Ultimate Guide to Southern California

Escaping to Southern California in the middle of winter is a dream come true. Especially when you live in the Mid-West, and the cold seems never ending.

Southern California, well, there’s nothing like it. And the people I get to spend time with when I visit are the best part.

I promise you, it’s not just beach and celebrities. When you visit Southern California you never run out of things to do. People are happier, which makes you happier.

My Recommendations:

How to get around?

CAR! There really is no other way.

Laguna Beach

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While in Laguna Beach there are a few spots you need to see.  Located in Victoria beach, Pirate Tower is one of them, but getting to it is tricky. You will need to park and walk down to the the beach, the entrance is on Victoria and Sunset and easy to miss, since it’s in a neighborhood.

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Photo Via: newportbeachrealestatecafe.com

Walk around town while in Laguna Beach, and explore the fun unique shops. You can find, one of a kind souvenir stores, furniture stores, and a variety of restaurants.

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Chantilly Ice Cream

Chantilly Ice Cream is a perfect place to visit after a stroll on the beach. The pineapple coconut is a favorite ice cream flavor.

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Pineapple coconut cone

Candy Baron is a charming candy shop and the salt water taffy is stored in barrels. And if taffy is not your thing, they have other candy options for that sweet tooth or to bring back as gifts.

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Countless Salt Water Taffy Options

San Clemente

San Clemente is a calm and one of my favorite beach towns. The atmosphere is more local and the majority of the businesses are independently owned, which makes for a more friendly feel. Check out Avenida del Mar and find a place to have lunch.

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I recommend having lunch at The Cellar. The entrance of the restaurant offers a selection of coffee, olive oil, and cheese serving platters for sale. Walk in, and there is a cheese counter, venture further in and there’s a grand piano for evening performances. The lunch menu offers options like grilled cheese, mac and cheese, panini, salads and soup.

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Grilled cheese with tomato soup

Mac and cheese

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Wine cellar

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Cheese counter

Rocket Fizz is one of the most unique candy stores I’ve ever been to. The selection of salt water taffy is impressive. They also have all kinds of strange soda flavors, and the walls are decorated with vintage posters, which makes the store colorful.

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Inside Rocket Fizz

And of course there’s the beach. The San Clemente pier has a more local atmosphere. There are spots for people to fish and clean their fish. The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar is located on the pier, offering the option to have dinner while you watch the sunset. The San Clemente Metro Link Train Station is just a few steps from the pier. Fire pits are available by the beach, if a bonfire is what you desire.

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View of San Clemente Pier

Venice Beach

The boardwalk, shops, muscle beach, surfers, and some very strange characters. Venice beach needs to be in your itinerary. There are a variety of bars and restaurants all over the boardwalk. Also enjoy the architecture of some of the mansions by the beach. Shop for souvenirs at a good price from one of the shops, and if you’re looking for something more unique, try one of the street vendors. Stop by the Hotel Erwin and go up to the rooftop for cocktails.

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Don’t forget to take a picture of the sign, try when its lit up or during sunset.

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Mural art in Venice Beach

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If you’re looking for a show

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Stop by the Venice Canals and take an afternoon stroll through the canals. The homes and the bridges are great to look at. The walk will make you picture yourself living in one of those homes and sitting on the patio while drinking a glass of wine and listening to music.

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One of the many bridges

Santa Monica

I really fell in love with Santa Monica. Your first stop needs to be the Santa Monica Pier. Enjoy the ferris wheel, roller coaster and the arcade. You can also get funnel cakes, pop corn, and enjoy the carnival feel.

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Ferris Wheel

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View of the Pier from a distance

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If you want a fun lunch experience I recommend stopping by Mariasol for some Mexican food. The food is decently priced and you can sit outside while enjoying a view of the beach, and if you’re lucky, catch a performance from one of the pier performers. It always helps that the cocktails are great.

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Piña Coladas

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Enchiladas

 

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Steak Tacos

After the pier, head out and explore Santa Monica. I recommend the third street promenade. It is a closed off street to vehicles and full of shopping. You can find major chain retailers, but also some unique ones.

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Beverly Hills

When I think of Beverly Hills, the movie Clueless comes to mind. It was surreal to finally be in the center of it all, from the mansions, upscale shopping and fancy cars. It can be quite intimidating to be surrounded by so much luxury, but it never hurts to go window shopping. Take a picture in front of the Beverly Hills sign, stroll down Rodeo Drive, and see how many designer shops you know.

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More of Rodeo Drive

Don’t leave Beverly Hills without having a cocktail at a fancy bar. The Honor Bar is a great spot. The place is not large and has an intimate feel to it, if you’re looking to carry out a conversation.

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Perfect Martini and Cucumber Basil Martini

Disneyland

Disneyland has to be my favorite thing to do in Southern California. For $155 you get unlimited day access to Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park.

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Sleeping Beauty Castle

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Anaheim California

You can’t possibly do it all in a day, but there are some rides you just have to get on.

Check out:

California Screamin’

California Adventure, Fantasy Pier.

Hunted Mansion

Disney Land Park, New Orleans Square

Hyperspace Mountain

Disney Land Park, Tomorrow Land

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Disney Land Park, Fantasyland

Indiana Jones Ride

Disney Land Park, Adventureland

Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney Land Park, New Orleans Square

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

California Adventure, Hollywood Land

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When you get hungry, there will be lots of options. You can either leave the parks and go to Downtown Disney, the options are, Rain Forest Cafe, ESPN Zone, House of Blues and many others.  Eat inside one of the Disneyland Parks. I recommend Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square, it offers table service and plenty of patio seating.

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Pommes Frites

And in between meals, snack on corndogs, turkey legs and pretzels.

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Monte Cristo Sandwich

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Mickey’s Fun Wheel

No one does evening parades quite like Disney. They put quite the production for the Paint the Night Parade, Pixar Play Parade and the famous Fireworks at Disney Land Park.

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Pixar Play Parade

Stop by Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Resort Area. Enjoy a Tiki atmosphere and special effects whenever you order drinks like, Shipwreck on the Rocks.

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Uh Oa! Specialty Drink

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Specialty Drink at Trader Sam’s

Newport Beach

Shop in Newport Beach. Fashion Island Mall, if shopping is what you’re looking for. Stop by Wahoo’s Fish taco and have a Wahoo Salad with carne asada, and roasted pepper cilantro dressing. Eat revolving sushi at Blue C Sushi, an innovative Japanese restaurant. Lychee martinis and sesame noodles, are delicious, other than that let the food revolve around you and pick.

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Visit the tide pools at Little Corona del Mar. Walk around the rocks and explore the sea life that forms within. Plan a picnic by the beach and enjoy the tranquility of this quiet beach.

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Tide Pools within the rocks

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View from the Beach

Santa Ana

If you find yourself in Santa Ana, stop by for some coffee at Portola Coffee Roasters. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up that lasts, this is the right place.

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Hollywood

No visit to Southern California would be completed without a visit to Hollywood. Stroll the Hollywood walk of fame and spot your favorite stars. You might also be interested in taking a tour of Celebrity Mansions.

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Driving to Hollywood

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Check out the Chinese Theatre. The site of movie premiers and imagine your favorite celebrities walking the red carpet. Go into the Hollywood Wax Museum and see the statues of your favorite stars. You can purchase a ticket to the wax museum and Ripley’s Believe it or Not together. And when you get thirsty, stop by Snow White Cafe, and order a thirty-two ounce beer with a basket of fries. Snow White Cafe has been there since 1946.

Do not leave Hollywood without taking that scenic photograph of the sign. There are many routes up to the scenic views, so you can either drive up or take a hike.

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You will never run out of things to do when you visit Southern California!

-Mayra

 

 

 

 

 

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