I love LA, but it’s easy to see how draining the traffic, parking, and crowds can be on a local, much less a tourist. Sometimes it helps to get away from it all, but you don’t have to go too far to find little escapes from LA – you hardly have to leave the county.
A quiet city down the 210 Freeway, Monrovia offers historic architecture merged perfectly with modern vibes. The key area to visit is Myrtle Ave, the main street through the city. In just three blocks you can enjoy Mexican, Vietnamese, and BBQ, plus a variety of laidback but charming bars like T. Phillips Alehouse, the London Gastropub, and the 1776.
Visit on Friday nights to take part in the Monrovia Streetfair, which brings out a variety of delectable food trucks (including a make your own donut truck for $3!)
Looking for a historic theater? Hit up The Frida Cinema, a non-profit art house that offers discounted prices on independent, international, classic, and blockbuster films, plus the FREE, monthly rooftop screenings and occasional performances by K.A.O.S., the theaters very own Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast.
A bit of a shopaholic? Enjoy boutique shops, art galleries, and record stores.
Listening to some indie-hip-hop-experimental-metal hybrid? Grab tickets to The Observatory or Yost Theater (round the corner from the Frida).
Hoping to cut down on your bar tab? Downtown Santa Ana’s bar and club scene offer happy hour deals, little to no covers, and fewer crowds. If you want a retro vibe, head to The Coppper Door Bar, an underground bar with live music.
Want to head to the beach? It’s roughly 30 minutes from Huntington and Newport Beach, both of which have cheaper parking than Santa Monica (plus, a less crowded pier). A sunset stroll down here is a perfect way to end the day.
A little shameless plug, but I can’t help but mention the Santa Ana Art Walk, a gathering of artists and musicians on the first Saturday of each month that a vast variety of unique stalls. The music scene brings together bands from all over the city, including my personal favorite from SoCal, Hoity-Toity.
On the edge of LA County rests Pomona, a small city that has drawn the attention of the neighboring Inland Empire for it’s great music scene. On just one block you can find Fox Theatre, The Glass House, and Acerogami, three great venues to catch local and touring bands. Though the performances cater to the alternative, punk, and goth enthusiasts, the crowds are very mixed. Teh artsy downtown area pull heavily on the local Hispanic culture, from Salsa nights to delicious Mexican cuisine.
A great alternative to Santa Monica, Huntington is lively neighborhood just south of Disneyland. Popular among surfers, this 9.5 mile (15.3 km) beach is known as Surf City USA and is also home to the Intiernational Surfing Museum. But even if you don’t surf there are plenty of spots to pitch your umbrella and wade into the Pacific.
Food carts and stands dot the area, complimenting the local restaurants, and there are a few bike rental shops. The beach is generally packed around the pier, but that only adds to the fun, as you can enjoy local volleyball matches, a small art market, and even join in on some tightrope-walking practice.
Parking can get packed on PCH 1, but if you had a few blocks north you can park in the local neighborhoods for free (just be respectful to the local owners). You can also park at the main garages in the downtown area just off the pier and enjoy a quick walk to the beach.
On the north side of the beach leading to Seal Beach you can bring your furry friend and let them enjoy Dog Beach. Nature enthusiasts should also head up here of the beach where they can find the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, home to over 200 species of birds.
If you head further south into Costa Mesa you can also enjoy Newport Beach and Balboa Peninsula.