When you have very little vacation time, you have to pack your trips to the point where the vacation itself feels like work. This Labor Day weekend, I tested the limits of my vacation perseverance with a trip to the West Coast.
When you live on the East Coast, a trip across the country is quite similar in travel time to a trip to another country (except I can get into Canada much faster than I can get to California). So when I began planning my trip, I tried to cram in every place I’ve ever wanted to go in southern California, only to realize that is damn near impossible. We had to make some cuts and ended up with
just five cities: Los Angeles, Anaheim (Disneyland), Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and Phoenix, AZ.
First up: Los Angeles!
Here’s something fun we learned when visiting Los Angeles: Nothing seems to open before 11 AM. Even the museums. As an early riser, this was quite the dilemma for me. So my natural inclination to visit every museum was halted. Instead, we opted to take in the natural surroundings and some entertainment.
- Hollyhock House – Like the nerd that I am, I try to visit a Frank Lloyd Wright house in every city I travel to. While we didn’t get the chance to go inside, we were able to visit the grounds. Even if you’re not into architecture, the Hollyhock House is worth visiting. From the house’s hilltop, you get an amazing view of the city with almost no one else around: the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Park Observatory, and the skyline.
- Griffith Park – We drove through Griffith Park just before sunset and it was a beautiful site. From the area near the Observatory you get a view of the entire city. Fair warning: If you choose to go around this time, you likely won’t be able to park and see the sunset because everyone else wants to do the same thing. But the drive alone is well worth it.
- Upright Citizens Brigade – As a Chicago comedy snob, I knew that I’d need to check out what LA has to offer. We went to the Facebook Show, which featured some people you’ve probably seen on TV (so LA). Audience members are asked to volunteer something interesting about themselves and then the actors select two people whose Facebook pages will be examined. They then make sketches based on what they learned about the person. It was way funnier than I thought it would be.
- Go to a live taping – It has been a dream of mine to attend a live taping of a show. I’ve always thought I’d make a great audience member (I have a loud clap, endless enthusiasm, and will laugh at most jokes). Since my sister wasn’t enthusiastic enough to go to a The Price Is Right filming (all those years of training going to waste), we opted to get tickets to a Conan taping on the Universal Studios lot. My sister and I have been fans of Conan O’Brien from a very young age. We were pumped to say the least, and it did not disappoint.
To Eat and Drink
- Ricky’s Fish Tacos – If you go to LA, you are required by law to get tacos (that’s probably not true). The taco food truck itself is parked on a road under an overpass and offers just fish, shrimp, or lobster tacos with salsas and toppings you can add yourself. We got one of each and both were some of the best, freshest tacos I’ve had.
- Broken Shaker – Because we stayed at the Freehand Hotel, we were able to take advantage of the restaurants they have on-site. Broken Shaker, the hotel’s rooftop poolside bar, has some very creative (and delicious cocktails). They also have some of the best fried chicken and tacos.
- Birdies – I love a fried chicken and donut concept and LA has multiple. Birdies offers many delicious donut flavors and have some of the biggest chicken tenders. If you want a taste of DC in LA, Astro Doughnuts opened their first non-DC metro area location downtown just last year.
Ice Cream Tourism: LA Edition
As you may know, I am quite an ice cream fan, so naturally I had to research the best shops in LA.
- Wanderlust Creamery – Wanderlust’s flavors are inspired by destinations around the world. And this was definitely evident in the options we saw in the case. The Japanese Neapolitan was unlike anything I’ve had before.
- Magpies Softserve – The flavor options and toppings are plentiful at this softserve establishment and allow for endless combinations. I opted for the sweet cream with salted caramel and graham cracker streusel in a waffle cone. But given how reasonably priced this place is I should have gotten more of their creative toppings like the butterscotch rice krispies or chocolate covered honeycomb.
- Rudolph’s Bar and Tea – Now this isn’t an ice cream shop, but I had one of the best sundaes there so I couldn’t pass up including it in this section. The vanilla ice cream was topped with a chocolate-tahini hard shell and sprinkled with pistachios and shredded phyllo. Ah-mazing.
This map covers our entire trip from LA to Phoenix. You’ll find all of the places we went, plus a few extras that we didn’t get the chance to make it to.