Choose Your Own Adventure- West Coast Never Agains

While visiting friends and SoCal a few weeks ago, Derek and Ivette, we did a lot of things. A ton of things! Derek insisted we see and do some things, and Ivette had a few ideas herself- like the Donut Bar where I want to live.  But San Diego's Little Italy was meh, Mamba-Con (the candy) was rad and I realized that San Diego proper is just another city.

Ivette and I later were discussing a list of things that she always recommends as a resident versus stuff that is built for tourism. I found I mostly agreed with her side of it, and would rather spend time doing normal things than wasting time driving here and there, overpaying for food and getting the stereotypical California experiences. (I expanded into all of the vacation spots we hit)

So, on to the BEEF!

Some California stuff that costs a lot that you can probably just skip:
  • Some of the more touristy trap stuff like LegoLand or SeaWorld are not necessary. Especially if you don't have kids because over 50% of the Lego park is kids only stuff so you'll feel creepy and walk around aimlessly a lot. 
  • In'N'Out Burger, Carl's Jr and Jack in the Box- If you're a vegetarian you won't die of starvation (vegan maybe because who knows what's in their stuff), and I GUESS these are what Californians call a staple, but it's fast food garbage. At In'N'Out I got a grilled cheese which was literally just one slice of melted cheese on a not toasted at all bun. It cost me $2.60 and about 6 minutes of wait time. Not worth it. Better to go to a real restaurant for your meal if you're looking to eat out at a true CA place, not a chain. I don't know why people ask if we've gone there when we get home instead of actual places worth going and talking about like Miguel's in Chula Vista where we watched them make masa. Way more fun.
  • Derek insisted that we need to see Balboa Park in SD because it's "what to do in town for tourists." It had some cool views but nothing that you couldn't see in almost any other area. Plus, seeing a botanical garden in late July in 95* heat- everything's dead or dying. So, not as pretty.  Not a waste of time, but I think it wouldn't have mattered if I saw it or not. Did catch some Pokemon, though, and pet a tiny dog. 
  • Wonderspaces art installation at the Port of San Diego. Pretty cool stuff, and Ivette had gotten us tickets on the encouragement of a work friend. It was really clever but not for the price and the time spent waiting just to get in. I think it's so popular because it's more exclusive- they have an allotment of tickets each day and that's it, unlike a regular gallery. So that exclusivity is the trendy must-have thing, not the art itself. Sorry.
  • Speaking of, Port of San Diego is something I guess everyone is "supposed to do" while in town. It's nice and all, and the ocean is always magical and some of the street artists rule, but meh. We stopped at Buster's Beach House for lunch and I had horrible and overpriced soggy cheese pizza but pretty good overpriced iced tea. The rest of the area was almost as bad as the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood for trying to get photos of anything worth a damn. 
  • Julian- as mentioned, we went and it was nice but touristy. I know it's a real small town where real small town people live and bake pies and all that, but seriously, not ALL pies can be "THE BEST" like they all say. Everything there was the best of whatever it was according to many wooden signs posted in font of everything. It took us longer to get to Julian from Chula Vista than it did to actually walk Julian, because it's tiny- about a block and a half front and back. The cliffs were really cool, but again, you could see similar views from almost anywhere on that side of Cali. 
  • Santa Monica food: Pretty much anything in LA traffic is a bust. We attempted to park a few times for the US Bank tower and just wound up driving all the way to Santa Monica instead, where I fell in love with Venice Beach for no real reason! The Ice cream at the pier was delish but almost all the other food was a bust. Chris and I went to Seaside for some chow (I got the overly salted spinach dip and he got a pizza with the largest pepperoni I have ever seen in my life). We met up with an online friend Kiyoko on the pier, walked the boardwalk and got some dry-ass macarons together. It was an expensive day in food but I still liked it at the piers. I'm just saying- if you can avoid restaurants, do it.
  • Most of LA stinks, really. If you're not working in LA and you're there on a weekday it's strange. Everyone around you is walking about during their work errands (but there's something fun to be said about being able to do work errands that require walking in the sunshine with headphones on while in business casj) but really, you'll stick out as a tourist AND feel like one no matter what you do, and that will get you some nasty glances and eye rolls. Also Hollywood is kind of disgusting. The Hollywood you see at awards is cleaned up and roped off for special occasions like the time Detroit hosted the SuperBowl and they cleaned up the litter and shuffled the homeless into distant shelters for a few weeks. That Hollywood is not real and the real one is trashy. Worth seeing once, but not a place to live or visit again. 
Grand Canyon stuff worth mentioning:
  • Grand Canyon Destinations bus tour: I'd recommend the tour but only if you're in Vegas for quite a while, not just a few days. Also if you're a vegetarian or vegan- bring your own lunch. The salad option you're given on the tour will not only not fill you up, but the injustice of it compared to the carnivore's lunch will annoy you all day. (I got a half salad and tortilla chips while my meat-eating hub got a full turkey sandwich, cookies, apple and chips) Then we stopped at In'N'Out for dinner- which again, vegetarians- not the best. So I was hungry almost all day and super grumpy about it. So, plan ahead. 
  • At the Canyon itself there is a hotel and diner- but it's so expensive (and busy) that it's almost worth the money and time saved to just eat a snack and be hungry for a while. We did get ice cream, though! 
Vegas stuff that's fun in theory but just a disappointment once you're there:
  • Casinos- they're packed with everyone. I expected them to be packed but not like high school hallways. Or kids. So many kids and teens! It's 2am, why is your baby out on the street holding hands with a toddler?? Plus they no longer supply free alcohol to keep you there. So if you don't care to gamble much more than a few bucks there's nothing worth staying for unless you want second-hand smokers cough from the ladies at the slots next to you.
  • Freemont Street Experience- really cool stuff but almost too much. I love kitch stores with dollar shot glasses and 13 cent postcards BUT it's hard getting there (and around once inside) because everyone moves like molasses here and the "band" on the loud speaker is just a bunch of pop covers sung off key. If you hate crowds like Chris does, you will hate this place. Some of the artists here are great, like the bucket drummers or authentic looking superheroes but you will also see a lot of scantily clad females shaking things for dollars, which works for them but is also kind of sad that they do it and that people pay for a photo with a girl in a bra or a guy in a banana hammock. Like Hollywood, saw it once, marveled at a few things, never have to go again. 
  • Circus Circus Hotel- fun in theory and in photos, and marketed well but when you get there- the room is nice but there are too many kids, too many people who don't understand elevators (what?) and the shows they promote having in their midway are 25 minutes of waiting for a 4 minute show. Really good customer service, though. 
  • The Flagship Taco Bell Cantina: As I had mentioned- it's a disappointment.  If you've seen their posts on it, they make it seem like the ultimate TBell experience with merchandise, retired menu items and booze parties. But in reality it's a regular TB Cantina, the merchandise is just the stuff from Forever 21 last year and some towels, the music was too loud and the menu is the same at home. But the patio is nice. And filled with drunk girls in rompers. So many rompers.


  1. I live in LA - San DIego just seems so far away from us especially because the traffic keeps getting worse and worse! That being said, I really do want to go and actually EXPLORE the area because I really don't feel like I have at all!

  2. I love the west coast...but much of what I love isn't listed! We tried to steer clear of the touristy stuff. Except, we did go to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego and my children absolutely LOVED it (okay...I loved it too!).

  3. I feel you. Sometimes the touristy stuff is just so packed or there is so much traffic to get there, that you end up in a bad mood. It's hard to balance it because you want to see what the place is known for.

  4. I just moved to SoCal, so it's good to hear the ups and downs! I like to go in with a realistic expectation of a place. I totally agree about in-n-out!! It's not amazing, maybe fresh for the burgers but not the best and certainly costs more than I think is reasonable.

  5. Very well written and informative post. Keep sharing such an informative post

  6. Really great breakdown! We are from Phoenix and we LOVE in n out.

  7. I love California, specifically San Diego. In fact, I'm hoping to retire there some day. But I'm nowhere close to that and I feel I have a long way to go. I like your breakdown of everything. JITB is one of my favorites. I have been to Legoland but not Sea World. If there was one thing I didn't like in my 3 years there was the traffic. By far the worse I've ever seen. Great post and great looking site

  8. Really appreciate the detail and opinions. Will be useful if I ever get that side.

  9. Your article says it all. Indeed west coast is a nice place to explore

  10. This is really cool, you give so much information that its really helpful

  11. I love the west coast and always dreamed of moving there. In and Out burger is a great fast food burger.

  12. West coast has a lot of fun activities. I totally miss it! And the weather is amazing too!


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