3 Days in Southern California

Living in Northern California, Los Angeles is not new territory for me. Yet, I can’t wait to go back! Don’t get me wrong, the Bay Area is still far better than SoCal. But as a foodie, I do love trying new restaurants. And this time around, I found a few new favorites that might just be worth driving 6 hours on I-5 (and I hate I-5). I was sadly sick during this weekend so it was a struggle at times… but overall, it was a great way to spend the 4th of July weekend!

Day One

Daikokuya (Sawtelle Location)

People say that Daikokuya serves the best ramen in LA so we had to swing by and taste it for ourselves! We were warned that there would be a line but luckily we beat the lunch rush. I ordered the recommended Daikoku ramen. Sadly, my ramen noodles were a bit hard but the flavorful broth and well-marinated boiled egg certainly made up for it! It’s not the best ramen I’ve ever had (best is still Daikaya in DC) but it was very delicious and definitely ranked a close second! I actually thought their fried rice was better than their ramen. I would definitely eat here again in the future!

Parking TIP: The Sawtelle location is located in a shopping center with free 2-hour parking.

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Lily Pond in Beverly Gardens Park

This wasn’t originally on our itinerary but we had to check it out after seeing the giant Beverly Hills sign from afar. The sign made for a good photo opportunity and the water lilies were a beautiful addition.

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Rodeo Drive

Who hasn’t heard of Rodeo Drive? It’s the street lined with luxury shops and palm trees that you see in movies and TV shows. I personally couldn’t afford to walk into most of these shops but it was still fun to go window shopping on a beautiful day. Plus, there’s a Ladurée! And if you’ve read my other posts, you know I LOVE their macarons. Another spot to check out is Sprinkles – they have an ATM cupcake machine!

Parking TIP: We made the mistake of paying for parking because we didn’t do our research. There is actually free 2-hour parking! And next time, we will definitely be taking advantage of that by using this map.

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

We came here to see the (often instagrammed) Urban Light. Before we made it there, we passed by the La Brea Tar Pits. What bothered me about the tar pit is that they had a female mammoth stuck in the pit even though a sign stated that historically, male mammoths were more likely to find themselves stuck. If that’s the case, then why did the artist put the female in the pit?!

We walked through Museum Row and made it to the Urban Light sculpture. I found the reason behind the sculpture more fascinating that the sculpture itself. And yet, like the thousands of other people who have come before us, we spent a good amount of time trying to take that perfect Instagram shot. This one is my favorite!

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LA Live

It was very crowded at LA Live because there was an Anime Expo at the LA Convention Center. We walked through LA Live but we chose to eat at the food trucks instead! We got a sushi burrito at Jogasaki Sushi Burrito, Korean tacos at Kogi, and fried chicken with fries at Belly BombZ. The best food truck of the three was definitely Kogi. Kogi is on many “must eat” lists and we absolutely agree!

Day Two

Pho Tasty

Since my boyfriend and I both had a cold, we were really craving pho. We looked for a popular spot on Yelp near our hotel and stumbled upon Pho Tasty in Artesia. The pho was delicious and you can’t beat the large portions and low prices! The meat wasn’t as fresh which left us giving this place 4 stars on Yelp. If you’re in the Long Beach area and craving pho, this is a good place to go.

Santa Monica State Beach

With it being 4th of July weekend, this area was packed! We started with a stroll on the Santa Monica Pier. It was a good spot to watch the crashing waves. Plus, it’s always fun to see all the street vendors, especially the ones who paint your name artistically (I used to love those when I was a kid). After the pier, we headed down to the crowded beach. We found a spot but it was quite close to the waves. We definitely jumped up a few times to avoid getting wet! I’m sure the family behind us had a grand time watching us squirm.

A few blocks away from the beach is the Third Street Promenade. It’s one of my favorite places to shop in southern California and unlike Rodeo Drive, it’s affordable! We also swung by Bruxie for a Bacon Cheddar Waffle. The wait was a bit longer than I’d like… but I do really love their waffles!

Parking TIP: Park at one of the many Santa Monica Public Parking Structures – the first 90 minutes are free!

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Koreatown

After a long day spent in the sun, we were starving! We went to Koreatown and thanks to Yelp chose to eat at Hangari Kalguksu. We ordered Ddukbokki (a spicy combination of rice cakes and fish cakes) and Kimchi Kalguksu (Korean hand cut noodles). Both dishes were incredible! I want to go back to LA just for the Kimchi Kalguksu. The sauce in the ddukbokki was very creamy and the fish cakes were so soft. The noodles in the kalguksu were soft and chewy and melted so well into the spicy soup. I’m obsessed and I would highly recommend checking it out!

Parking TIP: Parking in Koreatown is a nightmare. Street parking is impossible during peak hours and the restaurant parking lot was full and even harder to enter. If you can enter the lot, there is free valet for customers. To avoid the whole mess, navigate to Ten Ramen (2 blocks away) and park in their parking lot for $5.

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory has been on our to-do list since our last LA trip. So even though it was 30 minutes until 9 (their closing time), we still headed up toward the observatory. We got there at 8:45pm (yes, we were those people). To our surprise, there was still a lot of people there, and even more still arriving. With limited time, we went straight to the observation terrace to take in the skyline. The view was beautiful! My favorite was seeing the skyscrapers downtown – it really stood out from the rest of LA. We stayed there until the park rangers kicked us out. We’ll definitely be back to take in more of the skyline! (I won’t include a picture because it just doesn’t do the night view justice.)

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Another place we went to right before it closed was Milk on Silver Lake. I love macarons so I had to check out their macaron icecream sandwiches! I ordered the Fruity Pebbles flavor and it was so good (I want to fly back to LA just for this good)! The icecream actually did taste like Fruity Pebbles! My boyfriend ordered icecream and the flavors were all unique and tasty. We hear there’s usually a line but when you go 10 minutes before closing, it’s pretty empty. I guess you can say we got lucky? 😉

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Day Three

Universal Studios

I am a huge fan of Disneyland and have never been to Universal Studios. However, with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, how can I pass it up? Like most people say, the park is small. As a HP fan, I was impressed walking through Hogsmeade -seeing the train, stores, and even wanted posters I’ve read about come to life was magical. The best part was when they lit up the castle at night, Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts. If I remember correctly, the show starts around 8:30pm and runs every 15 minutes until closing.

We ended up at the park until the rides closed. Universal Studios surpassed my expectations and I will definitely be coming back to check out more of the rides! Here is my ranking of the rides I went on (from best to worst):

  1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (sadly the ride stopped while we were on it due to technical difficulties but it was still my favorite!)
  2. Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
  3. World-Famous Studio Tour
  4. Transformers: The Ride-3D
  5. Jurassic Park — The Ride (I would’ve enjoyed it more if we didn’t go on it at night)
  6. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (the line was too long for the attraction) 
  7. Flight of the Hippogriff (for a roller coaster, it wasn’t thrilling… and it only lasts 30 seconds)

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California Donuts

There is a reason why people love California Donuts – unique flavors, cute designs, and a fluffy texture (or at least these are the reasons why I love the donuts). We came here after midnight thinking that nobody would be there. To our surprise, there was a line! The line moved fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was hopping away with my donuts (Panda, Fruit Loops, Samoas, Matcha).

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Overall Thoughts

Top Tourist Spots: Universal Studios

For Next Time: Griffith Observatory (again!)

Must Eat Places: Hangari Kalguksu, Milk, California Donuts

What to Skip: Rodeo Drive (unless you’re made of money and want to shop ’til you drop)

The Other Necessities

Hotel

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Long Beach as part of our Expedia package. It was about an hour away from most of the places we went to. It was a clean hotel but nothing to write home about.

Airport

This was my first time flying in and out of Long Beach Airport (LGB). It was so California! I mean, only in California can you have an airport where it’s quite open and not all covered. It’s a small airport with a lot of character!

Transportation

We rented a car and honestly, I thought it was a good idea despite some LA traffic. It was nice to have the freedom to go from place to place without having to wait on public transportation. The areas with the worst traffic were Santa Monica Beach and LA Live (mainly due to the Anime Expo). The worst parking also went to LA Live, as well as Koreatown.

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