California Dreaming

Updated: Apr 4

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All images seen below were taken by and belong to me. If you want to use any of these photos, please contact me at wanderlust@kitatheexplorer.com.

Back in May, my mom and I went on a mother/daughter trip to California! During that time, we visited Los Angeles and San Diego. Today, I’m going to take you through our experience with photos and recommendations. So let’s go!!

Sunset from Venice Beach

After traveling from the East Coast, we decided to spend our first day on a more relaxing note. We started off our day by visiting The Annenberg Space for Photography. This museum has different exhibits which sees various themes throughout the year. I was lucky to go during the Contact High Exhibit which showed how photography played a major part throughout the history of hip-hop. One of the amazing things about the museum is FREE admission and parking can be reduced with validation. It is an excellent place for photographers to visit or if you are a fan of whatever is exhibiting at the time.


See more from my visit in this YouTube video here!


After a torrential downpour (yep it rained in SoCal) and a stop at Target, we headed over to the Santa Monica Pier. The pier is free to walk along but you may have to pay for parking depending on what time of day/week you visit. On the pier, you can overlook the beach, grab some food or take a spin on some rides! We even saw entertainment! We decided to overlook the ocean and then head down to the beach.


The beach wasn't the cleanest, so I recommend wearing some shoes you don’t mind getting filled with sand. Once near the water, the waves were really strong...at least in May they were. So I wouldn’t recommend getting into those cold waters. But it was relaxing to let the ocean water run over my feet.


You can see more of our Santa Monica adventure on YouTube here!


After enjoying the ocean breeze and watching a surfer practice, we decided to drive about 10-15 minutes down the street to Venice Beach to watch the sunset. You will have to pay money to park there which varies depending on how long you spend there or the time of day/week. The sunset was beautiful and peaceful in May due to fewer beach goers. But it does get chilly as the sun sets, so grab a jacket! The photo above is one of many shots I took from the sunset!


Food the first day: Meal from the hot counter at Vons grocery store (delicious) and pizza ordered from UberEats.

Chick-fil-a Sign Inside of Old Town Model Railroad Depot

Our second day of the trip was our main reason for the trip...a ride on Amtrak Pacific Surfliner! The train travels 351 miles of the Californian Southern Coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. For a round trip business class ticket from LA to San Diego, it runs you about $106 USD. But the enjoyment and stress free travel is well worth it!


See the view from the train and stops in San Diego here and here!


When we arrived in San Diego, we walked over to the closest stop for the Old Town Trolley in Little Italy (tickets purchased in advanced). For an adult price of $38 USD ($4 USD saving if purchased online), we rode around the 10 stops seeing the beautiful sites and learning deep history of San Diego. After seeing all areas, we got off the trolley and walked around Old Town San Diego. Old Town is super cute and quaint! We stopped by a Five and Dime General Store, the Old Town Model Railroad Depot (FREE and pictured above) and an outdoor market!


For Lunch: We ate a breathtaking meal at BarleyMash in the Gaslamp Quarter which was reasonably priced.

Bamboo Water System at Japanese Friendship Garden

After lunch, we Ubered over to the Japanese Friendship Garden which provides for some very instagrammable places and a stress free environment. Well...it wasn't stress free for the hawk which was being chased by a vulture! Entry into the garden cost $12 USD for an adult which was well worth it especially if you love the great outdoors!


We took our breath of fresh air and hopped back onto the train to Los Angeles. We watched the sunset along the ride and went back to our Airbnb to eat our left over pizza.


The next day we woke up early, had breakfast and headed over to Universal Studios to watch a filming or two of Family Feud! It is FREE to go to a filming of the show! You even get a special parking pass so you don't have to pay for parking! But you must be on time and you cannot take phones or cameras inside! The day starts at 9AM where you go through a security check and board a tram to take you to the building where the show is filmed. Once at the building, you head over to a tent where you are given some rules, use the restroom (do it now as it will be hours before you have an opportunity to go again), and grab water/food if you would like.


After waiting some time, you head across the street to the building for the recording. Once everyone is seated, you are taught how to sit, clap and what sounds should come out of your mouth! Yes, this is done as you will be on camera and there are microphones EVERYWHERE!


You are able to see two shows being recorded and you get an amazing comedy show from Mr. Steve Harvey! He is one of the few tv show hosts who actually sit with the audience during breaks. This was a fun, funny and entertaining experience! It was our favorite activity during our trip to California! See a photo from the entry at the parking lot below!

Afterwards, we rushed over to Hollywood for a tour and since we didn't have much time, we had to grab McDonald's...smh. But then we went to our meeting point for OpenBusTours to start sightseeing through Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood Hills. During this $35 USD per person tour, we were able to see famous studios in Hollywood, learn history of the city, see celebrity homes in the Hollywood Hills/Beverly Hills, ride down Rodeo Drive and much more! It was a nice way to spend the afternoon to rest our hands which went numb while clapping during Family Feud!


If you would like to book this tour, please visit here!


Experience some of the tour with me on my YouTube channel here!


For dinner, we had In and Out Burger which is definitely a staple delight for California! This is a fast food meal.

Hollywood Sign from Griffith Observatory

Our last day in LA, we started out with a $60 USD per person two hour tour at Paramount Studios. Paramount Studios is the last standing studio operating in Hollywood and has made some of our favorites such as Transformers, Coming to America and the I Love Lucy show! You are unable to take video footage inside, just pictures! Just be sure to be at the front of your tour group so you don't have to ride backwards for two hours!


After learning how a parking lot turns into an ocean for film, we had lunch at The Original Hoy Kay Hollywood...their Thai cuisines had you full and very satisfied!


Once I was rolled out of the restaurant, I drove my mom and I over to Inglewood. The first stop was The Dunes which is where Issa's apartment scenes were filmed for the HBO tv show Insecure. I feel sorry for the people who actually live there due to multiple tourists who stop by there for a picture!


We drove past a street named after Obama and grabbed some Randy's Donuts! If you go to LA and don't go to the original Randy's in Inglewood, be very ashamed! THESE WERE THE BEST DONUTS EVER! I can't wait to go back soon to grab a donut at any time of the day or week to satisfy my cravings!


Learn more about the Paramount Studios Tour and Randy's Donuts in the YouTube video here!

Couple Overlooking Downtown LA

We greedily had multiple donuts from Randy's to carry us over to the Griffith Observatory. THERE WAS SO MUCH TRAFFIC GOING THERE! Once you start going up the one lane hill to the observatory, you are invested lol! It took us over an hour to get up that hill! I advise you to get up early and go in the morning before massive crowds go up there.


We were lucky to get a parking space inside the observatory lot because if we didn't we weren't going to go. Why? Well because it would've been over an hour to walk there and neither one of us was physically able to endure that long walk uphill.


This is another FREE activity in which you can see the entire LA area! But you will have to pay some money for parking. See the two photos above taken from the observatory by me.


See more from the observatory in my YouTube video here!


Our California trip was more than EVERYTHING! We enjoyed our getaway to the West Coast and I look forward to return one day soon!


But before I go, how much did I spend? Outside of food, gas, Ubers, parking, and souvenirs I spent a total of $1,152 USD. This was spent as follows:

  • Flight: $424 USD round trip with Delta (save money by flying a discount airline or not flying around the Memorial Day holiday)

  • Airbnb: $349 USD for five nights (save money by staying at a hostel, finding a cheaper airbnb, using hotel points or staying further away from the city)

  • Rental Car: $72 USD (save money here by getting a lower class car or don't drive if you are staying near the activities you are going to...Ubering around will exceed this cost)

  • Train Ride: $106 USD (save money by not getting business class tickets)

  • Old Town Trolley: $37 USD (save money by not going or finding a cheaper tour)

  • Hollywood Tour: $35 USD (save money by not going, finding a cheaper tour, or mapping out and driving around for your own tour)

  • Paramount Studios Tour: $60 USD

  • Japanese Friendship Garden: $12 USD

  • Travel Insurance: $57 USD (DO NOT SKIP THIS!)

I did not include gas, food, Ubers, parking and souvenirs into this analysis as these are items that significantly fluctuate depending on the person.


I hope you enjoyed my trip to California as I did! Have you ever did any of these activities? Comment below!


Thank you for stopping by! Have a great day or night wherever in the world you are!

~ Kita the Explorer


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#losangeles #discoverla #visitcalifornia #amtrak #pacificcoast #pacificsurfliner #kitatheexplorer #california #hollywood

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