LA runs deeper than her blonde beaches, rolling hills and bumper-to-bumper traffic would have you believe. She’s a myth. A beacon for countless small-town dreamers, rockers and risk-takers, an open-minded angel who encourages her people to live and let live without judgement or shame.
New York has its cabbie, Chicago its bluesman and Seattle its coffee-drinking boho. San Diego, meanwhile, has the valet guy in a polo shirt, khaki shorts and crisp new sneakers. With his perfectly tousled hair, great tan and gentle enthusiasm, he looks like he’s on a perennial spring break, and when he wishes you welcome, he really means it.
Disneyland & Orange County
LA and Orange County may be the closest of neighbors, but in some ways they could hardly be more different. If LA is about stars, the OC is about surfers. LA: ever more urban, OC: proudly suburban. If LA is SoCal's seat of liberal thinking, the OC's heritage is of mega-churches and ultra-conservative firebrands. If LA is Hollywood glam, the OC is Real Housewives.
Palm Springs & the Deserts
There’s something undeniably artistic in the way the landscape unfolds in the California desert. Weathered volcanic peaks stand sentinel over singing sand dunes and mountains shimmering in hues from mustard yellow to vibrant pink. Hot mineral water spurts from the earth’s belly to feed palm oases and soothe aching muscles in stylish spas.
Orange County Beaches
It’s true you’ll find gorgeous sunsets, prime surfing and just-off-the-boat seafood when traveling the OC’s sun-kissed coast. But it’s also the unexpected, serendipitous discoveries you’ll remember long after you’ve left this blissful 42 miles of surf and sand behind.
Disneyland & Anaheim
Mickey is one lucky guy. Created by animator Walt Disney in 1928, this irrepressible mouse caught a ride on a multimedia juggernaut (film, TV, publishing, music, merchandising and theme parks) that rocketed him into a global stratosphere of recognition, money and influence.
Palm Springs & the Coachella Valley
The Rat Pack is back, baby, or at least its hangout is. In the 1950s and '60s, Palm Springs, some 100 miles east of LA, was the swinging getaway of Sinatra, Elvis and dozens of other stars, partying the night away in fancy modernist homes. Once the Rat Pack packed it in, though, the 300-sq-mile Coachella Valley surrendered to retirees in golf clothing.
Around Santa Barbara
Can’t quit your day job to follow your bliss? Don’t despair, a long weekend in the mountains, valleys and beaches between Santa Barbara and LA will keep you inspired until you can. In this land of daydreams, perfect waves beckon off Ventura’s coast, shady trails wind skyward in the Los Padres National Forest and spiritual Zen awaits you in Ojai Valley.
Joshua Tree National Park
Taking a page from a Dr Seuss book, the whimsical Joshua trees (actually tree-sized yuccas) welcome visitors to this 794,000-acre park at the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts. It was Mormon settlers who named the trees because the branches stretching up toward heaven reminded them of the Biblical prophet Joshua pointing the way to the promised land.
Around Los Angeles
Make like Jack Kerouac, ditch the congestion, crowds and smog, and use LA as a hub to all the natural glory of California. Get an early start to beat the commuter traffic (or catch a ferry, Greyhound bus or ride the Amtrak rails), and point the compass across the ocean, up into the mountains or into the vast and imposing desert.
Mediterranean-flavored Catalina Island is a popular getaway for harried Angelenos, but sinks under the weight of day-trippers in summer. Stay overnight, though, and feel the ambience go from frantic to romantic. Catalina has a unique ecosystem and has gone through stints as a hangout for sea-otter poachers, smugglers and Union soldiers.