I just (well, two weeks ago) came back from my first trip to the West Coast and seriously, it was the loveliest little winter getaway. Winters in New Jersey can be dreadful, although this one was fairly mild. Even still, I wasn’t taking chances and decided to book a trip out to California to visit friends and get some much-needed sunshine.
We spent two days in a sweet little Airbnb in Silver Lake within walking distance to about a half-million restaurants on Sunset Blvd. And while our friends (graciously) mainly took us around to some of their favorite places, it was fun to find a few little places nearby. When people asked me what I did in L.A., I find myself mainly talking about where we ate — no shame in my food game!
Here are the L.A. places I dug the most, based on my brief stint out there.
Millie’s Café on Sunset Blvd.
We walked over for breakfast on our first morning in Silver Lake and wow. The fastest service I’ve ever experienced (and we live on the East Coast where everything is fast fast fast). Tom still talks about the 16 oz steak he had for breakfast like he’s never going to find a breakfast steak like it for the rest of his days. The coffee refills were so impressive that I had to tap out at one point. Do yourself a favor and get a biscuit!
Alfred Coffee on Sunset Blvd.
But first, coffee. Alfred Coffee touts having a world-famous iced vanilla latte, so of course I needed to try it, though it was a little chilly that morning so I got it hot. I can confirm, it’s worth its title.
Angel City Brewery in Downtown L.A.
Breweries have a tendency to be overwhelming for me, mainly because sometimes the menus can be huge and I never know what to order. This one was a lot of fun and had a vibe I really appreciated – art on the walls, games on the floor (my husband is apparently a cornhole champ) not to mention there were dogs there!
On our second day in L.A., we decided to take a hike up to Griffith Observatory. It’s a short but uphill hike and once we reached the Observatory (and I caught my breath) it was lovely. The views were something else.
We also took a little drive out to Santa Monica so we could get acquainted with the Pacific Ocean. I felt like I could have sat on that beach all day long, it was that magical.
The Last Book Store, Downtown L.A.
A book store unlike any I’ve ever experienced, and it is without a doubt an experience. Not only is it massive, there’s a collection of art integrated with the displays throughout the store. There’s rooms with different themes, and a giant archway made of books, which is an Instagram hotspot if you hadn’t guessed.
Once we left L.A., we set out for a journey across California to get to Yucca Valley, where we spent the second leg of our trip. Of course we made a pit stop at In-N-Out Burger and if you have never been, the hype is real.
Since this day on the road was actually my birthday, I had two requests: a stop to see some majestic roadside dinosaurs and a stop in Palm Springs – so we did both. Here’s a few must-see spots.
I really love quirky roadside attractions. The campier the better in my book. The Cabazon Dinosaurs was a fun site, and if you have kids they’ll probably LOVE it. All I could think about was how much my 3-year-old nephews would lose their little minds over the dinos.
Koffi, Palm Springs
I can’t stop dreaming about the cinnamon vanilla iced latte I had here. Like, I legitimately tried to convince Tom we needed to buy an espresso maker so I could learn how to make it.
Moorten Botanical Garden, Palm Springs
A Palm Springs landmark since 1938. The cactarium is so gorgeous and full of so many different desert plants that we walked around twice because there was just so much to see.
El Jefe, Palm Springs
I had some initial regrets about not booking a hotel in Palm Springs because the weather was so much warmer and the hotels were so colorful and fun, but our Airbnb in Yucca Valley was wonderful and in the end I didn’t regret a thing. I did still pine over the vibrant rainbow-colored Saguaro hotel, though. So, I knew I had to at least go see it and have a drink at the bar, El Jefe and just pretend I was a guest for a little bit.
SHAG the Store, Palm Springs
Some of the coolest midcentury modern art displays I’ve seen. Definitely go take a peek.
Dazzles, Palm Springs
Super dreamy collection of vintage collectibles. I wanted to buy everything.
Great Shakes, Palm Springs
They truly have great shakes. And they come with a tiny donut garnish! Who doesn’t love a mini donut?!
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Desert
Not only is the backdrop of this zoo absolutely breathtaking, the zoo itself is a joy. I love their conservation efforts, and everyone who worked there was so helpful and answered a few of the weird questions I had (turns out goats love the taste of wood fences?) They house desert plants there, as well. We didn’t think we would like it as much as we did, and I’m so so glad we took the trip.
Once we got up to Yucca Valley, the temperatures dropped from a dreamy Palm Springs 82 degrees, down to the 60s and 50s. We were prepared, thankfully. We hopped around a few places in the area, which was so different and much quieter than Palm Springs. At night out in Yucca Valley, do yourself a favor and look up at the stars. It’s a hell of a sight.
Pappy & Harriet’s, Pioneertown
The wait was a bit, but so worth it. We happened to be there during an open mic night which was a lot of fun. While you wait, take a stroll through Pioneertown, an area built to look like an old Western movie set-turned actual Western movie set.
Joshua Tree Saloon, Joshua Tree
Great food, great drinks, great atmosphere. Also, the churros were b a n g i n.
Joshua Tree National Park was a quick drive from our Airbnb. We did a short 1.5 mile hike around one of the many stop-offs at the park. It was breathtaking. We took a scenic drive through the park, it can be a pretty long ordeal if you’d like. We stopped off plenty to walk around and check it out. Skull Rock, Hidden Valley and Cholla Cactus Garden were some of my absolute favorites.
That was our short but sweet stint in California, and my hope is to get out there again soon. What are your favorite L.A./Palm Springs/Yucca Valley haunts? Are there actual haunts? I love a good ghost tour.