Lake Tahoe - California

California isn't all about beaches and 90210, it has a few mountains in it as well. In fact, it's home to the Sierra mountain ranges with some really cracking ski resorts, mountain biking & hiking! My first stop on my flying visit to beautiful Cali was Lake Tahoe, found on the border between California and Nevada. It's also apparently the largest Alpine Lake in North America which is always a pretty cool thing to visit!

A place that large obviously can't be the same all the way around, especially in-between two different states so as you can imagine Lake Tahoe is split into two sides; North Lake Tahoe and South Lake Tahoe. They are both full of beautiful towns, however are all fairly different in style. South Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side is ram packed with casinos, so if you're looking to party this is where to be! North Lake Tahoe is where the Big Foot might want to live. Quiet, peaceful and full of mountain air. 

Staying at the beautiful Granlibakken Lodge, North Lake Tahoe is where I based myself for the couple days I managed to squeeze in here! The lodge is home to a lot of history, with a cute little ski slope perfect for beginners! Being so close to Squaw valley though, it means there's something for everyone with slopes that were used in the 1960 Winter Olympics. 

Squaw valley has the feel of the European Alps, but of course still with that Californian twist! In the winter the resort is full of some of the best slopes around, and in the summer it's hard to resist the hiking trails that fill the area. The fresh mountain air and outdoor lifestyle, it's somewhere I could get addicted to!

As well as the skiing and hiking that can be done, on obvious highlight is the area's namesake, Lake Tahoe itself! Being absolutely massive, I can't say it didn't have me questioning the whole 'Californian Drought' thing (although heading south on the trip made me realise the serious lack of water there is in this state). And, what better way to check out a lake than to get on it? Sailing on such a windy day was quite frankly hilarious, and combine this with a few beers you have one serious party! In the summer, with a lake this large there is plenty of space to find you own sailing ground so this lake will never feel crowded!

So, if you're idea of a perfect day is starting it outside trying something new, and ending it with a few craft beers and s'mores on the campfire outside your lodge? Look no further then because this is the place for you. 

Los Angeles

Ah, Los Angeles, the City of Angels! Famed for its film industry, LA is an amalgamation of the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and SoCal beach vibes. With a diverse crowd and great food, this major city is not one to miss, whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally!

 

Top Tourist Landmarks

Disneyland / Universal Studios / Harry Potter World

This is a must for a family trip, or for Harry Potter lovers! If you’re here for Halloween, make sure you check out Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights for some true scares - so much fun!

Getty Villa / Getty Center

With a fascinating history, gorgeous gardens and cool architecture, the Getty Center in LA and the Getty Villa in Malibu are both great places to spend a day with family or a significant other.

Hollywood sign

Catch a glimpse of the famed Hollywood sign from various parts of the city.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Clichéd, but famous for a reason. Take a stroll on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame if this is your sort of thing.

Griffith Park / Observatory

A great place to catch views of the LA skyline, especially on a clear day! I recommend visiting on off-hours and majorly avoiding weekends, unless you like being stuck in traffic!

 

Santa Monica Pier

Touristy but still charming, the Santa Monica Pier is a great spot for a date night, with food, a fair (on a pier, no less), and a Ferris wheel to complete the night!

Less touristy spots…

For those seeking more than the usual tourist traps, I recommend visiting any of the following for a true taste of local Los Angeles!

The Last Bookstore

Located downtown, this is heaven for bibliophiles and photography lovers! Take a step through its famed book tunnel for an Instagram-worthy shot!

 

Venice Canals

Can’t go to Venice, Italy? No worries, Venice, California offers some canals of her own! Stroll along and see the quaint houses - perfect for a date day.

The Culver Hotel

With a famed history relating to the Wizard of Oz and old Hollywood, the Culver Hotel has a really cool bar with great vibes. Especially suitable for those wanting to have a night out but avoiding the “Hollywood scene” in other parts of town.

Bradbury Building

Situated Downtown, you’ll probably recognize the interior of this building as soon as you step inside, since it’s been featured in numerous movies over the decades.

 

The Grove

A commonly frequented open air shopping complex with an abundance of restaurants and a great Farmer’s Market

Little Tokyo

I stand by my statement that LA has some of the best Japanese food in the U.S., probably due to its Japanese population and proximity to Japan itself. Stop by Little Tokyo for some authentic sushi!

Huntington Gardens

An hour or so outside of LA, this is the perfect day trip on a sunny day. Explore the Huntington Library and stroll through its beautiful, lush gardens with plants ranging from cactus to bonsai trees.

El Matador State Beach

An hour north of LA in Malibu, El Matador is a picturesque beach wonderful for exploration. I recommend going late in the day for some of the best sunset views you’ll find on the west coast!

Where to Eat

As a foodie who can never stop eating and plans "eatineraries" when traveling, the abundance of various types of food in LA is absolutely incredible. However, to prevent this post from being an endless scroll, below is a list of some famous places to munch, split up into price range!

$

  1. Eggslut
  2. Johnny’s Pastrami
  3. Lemonade
  4. Pink’s Hot Dogs
  5. Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles
  6. Shaherzad
  7. In & Out Burger

$$

  1. Cafe Gratitude (v)
  2. Canter’s Deli
  3. Factor’s Deli 
  4. Langer’s
  5. Shabu Shabu House
  6. Sqirl
  7. Umami Burger
  8. Urth Caffe
  9. Wurstkuche
  10. Joan’s on Third

$$$

  1. Animal
  2. District Hannah An
  3. Fig & Olive
  4. Gjelina
  5. The Ivy
  6. Newport Seafood
  7. Republique
  8. Son of a Gun
  9. Stinking Rose

 

$$$$

  1. Angelini Osteria
  2. Boa Steakhouse
  3. The Bazaar by Jose Andres
  4. Bestia
  5. Bottega Louie
  6. Madeo
  7. Mastro’s
  8. Sugarfish
  9. Petrossian
  10. Trois Mec

For Asian cuisine, I highly recommend pretty much any restaurant on Sawtelle Boulevard (favorites are Tsujita for ramen, Seoul Tofu House for Korean food, and R.O.C. for Chinese!)

LA also has a Little Tokyo, Thai Town, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, Koreatown, and pretty much any ethnicity you can think of has its own zone in the city with authentic cuisine.

And of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a few dessert spots!

Desserts & Ice Cream:

  1. Carmela Ice Cream
  2. Diddy Riese
  3. Honeymee
  4. Ice Cream Lab
  5. Lady M Cake Boutique
  6. Milk
  7. Neveux Artisan Creamery
  8. Palazzo Gelato
  9. Peddler’s Creamery
  10. Saffron & Rose
  11. Salt & Straw
  12. Sweet Lady Jane
  13. Sweet Rose Creamery
  14. Gelateria Uli

 

How to get around

LA is a great city, but extremely sprawled out. The most important thing is knowing the city’s limitations for public transportation! I recommend renting a car, or utilizing UberX or Lyft - these services will make getting to various neighborhoods drastically easier.

Where to stay

For the younger crowd, I recommend renting an Airbnb for some of the best prices, or trying out HotelTonight if you’re only here for a day or two.

West Hollywood, or closer to the beach around Santa Monica, Venice, Manhattan Beach are all really great for those in their 20s and early 30s.

If you’re keen on using public transportation, downtown Culver City is pretty centrally located and has direct access to the Metro to get to downtown and Santa Monica. It’s also a really up and coming zone with a buzzing bar scene, but great if you want to avoid the “Hollywood crowd.”

Safety tips

LA is a pretty safe city, especially if you’re in an area with people around. Just don’t go walking alone at night on Skid Row and you’ll be fine! As always, use caution and common sense where necessary.

Conclusion

Despite its reputation for breeding a shallow scene with the Hollywood crowd, LA is just like any other major city — there are pockets of ridiculous wealth, but there are all sorts of people that live here and everything in between. t’s a great tourist destination, and also a place to live if you find your crowd. I know I have, and it’s quickly become my favorite city.

I hope you have as great a time as I do exploring LA!

 

Written by Pier Nirandara of PiersGreatPerhaps.com

Pier grew up in Bangkok and is constantly finding new ways to fulfill her insatiable wanderlust while balancing a full time job, having traveled to 67 countries and 7 continents. She is the bestselling author of The Interspecies Trilogy under the pen name Pieretta Dawn, and currently works in Hollywood.

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