A sisters trip to Southern California

Photos of a the sea, Hogwarts castle and a night view of the city skyline
Eunkyo Jo/Staff

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After watching “Selling Sunset,” hearing friends talk about Southern California’s amazing weather and listening to songs about Los Angeles, I’ve developed a fantasy for the City of Angels. That’s why this winter break, my two sisters and I decided to travel down to Southern California to explore this dreamland.

The first thing we did was pick up a rental car in Oakland — a lesson learned that I shouldn’t mindlessly choose cars based on cost. We then drove through San Francisco, where we officially began our journey down the West Coast. We made several stops over the course of two days: everything from Half Moon Bay, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, 17 Mile Drive — which included the Spanish Bay, Moss Beach and Pebble Beach — Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, Elephant Seal Vista Point, UC Santa Barbara to Old Mission Santa Barbara 1786.

Blasting Emblem3’s “Sunset Boulevard” on aux, we arrived in LA on the second day. Since the sun went down around 4:50 p.m., we headed directly to the Griffith Observatory to catch the sunset. Little did we know that there would be so many cars, so it was impossible to find parking. Although we ended up just watching the sunset while waiting in line, it still felt like we were part of “La La Land” with the LA traffic and city view beneath us. On our way to dinner, we passed by the Oppenheim Group office from the Netflix show “Selling Sunset” before driving through the lavish street of Rodeo Drive. Though we initially couldn’t park the car at Griffith Observatory, we were able to go back after dinner to enjoy the city lights and stars. We also caught a glimpse of the moon through a telescope, which was a serene, breathtaking sight.

Next on our itinerary was a full day at Universal Studios Hollywood. The three of us had the time of our lives. We began by riding the first studio tour of the day, and by the time we knew it, we were on the Jurassic World ride for the fourth time. My sisters and I have a tendency to forget how old we are, so we may have accidentally pushed our bodies to the brink — but our three express passes were used well.

After returning the rental car, we took the train from Union Station to Downtown San Diego. With Uber and Lime scooters, we traveled to and around Balboa Park, California Tower and Old Town — places rich in culture and history.

The next day, we packed lightly, downloaded maps on our phones and rode the tram to the Mexican border. However, just before crossing, we realized that I had left my I-20 document at home. Though we couldn’t cross the border, we opted for a quick taco run and headed up to La Jolla. Groups of sea lions and brown pelicans flocked near the cove as we walked along the beach and enjoyed a cup of coffee. In the evening, we visited The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which brought back memories of living in Salt Lake City, Utah. After taking in the glorious architecture, we ran to catch the tram to Seaport Village, a cute spot with shops, music, string lights and a port — probably my favorite sight in San Diego. We finished the day off by enjoying the city view on a ferry to Coronado.

Originally, we had planned to take the Greyhound bus back up to LA, but our bus never came. We ended up renting yet another car and driving. We sat in traffic for quite a while, but we were able to make it to our tours of UCLA and the Beverly Center with Pink’s Hot Dogs and seolleongtang — my soul food — from Koreatown.

On Christmas Eve, we visited The Grove, a shopping center with a fancy, well-decorated courtyard, huge Christmas tree, dynamic fountain, sleigh in the sky, live Santa and fake snow effects. On Christmas Day, before flying back up to Northern California, we visited Hollywood — the Walk of Fame, Dolby Theater and TCL Chinese Theatre. We also made sure to visit Gower Street to take a photo with the iconic Hollywood sign from a distance.

Driving down Rodeo Drive and Sunset Boulevard, sightseeing the houses on Mount Olympus and looking down the City of Stars on Griffith Observatory was a dream. But waiting two hours for our Greyhound bus that never came and having to spend a dozen dollars on transportation every time we wanted to go somewhere made me appreciate Northern California a lot more. Every city has its charm, but no city is perfect. Regardless of the ups and downs, this sisters trip to Southern California is one that I will always remember.

Contact Eunkyo Jo at [email protected].