I grew up wishing I lived in California. I always wore Roxy and Billabong clothes boasting the name of Cali beaches I had never been to. I don’t know what to blame my obsession on -maybe watching too much Hannah Montana or all the summers stealing my dad’s Beach Boys CDs – I just knew I was happiest in the sunshine. It seemed like a place I would never get to go to for some reason, like it really only existed inside the TV.
When I was learning to drive my daydream motivation was the idea of being able to cruise up the SR -1 or at least the Pacific Coast Highway. I wouldn’t end up getting my driver’s license until I was 23 (because that is when was best for me) and the day I passed my driving test I started realizing I had to make that high school daydream a reality. So here I was booking flights to Phoenix for 8123 fest and I thought, this is to close to California to not go? So I extended my trip, pit in reservations for a rental car, and texted my pink glowing friend Kika asking if I could crash. Surprise! It all came together. 4 days in the sunshine – spending time with myself and reflecting on how far I have come was exactly what I did not know I needed. I spent too much money on ice cream, I rolled the windows down in every car I got in, I blasted all the records I wanted to experience in the Golden State and actually let myself take a break for once. So thank you LA, I hope I see you real soon.
Rent a car and drive up Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu is…magic. I put on LANY in my little red rental car and started driving up the coast holding back tears because there was this whisper coming through the rolled down windows saying, “you made it”. Suddenly the simplistic production style of 3 act LANY made sense – the sound of crashing waves, seagulls squawking, motorcycle engines purring, conversations from open door cafes spilling out into the streets – all the sounds mixed into the songs themselves like it was meant to be heard this way. It was the most present I had felt in weeks, leaving behind the Chicago winter for shorts and checkerboard Vans. And I wish I had someone to share it with – I am so lucky to have people worth missing – but also it was sweet just to have that moment with myself where I truly felt pink and blushing and proud. I cherish that. Thanks Malibu.
If you’re under 25 and looking for a rental car in a major city so you have more freedom to explore – use Turo! You rent someone else’s car and it is SO affordable: Get $25 off your first trip
El Matador State Beach
Go at sunset. Just go. I missed the ocean so much that my heart grew 2 sizes just being there; my curly hair also growing from the sea salt air. I was so in awe of the colors and the landscape. Boulders break up the beach, tide pools wait to be explored, canyons stretch out for miles, lush green grass fights to re-grow in areas once charred from fires, palm tree stand strong, bluffs drop off to offer views of water meeting sand. I was instantly mesmerized. I have always felt a strong connection to the ocean and the moon and what I didn’t even realize was that was the night of the super blood wolf moon…a literal LUNAR eclipse. That was home for me. I couldn’t stop smiling. I have learned home is so much less a place and so much more a feeling and I had that in Malibu.
Santa Monica / Venice Beach
Affordable, authentic, INCREDIBLE Italian food. Very important: they bring you warm bread.
Walk along the Canals in Venice
Yes, these are actually man-made to look like Italy.
Venice Beach Boardwalk can be…crazy. But I found it really nice on a weekday afternoon. It is definitely a more tourist stop – but it holds a lot of cultural history for everything from music / art to skating and poetry. I had flashbacks to watching Lords of Dogtown in 5th grade and sitting in class writing on my Vans with sharpie. And if you can’t pack a skateboard, you can at least ride a scooter.
Right off the boardwalk – cheap NY style pizza that is actually good.
I will always recommend thrifting while travelling because you can find unique places that may tie to local fashion different than that of where you live. Plus this store has a great view of the Venice sign.
Lots of lil treasures and local artists featured in this boutique.
Melrose / Fairfax-ish
Okay shoppers, Instagram lovers, foodies – this is the spot for you.
If you’ve been wanting to try Glossier without paying for shipping, you have to check out their store. All their products are out to be tested and played without and the inside is absolutely gorgeous. My recommendations: Priming Moisturizer, Glitter Gelee, Stretch Concealer, Generation G lipstick in Leo. And yes this is the store with the “canyon” selfie room.
Iconic, cute, a must.
My heart is still broken because I left here without anything…so many vintage Levi’s…and Reformation pieces…it was like shopping my Depop feed.
Listen, I get that a lot of “vintage” stuff is overpriced BUT do I justify it because it is usually better quality and a more sustainable AND unique alternative? Yes. So I told myself I could buy once vintage piece in LA and this was the spot for that.
This was a total lucky find – but I picked up this neon heart (which I have always wanted a neon sign) for $40 and had no issue travelling with it! They also have an online store and the owner was so sweet and helpful.
Lots of stores and entertainment / events. Not a must see but it is in the area if you want to shop in a non-mall setting and many of the shops aren’t all around the US. I think all the food options and is close to the farmers market.
Look for Pop Ups
There is always something going on in LA – including pop ups. When I was there I went to a Benefit one that had free ice cream with purchase, lots of photo ops and freebies.
Walk through show rooms
From luxury to street wear, Melrose and N Fairfax Ave and surrounding area is the place to window shop (mainly because I do not have the money for actual shopping). But seriously the visual merchandising and aesthetics of many of these stores are incredible and display products like art in a very interesting way. Stores like Fred Segal, Posers, Suru, American Rebel, Sorella Boutique, Golf Wang, Supreme, and more.
Walk Melrose Ave and find all the street art
Walls, alleys, the sidewalk – this area comes alive from the street are. Some is poetic, some politic, others simply artistic but it is all worth walking around and taking a look at.
Best part – it is free! But reserve tickets ahead on the website. Their collection has an incredible collection of modern art, graffiti, collage / conceptual art, pop art and more . Some of my favorite artists featured are Jean‐Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, Barbara Kruger, and Roy Lichtenstein. It is a must visit and a nice, cool break during a busy day,
Grand Central Market: Wexler’s Deli, Eggslut and more
Just gonna be straight up – I did not go to Eggslut because the line was whack BUT Wexler’s Deli had great egg & cheese bagel sandwiches and lots of other options. The whole market is an experience and a great place to stop even if just for a snack.
A cute lil functional landmark and it is only $1 each way!
Records, books, collectibles, art and more. Some of the best visual merchandising I have ever seen – the upstairs loft area features tiny shops and studios from local artists.
Explore Little Tokyo
around Burbank / other
Citywalk in a fun way to experience all things Universal without having to pay to enter the park itself. It is a good night activity when you aren’t ready to go home but don’t really want to “go out”. But easily the best part is a chance to get Voodoo Doughnuts.
It is easy to forget to eat meals, especially healthy ones, when traveling. Luckily LA has many healthy and veggie options but my favorite has to be Lemonade for salads, sandwiches, bowls and of course lemonade.
Thanks to Kika I went here like every morning. The atmosphere is lovely but the PIE is even better. They actually have an extensive menu – it was the perfect place to start my day.
I am bad at geography so just know this is in Hollywood. But anyway this store has been on my record store bucket list for years. The outside and decor has a throwback vibe and is one of the largest independent record stores carrying everything from vinyl and CDs to tshirts, books, posters, memorabilia, movies and more. Even if you aren’t a collector or music lover, I think you’d appreciate this spot. It also hosts in store performances and carries exclusive art / vinyl.
This very well be my #1 recommendation next to Malibu. Maybe it is my obsession with the La La Land soundtrack or all things celestial but I think Griffith Observatory is pure magic. Sitting like a castle at the top of south facing Mount Hollywood; the location offers a view of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. At sunset the entire sky lights up in gradient shades of pink, orange, and violent that eventually fade to show off the city lights. Tourist take their selfies with the Hollywood sign, photographers come with their gear to capture the perfect moment, couples bask in each others company, and everyone seems to genuinely be in awe of the atmosphere that surrounds this place.
Don’t forget to go inside and maybe learn a thing or two, pay for a Planetarium show.