Daniel and I have been on numerous road trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back. Each time we’ve come across some really strange, quirky but fun sights. Some planned, some happened upon and some that are just unexpected. Here are a few.
We are originally from New York City, and many people have told us that we would hate LA, but we actually loved it. We love the high energy, we love the unique neighborhoods. Here are some of our quirky favorites.
Venice Canals. It’s not called “Venice” for nothing. What a strange and beautiful place. It is a hidden gem and is only a few blocks long around residential homes with little bridges, boats and wildlife. You will not feel like you are in the city anymore, but inside a surreal, alter-reality. Not too far from the Venice canals are cute shops, cafes and of course the famous Venice Beach where Arnold got his biceps curled.
Olvera Street, downtown LA. Only quirky because it’s not what you would typically expect to see on a tour of L.A., such as fancy Hollywood glitz. This little hidden, historic neighborhood is close to Union Station and is a cozy neighborhood where you will find Mexican crafts, lively Mexican food stalls, restaurants, and mariachis. Check out the Plaza church, main square and Adobe House.
Other favorite neighborhoods are Silverlake and Los Feliz where you can find artsy and trendy boutiques, vintage clothing shops and cafes. Get a lemon Merengue and a coffee at House of Pies!
Where you find the movie producers, you find great Jewish delis! We usually go on tear to find the best places. Here’s what we suggest in so-cal:
Canter’s Delicatessen : not only amazing and open all night, but Guns N Roses got their start at the bar attached to it!
Langer’s : very good, long line out on the street, which means it’s good, right?
Palm Springs Area
Joshua Tree National Park. Wander through strange rock formations and mingle with the famous Joshua Tree – which will remind you of “The Lorax.” An unusual, natural environment.
“World’s Biggest Dinosaurs” park in Cabazon, just outside of Palm Springs. Think “Pee-Wee Herman” here and then some. Too awesome not to stop.
Agua Caliente Indian Reservation: A really beautiful hike in yet another hidden location. This is a real oasis in the desert, just like in your dreams.
Sherman’s Deli and Bakery in Palm Springs. Go, just go… quirky Jewish deli deliciousness.
Not only is the town of Solvang itself unique (a quaint village with Dutch restaurants and architecture), but there is an Ostrich and Emu farm on the road leading into it! The plastic container to feed them is glued to a heavy metal container. These guys are pretty strong and feisty when they are hungry.
Around San Luis Obispo
You MUST check out the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. It has one of the most wild hotel decor I have ever seen, anywhere! Each room has a theme and is decorated differently. Some look like a cave, ours looked like a horse-themed carnival (note the illuminated horse hanging over our bed). Although the rooms are quite pricey, you will not forget staying there anytime soon. If you don’t want to drop the dough, then you can have a drink or dinner at their equally over-the-top, decorated restaurant and bar.
Hearst Castle: The quirky of all quirky places besides the Madonna Inn is definitely Hearst Castle. The mansion of the Hearst publications dynasty off of Route 1 highway. Charlie Chaplin used to stay here often and live zebras still run wild on their front lawn. There used to be other strange animals that would too. There are 3 different tours you can take of the house and grounds. We took the basic, grand tour. You need to book in advance, sometimes tickets sell out. It is worth it, something to see. My favorite tidbit is that he would have many famous guests come and stay, but each night at the dinner table, the guests would get seated further and further away from the host as a message to say “ok, it’s getting time for you to leave now…”
Eat seafood, buy shells, watch the wildlife in the sky and sea play in the surf. The large land mass in Morro Bay, pictured in the background, has an unusual geological history and makes this a very scenic spot.
Ano Nuevo State Park, also off of Route 1 highway near Pescadero. See elephant seals mating in winter time. There is a docent guided walking tour through the state park with entrance fee. You walk about a mile or so into the breeding grounds and your guide will get you up close and personal with the massive elephant seals, but listen to your guide and don’t get too close, the males get really loud and aggressive when they fight for territory. You will most likely see this in action, and it is incredibly exciting but hopefully from a safe distance. It is unforgettable how the once sleepy and lazy elephant seals, can get quickly riled up and move so fast. Fascinating.