals fetch $1,730.

Rents have shot up four percent since this time last year, says the report, but prices have actually dropped off a bit since August, when they hit $1,350 for a one-bedroom and $1,740 for two-bedroom units.

Since then, rental prices haven’t budged much—a trend some market analysts think will continue in the coming year.

So, how does that compare to the rest of the country? Well, you’d think that Midwestern apartment rates would be far cheaper than Los Angeles, right? Wrong.

Take a look at rent prices from ABODO Apartments, a Midwest-based listing company. Rent prices in Minneapolis are as high as $1,600 for luxury one-bedrooms.

Rent prices in Milwaukee are on the rise as well. And those in Chicago are paying almost $2,200 for a one-bedroom unit.

Los Angeles has some of the nation’s highest rent prices, but the rest of the country seems to be following along not too far behind.

Other reports show that with a new NFL stadium coming to Los Angeles, rent prices are going to skyrocket. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen, because at that point, many of us are going to be heading back to our parent’s basements.

At the same time, this is no joking matter — the number of homeless residents in the LA now tops more than 34,000, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority—a 20 percent increase over the year before. Countywide, nearly 58,000 residents lack a permanent address.


Rent prices are getting out of control all across the country, and with homeowner struggles to get financing, we need to find a solution, and quick.

Functional Kitchen Design For 2018

Today, kitchens are one of the most utilized rooms in the home. Some may even say that the kitchen is the centerpiece that holds everything else in your house together. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a lot of time and effort goes into making the kitchen look impeccable. According to a survey conducted by Houzz, 63% of homeowners stated that having enough storage was the most important feature in a kitchen, followed by having enough space to work, play and live, entertain, and clean. Here are a few current design trends that will help make your kitchen look stylish and modern.


Regarding kitchen layouts and islands, experts at Kitchens International stated, “Layouts are usually dictated by the space available, but islands continue to dominate with many larger kitchens now opting for two islands.” They added, “Most will have a breakfast bar seating or banqueting seating attached to the island so that dining is incorporated into the kitchen area.”


Touching back in the point of creating a layout that provides plenty of space to cook, eat, clean and entertain, compartmentalizing where possible is key to creating more open space. Adding structures with multiple functions, such as an island or a counter that has a built-in breakfast bar or a kitchen island that holds a dishwasher and cabinet space, can really help you optimize the space you have.


It’s tough deciding on the best color and material for your cabinets. After all, there are a ton of factors that you have to consider that range from what looks best to what will last the longest. White has consistently been a favorite for kitchen cabinets. White cabinets provide a very simple, clean appearance which proves beneficial to the overall look of the kitchen, as they’re notorious for accumulating junk. The color white is expected to remain on top as a favorite in 2018 and it isn’t expected to be going anywhere for a while.


Gray has also been regarded as another popular cabinet color. Gray, similar to white, is clean and refined. It complements almost any palette and can simplify any look. Many homeowners will find that the combination of gray and white makes for a gorgeous kitchen space.


For many years, quartz has been a popular choice in kitchen counters. With its hyper-durable, scratch-resistant properties, it’s no surprise that many kitchens feature quartz counters.


2018 is witnessing a rise in popularity with darker counters. Though many may go for granite, soapstone is another underdog material that’s quickly gaining attention. The material, which is naturally resistant to bacteria build up, sports a gorgeous softened finish that is elevated by the light vine-like detailing in the stone. The combination of the dark soapstone countertops with the light cabinets makes for a lovely contrast that adds depth to your kitchen.

Smart Kitchens

As we enter a new year, we’re also entering a new era of technology. That being said, one of the biggest kitchen design trends this year is believed to be smart kitchens. Though technology in the kitchen has always existed in the form of kitchen appliances, more kitchens are being developed with technology incorporated into almost every square inch of the room. Lighting can be controlled via remote, coffee machines can be programmed to brew your coffee when you wake up, there are even refrigerators that can alert you when you are running low on food. This particular trend is expected to be one of the biggest in 2018.

Avoiding LA Rush Hour

Los Angeles is the city of dreams. There are so many things to do that it can be overwhelming just figuring out where to start! Truth be told, the overwhelming part isn’t what the plans are going to be, or with who. The most overwhelming part of choosing from all these things is planning around the traffic. There is nothing worse than being late to something that you really look forward to. Or even worse, being late to school or work. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you plan smoother and have you forgetting about the troubles of the road. Let’s look over the best ways to avoid LA rush hour and its traffic.

Drive the right vehicles

First of all, we should asses the vehicles being driven. In order to breeze through traffic, the most suitable vehicle would be a motorcycle. Motorcyclists are permitted to use the HOV (carpool) lane even if there is only one person because it is much safer to keep them moving than to have them stop and start repeatedly. Obviously, the trade off being that motorcycles are the most dangerous. Sedans and hatchbacks are a great all around option. Most come with great features that raise the safety rating of the vehicle itself. Also, these vehicles usually have great gas mileage. Try to stick with an automatic vehicle because manual can be a real pain if stuck in traffic. SUVs offer a lot of space, at the cost of gasoline. Instead, try a compact crossover for a balance between gas mileage and cargo space.

Choose the right times to drive

The most plain and simple approach to working around rush hour is to plan your time accordingly. Most would say the worst time to drive would be 7-9:30 am and 3-7 pm. The reason being is that people are heading to work at the time in the morning and people are getting off of work from anytime between 3-7. Noon (lunchtime) can also be a really big pain as well. Now that you know this, try planning accordingly. For example, if work is a commute for you, try getting a gym membership at a gym near your work. This way you can leave earlier than traffic starts and have something that you need to get done to occupy you until you work. As far as getting off of work at a time that rush hour starts, you might want to look into the next step.

Get to know the neighborhoods

Remember, rush hour really only happens on the freeways. If you get to know your neighborhoods and side streets, then you can really shave some time off of your commute. Advice is seen all over. Examples being, if you are heading to LAX, try to take La Cienega. Traffic might seem a little bad on this road at first, but when the speed limit increases, the road opens up. If you are heading towards the Hollywood area, take Fountain street. It seems to be the fastest street going east to west or vice versa. Small tips like these can be learned by asking around or trying it for yourself.

Ditch the car

Sometimes the best way to avoid rush hour is to take your own separate means of transportation. Drive your car to a Subway station, park it for cheap, and hop on the subway. It is cheap and safe. Not to mention, it will take you almost anywhere you desire to go in Los Angeles. This will ease your mind and help you forget about being stuck in traffic and forget about the torturous parking procedure you’ll have to go through. While you ride the subway, you can also check your phone and get emails sent out. This is a lot safer than stressing out about your phone while you drive. Another great option is to take the train. Especially if you are heading downtown, to Hollywood, or to venice beach.

Use the correct apps

Remember when they said they have an app for everything? Well, it is still true. Do yourself a favor and download Waze as soon as you can. Waze will help you navigate your way through the madness by notifying you about obstacles, traffic, police, or any of the other scenarios you can think of while you’re driving. Understandably, a lot of people are not a fan of this app because it will lead you to where almost everyone else is going. The good thing is that the congestion you are directed to will be a lot better than the one you knew nothing about. Some would even argue that Google Maps is just fine. Sure, you don’t see police or speed limits, but Google is smart. It integrates with your calendar and automatically updates you on when the best time would be to leave and to arrive to your destination on time. Also, Google will automatically recommend a better route if it finds one. This has saved many a lot of times.


LA traffic is a monster on its own. But the monster can be beat! It just takes the right resources to really plan your route and get to where you want to be on time. Just keep in mind the basics, and add on from there. Good luck!

Make the Laundry Room Your Home’s Crowning Jewel


Laundry. It can be a dreary, highly procrastinated undertaking. But it’s a part of life that we, sadly, cannot avoid for long. Just like any task of this nature, sometimes we make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. Even the most mundane chore can be improved upon with some ingenuity. Do you want to stop dreading laundry day? Maybe even start looking forward to it? Maybe the latter is a little ambitious, but crafting a laundry room that’ll make Louis and Dan down the street jealous is a great start.

When you think of a classic laundry room, images of a dank, dimly lit space might first come to mind. Step number one in achieving your dream laundry room is to throw that preconceived notion out the window. It’s a wonder that this chore gets such a bad rap when it’s associated with such an unappealing image. One way to instantly brighten things up is to come up with a new color scheme. You want to walk into the space and instantly feel at ease. Consider painting the walls a bright color such as, yellow or a soothing tone like powder blue. Remember to add fun decorative pieces to give the room a homey feel. A plant here, wall art there and voilà! You have a beautiful laundry room. There’s a ton of ideas to gain inspiration from online.

Spice up your laundry room with a brand new set of cabinets. Not only will this tuck those unsightly laundry detergents out of the way, but they can also add a much needed pop of color to the space. There’s a ton of different options when picking out storage for your laundry. You could opt for a barebones, open shelving look complete with cute wicker baskets. Or perhaps you’re more of a traditional, clean cut type. You can get a cabinet set that includes hooks to dry your delicates on. Some even include hanging racks or drawers specifically designed for laundry baskets. There are endless possibilities to suit your needs. Whatever style you chose, proper storage is key.

A laundry room is only as good as what you have inside it to get the job done. A great way to up your laundry game while also helping out the environment is to make your own laundry detergent. You can make your own laundry softener and dryer sheet replacements as well. DIY is your friend. There are a ton of really awesome items to help you in your mission to make laundry easier. One must have is a mesh bag to protect your delicates. Another helpful aspect to add if space allows is a folding area. It’s a great way to encourage you to get the chore done in one go. In the same vein, a great addition to any laundry room is a fold out ironing board.

Can’t you feel Louis and Dan’s envy already? Your laundry room doesn’t have to be boring. No, that’s far from the truth. So take up your paint swatches and motivate! You now have an arsenal of tips in your arsenal just waiting to be used. And just like that, laundry isn’t quite as dreary.


How to Choose a Moving Company

Moving is hard, no matter how you slice it. Whether you’re moving for a necessary change, taking the job of a lifetime, or just trying something new moving is a difficult and often a lengthy process. While a move cross country may seem more daunting than a new home down the street, a move is still a move, no matter the scale. Many people seem to forget that moving is not complete when the last box is unloaded from the truck, nor is it when the last box is finally unpacked. A move is complete when you feel settled and at home. Though the entire process of moving can be a long and tedious one, much of it can be sped up with the help of a moving company. Here are some things to think about before choosing a moving company to make your move as painless as possible.  


While moving, costs add up quickly. Determining prior to moving how much you are willing to spend during the process is a crucial step. If a full service moving company is out of your budget, consider Uhaul. Uhaul is a great option if you are on a budget or even if you are just someone who likes to do things yourself. Uhaul has trucks and trailers of different sizes for any size move and most locations sell moving supplies such as mattress bags, boxes, and tape. Combined with the manpower of a local moving company, this can be a great budget friendly option.


If cost is less of an issue, full service moving companies like Mayflower or Allied are great options. Offering services ranging from cross town to cross country, companies such as these can accommodate moves of all sizes.


Whether you are moving from a 1 bedroom apartment downtown to a 3 bedroom house (or the reverse), it is important to evaluate the size of the move. Deciding what stays and what goes is an important part of moving and a major part of choosing a moving company. Once you’ve decided exactly what will be moving with you, it can make the move itself seem less daunting. This will help you communicate your needs to the moving company ensuring that they have the necessary equipment and manpower.

Location and Distance

For crosstown or regional moves, reach out to local movers. They will likely have better rates than larger companies. Knowledge of the local area can make the job a bit easier, as changing weather, finding houses that are off the beaten path, or even one with a steep, technical driveway are all factors that play into a move. Finding a mover who is up to the task can be difficult in some situations.


Choosing a moving company, like the move itself, can be a lengthy process. It requires doing your due diligence in order to evaluate what is best for you. Many factors play into choosing the company that is a best fit (scale, location, cost, etc). It is important to know what you want and expect from a moving company and communicate that beforehand to ensure as smooth of a move as possible.

How to Paint Like a Pro

In a seller’s market, something as simple as slapping a fresh coat of paint on your house gives you better curb appeal and can increase your home’s value. But there’s a fine line between the look of a professional painter and the quick and sloppy job the neighbor kids may perform. The key to painting like a pro is simple in conception: smooth, even strokes that disappear into one seamless surface. But achieving this polished look comes from following a few simple guidelines.

The Power of Primer

While wandering the halls at the hardware store browsing for the perfect color, you might pass by the cans of primer with an uninformed shrug. The elusiveness of primer remains to most a seemingly unnecessary part of the painting process–kind of like flossing your teeth, brushing them, and using mouth wash. But primer is the key that will save you from putting on more coats than Ralphie’s kid brother in A Christmas Story. It creates a blank canvas for your paint job, sealing porous surfaces and neutralizing whatever colors you are painting over. Primer is essential for achieving that smooth, professional look–and it only costs around $10 a gallon.

Brush v. Roller v. Sprayer: What to Use and When

The paint sprayer, easily the most awesome tool that comes to mind when starting a painting job, gives you both the power of speed and a smooth finish. It diffuses the paint into small particles and showers your walls evenly like a light Seattle rain in May. It is a professional-grade piece of equipment, and requires both patience and some serious equipment. It’s best to use this puppy outside where the stakes a lower and you don’t have to worry about leaving paint stripes and light splatters on your carpet.


The most popular, and far more economically feasible, option is the roller. It allows you to cover a ton of ground and it’s simple enough to use that you can recruit the whole family to help out. The trick to achieving the even finish of a professional job is to lather the roller and paint the entire height of the wall. Don’t let your roller go dry; the extra pressure you apply to compensate for a drying roller generates ugly paint buildup and obvious stripes that scream “amateur effort.” Be sure to maintain what the professionals call a “wet edge.” This is where you overlap the edges painted just previously to create a consistent spread of the paint over the entire wall. The roller is a perfect tool for both the interior and exterior painting of your home.


Although seemingly elemental, the paint brush is an indispensable tool for every paint job. It gives the painter maximum control for the finer edges that are unreachable with both the roller and sprayer. It is perfect for trim and tight corners that require a more delicate touch. Be prepared! With a brush you run the risk of dripping worse than your nose with a nasty cold. Aside from droplets of paint peppering your carpet and flooring, a hard, dried glob of paint is the most unwanted decoration that can result from painting a room. Avoid excess paint on your brush by scraping your edges directly on the paint tray.

Color Me Perfect

Finding the right color is subjective; although some might say the color of your house is a reflection of your personality, that should not engender anyone to decorate their space in lime green and florissant orange. Traditional colors are tradition for a reason; be sure to check out this guide for choosing the perfect color for both the inside and the outside of your home.


Once you’ve found the perfect color, take in the ancient axiom: all paint cans are not created equal: the colors in each can, even if bought and mixed at the same store, can look slightly different from one another–and no one wants a mosaic when looking for uniformity. Try tossing all that paint into a sealable bucket and mixing it all together. This will give you a consistent color that you can then spread with confidence over your home.

Meet Tape and Tarps, Your New Best Friends

The importance of tarps while painting indoors should go unsaid. They are a God-send to preserve flooring and furniture and keep you from accidentally achieving that horrendous 90s paint-splatter look. Tape too gives you a buffer when the work hours run long. Use it along the trim as to not bleed paint over the work you’ve already done (a second aspect that should go unsaid: wait for your paint to dry before putting tape over it!).


Places to See Once You Move to LA

So you have moved to Los Angeles. The bags are all unpacked, everything is in the proper drawers and the boxes are ready to be recycled. Now, it’s time to explore the city and all of what the surrounding area has to offer.

Los Angeles is known for the never-ending summer and easy beach access. Santa Monica Pier is one stop to experience all of the above. The iconic pier is more than 100 years old, and it is located at the end of Route 66. It is home to Pacific Park, which has a Ferris wheel, seaside swing ride and the West roller coaster. There are several vendors and restaurants on the pier including seafood at The Albright and authentic Italian at Ristorante Al Mare. There are walking trails on the beach nearby, as well as several stations for bike rentals. People can test their strength and agility with the various gymnastics equipment on the beach. The evening is arguably the best time to visit Santa Monica, as the sun sets right over the ocean and the carnival lights just start to turn on.

There are several art and music events to check out downtown. Newcomers to L.A. should try to check out the newest art exhibit, Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors.” This exhibit is touring the U.S. with it already making stops in Washington D.C. and Seattle. The artist uses a polka dot motif, which is described as a metaphor for all things. Kusama said in 1968, “Our earth is only polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos.” Infinity Mirrors will be at The Broad until Jan. 1, 2018. Stand-by tickets are available each day on a first come, first served basis.

Located about 30 minutes from downtown, the Griffith Observatory offers great views of the city, the Pacific Ocean and the Hollywood sign. The observatory sits on 3,015 acres of land, and admission has been free since it opened in 1935. It served a valuable role in American history, as pilots used the observatory during World War II to train for celestial navigation. It was used again in the 1960s to train astronauts for NASA’s Apollo program. Now, visitors can look through the observatory’s telescopes, watch sparks fly from the Tesla Coil and generally learn more about astronomy.

Laguna Beach sits on a seven-mile stretch of sand about an hour’s drive from Santa Monica. Sunbathers head to its Main Beach, which has tide pools and paths leading to the nearby Heisler Park. Visitors can try to hang 10 at Beach Park, which is popular among surfers. It’s easy to avoid the crowds at Crystal Cove or Victoria Beach. Crystal Cove Park warrants a trip in itself. The nearly 4,000-acre area has an underwater park, three miles of beaches and 2,400 acres of canyons. The downtown area of Laguna Beach is very pedestrian-friendly, with several shops and restaurants. Gelato Paradiso is a local favorite. To find the place, all one has to do is follow the smell of sweet waffle cones.

Big Bear is the closest mountain town to Los Angeles, located about 2 hours from the city. The slopes are popular among skiers and snowboarders, but hikers also flock to the area for its scenic mountain views. The town has plenty to offer in the summer. Visitors can rent a paddleboard or kayak and explore Big Bear Lake. Mountain bikes are also available to rent, and the area has tree rope climbing for the adventurous. Start the day in Big Bear with a hearty breakfast at Grizzly Manor Cafe.

Ojai is a small city set in the valley of the Topatopa Mountains. This quaint place offers a break from the city life. It has several great restaurants to choose from, including breakfast at Knead Baking Company, lunch at Farmer & the Cook and a beer-complimented dinner at Ojai Beverage Company. Visitors can explore the hiking trails at Los Padres National Forest. The forest takes up close to 2 million acres, most of which is public land. Several animals call the forest home including red-tailed hawks, California quail and bald eagles. Head to Meditation Mount to experience true relaxation. This area has one of the prettiest sunsets in California called the “pink moment.” The scene is caused by the eastern reflection of the sun on the Topatopa Mountains, which are briefly bathed in pink.

Those interested in getting a taste of international travel should head to the Danish settlement of Solvang. Located about two hours north of L.A., this area has wooden windmills and a replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower. Solvang has more than 150 shops, 35 restaurants and several wine tasting rooms. It also has the Elverhoj Museum, where people can learn more about the area’s Danish history. Families should make a stop at the nearby Quicksilver Ranch. The ranch is home to thoroughbred horses and adorable mini horses too.