Getty Villa – Malibu, CA

My family was in town for a wedding and we were looking for something we hadn’t done yet.  When at the Getty Center during their last trip, we saw a brochure for the Getty Villa.  Similar to the Getty Center, there is no fee to visit the Villa (except for the $15 parking fee).   The Villa is dedicated to the cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.

Entrance to the Villa requires a ticket.  You can print one out free online.  While several times are available, we were allowed in ahead of our ticket time.   I’d recommend watching the 12 minute introductory video online before going.  If you wish, you can also do so on site.  There is also a 45 minute tour available to orient you to the villa that is loaded with factual information of the Villa’s origin.   

The architecture is absolutely astonishing.  So much attention has been given to materials and details that you truly feel like you are being transported to a different time.  The Villa is modeled after an ancient building found under a lava flow.  

Inside the Villa itself you will find thousands of antiquities.  One difference between this and other museums is that you are looking at the original works of art.  There is something to be said for being in the presence of such ancient pieces of work (some 2,000+ years old).   Be sure to allow at least 4 hours to see the grounds.  We did not see everything, but look forward to coming back again next time.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, California 90272
(310) 440-7300

Museum Entrance:
34° 2’30.96″N

Getty Villa - Pool 

Getty Villa - Inside Atrium

Getty Villa - Hallway

Getty Villa - Atrium

Laugh Factory – Long Beach, CA

A friend of mine  invited me to join them at the Laugh Factory last Saturday night to see Jamie Kennedy.  She was adamant about getting there early so we could get good seats.   We ended up all being seated in the front row!   What she didn’t tell us was that we were all going to be part of the act in one way or another.

Harry Basil came on before Jamie and did some pretty amazing things with props (including using our friend!).  Jamie Kennedy was outrageously funny.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

We paid the extra $5 for the VIP tickets (well worth it).   The difference is that there are two lines – one that wraps around the building, and another that was only about 25 people deep.   Also, the $6 valet was a deal (opposed to walking a 1/4 mile to the parking structure where you would still be paying at least $6).

There are a lot of big names on the upcoming list, and we’ll definitely be back again soon!

Official Website:

Contact Info:
151 S. Pine Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 495-2844


Laugh Factory

Laugh Factory - Brady Bunch

Runyon Canyon Hiking Trail – Los Angeles, CA

Looking to get out of Long Beach for the day, we decided to try the Runyon Canyon hiking trail up in LA.  There definitely were a lot of people on the trail, however the views of the LA /Beverly Hills skyline were breathtaking.   The hike wasn’t difficult, but the change in elevation made it a great workout.   Don’t worry – if a tiny little chiwawa  can do it, so can you.

I think we hiked about 90% of it in around an hour and a half.

We ended up parking on the street close to the trail head as the lot was full.  There seems to be plenty of parking on the street close by, and you can’t really complain about getting close parking when you are there to hike.

Don’t forget to bring water and use the restroom before going as neither are available on the trail.  We’ll definitely be going back to take some more pictures when the clear days of winter come.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
2000 N. Fuller Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 666-5046

Trail Head:
34° 7’9.73″N

Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon - Hollywood Sign

Runyon Canyon - Summit

Campanile – La Brea Bakery – Los Angeles, CA

Before our hike today, we though we’d stop by La Brea Bakery for lunch. When we arrived, we found an upscale option that was affiliated with the bakery called Campanile.  We were a little under dressed, however the airy, natural concept of the restaurant drew us in.

The atmosphere was casual, polished, and elegant.   For my main course I had the BLT.  I know what you’re thinking… BLT, how original.  The fact was that this BLT was anything but ordinary.   Thick slices of bacon, perfectly ripe tomatoes, crispy lettuce and an exquisite sauce served open face on fresh La Brea Bakery bread made for the best BLT of my life.

For desert, we shared a chocolate cup cake, complete with freshly whipped cream.  Absolutely sinful.     We decided to hike an extra few miles, but it was worth every step.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
624 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 938-1447

34° 3’50.90″N


Campanile - BLT

Campanile - Cupcake

Campanile on Urbanspoon

Lola’s Mexican Cuisine – Long Beach, CA

Our Thursday night dinner group decided to try a new Mexican restaurant called Lola’s (next door to the Art theater on 4th Street). The entire area has gone through a recent revival. Gone are the closed run down shops, and in their place are wine bars, boutique clothing, and trendy restaurants.

They did a great job on the decor. I really enjoyed the “Dia de los Muerto’s” theme with all of the happy skulls. The color scheme felt very warm and inviting. There is also a great back patio area if you feel like dining outside on a nice day.

We all started out with the nachos, guacamole, and salsa. The green salsa was by far the favorite. It had a good kick to it, but wasn’t unbearably hot.

For dinner I had the chicken fajitas. All of the ingredients were very fresh and the chicken was moist and tender. The mushrooms were a nice touch.

We’ll definitely be back. I should also mention that there is a new 3hr parking lot on the corner of 4th and Cherry which takes the hastle out of trying to find parking!

Official Website

Contact Info
2030 East Fourth Street
Long Beach, CA 90814
(562) 343-5506



Lolas -  Chicken Fajitas

Lola's Mexican Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Fuego at the Maya – Long Beach, CA

A couple of my friends were on a jog and noticed that the Coast Hotel had been completely remodeled and re-branded the Maya. Near the lobby was a new restaurant named FUEGO. We decided to stop by on a Friday night for happy hour.

The views were absolutely amazing – Long Beach, the Queen Mary, and Port of Long Beach. To top it off, that night there was a nearly full moon, allowing a spectacular lighting effect in the sky which illuminated the clouds in an magical enchanting way.

We only sampled the Guacamole Trio, however it was amazing. Three different versions of guacamole; one with a mango salsa, another with lobster, and third with classic pico de gayo. They also have a great selection of premium tequila. The bar tenders were a lot of fun!

During football season, they have an outdoor viewing on Monday night football on their patio. According to their website they also have other special showings.

I look forward to coming back for a full dinner sometime (Mexican/Latin American themed).

Official Website:

Contact Info:
700 Queensway Drive
Long Beach, CA 90802
Tel: (562) 481-3910
Fax: (562) 481-3909


Fuego - Moonlight View of Queen Mary


Fuego- Nachos

Fuego at the Hotel Maya on Urbanspoon

George’s Greek Cafe – Long Beach, CA (Pine Ave)

George’s Greek Cafe is by far my favorite “everyday” restaurant in Long Beach.  If you go for dinner, you are likely greeted by George himself at the flagship downtown Pine location.   They have opened several other restaurants in the past few years as well in Belmont Shore and soon to be Lakewood. 

The food is fun, fresh and tasty.  The fact that my good friend who is Greek approves of the food speaks volumes.  The downtown Pine location also boasts plentiful outdoor seating, nightly live Greek music, and Belly Dancers.  It truly is more of an experience that just going out for food.

You must get the flaming cheese (in Brandy) as an appetizer.   The Lamb Chops are one of their signature items – marinated in Greek spices and so tender they melt in your mouth.   Only available on Friday nights, the Kleftico is also highly recommended.  If you’re looking to have a taste of just about everything on the menu, try the Family Style option (however you will need at least 6 people in the group).  My lunch favorite is the chicken Souvlaki (kabos).  All meals come with a fresh Greek salad. 

For the quality of the food, it is one of the best values in Long Beach.

Official Website:

Pine Avenue Location Contact Info:
135 Pine Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 437-1184



George's Greek Cafe

Georges Greek Cafe -  Lamb Chops

Georges Greek Cafe - Saganaki

George's Greek Cafe on Urbanspoon

Oceanside Pier – Oceanside, CA

After a long day at the Wild Animal Park, we stopped in Oceanside on the way home for dinner.   We ended up at the end of the Pier at Ruby’s diner.   If your in the mood for burgers, fries, milk shakes and a good view of the sunset, it can’t be beat.   If you’re looking for more upscale dining alternatives, there are several along the street right by the pier entrance.  This was definitely the longest pier I’ve been to (1,942 feet!).  

More Info (unofficial):

Contact Info:
Pier View Way at N Pacific St
Oceanside, CA 92054


Oceanside Pier - Sunset

Oceanside Pier

San Diego Zoo – Wild Animal Park – San Diego, CA

At about noon on Sunday my parents and I were trying to think of something we hadn’t done yet in their many visits to CA.  One of my friends once tried to organize a trip for us to all stay overnight at San Diego’s Wild Animal park, and I remembered that we still hadn’t been there.

It took us less time than expected to get there from Long Beach, as it is 30 miles North of San Diego in Escondido.   We were lucky we didn’t run into much traffic on a Sunday afternoon. 

When arriving it was a bit confusing where to go to get your tickets.  To the left is a stand for memberships, and to the right is the stand for regular tickets.   There are also premium packages available if you want to take a Segway Tour or do the African Safari in a smaller, more personal vehicle.   Since the Zoo is non-profit, the prices are relatively reasonable for the value of the experience.  1 Day Adult tickets were only around $30 with AAA discount.

Upon arrival, I recommend you sit down and one of the tables near the entrance and plan your day out.   The park is unique in that you are a spectator in the natural habitat of the animal.  This makes the facility very large, so be ready to walk several miles. 

The park exudes a natural, peaceful aura.   This experience was unlike any other zoo I’ve been to in the respect that the animals seemed more natural in their large habitats.   It was particularly amazing to watch the gorilla in a more natural environment.   I couldn’t believe how human like their movements are. 

We spent about 4 hours at the park and saw most of the big name animals, but I’d definitely like to go back and spend a full day.  They have a hot air balloon ride that caught my eye (but the parent’s wouldn’t go for it!). 

Official Website:

Contact Info:
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido, California 92027-7017
(760) 747-8702

Park Entrance:
33° 5’58.87″N
117° 0’5.40″W

San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park - Prarie Dog

San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park - Giraffe

San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park - Gorilla

San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park - Cheetah

San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park - Lion

Griffith Observatory – Los Angeles, CA

My parents just arrived into LAX and we were looking for something small  to do before heading back to Long Beach.   We’ve always wanted to go to Griffith Park, however never got around to it. 

After arriving, we found that there wasn’t anything small about it.  In fact, I wish we had dedicated more time to it.  

Parking was a bit rough.  Since the Observatory is on the top of a mountain, there is only a limited number of spaces.  Luckily someone left and we grabbed their spot.

We still had enough time to catch the “Centered in the Universe” program ($7).  Their star projector is the most advanced in the world.  There was a bright blue sky outside, but inside the dome you were instantly transported to a dark evening.   The stars were so lifelike!  The show goes through the concepts of how the Universe was created; from past to the presently accepted theory.  

Take time to explore the grounds of the Observatory.  They offer the best view of the Hollywood sign and Downtown LA I’ve seen.   Inside, there are many free exhibits from items ranging from Tesla’s coil to the inner workings of a telescope.  

It wasn’t until after we left and read the brochure that we realized we missed a free show outlining the past, present and future of the Observatory in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater.   Next time we’ll be sure to allow more time to have lunch at the cafe and take in another show.     

Official Website:

Contact Info:
2800 East Observatory Road
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(213) 473-0800

34° 7’6.73″N


Griffith Observatory Los Angeles Skylinve
Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory Telescope