Heading west on United we chased the sunset for hour after hour until the sprawling life below pixelated the blackness with a warm twinkling gold. My destination, Los Angeles, is a carnival of lights spreading in every direction; my time ahead equally shimmering, a whole week to play like a tourist. Normally, I only visit briefly with my kiddos but with a few extra days I not only experienced some favorites but several new spots too. In light of our notorious non-presidential Presidential candidate “suggesting walls at the border and shutting out entire groups of people, it is more important than ever to travel and connect with your fellow humans–whether they’re from Hamburg, Houston, or Havana. Travel is the antidote to fear” (Cosgrove, Editor in Chief, AFAR). Whether you visit the next town over, or the furthest from it, let your vantage be about adventure. Be fearless.
First morning in LA, is always the beach! Eyes rejoicing on the whole Pacific reaching to the furthest horizon, and even in this early spring weather, it’s warm enough for a dip. Lucky me! Equally lucky is the familial love of water extends to my children, who after a short jog and football toss, join me to brave the waves. Our favorite beach: Santa Monica! Bike path, miles of clean sand, water birds and surfers to watch, and plenty of blue sky with the Pier in view. “First opened in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier is home to an amusement park that houses a solar-paneled Ferris wheel and an original carousel from the 1920s. Strolling along the water, you’ll find shops, bars, restaurants, a trapeze school, and an arcade” (Bobb). At day’s end we strolled over to dine at the Caribbean favorite Cha Cha Chicken. Don’t miss the guava-mango watermelon lemonade!
Second spot, a not-to-be-missed hike up Topanga Canyon to Eagle Rock. From here you can see a 360 view, with ocean on one side, mountain range on the other, and miles of state park trails along the ridge. We enjoyed the spring flowers and slight breeze in 80 degree sunshine. The west offers a dry heat, which is always a welcome sensation for this east coaster. Sitting on top, we shared a banana, orange, apple and handful of almonds, while we talked dreams and aspirations and all the living directly ahead. Afterwards we hit up a favorite smoothie/juice shop, of which there is no shortage of in any area in Los Angeles. Healthy eating just comes easily in this city. We even popped in to the farmer’s market for some fresh strawberries!
Don’t have tickets for The Broad, but still hope to get in? Well, exactly our dilemma, so we opted to go anyway and brave the line. While you wait, remember you are in full view of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, MOCA, and other downtown structures that flash sun and sky and jut up into the blue like living shards, and always, always a ridge of mountains in the distance. Not a bad wait at all! Although we had different dinner plans, (Pine & Crane in Silver Lake) if you can, plan to enjoy a meal at the Otium: “The restaurant’s name, Otium, has its roots in Latin, a word that is meant to emphasize a place where time can be spent on leisurely social activities.” Inviting, right?
Once inside The Broad we stood in awe of Takashi Murakami’s massive eighty-two-foot-long painting, Robert Longo’s imposing Ferguson Police photo and “White Riot”, work by Koons and Warhol, and countless other provocative pieces within a structure designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, with free admission. Yes, free! Sadly we could not visit Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Mirrored Room, “a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display, featured in the inaugural installation. This experiential artwork on the museum’s first floor has limited capacity, accommodating one visitor at a time for approximately 45 seconds,” but you should! This space sounds well worth planning ahead and buying tickets!
Speaking of tickets, for my next stop, I did plan ahead and bought online for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! YES!!
I know, I know, many have you have already visited Universal Orlando, but I haven’t, and this was just a dream come true for us Potter fans. Butterbeer, the Three Broomsticks, Zonkes joke shop, Honeydukes, Ollivanders wand shop, and most especially, Hogwarts! After all the hype, the years of wait, we were not disappointed. Go early, stay late, and soak in all the magic!!
Interested in doing something in LA without lines? A place with a perpetual rainbow and sky-high steam of mist and water? One suggestion is Echo Park Lake. We rented a pedal boat and followed the baby geese guarded by their proud parents, viewed the expanse of water lilies, listened to the ducks quack and the water splash, and felt as far away from city and crowd as you might hope. A respite indeed.
Looking for another outdoor experience, one that combines art in flower and terrain, as well as words and paintings? Take the drive to lovely Pasadena to visit the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. We were soothed by the serenity and stimulated by the variety from the desert garden to rose arbors, the Japanese bonsai to Australian Eucalyptus; we wandered through the lush and the austere. Inside the library are other treasures, “including the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s First Folio, John James Audubon’s Birds of America, and Henry David Thoreau’s manuscript of Walden.” Seriously!?!? We were stopped in our tracks by such a collection. Back outside we found a wonderful luncheon and sweet tea, and took in even more blooms.
In the end, there is always the love of family that makes a vacation a lasting memory, but getting to visit these old favorites and new sights with my children, just added to the experience. I returned home feeling as if I had ventured into exotic lands and fell in love with LA all over again; and truly thrilled my creative and ambitious children are making their home among such diversity and possibility.
If spring or summer presents time to get out and about, whether in your own neighborhood or one clear across the continent or even beyond, perhaps you can discover a few treasures awaiting you. Look for bridges and commonalities. Look for what binds you to those living around you and those you are just meeting. Look for new loves in taste and experience. This is not the time to lock doors but to discover how we can co-exist on this small planet, how we can renew energy and keep the revolutions fluid, how we can truly become one people. As the editor of AFAR suggests, Travel More, Fear Less; set out on an adventure of your own, and do let me know what you find!