A Week 4th of July Vacation in Los Angeles
Fly on Wednesday
When leaving for a trip, I always get jitters. I double-check my boarding pass. Okay, 7:30 pm is my departure time. There is something about switching from work mode to travel mode that throws me off. One minute, I was in a meeting about marketing strategies; the next minute, I needed to make sure I packed enough sunscreen in my carry-on. The transition is strange. Right after work today, I am catching an evening flight to LAX. When I shut my laptop for the day, I am off to the airport with my boyfriend, Kerwin. We are meeting up with our entire family for a California for the 4th of July in Los Angeles. I’ve spent the 4th of July in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Washington D.C., Califonia is new for me.
Growing up, my family celebrated most of our 4th of July together. We grilled, shot off fireworks from our driveway, and one year my grandparents saved a bunch of snow from the winter in the freezer, and we had a snowball fight in July.
This 4th of July in Los Angeles will be no different, except we aren’t shooting off our fireworks, and it’s a safe bet to say there will be no snowball fights.
We make it through security with no hiccups and board our flight and make it through the announcements. Luckily this plane was big enough that they had television monitors on the headrest seat in front of us. I could watch tv the whole flight. Read more about my advice for What Food NOT to Bring on a Flight. Kerwin and I planned on watching LALALand on my phone, but this is even better. That’s when I noticed something. The distance was longer than I thought. I needed to account for the time difference. While we would land at midnight LA time, it would be around 2 am Chicago time—rookie mistake. We had a long night ahead of us.
Our bag never left Chicago
We finally make it to LAX, tired to the point of delusion but excited to spend the 4th of July in Los Angeles. I didn’t check a bag this time, but Kerwin did. We meet my Uncle Steve and Dad at baggage claim. We catch up over their trip so far since they have been in California a little longer than us.
The carousel goes around once, twice, then three times. After the third trip, I stopped, noticed it, and was lost in conversation until my uncle said I don’t think your bag is coming. It was not my uncle’s first time losing luggage, so he knew exactly where to go. After speaking with the airline employee, we learned that his luggage stayed in Chicago, and the earliest it could arrive was tomorrow. Kerwin has nothing with him but the clothes on his back. Before leaving, they graciously provided us with ample snacks and Kerwin with a toiletry kit with soap and a toothbrush.
It was a 45 minutes drive from the airport to the Airbnb. My Uncle Steve drives, and I was so glad not to be the one behind the wheel. There is a point of exhaustion that is just as dangerous as drinking and driving.
My whole body sways forward as the car goes ahead on the large dips in the dirt road. He makes a wrong turn. There is a state park in the same neighborhood as our Airbnb. My uncle accidentally turned it down a road that was closed. There wasn’t a place where he could make a three-point turn anywhere. Thankful for backup cameras on the SUV, he backed out of the driveway carefully. Just barely missing a small tree.He navigates the car right again, and we are back up the bumpy path. Again I am grateful not to be the one behind the wheel. We arrive at the home. From what I can tell it’s large but, I can’t see much in the dim light of the evening, but I can’t wait to explore it in the morning.
For now, I lay in the cozy bed and couldn’t wait to see what our place looked like in the morning.
Thursday- Work with a view
I begrudgingly open my eyes at 6:30 am. I am working remotely for one more day before my vacation begins. Although my head is already starting to throb from lack of sleep, I am eager to get a complete look at the mountain view my uncle promised.
When I come out of my room to explore the Airbnb, I can finally see where we are. It’s still foggy outside, much like my head. Thankfully, my Dad was up and had already started a pot of coffee. The only reason why he was up was to make sure I had coffee before getting to work. Then he was back to sleep for a few more hours. He always made coffee for us before going to school. No matter how old I get he still wants to make me coffee in the morning. I started to work with a cup of coffee and would go on to have three more cups before work ended at 3 pm.
The fog covered most of the view when I first woke up. As the morning sun rose, I started to see what was outside the window. We had perfect views of the Topanga Canyon mountains. In my office back in Chicago, my window overlooks a parking lot, so this is a refreshing upgrade to a workspace.
I finish my meetings before lunch, and my aunt and uncle have tacos ready for me when I finally sit down for lunch. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful office for the day. Having the whole gang around as my co-workers for the day was nice. Around 3 pm, it’s closing time in Chicago, and I shut my laptop.
We didn’t have much planned for the day, but we needed to pick up my cousin and Kerwin’s luggage from the airport. I don’t feel too bad for him losing his luggage; he went on a Lululemon shopping spree on Delta’s dime for a couple of new shirts to wear for the day.
When we drove the 45-minutes to the airport, I got my first experience with LA traffic. It’s not as bad as people say- it’s worse.
The Most Expensive Two Miles- Rodeo Drive
The drive to the airport is the first I am seeing of LA. We drive past Rodeo Drive, a street known for high-end luxury shopping. It is a two-mile shopping strip that is known to be once of the most expensive streets in the world. I knew from the movie Pretty Woman with Julia Andrews.
As we drove close to it, I could smell the money coming in and out of the air as the doors to the shops opening. The air tasted like Gucci and Vera. My mom looks at the buildings trying to pronounce a few of the luxury brand names. Her southern accent combined with a complete butchering of the pronunciation made us all laugh. For how famous this street is I was surprised at how small the strip was. But I suppose going in one store is all you need to probably spend more money on a shirt than people do a car.
It is early on a weeknight, but it didn’t look like anyone was shopping on Rodeo, just tourists like us stopping to take photos.
Driving past Rodeo, we arrive at the airport and immediately head to the baggage claim to speak with an airline employee. When we did, we discovered that although we requested Kerwin’s bag be at the airport, they sent it to a warehouse. She wrote the address on a sticky note, and we were off to find Kerwin’s luggage with my cousin now here.
Finding lost luggage
The address isn’t clear. We get close to the pinpoint on the map, and everywhere around us looks like an old shipping yard- Random white buildings that look abandoned. We turn down a different road and find the number on the structure and 131. Sure enough- that’s the building, but it didn’t look like anything connected to the airline. It didn’t look like anyone was in the building, but when we walked in, we saw his bag. A sigh of relief- now Kerwin can finally have his suitcase for the rest of the trip- and his new clothes too.
Everyone is getting hungry, so my Dad finds a nearby Mediterranean restaurant called Nomad Eatery. My Dad has a knack for picking good restaurants. We catch up over spicy hummus, homemade pita bread, and the most delicious half-baked chicken. For dessert, we order rice pudding and flourless lava cake. It was our first feast together in LA, and it was a good one. The rice pudding was divine, and the roasted figs in the mix made it even better.
After eating, we drive back to the Airbnb- the real tour of LA will begin tomorrow.
Friday- We’re going to Hollywood
Today we wake up slowly with eggs on a skillet and the sound of the coffee pot puttering. The sun is warm, and even early in the morning, the coolness of the night has faded. Los Angeles is strange because although there are mountains and beaches, it has desert-like temperatures. It’s hot during the day and cold at night.
Enjoying the beautiful Airbnb, we take our time getting ready, and in the early part of the afternoon, we gather up the group and load up in the car.
The Hollywood sign is on my bucket list. We are on our way to the Griffith Observatory, one of the most iconic locations to see the Hollywood sign.
The roads weaving up to the observatory were enough to make anyone queasy, but I was just happy not to be in the driver’s seat. Around the mountain, we go. When we reach the top, we are lucky to find parking. I have seen this view a hundred times from my TV screen, but never in person.
Eager to see the Hollywood Sign. I say, “Let’s keep moving. I want to see the Hollywood Sign”. That’s when my mom says, “Just look to your right.” Squinting, I can barely see a tiny sign with the word “Hollywood” in the distance. In TV shows like ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ and ‘The Hills,’ I had seen the sign blown up to look HUGE, but although the Griffith Observatory is one of the best places to view the sign, it sure looks small.
The observatory is a large white dome building that overlooks the city of Los Angeles. Aside from the smog, it is an excellent place for skyline city views. Admission inside the Griffith Observatory and the telescope are free to the public, and my Dad is simply giddy because when he was younger he wanted to be an astrophysicist. Some childhood dreams came true today.
If you are planning your trip you won’t need more than a few hours at the Griffith Observatory. I recommend two hours total at the Griffith Observatory. After snapping a couple more photos around the observatory, we venture on. The next spot on our list is the “Walk of Fame.”
The Walk of Fame is an iconic street with the names of all the Hollywood stars. My whole life I have seen celebrities take a photo next to their star. There is something about knowing that some of the most famous people in the world have posed on the same street makes it exciting to visit.
Walk of Fame
When we arrive at the Walk of Fame, we realize that we aren’t the only ones who thought a visit would be exciting. The streets are crowded with vendors and visitors trying to find their favorite stars. My mom wants to see Tom Sellek and my Dad wants to find William Wallace. After some quick searching, we find the stars- snap a few photos and quickly get back in the car and away from the crowds.
Next we stop off at Erewhon to try the Hailey Bieber smoothie. Read here to see if it was worth $18 and how to make it yourself. Is the Hailey Bieber Smoothie from Erewhon Worth $18
Saturday- Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is a few hour drive from our Airbnb. We are meeting up with my sister and her husband before going to the park. Temperatures are scorching today. The air is suffocating as the sun beats down on my shoulders but there isn’t a drop of sweat on my body. Dry heat they say. We grab pannis from a local gas station, before making our way into the park. In hindsight- going to the desert on an unusually hot day is not recommend but I am glad we got to see one of the most iconic national parks in the United States.
All of the funny looking trees I see on the drive in are Joshua Trees. There are thousands of them- each more uniquely shaped than the last. My family finds a good one to pose by to snap a photo. Then we hit three major spots before heading out of the heat.
Ice cream in Palm Springs.
The air is thick, and it feels like I am in a sauna. It’s nearly 115 degrees outside. Palm Springs has an ice cream shop around every corner, but we waited until we found one with seating inside. Ice cream outside in 115-degree weather guarantees you will eat ice cream soup. The only spot we could find is a local Ben & Jerry’s shop, which sounds good. I couldn’t think of a more perfect day to enjoy ice cream.
Hiking at Red Canyon State Park
We stayed in Topanga Canyon, and a Red Canyon State Park hiking trail is close to our Airbnb. The trail was quick and smooth but had incredible rock formations and up-close views of the mountains. Even though it feels desert-like out here the temperatures aren’t scorching just yet. Around every curve we get a different glimpse of the mountains. Although I wouldn’t love the drive up and feeling isolated, I can see why someone would want to live out here. The views are incredible. The mountains are green and jagged. Even though it isn’t very hot, I start to work up a sweat.
Our hike isn’t long before deciding to head back. We still have a full day of seeing more sights of California ahead.
Santa Monica Pier
After having lunch at the cabin, we venture off to Santa Monica Pier. The Santa Monica Pier is one place on my bucket list. It’s what I think when I think of the California coast. I know this spot from the Hannah Montana Movie and countless Keeping up with the Kardashians episodes.
When we got to the Santa Monica Pier it was nothing like I had seen in the movies, except for very crowded. If you were wondering if it is busy in LA on the 4th of July- just take a look at the Santa Monica Pier the weekend before. I can only imagine what the pier will look like on the 4th. While the cabin was sunny and bright twenty minutes down the road was gloomy, cloudy, and grey. It looks like it could start pouring rain any minute. It’s possible that the crowds were because of the 4th of July weekend in Los Angeles, but they were brutal. We bought tickets to ride the iconic Ferris wheel. Despite the hundreds of people and clouds, I was excited to ride the Ferris wheel.
After our ride, we were ready to get out of there, so we went a couple of blocks away to enjoy tacos for dinner. The further we walk away from the pier the smaller the crowds are. We order chips and guacamole and chicken tacos, and the rumored best fish tacos in town before heading back to the airbnb.
One thing I appreciate as my parents are getting older is how relaxed are vacations are compared to what they used to be. Growing up they would fill each day with activities from dawn to dust. Now our vacations are more relaxed and focused on spending time with one another, so I am happy to head back to our home for the week for some time in the hot tub overlooking the mountains of California.
Monday- Malibu Pier & Zuma Beach
I could not get the song Malibu by Miley Cyrus out of my head all morning. The morning is cloudy on the drive to Malibu. My Uncle has pastries from a local bake shop on the counter when I wake up. The smell of pastries is the ideal alarm clock. We would only finish some of the baked goods he bought, so we tried a bit of everything. The chocolate almond croissant is my personal favorite. It got me excited for when I visit Paris in a couple of months. I have never been to Paris, but these pastries transported me there briefly.
Once we get to Malibu Pier, there is a short wait for a table at Malibu Farm. We stroll along the pier and watch the local fishermen. It is quiet on the Malibu Pier this morning but only mid-morning. The sky is foggy, and the clouds cover the view of the mountains in the distance. The weather continues the surfers, though. To the right of the pier a group of surfers is out to catch the waves, despite the gloomy day the morning turned out to be.
We get seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant, which is all outdoors. One side of the restaurant is indoors, but we sit on the side that is outdoors to enjoy hearing the sound of the ocean over our food. I knew I would like this place as soon as I read the menu. All of the food at Malibu Farm is farm-to-table, and the seating overlooks the ocean.
Green Lemonade & Spaghetti Squash
I have come to the conclusion in my many years of eating when the food is organic, it tastes that must better. My cousin ordered a mint lemonade- that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. The mint lemonade came to our table green. The lemonade has organic mint leaves. When I take a sip, the first thing I think of is it has a fresh green taste- like I was drinking kale juice. The lemonade was unique and delicious, but most importantly, it tasted fresh. My cousin didn’t like it, so I happily drank it. I ordered spaghetti squash noodles with creamy coconut milk sauce and added chicken. I would continue to crave that mint lemonade for weeks to come and am now on the hunt to make some myself.
When we finish our food, the sun peeks out of the clouds. Seeing the pier on a bright sunny day is a much different experience. We walk to the end of the dock. My mom spots a fisherman who caught a fish that had to be three feet long. Impressed, she comes over and tells me what she saw. I saw no such fish, but I believe it. That must be why this spot is loitered with fishing poles with men behind them, hoping the fish will take the bait. Next stop- the beach.
According to the latest tablot Lady Gaga’s home overlooks Zuma Beach, so today we are going to relax by the ocean and see if we can see the famous pop star.
Tuesday- Newport Beach whale watching tour & fireworks on Huntington Beach
4th of July in Los Angeles
The last day of our trip is always bittersweet. It’s the 4th of July in Los Angeles.
We enjoy the morning at the cabin, make eggs for breakfast, and watch a few episodes of The Kardashians before wearing our red, white, and blue attire. Sadly, today is our last day in California, but we want to make the most of it by going on a whale-watching tour and watching the Fireworks at the beach. We weren’t sure where to watch fireworks in Los Angeles, but after a quick Google search we landed on Huntington Beach. The Fourth of July should always be on a boat. I can’t explain it, but it feels like the best way to enjoy the holiday on a boat.
If you want to know where to celebrate the 4th of July in Los Angeles it’s Huntington Beach. We drive the hour and a half to Huntington Beach first. Little did we realize that Huntington Beach has one of the country’s largest Fourth of July Parades. Every home has red, white, and blue flags and banners. The streets are all closed off for the parade. Being new to the area, we had yet to learn how to pass through the crowds of people with closed streets. Instead, we find parking and take a quick walk on the beach.
Waterfront Lunch at the Rusty Pelican
The crowds dwindle, and we start the last thirty-minute drive to Newport Beach. By this point, it’s about lunchtime, and we decide to stop by the Rusty Pelican. Everyone wanted to eat hamburgers for the Fourth of July, so when I saw them on the menu, I said, let’s go. However, when we arrived, I realized it was a seafood restaurant. The one burger they had on the menu was the only option for a burger. I love seafood, so I ordered the orange ginger trout, but everyone else at the table ordered a grilled chicken sandwich or a cheeseburger. Despite not knowing it was a seafood restaurant, the food was delicious. The fish was tender and paired perfectly with the spicy orange flavor.
Whale Watching at Newport Beach
Let’s drive to Newport Beach is short, but the time it takes to find parking is not. People walk around in American flag bikinis and bike through the streets. It feels like half the country decided to be in Newport Beach today. The meeting spot for our boat tour is unclear- but we just need to find a parking place then walk to where we are meeting. A 4th of July in Los Angeles is one big party.
Fireworks off the Huntington Beach Pier
When we make it back to Huntington Beach I am worried about parking. Nearly every spot is filled at Newport Beach. We are leaving are perfectly good spot in hopes of some better fireworks off of the Huntington Beach Pier. Apparently, there is 1300 fireworks set to explode off of the Huntington Beach Pier on the 4th of July.
The fireworks were magical- and we found the perfect spot to celebrate the 4th of July in Los Angeles. As I sit on the sandy shores of Huntington Beach with my family and watch the fireworks boom and pop in the distance. This has been a great trip. We stay until the show is over before heading back to our Airbnb to get one last night in California.
Wednesday- Fly out
Wednesday morning of our trip I don’t want to get up knowing this is our last morning here. Spending 4th of July in Los Angeles, California with my entire family was so fun. We organize our luggage, eat something light for breakfast, and head out to LAX.
Flying back home is always the worst part of every vacation. Luckily, after a few glasses of prosecco I feel sound asleep the whole plane ride home.
Until next time.