I Arrived, But My Luggage Didn’t

One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

Lots of folks will be flying out for Spring Break soon! Students are parents are looking forward to lots of fun. But it’s not fun to arrive without luggage.

On New Year’s Day, my teenage daughter and I traveled to Los Angeles to meet some friends from Ohio. We live in a city that is a hub for American Airlines, so we are fortunate to have lots of nonstop choices. One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

American Airlines handles lots of bags successfully every single day. I’ve flown American Airlines countless times over the past 18 years, and I’d never had an issue till this LA trip. I love American Airlines, so I’m not bashing them. I’m simply telling a story in hopes that someone will learn something.

Upon arrival in LA, my daughter and I walked down to the luggage carousel to retrieve our checked bags. We had just reached the carousel when I received a message from American Airlines, telling me one of the two bags we had checked was delayed. I told my daughter, and she looked terrified, saying, “I hope it’s not mine!” Because we took an early flight out of Charlotte, she wore more casual clothes than I did. I don’t dress up when I fly, but I don’t dress down either.

While my daughter waited at the carousel for one bag, I got in line at the baggage counter. The line was short…only one person ahead of me. When it was my turn, I told the agent one of our bags had been delayed, and we would need to have it delivered to our hotel. I wasn’t frantic. I wasn’t angry. The info I was getting from American Airlines said it would arrive on the next flight. While I was talking to the American Airlines agent, my daughter approached with her bag. She was smiling, knowing she would be able to change as soon as we got to the hotel. Whew!

Could I have been angry? Maybe. Should I have been angry? No. Was I worried? No. Was I panicked about our dinner plans for the evening? No.

I’ve only had my bag delayed one other time…on a different airline. And I learned some valuable lessons from that first experience. I’m going to share those lessons, so maybe no one else will panic when their bags don’t arrive.

  1. Don’t dress down when flying. This doesn’t mean you need to dress up. Wear something you will be OK wearing for the first full day of your stay, in case your bag is delayed. On the January trip, I wore something on the flight I could wear anywhere we went that day…even to dinner. My shoes were cute and comfortable, so I was fine in those for the day and night as well. On that particular day, I had opted for mostly black…pretty safe for most places.
  2. Don’t put valuables in checked bags. Jewelry and expensive shoes/accessories do not belong in your checked baggage. On our trip, I was wearing the most expensive shoes and jewelry I was taking for the trip, so I didn’t have to worry about never seeing them again. I had a few more pieces of jewelry and another nice pair of shoes with me, but they were in my carry-on. Never check anything that’s irreplaceable.
  3. Carry medications/change of clothes/makeup in your carry-on. I have some necessary restless leg medications that I cannot live without. Well, I could live without them, but I wouldn’t sleep. I always put them in my carry-on. Same for makeup. Yes, I can live without it, but I don’t want to. And frankly, makeup is expensive and difficult to replace on the fly. I also like to have a lightweight change of clothes in my carry-on. And if you’re going to a sunny destination, stick a swimsuit in your bag, so you can hit the pool/beach till your bag arrives. Toothbrush/toothpaste/hairbrush…all in my carry-on. Follow TSA regulations for liquids/gels.
  4. Take a photo of your bag with your smart phone. Take a photo of your checked bags, so if one is lost, you can show it to the baggage agent. In LA, the baggage agent was thrilled when I was able to show that to her, making her job easier.
  5. Make sure you have your name/number on your bag. The tag should list your last name and cell phone number. I also put a sticker inside my bag with my name and number on it. That way, if the bag is misplaced, someone can call me if they find it.
  6. When checking your bag, make sure the airline tag shows your name and destination. This sounds silly, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. If the wrong tag gets put on your bag, you might never see it again.
  7. Take a photo of your bag claim check. I’m the queen of misplacing things, so I always take a photo of my claim check, thinking I’m more likely to lose that than I am to lose my phone.
  8. Download the airline app before you travel. Because I use the American Airlines app, I was informed via message through the app that my bag had been delayed.  It makes it a lot easier to keep track of where your bag is.
  9. As soon as you realize your bag is delayed, report to the baggage counter. In our case, because there were two of us, my daughter could wait for one bag while I spoke with the agent. Make sure the agent has the correct delivery information. Before walking away, I asked her to read my hotel’s name/address/telephone number and my number back to me. And I got her name and direct phone number, as well.
  10. When you arrive, inform the hotel you are expecting a delayed bag. When we were checking in at our hotel, I told the bellman and the front desk agent we would be receiving a delayed bag later. They assured me they would accept the delivery and take it to my room as soon as it arrived.

On our trip, just as promised, American Airlines delivered my bags later that day. In fact, it arrived earlier than promised. I was prepared to wear the outfit I had on to dinner that night, but when the bellman brought my bag to the room, I was thrilled. But if the bag hadn’t arrived till later, I would have been fine too, because I had planned ahead.

Happy Travels!

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Saying Goodbye To Celebrities

Yesterday, we got the news that Luke Perry of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame had died after suffering a massive stroke last week. Friends all over Facebook were posting about how sad they are. They were posting about how Dylan McKay, his character on the show, was their “first love.” And I get it…

When the original Beverly Hills, 90210 debuted, I had been out of college for a year. I was working for an airline and living in Atlanta. It premiered on October 4, 1990. I was 23 years old, and life was good! The target audience for the show was teenagers. I was older than most of their viewers, I think, but I loved it! Who didn’t want to live in Beverly Hills then? Heck, I want to live in Beverly Hills now! If you’ve never seen the show, you can start with the pilot on Amazon Prime Video here.

I’m not surprised to see how many people are mourning the loss of Luke Perry/Dylan McKay. It’s sad. He was only 52. And I’ve done it lots of times…felt sadness at the loss of a celebrity. I felt it when Prince died a few years ago…I was having lunch with my friend, Linda, at Fenwick’s in Charlotte, when we heard the news. Sometimes, we remember where we were when we heard the news, because strong emotions lock events into long-term memory. I’ve learned that the hard way; my husband has no short term memory (a tumor and brain surgery to remove it), but he has long-term memory.

I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve thought about how we mourn celebrities, and I’ve decided that when I’m mourning a celebrity’s death, I’m not really mourning the loss of the individual as much as I’m mourning the loss of a certain time in my life. I didn’t really know the people. I knew how they made me feel. Maybe sometimes, we mourn the fact that we never got to meet the celebrity, but we don’t really know these people. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I think, when I mourn a celebrity, it’s because I’m mourning the loss of a time in life, or because I never got to meet the person.

For example, I hadn’t kept up with country singer Roy Clark’s career over the last couple of decades, but when I heard he had died last year, I was sad. Roy Clark was one of the hosts of Hee Haw, a show we watched when I was a little girl. Lots of kids watched Hee Haw in the 70s…maybe it was just southern kids, but people watched it. If, right now, I started singing, “Where, oh where, are you tonight…” people my age would chime in. Someone from my generation would immediately sing, “Why did you leave me here all alone?” We all remember getting excited about that segment of the show… and the raspberry in the song. To see it, click here. Roy Clark, as the Hee Haw host, was part of our childhood.

When Dean Martin died in 1995, I reminisced about his variety show that I loved watching as a child. Of course, watching those episodes as an adult, I realize I probably didn’t get most of the jokes, but I enjoyed the show. And I thought Dean Martin was handsome. In fact, I still swoon when I watch videos of him. His death is one I mourn because I’ll never get to meet him.

Penny Marshall…Laverne from Laverne and Shirley. When I heard she had died this past year, I was transported back to third grade, singing, “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8…schlemiel! schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” You can see it here. I still make references to Laverne and Shirley regularly. When Penny Marshall died, I lost a piece of childhood.

Marlin Perkins died in 1986. Who is that? If you were born around the same time I was or before, you likely remember him as the host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. If his show hadn’t aired right before The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights, children likely wouldn’t have known who he was, but when he died in 1986, children who were born in the 60s and early 70s remembered spending Sunday nights in front of the TV, watching Marlin Perkins tell Jim Fowler to approach an animal or two. Mother let us have TV dinners on Sunday nights…and only on Sunday nights…while we watched those two shows. Of course, we had to pick our TV dinners from the grocery store on Saturday, because back then, in Alabama, grocery stores weren’t open on Sundays, due to blue laws.

When Patrick Swayze died, I mourned his death, because he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the year after my daddy died from the same disease. I didn’t know Patrick Swayze, but when he was diagnosed, I remembered how terrible it felt when Daddy was diagnosed. Obviously, I didn’t relive the pain of my daddy’s diagnosis, but I knew the pain his family was feeling. When I was in college, we loved watching him in Dirty Dancing, and when he died in 2009, on my daddy’s birthday, September 14, it hurt.

So yes, celebrity deaths affect me, but it’s not because I love them like I love my family. No celebrity death could ever carry the same weight as the death of my family members, but they’re memorable…not because I knew the celebrity, but because they represented a time in my life…a time I can’t return to. Or maybe I’m sad because I never got to meet them.

So, Rest In Peace, Luke Perry/Dylan McKay. You created some great memories for us, and you’ll always be a part of my youth. And apparently, lots of my friends considered you their first love…

 

 

 

 

 

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Wear Your Shiny Shoes

Last year, I purchased two pairs of shiny shoes. They were on sale, and I needed a little retail therapy. When I say shiny shoes, I don’t mean patent leather…I mean really shiny, as in glitter. One pair is gold, and the other is silver.

When I first got them, I thought I needed to save them for evening outings. Shiny = evening or special occasion. Nope. Nope. Nope. Shiny is not just for evening anymore!

After I’d had the shiny shoes for a while, I decided they would look cute with jeans, so I started wearing them in the daytime with my regular old jeans, on regular old days.

The first time I wore them with jeans during the day, I wore the gold ones. I walked into a local restaurant and a lady standing nearby said, “Oh! I love the shoes! Is it your birthday?” What?!? It wasn’t my birthday. It was just a regular lunch outing with a friend. I know you want to know how I responded.

“No, it’s not my birthday, but I’m sure it’s someone’s birthday somewhere!” I didn’t say it like a smarty pants. I said it sincerely, with a big smile on my face, and she laughed and nodded approval.

And that’s the truth. I wear my shiny shoes in celebration of regular days that are someone’s birthday somewhere. I wear my shiny shoes to celebrate the fact that I woke up that day. I wear my shiny shoes, because they make me happy. Sometimes, I wear them if I’m feeling down, so I can look at my feet and smile.

Once, as I was going through the TSA Pre-Check line at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, a sweet TSA agent approached me, and I asked her if I was next. She said, “Yes, you are! In fact, girl, you are wearing your pre-check shoes! I love them!” I told her the shoes make me feel a little happier, and she replied that I had just made her day with my shoes!

I also wear my shiny shoes because they are comfortable. They are a mid-heel loafer-style shoe, so they give me the three-inch heel I need with the comfort of a loafer. Frankly, I think they look good with almost anything…except shorts and t-shirts. I’ve worn them with dresses, jeans and sweaters, and I’ve even run about a mile in them to meet a car that was waiting to take me from the Forum in Inglewood, California, to meet a friend for dinner in Marina Del Rey. And she loved the shoes too.

The moral of the story is…wear what makes you feel good. You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to wear your shiny shoes or your fancy dress! Make every day a celebration!

I’m planning to meet a friend later in the week, and I’ll be wearing my shiny shoes and ordering champagne at lunch.

Celebrate life! Wear your shiny shoes!

***Shiny shoes make great holiday gifts! NORDSTROM has a great selection of “shiny shoes” for women in a wide range of prices. Check out these shoes they offer:

Sam Edelman Lior Loafer, on sale for $83.96 (regularly $199.95)63505028-5321-477f-bfc3-5e687ef130f3.jpeg Click here.

 

 

 

Keds for Kate Spade, various styles, $90. Click here.

 

J Crew Maya Ankle Bootie, $178. Click here.9975f061-d710-4cc7-8ac9-d2991a1f3975

 

UGG Classic Glitter Patchwork Bootie, $189. Click here.

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P448 John Sneaker for Women, $235-$280, various colors. Click here.

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Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, Midstar Glitter Sneaker, $550. Click here.

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My Favorite Social Experiment

The American South and Midwest have reputations as friendly places, while the West and Northeast have reputations of being less so. On another note, people in the West are perceived as creative, and people in the Northeast are perceived as less inhibited. A 2013 study by the University of Cambridge supports that. You can see the results of the study here. After reading that today, I started thinking about our own little social experiment we conducted in Beverly Hills a few years ago.

Southern California: beautiful weather, beautiful people, good food, creativity, and good people-watching. My daugher and I love to go. We’ve been, as my mother used to say, “umpteen times.” That means we’ve been a lot. Today, we are embarking on another adventure to the Los Angeles area. We love visiting. Is it different than other parts of the country? Yes, and that’s part of what we love. Different parts of the country have different cultures and different attitudes, and that’s a good thing. How boring would our country be if there weren’t differences? Why bother visiting another place if that’s the case?

We love visiting the LA area, but would we want to live there? The bloom might fall right off the rose if we lived there. I’ve had to explain to my daughter on more than one occasion that living there isn’t the same as visiting. If you live there, real life gets in the way. Plus, you don’t live in a hotel with fantastic room service, and really, that’s part of the charm.

The first time I took her to LA, we were standing in line at a coffee shop, and my then 7-yr-old daughter looked up and said, “I want to live here, Mom.” The lady behind us heard her and leaned up to say, “Oh, honey. You don’t want to live here. People aren’t nice here like they are where you’re from.” Maybe she heard the southern accent? I had to take a few minutes after we sat down to explain that there are lots of nice people in LA, but I thought the lady meant they don’t wave to everybody and speak to everyone on sidewalks like we often do.

My friend, Mary Ann, who lives in Mobile, Alabama, and her son went with us on our next trip to the area. One day, as we were walking to breakfast at a restaurant about a mile from our hotel, we decided to conduct a social experiment by saying “good morning” to everyone we met on the sidewalk. We got all sorts of responses. Some people gave us sideways glances and moved farther away on the sidewalk, clutching their bags more tightly as if they thought we were trying to mug them. Others ignored us altogether. But there were three who were thrilled. One said how refreshing it was. Another hugged us and thanked us. And yet another had an entire conversation with us, starting with, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

We felt pretty sure we would get different results in the South.

We came home to Charlotte and tried the same Good Morning Experiment at our local Neiman Marcus, thinking the socioeconomics would be closest to Beverly Hills. About two weeks after the initial “experiment,” my daughter and I strolled through Neiman’s, and I greeted everyone we encountered with “Good morning!” My daughter didn’t even notice, because I do it all the time. Here’s what happened: no one looked at me like I was going to mug them. Every single person smiled, and most responded with a pleasant “good morning” in return. One had two gifts in her hand for her young daughter and stopped my daughter to ask which one was better for a young girl. Two or three complimented my shoes. And not one person looked at me like I was strange for greeting them.

I considered trying it in my favorite Target store in Charlotte but realized it wasn’t necessary. I speak to everyone in there every time I go anyway. I’ve even made friends in Target!

On our next visit to LA, we were with friends from the Northeast. We hadn’t discussed the social experiment. We were having breakfast in a restaurant one morning when a gentleman walked past our table on his way to the deli case and smiled. I smiled back and kept talking. When he passed again, he smiled again. I smiled and gave a little wave…it’s what I do. Apparently, he walked past two more times, and I smiled back without even realizing it. As we were leaving, he stopped me at the door. He told me he and his wife were dining in the back of the restaurant and decided to see how many people smiled back when he walked to the deli case. He said, “I smiled at every person at every table I passed, and you were the only one who smiled back. Not only did you smile every time, you waved!” I told him about our previous social experiment, and we all had a good laugh.

I’m not saying I’m always friendly and in a happy mood, and everybody in Charlotte isn’t always friendly either. The “results” of our “experiments” were interesting, though.

That’s not to say there aren’t friendly people in LA. I know some fabulous, friendly people who live there, and I hope to see them when we are there this time. Every time we go, we meet delightful people…every time…LOTS of great people. We’ve met people who treated us like old friends or family. We’ve met people who have welcomed us to their city with open arms…lots of fantastic people.

I can hardly wait to introduce our “newbies” to the places and people we love, and I’m looking forward to spending time with this fun group. We won’t be the most beautiful, skinniest, or most wealthy people in the city, but we can try to be the happiest and most friendly!

Maybe we will conduct another social experiment of some kind on this trip. Ideas?

Share The South

Y’all might think I’m crazy, but when I travel, I make friends. It’s what I do. It’s my thing.

Therefore, when we return to places, I like to take regional gifts or gifts that represent something about me or where I’m from: the South. For example, when we visit Los Angeles, I have a few friends I like to see, and I try to take a little something for them, because some of them have never been here. It’s fun.

Sometimes, it’s something obvious that I take. If the person knows I went to The University of Alabama, I might take a Bama sweatshirt or t-shirt. But I can’t take the same thing every time. It’s fun, to me, to search for interesting places to purchase stuff that represents North Carolina, Alabama, or just the south in general.

Since it’s summertime, we try to make a few more trips than the rest of the year. During the rest of the year there’s that thing that messes up all our travel. It’s called school.

This summer, we have a few trips planned, and I’ve been looking for the perfect southern gifts to take with me on my trips. You know, lots of people all over the country still think we don’t have paved roads or shoes in the south. They think we still cook everything in lard. But with my gifts, I like to introduce them to the real south. Sometimes it’s funny stuff, and sometimes not. But here are a few of my favorite places to get southern gifts.

THE BUTTERCUP GIFTS AND STATIONERY: The Buttercup on Providence Road in Charlotte has great gifts for everyone, and a lot of them represent the south. They have college mascot gifts, personalized stationery and other gifts, jewelry and art by southern artists, and a lovely assortment of other unique gifts you’d be proud to present to that hotel concierge who fielded all your crazy questions before you traveled. Their website can be accessed here, but they have a much bigger assortment in the store.

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THE BITTER SOUTHERNER GENERAL STORE: A friend recently sent me a text and shared this fun website with me. It’s called The Bitter Southerner, and they offer lots of funny gifts with a southern theme. Some of my personal favorites are t-shirts listing the first names of well-known southern authors; sweatshirts featuring one of our favorite southern sayings, “Bless Your Heart;” t-shirts that simply say “Mayo and Tomato;” baseball caps; automobile license plates…you’ll have a great time perusing this site. They even have The Bitter Southerner Coffee Club, a membership plan through which they ship the recipient coffee from “some of the best coffee roasters in the South,” according to the website. Take a look at their offeringshere.byh-sweatshirt_1024x1024.

LOCALS ONLY CHATTANOOGA GIFT SHOP: Another friend told me about a gift shop she stumbled upon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they offer all sorts of Southern fun stuff and delicacies, including one of my favorites…Miss Shelley’s Southern Jam. They offer four flavors of her jam, and many of my friends could tell you they are fantastic jams, and they make great gifts. In addition to this, they offer all sorts of Chattanooga merchandise, Moon Pies, Southern seasoned grits, and See Rock City birdhouses. People who don’t live in the south might not be familiar with the iconic See Rock City rooftops on barns, but this is a fun way to introduce them. This is a fun website I highly recommend. See their website here.

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PAPER SKYSCRAPER, CHARLOTTE, NC: This store on East Boulevard in Charlotte is chock full of gifts that represent Charlotte and North Carolina. I’ve purchased all sorts of gifts there…lowball glasses with “704” (our zip code) on them, bourbon-infused honey, candles made in Charlotte, cans of Bertie County peanuts, books about Charlotte, and postcards galore. If you’re looking for gifts that represent Charlotte or North Carolina, this is a great place to shop. You can get information about the store from their website here, but to purchase from them, you’ll need to go in for a visit…and it will be fun when you do!

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CORNER COPIA GARDENS AND GIFT SHOP: I’ve written about this one before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Corner Copia Gardens and Gift Shop is located in charming Fairhope, Alabama, a lovely small town on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. It is owned and operated by a childhood friend of mine, Michelle Prouty Johns, who has had a lifelong love of plants and gardening. If you find yourself in the area, it’s worth a stop to see the lovely and sometimes rare plants she has in stock and purchase some fun stuff from the gift shop. She opened the gift shop to supplement the gardens in the off-season, and she has some great gifts, including “air plant jellies,” head-shaped planters, and lots more. If you stop in, please tell her Kelly sent you! She doesn’t have a website, but you can check out her Facebook page here.

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SOUTH GEORGIA PECAN COMPANY: My friend, Linda, who used to live in Valdosta, Georgia, introduced me to South Georgia Pecan Company a few years ago when she gifted me some Chocolate Amaretto Pecans that were absolutely heavenly. She even advised me to keep them in the freezer…it just enhances the flavor. Since then, I’ve gifted them to a few folks myself. The company also offers other types of pecans, gift baskets, and even Southern Pecan Pies, a treat indeed. While you’re at the website, check out their great t-shirts too. They would make great gifts for taking on a flight…easy to get through security. And if you’re not from the south, it’s pronounced puh-KAHN down here. You can order directly through their website here, but if you call them for any reason, please don’t say pee-can.

THREE GEORGES CANDY: Three Georges has been a staple in Mobile, Alabama, for a hundred years. According to a story on the WALA-TV website, the store was opened in 1918 by three Greek immigrants “who, you guessed it, shared the same name: George Pappalamporous, George Spero, and George Pope.” The store is located on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile, and it should be on your list of places to visit if you find yourself on the Gulf Coast. If you want to try one of their old recipes, go for my favorite, the Heavenly Hash, made up of marshmallows and pecans smothered in milk chocolate. A little bit goes a long way, but everybody in Mobile knows about Heavenly Hash. You an order directly through their website here, but visit if you can.

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I also enjoy sharing books or magazines about the south (click on title for more info): Southern Living Magazine,Our State Magazinefrom North Carolina, Mobile Bay Monthly Magazine, Charlotte Magazine, Southern Home Magazine, and more. Earlier this year, I picked up a photo book about Charlotte from Paper Skyscraper and sent it to a friend who has never visited. Short stories are great too. For a book of short stories about the south, there is The Signet Classic Book of Southern Short Stories, which you can purchasehere.

So, there’s an assortment of places you can find trinkets, apparel, or foods that represent the South. Since I’m going on vacation soon, I plan to put in my orders this weekend. My friends, old and new, that I see on vacation this summer will receive a little piece of the south from us. To me, it’s fun to show them where we’re from, just like it’s fun for me to learn about their homes.

I need to get busy finding things to take, because if I don’t get things done early, I’ll be “as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” (I thank my Daddy for sharing that little saying with me.)

Hooray for Hollywood! Must-see LA

Hooray for Hollywood

Where you’re terrific, if you’re even good

Where anyone at all from TV’s Lassie

To Monroe’s chassis, is equally understood.

–Hooray for Hollywood

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It’s no secret to our friends that my daughter and I love visiting Los Angeles.

As many times as we’ve been, we’ve never done everything we wanted to do. Friends often call me before they go and ask what they should do with their families when they visit. It’s difficult to say, because there is so much to do. I send them a list (a long list) of things to do, but I usually mark which ones are the ones people will ask them about later. That’s what I’m giving you here…the quintessential Los Angeles family-friendly places to visit. Like the Empire State Building in New York, these are the things people will ask you about later.

When you plan to be a tourist, wear comfortable shoes, and wear layers. In the LA area, the weather can change quickly from warm to chilly and back, so be prepared.

***All of my suggestions are based on family trips and are listed in alphabetical order.***

261365_2273227074989_3597282_nBEVERLY HILLS There is a lot to see and do in Beverly Hills, and lots of photo opportunities. Rodeo Drive is known for its high end boutiques. Most first-time visitors love to get photos under one of the Rodeo Drive street signs. People watching is great, and if you pay attention, you might recognize a celebrity or two. I’ve seen several celebrities on Rodeo Drive during the day, so keep your eyes open! (For info on Rodeo Drive, click here.) There are shops, shops, and more shops throughout Beverly Hills. Stroll down Beverly or Canon for some different boutiques and restaurants. The Blvd Restaurant at the Beverly Wilshire is easily accessible from Rodeo Drive and a nice place to have lunch. Ask for a table on the patio for good people watching (for info click here). Beverly Garden Park on Santa Monica Blvd is a beautiful green space with a giant Beverly Hills sign providing a great photo backdrop. Real Housewives fan? You’ll want to make a reservation in advance to dine at Villa Blanca, owned by Lisa Vanderpump (info here). The Paley Center for Media is a fun museum at the corner of N. Beverly Drive and S. Santa Monica…a nice air conditioned place to get some “Hollywood” info and buy souvenirs (info here). *The photo below is John O’Hurley of Seinfeld fame. He was at a traffic light next to us in Beverly Hills. I had met him years 20 before on a flight from Atlanta to LA, so I talked to him while we sat at the light. *
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DISNEYLAND The original Disney theme park opened in 1955 and is located in Anaheim, a short drive from Los Angeles. The drive is an easy one on the freeway. If you’ve never been to the original Disney theme park, it’s worth a visit. Smaller than Florida’s Disney World, it has a much more intimate feel. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the gate. For more information, click here.

 

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GRIFFITH PARK AND OBSERVATORY Another iconic spot, you will recognize it from movies like LaLa Land and The Terminator, and from television shows like 90210 and Keeping Up With The Kardashians. A municipal park covering more than 4,300 acres, Griffith Park is a great place for hiking and taking photos of the city below, and it offers a great vantage point for the world-famous Hollywood sign. Trails within the park offer closer access to the sign, but the decks around the observatory offer great photo ops without the hike. Admission to the park and observatory is free, but there is a nominal charge for the planetarium shows. Tickets can only be purchased at the Planetarium. Griffith Park is accessible on foot from Hollywood Blvd (1.5 mile walk) or by car. Parking can be scarce, and there is sometimes a $4 charge for parking. I prefer to take a car service. For information on Griffith Park and its attractions, click here.

THE GROVE The Grove is a large shopping area home to Dylan’s Candy Bar and The American Girl Store. There is also a Sprinkles Cupcakes located here. To see a full listing of stores and attractions at The Grove, click here. There is a large Barnes and Noble, and I always check the events there before I go, because they often have book signings…sometimes celebrities you would recognize. You can check online in advance here. My daughter and I have encountered some celebrities shopping at The Grove. We saw a girl from Dance Moms, and last time, I was shopping in Nordstrom Shoes next to a well-known Hall of Fame former football player (Pittsburgh Steelers).

HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME Something everyone needs to see once, and once is probably enough. It’s not the cleanest part of town, and maneuvering through the tourists and the “characters” can be challenging. BUT, you don’t want to miss it. This is where you will see the sidewalk stars on the Walk of Fame. For info on star ceremonies or to locate your favorite entertainer’s star, you can check the website here. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is here, and kids love the opportunity to take photos with the “stars” inside (info here). The El Capitan Theatre, built in the 1920s, is also here.  El Capitan was converted from a show theatre to a movie theatre in 1941 for the screening of Citizen Kane. Movies are shown daily, and it’s a beautiful setting from a bygone era for watching a movie. For info on the theatre and showtimes, click here. *Beware: the “characters” on the street are not official representatives of any studio. If you take photos with them, they expect $$$*

 

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IN-N-OUT BURGER Just go. It’s one of those things you have to do. There are locations all over town, but we prefer the one in Westwood, near UCLA, on Gayley Avenue. Everyone will ask you when you get home if you had In-n-Out, so just do it. Order your burger Animal Style. See their menu here.

 

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MALIBU Everyone should visit Malibu at least once. We’ve been a few times. You can drive straight up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica. Park near the Malibu Pier and watch surfers from the pier. Take some photos with the sign in the background. At the end of the pier is Malibu Farm Cafe, a counter service restaurant (walk in only), and at the start of the pier is the Malibu Farm Restaurant (accepts reservations), a table service restaurant. Both are farm-to-table and offer great views. For info on the pier and both restaurants, click here. For shopping, visit the Malibu Country Mart or The Malibu Lumber Yard, both located just off the PCH and full of retail shops and restaurants. Again, these are places you might see some celebrities. Geoffrey’s, located on the PCH, is a 70-year-old legendary hot spot for lunch or dinner, having served JFK and Marilyn Monroe, among others. It offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. Reservations suggested. For info on Geoffrey’s, click here. Pepperdine University is also in Malibu. If your kids are with you and they like Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101, lots of the outdoor scenes were filmed on this campus. For info on visiting the campus, click here.

PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES This is an historic area in downtown LA that was the original settlement that eventually became the city of Los Angeles. The area is home to numerous historic homes (the oldest one in LA!), museums, exhibits, and the famous Olvera Street Market, an iconic Mexican marketplace open since 1930. For more info on Pueblo de Los Angeles, click here. 

 

419598_3582456844915_30828700_n.jpgSANTA MONICA PIER You’ve seen images of Santa Monica Pier in movies (Forrest Gump, Hannah Montana: the Movie) and television shows (Charlie’s Angels, Three’s Company opening sequence). More than 100 years old, the pier offers historical walking tours from its Carousel Bldg on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am and noon. The pier is also the official end (or beginning) of Route 66 and the home of Pier Park, an amusement park featuring a rollercoaster, ferris wheel, and more. The ferris wheel offers beautiful views, and where else are you going to ride a rollercoaster on a pier? Be careful walking around, as the boardwalk is uneven. There are restaurants and vendors along the pier and numerous photo ops. I recommend photos with the ferris wheel in the background, one with the Route 66 sign near the front of the pier, and one along the rail with the beach and Pacific Ocean in the background. Another good photo op: the main sign at the start of the pier. For more information on the pier, click here.

 

IMG_0215SPRINKLES CUPCAKES The original Sprinkles Cupcakes is in Beverly Hills, on Santa Monica Blvd. Sprinkles offers the world-famous 24-hour Cupcake ATM. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s worth a visit.  (They also have a location at The Grove, as mentioned above.) Sprinkles also offers delivery. For more info on Sprinkles, click here.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS A working movie studio and theme park. Ride the various thrill rides and tour the studio facilities. Many of the rides and attractions are linked to popular movies. Harry Potter Wizard World is most popular, and other popular attractions are rides and experiences based on Jurassic Park, Transformers, Despicable Me, and more. If you like amusement parks, this could be a fun experience. I haven’t visited, because we have an excellent amusement park in Charlotte (Carowinds), and I prefer to spend my time in California doing other things. If this is your thing, though, you’ll likely love it. For more information, check out their website here.

VENICE/VENICE BEACH Home of famous Muscle Beach, a skate park, a freak show, and free spirits, Venice Beach is a must-see. Rent a bicycle in Santa Monica and ride down to Venice Beach along the beach bike path. There are lots of bike rental shops from which to choose. Walk out to the Pacific to stick your toes in the water. Spend some time watching the skaters at the skate park…they are amazing. Shop some of the vendors along the boardwalk and just take in the scene. Enjoy the street performers and artists, and soak up some sun! In Venice, stroll down Abbott Kinney Boulevard, a few blocks off the beach, where there are varieties of boutiques, coffee bars, and restaurants. Check out the Venice Canals while you’re there too. For more info on Venice Beach, click here.312713_10200977986596714_1094907258_n

All of these places can be covered in two or three days, if you get an early start and plan well, with the exception of the amusement parks. You should allow a full day for each. Maybe Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Beverly Hills in one day, followed by The Grove, Hollywood Blvd, and Griffith Park. You can eat at In-n-Out for one meal and enjoy a cupcake from Sprinkles for dessert. This is just a sampling of what the city offers for tourists, but these are iconic spots. There are so many more things to do (see below for a list of more). We’ve been countless times and still have things to check off our list.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Kelly

MORE PLACES TO SEE AND THINGS TO DO:

Hollywood Museum

Sky Slide (see photo at right, it’s a clear slide from the 70th floor to the 69th floor on the outside of the US Bank Bldg in downtown LA)25354018_10215003092335592_3751396268366778484_n

Hollywood Bowl

La Brea Tarpits

Getty Villa and Gardens

Greystone Mansion/Park

Reagan Presidential Library (Simi Valley)

Lakers Basketball at Staples Center

Dodgers Baseball

The Broad Museum

Museum of Ice Cream (tickets are hard to get…must book well in advance)

Museum of Tolerance

Westlake Village

Paramount Studios Tour

Warner Bros Studios Tour

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