California here we come! Southern California will forever have my heart. It’s my home away from home—it’s a place that I truly love because it’s where I found myself many years ago when I began searching for who I was and since then, I haven’t turned back, therefore I am ever-so grateful. In all reality, “SoCal” can be a terrifying place for any person. It’s on the west coast, it has millions and millions of people in the cities north and south and most importantly, it’s expensive. That’s why I have here a Southern California Guide to help you know where to go and perhaps, the places to avoid because let’s face it, a little help never hurt anybody and when you’ve explored SoCal as many times as I have, I wish someone told me the ins and outs of this beautiful place.
Bring me back to the days of Laguna Beach, The Hills and of course, you can’t forget The OC (The Original MTV Television Shows) because this is where is all began. LC, Heidi, Stephen, Ryan, Melissa, Summer and Seth…It truly has all of the Southern California vibes that a person could ask for and if I’m being honest, it’s my favorite place to explore and relax. I fell in love with this place the moment I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway. The beautiful views go on for miles and miles, the Pacific Ocean the side of the earth, the weather and energetic vibe…how could a person not love this spot of the earth? It’s the ultimate coastal destination for any California wanna-bee or just traveler in general. It’s known for the beaches, bohemian chic/surfer vibe and out of some of the cities north and south, I would consider Laguna to be one of the cheapest destinations on the list. People mostly arrive through the Laguna Canyon which takes to the center where one is faced with the ocean and stores on the left and right which include all things pizza, ice-cream and bars. NEApolitan Pizzeria and Birreria, Gelato Paradiso and the Saloon are all some of my favorite go-to places.
Oh, Los Angeles. I love you, but you are not in my top places to visit. Although it’s known as the entertainment capital of the world with my activities to do and see, I have many reasons why I would avoid going here. First off, it’s expensive. There are approximately 50 million visitors each year and with that comes high prices. Many people who visit here walk along the famous Hollywood Sunset Strip or beaches like Venice and Santa Monica and if you want to purchase plainly anything, make sure to bring your wallet with extra cash. There is also the housing crisis, so if you plan on living here long term, be wary of the cost renting or purchasing a home or apartment. Secondly, it’s busy. More people means more congestion, not only out in public on the streets, but on the highways as well. I once drove to the Griffith Observatory from the Laguna Beach area and was stuck in traffic for hours. It becomes extremely frustrating, but it’s a densely populated area, so everywhere you go, you are bound to experience traffic. How long your wait may be just depends on the time of the day that you arrive or leave.
Dana point may just be one of the most beautiful places I have visited while exploring SoCal. It’s a hidden gem, one with many secret and affordable treasures. It’s mainly known as the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World. Many small and large marinas lie on the coast which allow many boats and yachts to come and go on a regular basis. While Dana Point Harbor is one of the most popular attractions for tourists, Dana Strands Beach is my go-to beach to visit because of the ocean views. For food, Harpoon Henry’s Sea Food Restaurant is a must go-to because of the moderate prices that go along with the most delicious food. My favorite meal is the Calamari Steak or the Cioppino which contains all the seafood one person could ask for—fish, shrimp, scallops, mussels all in a tasty broth. There is also happy hour Monday through Friday 4pm – 7pm and Saturday 12pm – 4pm which include some drinks, appetizers and small plates. Perfect if you’re trying to be on the cheaper side. There is also The Point Restaurant Tavern and Bar. If you’re looking for a delightful cocktail, this is the best place to go as they have a variety of cocktails to choose from. If you want something fruity, I highly recommend their raspberry martini. Yum!
Although I have already mentioned Los Angeles, there is Skid Row which a definite no-no to not visit while you’re in SoCal. This place holds one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States since the 1930s. As of right now, there is approximately 8,000 people who live on the streets of Skid Row, all of which live on a 20-block radius. It’s an extremely dangerous area because it is beleaguered with drugs like meth and cocaine. The area also has terrible smells of urine, poop and a mix of other odors because many of those who live here cannot or do not shower. The theft (including vehicle break-in) is high, along with sex crimes and arson which are at an all-time high. If you do plan on visiting Los Angeles, please do so with caution. If you’re a solo traveler, know where you are all times and let your loved ones know as well, especially in case of an emergency. The world can be a scary place, so it’s important to be aware at all times, even if you are just observing from afar.
One of the most magical things of SoCal is that there is a variety of places to visit for everyone. One of those places is Solvang which is completely different from Laguna and Los Angeles. It’s a Danish-theme town that is perfect if you’re on a budget. It’s mostly known for its architecture, wineries and small shops—most of which are within walking distance from each other. If you’re a café lover like me, put the Belgian Café on your list to stop at. It has a European vibe and is known for its crepes and waffles. They also have a lunch menu if you are not able to make it for breakfast. Best thing? It’s affordable with prices ranging from $4.00 – $17.00. If you want to go lounge on the beach, El Capitan State Beach is a protected beach approximately 20 minutes from the center of Solvang. There are many rocky tide-pools, soft sands and beautiful views, perfect if you want to get away from the small city. Lastly, since Solvang is known for its wineries, Rideau Vineyard has a great selection of hand-crafted wines. Reservations are highly recommended if you want a day of tasting wines and exploring the gardens. Another hidden gem, visit Solvang if you want a different taste of what SoCal can bring.
Do you love SoCal as much as I do? Tell me some of your favorite (and not favorite) places to visit here.