Los Angeles, a city that attracts many travellers and holiday-goers alike. Not only is it a wonderful destination, but to put it bluntly, it’s just so cool? Cities such as New York always have always had their own character and style, but Los Angeles has always been the cooler cousin. From Hollywood to Beverly Hills. From Santa Monica to Venice Beach, everything about Los Angeles screams trendy, and geographically Southern California is pretty beautiful. However, enough about all of the things that are on everyone’s bucket lists. Although your ‘typical’ LA spots are must-sees and raise excitement in you, there are also many wonderful places just outside the city that often get no attention. Furthermore, even your ‘typical’ destinations have small ‘hidden gems’ nestled in them, but sometimes we just do not make the effort to explore further. So here is my little list of places you should stop by if you’re ever in the City of Angels.
The northwestern valleys
These valleys full of hills, woodland and beautiful stretches of coast nearby are a treat. Firstly the scenery is to die for, you almost forget you’re only 20 minutes away from a huge metropolis. The golden hills, an abundance of hiking trails and beautiful homes. It is a rugged, desertlike landscape, yet so so beautiful. Just taking some time away from the city and chilling out here is enough. I was fortunate enough to spend four days here and I personally stayed in Agoura Hills located in the Conejo Valley right in between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Susana Mountains. As aforementioned, there are many hiking trails, relaxing resorts and parks up here, making it a nice haven in Southern California. Whilst making my final shop in Target I overheard two ladies from Austin, Texas who visit here frequently to just enjoy a lovely lifestyle – to the point that they even took yoga classes in the middle of nowhere. It’s clearly a hit with Americans but fortunately, very few tourists come here, making you feel really immersed in the area. One of my favourite sights here though is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Of course, its setting is pretty gorgeous, but the setup of it enables it to not only entertain you with various quirks such as Air Force One, but it firmly educates you on US History whilst Reagan was alive. Spanning all the way from his days fighting communism in the film industry, to speaking with Gorbachev in Reykjavik as president. No matters your views on this man, he certainly lived an interesting and influential life. All in all the valleys have much to offer, even if you don’t have a hire car, metro buses run all the way up to cities like Agoura Hills and Simi Valley anyway, so what’s stopping you?
Okay not really a huge step away from the ‘bucket list’, but even so, very few people I speak to who have visited Los Angeles have ever visited Laguna Beach. I have had fond memories as a child coming here. My sister and I spent the whole day building small dunes for the seagulls and we ended the day in a Jonny Rockets dinner. Not a spectacularly well planned day, but it was perfect. That’s what’s nice about Laguna Beach. You don’t have to come here with a plan, just park up, head down into town or to the beach, and just do what you spontaneously want to do in the moment. It’s not packed full of people like other beaches near LA, nor is it just one long strip of beach. It’s a beach with character, and the seaside town itself is lovely to engross yourself in. People watching the locals is my new favourite pastime here (sorry seagulls!), just sitting back and thinking this is their home? Their idea of a chilled out Sunday is heading down to Laguna, playing volleyball with friends, sitting in diners and catching some waves, whereas, for me, it would be a cosy day inside then a roast dinner made by my parents. That’s one wonderful thing about travel, just thinking about how you’re currently exploring somewhere that is someone’s home and taking part in some of their culture, it’s great. Laguna Beach doesn’t fail in giving you that good feeling. Not to mention it is stunningly beautiful. Visiting here is also very simple, not only do buses run to here but if you’re driving, parking on a meter only costs $1 an hour! Not only will Laguna provide you with a day spent well, but a day spent cheaply!
Main Street Santa Monica
Although infamous for the iconic pier and third promenade, Santa Monica has much more to offer. By all means, explore the pier and take in all the excitement at Pacific Park, it’s a must-see. The promenade also is host to many great shops and can make a fine shopping experience after chilling out at the beach. But, that’s not where the locals go. In fact, Main Street is probably your best bet. It sits right in between being a local hideaway and also right out in the open for newbies to find. It’s a very quiet area, a long stretch of road dotted with independent shops and eateries. The only chain to be found on this street is Urth Cafe – which is worth a visit if you ever find one whilst in LA. Other eateries included a European market which stocked lots of packaged foods and sweet treats from the UK, Scandinavia, Germany and even Poland – finding my favourite chocolates from throughout Europe was the bomb. However, in regards to eateries, you could not escape juice and smoothie bars, Main Street is simply full of them! My favourite thing about Main Street was the laid back vibe everyone had, and finding yourself faced with amazing street art on every corner. I was so happy to have just come across this cute district of Santa Monica, I only discovered it as a result of wandering further and further out of town. To top it all off, the beach this end of the pier was much quieter and much more pleasant. Not a drop of litter in sight either. I finished my time here admiring the community garden (basically a really glitzed up allotment) and taking in all the homes and sprawling front gardens. If only I could live this way of life. Now with this little place I’ve recommended, it’s almost impossible to put off going to it, you can easily reach Santa Monica via the Metro and a 25-minute walk south-east away from the centre will have you here in no time at all <3
There’s my little top three, if you’re interested in finding out about a few more underrated spots in Los Angeles please let me know as it’s a city I’ve grown to learn a lot about. If you ever have the pleasure in visiting I hope one of these places take your fancy and you enjoy every second of your time there <3 Thanks for reading