In mid-August, we took a much-anticipated trip to Harrison’s hometown in Northern Los Angeles (The San Fernando Valley). Our main attraction was the gorgeous wedding of one of Harrison’s closest friends, and he was even in the wedding party (meaning he was one of the 7 groomsmen)!
Our trip was only 10 days (quite short if you’re coming from Europe), but we managed to make every second valuable.
As you are most likely aware, traffic in Los Angeles is a pain in the ass. Because of this, “home-body Harrison” doesn’t like to get out of the valley and over the hill much, but this was a special trip. It was Lisa’s seventh time in LA but we still managed to explore new areas and had a great time catching up with family and friends.
Our first stop after landing at LAX on Friday evening was In’N’Out Burger. Trust me on this one. From there, we took two buses (who knew public transit in LA was feasible?) to get to West Hollywood where we met some friends at a rooftop bar named E.P & L.P. We arrived quite early for a night out in LA but the rooftop was filling up quickly and we enjoyed the great cocktails (from around 12 Euros, but the drinks were quite strong).
We have done the famous hike up to the Hollywood sign, the 7h round-trip at Mt. Baldy and several other small hikes near Woodland Hills, Harrison’s hometown. This time, we decided to join Harrison’s friend Robert to Cucamonga Peak, a 20k out and back route climbing a total of 4300 ft (1311 m). In order to beat the summer heat, we woke up at 4am and started at the parking lot around 5.20am when it was still dark. We enjoyed the shade for half the treck uphill before reaching the ridge and continuing on the last steep section before the summit. Overall, it took us about three hours to summit (slightly above average), and the view was spectacular from 8800~ feet. We shared the spectacular rocks with some overnight campers but we were the first to summit that day and enjoyed the serenity. We barely saw any people on the way up but met many groups of hikers as we descended. Oh boy – it got hot really quickly and we were happy we made it out of the canyon without being exposed to the afternoon sun. We spent the rest of the day chilling and relaxing at the pool.
Family, Friends, and Food
This trip was obviously much more about family and friends than the location. We tried to catch up with as many friends as possible and hung out at a pool party, went hiking, camping, eating out at Korean BBQ, and joined the beautiful wedding of Brendan & Jennifer. Harrison even managed to pick up three basketball sessions with his old pals. We also spend some great time with the family, especially the big family BBQ in the backyard with the delicious buffet.
One of these days we had a great lunch at Poke Bar. They served us super delicious and filling bowls of ahi thuna, spicy thuna and salmon. Can’t wait to go back! You definitely had to try poke, a Hawaiian staple, next time you are around. We heard Sweetfin should be pretty good too!
Korean Barbeque is all the rage right now, and while we have both had it before, its always a fun social evening of good food, drinks, and friends. We went to Gen KBBQ in Northridge, but you will most likely be closer to the real deal in Korea Town. Be sure to check it out.
For ice cream, go to Coldstone Creamery and savor at least the ‘Love it’ size and have them mix in your favorite candy bars, nuts, fudge, brownie, etc.
I also love visiting farmer’s markets and enjoyed sampling the many fresh produce. Since it was prime peach season we bulked up on them.
Being Tourists in LA
We chose to be tourists on Tuesday to beat weekend traffic. Driving into Beverly Hills after 9am worked out very well, and the city even offers an abundance of free 2 hour parking (unheard of!). We took a quick walk around Beverly Hills to see some specific sites, including: Barney’s New York (awesome staircase), Beverly Hills sign, and RodeoDrive. We also window-shopped at the many luxury shops where great people watching is guaranteed. Who knows, you might even run into a celebrity?
From Beverly Hills we slowly made our way downtown to visit The Broad Museum and the LACMA gas lamp photo opp. Along the way, we made several stops along Melrose Avenue to pose with some murals: e.g. Paul Smith’s pink wall, “Made in LA” at Cisco home, and Retna’s artwork (for more please check out this or this).
We were both underwhelmed by the size of the LACMA lamp exhibit featuring over 200 gas lamps, but that didn’t stop us from taking photos. This was a quick stop and we shortly found ourselves at The Broad Museum.
We parked in California Plaza, which is almost directly across the street from The Broad around 2pm and had no troubles getting into the museum via the standby line (about a 30min wait; by the way the museum is free to visit!). Pro tip: parking is $8 after you have accessed The Broad and validated your ticket there.
I really enjoyed the contemporay artworks of the famous artists such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Mike Kelley, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Cy Twombly, and many more. Unfortunately we were unable to see Yayoi Kusama’a Infinity Room, which is highly popular and was fully booked when we appeared.
The Broad isn’t all that big, and we then visited Angel’s Flight, a famous LA landmark and funicular since 1901 (to be reopened after extensive renovation), Grand Central Market (you can get all kind of foods there, even Berlin Currywurst!), the Bradbury Building, and Harrison’s favorite, The Last Bookstore (better than the Broad, so he claims). Seriously, there’s something for everyone at The Last Bookstore. You can easily get lost between the many old shelves and suddenly feel like you are in a Harry Potter movie set. Take your time, there is a lot to explore here.
We were able to camp mid-week with some friends of Harrison’s from Thurs-Friday in Joshua Tree National Park. The park recently received the “dark sky park” award meaning that the area is great for star gazing with minimal light pollution. Bring your own tent, firewood, food, plenty of water, booze, and smiles. The rocks around the campsite were fun to climb and accommodate all skill levels.
We enjoyed a nice sunset, star gazing, and fire while catching up with old friends. Since we went mid-week and August is not high season, we had no problem finding a nice campsite at Hidden Valley. The park is $25 per vehicle (one time fee) and an additional $15/night for a campsite (good for 2 vehicles). Not a bad deal, and you should be happy to support the national parks :). Hike together and bring plenty of water, as there have been reports and signs posted of missing people. Be safe and smart and you will have no issues. We can also recommend the nature trail of Barker Dam which is just over 1 mile. Of course there are boulders and Joshua trees everywhere in the Mojave desert here but on this trail you can also meet some big horn sheep.
To get away from it all we enjoyed a nice picnic at Zuma Beach in Malibu, Harrison’s favorite beach from his childhood. Park on the street or at Malibu High School and enjoy. Beware – dogs and alcohol are not allowed, and the sherifs frequently stop and check beach-goers’ containers for alcohol. Nevertheless, with big waves and a clean beach, there’s no reason you can’t have fun in a variety of other ways. Since school started already, the beach was quite empty and we took a dip into the refreshing Pacific. We got really lucky to see a group of dolphins playing around close to the shore and even two pelicans diving for fish. Who needs SeaLife if you can have real life?! Beware the beach can be quite windy and temperatures are significantly lower at the sea (you might even need a hoodie).
This event is why we came here in the first place and we were super excited to be part of it. Since Harrison was in the wedding, we were also invited to the rehearsal dinner the day before. The location – the gardens of Los Robles in Thousand Oaks – was stunning and all open-air. The ceremony was lovely and we had a great time catching up with the married couple and friends, dancing, and celebrating the rest of the evening.
We are excited to see the urban development taking place within the next zears as LA is getting ready to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2028 (sigh, we know it’s still a long time to go).
What We Didn’t Do:
- Theme Parks: Disneyland and Universal – Expensive tourist traps. Harrison has been plenty of times and we have no interest in standing in line all day for mild amusement. But – to each his own 🙂
- Santa Monica & Venice Beach: We have done this on our previous visits and were unable to fit this into our tight schedule. It’s always fun to walk down the boardwalk, check out Muscle Beach, Santa Monica Pier, 3rd street Promenade, and eat at one of the hip restaurants.
- The Getty: Done already, great views and worth a visit.
- Hollywood: Also ticked that off our bucket list long time ago.
- Griffith Observatory: We highly recommend going up there for the sunset and staying there until it gets dark to see the City of Angels by night. Combine with a nice Dinner at West Hollywood maybe?
- Chinatown: Not too spectacular in our opinion.
- Staples Center and surroundings: Great to catch a game or inhale the sports atmosphere.
- Magnolia Bakery: I simply love the banana pudding there. You must try it! Definitely better than their cupcakes known from SATC. Missed it this time unfortunately.
- Clifton’s: Not your average bar, cafe, and restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t check this amazing place out yet.
- Burmese restaurants: We first fell in love in Burmese food when we lived in San Franciso a few years ago. Ever since we have been dremaing of more restaurants like “Burma Superstar” around the world but Burmese food is scarce. We didn’t find the time to check one out this time.
- Ice Cream Museum: An Instagrammer’s dream! We heard about this temporary museum too late unfortunately and tickets have been sold out for a while. We would definitely visit should it tour around in Europe!
- Tire Shop Taqueria: Never been but we would love to check out this authentic taco place next time we are in LA.