Los Angeles: West LA
Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US and the anchor of the west coast. The West LA area is what people typically imagine when thinking about California - palm trees, open sky and beaches.
I was fortunate to live in the Santa Monica area for a couple years, so I know first hand that there are endless places to go and see.
Santa Monica Pier is one the most iconic locations in LA, and with rides and games there, it's a nice place for kids or for a date. In close walking distance is Third Street Promenade, a walkable shopping street of a few blocks and the Santa Monica Place mall at the Broadway Ave end. There's a little bit of everything here, from food and shopping, outdoor hangout spots, and street performances.
Venice Beach is another area to check out. While it's known for its hippie slash hipster vibe, it's equally as beautiful as it is entertaining. The area leading up to the beach has canals that, well, are the Southern California version of Venice.
Parking in the area can be a real pain, so I recommend catching an Uber or Lyft. Once there, you can rent bicycles and ride along the beach's bike path. You'll pass the random shops, Muscle Beach with serious body builders, the famous basketball courts and skateboard park as you go by the Boardwalk. To top it off, there's a pier here as well.
If you're looking for more shopping, there are some boutiques nearby on Abbot Kinney and Main Street. Both are nice walks in any case if you're not looking to go have more bags in your hands. There's also a fair share of cafes and eateries in both areas as well.
Montana Ave is another area I would go to sometimes. It's a quaint area north of Third Street Promenade with some nice cafes and boutiques amongst a very residential area. Take a walk in the neighborhood and you come across all sorts of architecture.
If you're looking for a drink after a day of sightseeing, check out Blind Barber. It's a barber shop in the front but walk through the back door and you enter a hip lounge bar with some good eats. When it comes to food, LA is a mixing pot of a lot of different cultures and cuisines, and California has a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in-state to supply these food spots. There are endless places to check out, but here are a few others (of many) to check out.
These cafes were started in southern California from organic coffee blends and teas. The food and baked goods came after, many of which reflect the southern California cuisine of fresh vegetables with a little bit of a Mexican twist. Pick anything off their menu but my go-to's are their Tostada Salad and their Organic Green Tea Boba (smoothie with tapioca balls in it).
Located in Westwood, right off the UCLA campus. They're most famous for their ice cream sandwiches made from their freshly baked cookies. Absolutely delicious, and the fact that it's less than a couple dollars each, fantastic. Stop by if you can.
The first time I tried a bowl of Hakata Shinsengumi ramen, I thought it was great. I then moved to Fukuoka, Japan where the capital is Hakata - this type of ramen's hometown. Visiting LA again, I went to Hakata Shinsengumi thinking I probably wouldn't think it was good after being in Hakata all the time. To my surprise, I found the tonkotsu ramen here to be quite good and probably the best you can get in LA. The broth and noodles are authentic, and while the topping options may venture away from traditional, they encompass everything good that you can put in a bowl of ramen. Approved.