Have you ever wanted to hear a particular song on a radio (and not necessarily something that's currently in the top 10 of the music charts) and then suddenly that song comes on? That type of coincidence has happened to me many times in my life. I remember these moments because my song of choice may not be that popular for that point in time. I've always found it funny when I come across something in society that seems to directly pertain to my life. For example, tonight, about 15 minutes ago, I opened up mail after I finished unpacking from my L.A. trip and this cover stared back at me:
What are the chances my fave NYC magazine, which hardly ever discusses other cities, covered La La Land the same weekend I was there?
I've been to L.A. a few times before. My first time was during a layover back to NYC from Australia when I was 21. I remember I was in awe of the palm trees, the cool laid back vibe, how everything looked so shiny and new. I visited two more times during my 20s, once with family and another with friends, and I remained fascinated with West Coast culture. It's probably been close to 10 years since my last visit and a few months ago, I just had an itching to go back out to California again so I decided to head out there for New Years weekend. I am so glad I did because it was exactly what I needed to nourish my soul.
Living in NYC is great, I love it here. But every so often I need to get out of town because although everything is accessible here, I do feel like I'm living in a bubble sometimes. In NYC, it's so easy to get caught up in yourself, your peers, your jobs, high expectations, etc. Before I left for L.A., I was feeling stuck, frustrated, and just bored with life. Getting out to sunny L.A. was just what I needed.
I came back last night and I feel so refreshed and relax. L.A. is an excellent place for a solo trip, there's a million things to do. I also forgot how nice Californians are. When you talk to someone, they seem genuinely nice, unlike in NYC where (and I'm guilty of this too), you're generally in a rush to go somewhere else or you have your guard up and/or you don't care to make small talk with anyone. In L.A., I struck up a conversation with a woman in yoga class, something I can say I've never done in NYC. In addition, some random stranger on the street helped guide me in parking my car in a narrow space. He even lifted a heavy rock out of the way of my car wheels, and he disappeared before I could say thank you!
L.A. has everything--culture, beaches, outdoor activities, great food, and generally awesome weather (it never got lower than 50 degrees during the day while I was there, compared to the freezing temperatures we've been having in NYC!). It was nice to see everything that I fell in love with in L.A. years back was still there and seemed even better than before. I was there for just 5 days and the trip for me was my own personal health/wellness trip. I wanted to be outside as much as possible and do non-touristy things (ie I could care less about shopping or visiting Beverly Hills). A brief summary of my itinerary is below.
The Itinerary (arrived 12/30 but this starts with 12/31 and ends on 1/4)
Day 1: Yoga class, lunch with an old college friend in Studio City, then spent the evening at Wi Spa, a popular 24-hour Korean spa. Admission is $25 ($35 if you go btwn midnight and 4 am) and gives you access to saunas and hot tubs.
Day 2: Visited Griffith Observatory and did an 8 mile roundtrip from the observatory to the Hollywood sign and back. I'll do a more extensive post on how to do this and what to expect!
Day 5: Checked out Culver City Steps (aka Baldwin Scenic Overlook) and realized how I unfit I am compared to Angelenos! Flew home in the afternoon.
All in all, I had a fabulous time. I stayed at an Air BnB in Venice Beach and my hosts were AMAZING. So friendly and thoughtful. I arrived on Friday evening at 7 pm and they offered to share their dinner with me which was much appreciated after a long flight. Dinner was just a salad but it was a super fresh and tasty salad. They also invited me to ring in New Years with them, which was so lovely of them. I had just gotten home from the Korean spa and planned to go straight to bed, but right after my shower, they called my name and offered me a glass of champagne. They also lit up their front patio with fireworks at midnight! It was such a fun but low key way to celebrate, and quite unexpected!
It was also nice to just drive around everywhere. I love just cruising around singing to music. The freeways were a bit nerve-wrecking but I got used to it (and stuck to the right lane most of the time!). All the signs and roads are clearly marked and makes sense once you get used to it (like knowing if lanes were going to merge or not). You can easily Uber everywhere but I like the freedom of coming/going anytime I wanted. Parking was not bad either, but I didn't really go out to anywhere except a couple of restaurants and parks. All parking meters took credit cards and I was able to find free street parking in some areas as well. The Santa Monica parking garages all offer free parking for the first 90 minutes too. Never had to valet! But that depends on where you go/what you do.
I will post details on the highlights of my trip in upcoming posts (total of 5 posts)!
Though there are a ton of resources online for L.A., my favorites ones were:
Other Things I Wanted to Do but Didn't On This Trip
- Museums. I thought I would visit some but didn't because I rather be outside! If I had time, I would've gone to LACMA, Getty Museum, The Broad.
- Other beach communities. I heard Manhattan Beach and Hermosa are pretty nice but didn't make it down there. I've been to Laguna and Newport Beaches before and can attest that those are lovely as well!
- Venice Canals. I did go here at night for a peek but couldn't see much since it was so dark at night! It's a small neighborhood with a few canals running through it but the homes there were gorgeous. See it during the day if you're near Venice Beach or Marina del Rey!
- Amusement parks. Of course Disneyland and Universal Studios would be fun to go to but I've been to the Florida ones multiple times and would only have gone here if I really had nothing else to do.
- More hikes in Malibu/around L.A. There are a ton of places to go! While the 3 that I did were good, there's still so much to explore.
Where to Stay
Since I was traveling solo, I didn't want to spend too much at a hotel. I also wanted to go somewhere low key, so I opted for Air BnB. Venice Beach was really the perfect location. So close to LAX and it's a good mid point to travel to anywhere else in the L.A. area. Santa Monica would be good too but there's not as many Air BnB options in Santa Monica as there is in Venice Beach, and it's just a 10 min. drive away.
People did warn me that Venice Beach can be seedy, and that's true. It's not a place you can really walk around at night. There are bums around and druggies near the very commercial streets at night. But I found the residential area I stayed in with my hosts on Woodlawn Avenue was very safe and quiet both day and night.