Angie’s Guide to Southern California!

Hello! I’m Angie and I was born and raised in LA. Today I will be highlighting some cool spots to visit in Southern California. I tried to highlight spots that are less frequented by tourists. However, I also sprinkled in a few tourist places that are also fun to visit even as a SoCal resident!

First, I want to mention getting into LA from Claremont is super easy. Any Admission Ambassador will tell you during their tour spiel that the Claremont train station is about a 20-minute walk from Scripps. The ticket is about $10 round trip (use that student discount!). The train takes you to Union Station in Downtown LA. From there, you can connect with almost every metro train line that takes you to a different part of the city. In addition, I recommend going to Connections (our small office supply store/copy center/Claremont Cash depositing center in the Honnold-Mudd Library) for a free TAP card. This TAP card is LA’s bus pass. Anytime you need to use the metro, you can add money to the card and use it for bus/metro train transfers. Scripps also has cars and vans that you can rent for the day, and you just have to pay for gas. This is great for spots outside of LA! However, for some of the spots within LA I will mention, I recommend public transportation or an Uber because finding a parking spot is its own emotional journey.

1. Museums/Gardens

The garden at the Getty Villa
The garden at the Getty Villa.

Many people know the Getty Museum, but few people know her prettier sister the Getty Villa. The Getty Villa is a gallery dedicated to Greek and Roman antiques. It’s absolutely stunning and a really refreshing walk. It’s also on the Malibu coast so you get to feel that nice ocean breeze as you stroll through the garden. Best of all, it’s free entrance! I recommend a car for this spot because you do have to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.

Very few people mention Exposition Park. This is a very accessible spot in terms of public transportation. It’s located right across the street from USC campus. In addition to a regular park, it also has a beautiful rose garden that’s perfect for picnics! More importantly, it has really cool museums, including the California Science Center (it’s super interactive and you get to play with a lot of the exhibits), the California African American Museum (learn about the LA Uprising of ’92), and the Natural History Museum (lots of dinosaur skeletons). These are all free except for the Natural History Museum, which has a small fee of about $6. They do sometimes have free days.

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens! Live your cottage core fantasies by going here! It’s a half-hour drive from campus and so pretty beyond words. It is a bit pricey, about $20 with a student ID.

Los Angeles City Hall. Okay this technically isn’t a ~real~ museum, but it’s a cool place to go. It’s free and you can go all the way to the top floor and have a 360 degree view of the entire city. You can also schedule a free tour so you can learn a bit about LA’s history. In addition, if you go to the 2nd floor, you can visit a Homeboy Industries café, which is an organization that helps former gang members rehabilitate and re-enter society by hiring them and providing other services. They have diners and cafés scattered throughout the city. Their coffee is really good!

2. Specific Neighborhoods

Red and white lanterns hanging in Little Tokyo on a sunny day.
Little Tokyo

Los Angeles is a very diverse city. Because of this, it has about a dozen neighborhoods that are specifically dedicated to celebrating a particular ethnic group. One of my favorites to visit is Little Tokyo! It’s in Downtown LA, around the corner from City Hall, and a super cute spot to visit if you love Japanese food. Think: authentic ramen, mochi, and so much more! Technically not Japanese, but there’s also plenty of boba places! If you’re obsessed with stationery, I also highly recommend Little Tokyo. This is the best place for cute pens and notebooks.

La Placita Olvera is also about a 5 minute walk from City Hall and it’s literally across the street from Union Station. It’s part of El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historic Monument, which is one of the oldest sectors of LA. It’s a really pretty plaza with a gazebo. It’s common for this plaza to have events, particularly musical ones where local musicians show up to play their best stuff at the gazebo. There’s also shops where you can find traditional Mexican shoes, bags, dresses, etc.

I also love visiting Koreatown! Do you love karaoke? Do you want to try Korean BBQ, literally God’s gift on Earth? Go to Koreatown. (P.S. A lot of KBBQ places also have vegan options. Welcome to LA.)

In addition, while you’re in the area, I highly recommend visiting Tierra Mia on Spring & 7th. It’s better than Starbucks and I will die on this hill. Their horchata frappes? It should be illegal to be that delicious.

3. The Great Outdoors

A sunset at Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park

I won’t say too much about beaches because Nathalie covered it in her previous blog. My personal favorite is Venice Beach. Walk on the boardwalk and look at all the local vendors and their creative products! (Venice has a rule that the vendors have to make the stuff they’re selling.) Are you a skater? Go to the street-inspired skate park! Or just watch them do cool flips as you eat ice cream, which is what I do. Take your bike/scooter/roller blades (or rent one) and ride along Venice’s bike path! Watch street performances! Be a rebel and do my favorite activity: climbing onto the unused lifeguard houses and reading a book. It’s a great Instagram picture and all the tourists will be in awe of you (because they always try to climb it and can’t figure it out).

Do you like camping and actually being able to see the stars at night? Then Joshua Tree National Park might just be the place for you. It’s about a 2 hour drive from campus. Get ready for some of the most beautiful sunsets. It’s also a great climbing spot. You might want to join the 5C Climbing Team first to learn some pointers, though.

Or you can just go to Mount Baldy! Mt. Baldy overlooks Claremont, and it’s only a 20 minute drive from campus. You can do a little hiking, a little skiing (during the winter), a little sunrise/sunset watching, etc.

4. The Pricey Stuff

Of course, would this truly be an introduction to SoCal without mentioning Disneyland? Or Universal Studios? Or Six Flags? These are the most prominent theme parks we have, but it will cost you a pretty penny. The good news is that sometimes Scripps will pay for it! The A-Team is our off-campus outings organizing committee. They will organize trips to the movie theater, escape rooms, and, best of all, theme parks! All you have to do is RSVP when they send an email about it. You have to be quick, though, because spots fill up fast! This is how I got to go to Six Flags for free.

Universal Studios also has Universal CityWalk right next to it, which is free. CityWalk is kind of like a shopping strip with a lot of cool stores and restaurants that you can explore. One of my favorites is the gigantic candy store they have. Best of all, the metro takes you right across the street from Universal’s free shuttle system, which then takes you up the mountain to Universal Studios/CityWalk.

4.5 A Brief Note on Food

A crowded Original Farmers Market with people eating at tables, standing around, and shopping.
The Grove’s Original Farmers Market

If you really want to explore some cool eateries, then I recommend The Grove’s Original Farmers Market. This isn’t your typical farmers’ market (although they do host one of those occasionally). It’s an outdoor market-style eating area with a lot of “stalls.” There’s all types of food including sushi, pizza, Brazilian food, Middle Eastern food, and more. In addition, since the place has been around for so long, they have pictures lining the walls of old Hollywood starlets visiting back in the day and autographed notes showcasing their love for a particular stall.

In Conclusion…

I hope this was informational! Take good walking shoes and water. Google Maps is your best friend when it comes to public transportation directions and routes with less traffic. Most importantly, have fun!