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.