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Santa Monica Daycations

A great thing about living in Southern California is you don’t have to travel far to at least FEEL like you are on vacation, even if it’s only for a few hours.

Palisades Park Santa Monica

Palisades Park is a beautiful place to talk or relax, taking in gorgeous views of the Santa Monica Bay.

Santa Monica is a favorite quick getaway for me.   Walking in Palisades Park with it’s beautiful green grass, palm trees and well-manicured rose garden is a gorgeous sight to take in plus it’s atop a bluff that overlooks the beautiful Santa Monica coastline.  And, with temperatures rarely getting out of the 70s, Santa Monica comfortable place to relax and cool off year-round.

From Palisades Park, you can see the Santa Monica Pier with its solar powered Ferris wheel.  This is the spot where a Los Angeles police detective recently broke the Guinness World Record for the longest Ferris Wheel ride (he went round and round for 25.5 hours!  At least he had a close up ocean view from the pier).

Related: Carnival By the Sea Pacific Park, Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel, Guinness World Record Location

From Palisades Park, you can see the Santa Monica Pier, where a man recently broke the record for longest Ferris wheel ride.

The Third Street Promenade is only two short blocks away.  There are several blocks of unique of boutiques and restaurants for browsing, shopping and dining, including a Barnes & Noble book store.  Cupcake lovers will want to visit Yummy Cupcakes, one of my guilty pleasures :), across the street from the Promenade on Wilshire at Third Street.

Also See: Parking in Santa Monica

If you’re looking for a more car-accessible shopping district, Montana Avenue is only a short drive away (Montana Avenue crosses Ocean at Palisades Park).  So, hop in your car or catch the Big Blue Bus up Montana to 14th Street.  Coffee & tea lovers have their choice of  Starbucks, Peets or  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf all within two blocks.  Pick up some groceries or takeout deli dishes at Whole Foods Market.  Blue Plate offers fresh & healthy comfort food in a casual atmosphere. For something a little more upscale, try R+D Kitchen.  For a little pampering at a bargain price, drop by Montana Nails for a pedicure.

Pacific Coast Highway is just down the California Incline from Santa Monica’s Palisades Park.

Related:  Malibu Drive: PCH Oxnard – Santa Monica

So, hit the road to celebrate summer.  And check in often, Traffic411 is updated regularly with all kinds of vacation and staycation ideas to inspire you to hit the road to explore the beauty of Southern California.  Be sure to bookmark these real time traffic maps, and check in from your smartphone.  Traffic411’s real time traffic maps will route you around traffic tie ups in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Ventura County 24/7.


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Cliffside Respite: Wayfarers Chapel

The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliffside setting (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church’s gorgeous cliffside setting (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

You might feel as if you are in Big Sur along the Northern California coast when you visit Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes. The glass church perched atop a seaside cliff is surrounded by tall pine trees and other trees, lush plants and colorful flowers while offering gorgeous views of the Los Angeles coastline with Catalina Island in the distance.

Designed to blend in with nature, the architecture of Wayfarers Chapel makes the most of this pristine setting.

The glass church is a popular wedding location, and it seems to be welcoming to everyone, although the ‘official’ religion that worships here is the Swedenborgian Church. According to it’s website, the Chapel also serves as a memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg, 18th century scientist, philosopher and theologian.

Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, Wayfarers Chapel (5755 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) is located across the road near the lavish Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles (see related Traffic411 post “So Cal Resortist“). Stop in for a quick visit to experience the serenity and peace of this very special place.

Wayfarers Chapel: Cliffside Retreat Rancho Palos Verdes

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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The beach at Rancho Palos Verdes near Wayfarers Chapel. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

Distance from LAX: 26 miles (35 minutes)

Traffic411 Insiders Tip:  While you’re here, explore the walking trails near Trump National Golf Club, experience the ‘California Casual’ vibe of the world-class Terranea Resort. The Port of Los Angeles and San Pedro lighthouses are also nearby.

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L.A.’s Battleship: USS Iowa

What makes a visit to the battleship USS Iowa so special is the opportunity to talk with war veterans and others who are passionate about this floating piece of American history. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

What makes a visit to the battleship USS Iowa so special is the opportunity to talk with war veterans and others who are passionate about this floating piece of American history. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

If you have ever wondered what life on a battleship is like, you don’t need to look any further than the Port of Los Angeles. That’s where you’ll find the USS Iowa, one of Southern California’s newest tourist attractions.

The Iowa is the namesake of the fastest class of battleships ever built. Nicknamed the “Big Stick,” the USS Iowa has been active in every major deployment of the U.S. armed services since World War II.

You can explore this piece of floating history inside and out at your own pace on a self-guided tour. Along the way, you’ll come across veterans who served on the Iowa at wartime and are happy to share a story or two.  There are also knowledgeable docents to answer your questions.

WWII Navy veteran Ernie Thompson entertains visitors with stories of the time he spent on the USS Iowa (Photo/Traffic411)

WWII Navy veteran Ernie Thompson entertains visitors with stories of the time he spent on the USS Iowa (Photo/Traffic411)

The Iowa has one feature that you will not find on any other battleship: A bath tub.

The USS Iowa is the only battleship with a bath tub for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who traveled on the Iowa during World War II. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The USS Iowa is the only battleship with a bath tub for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who traveled on the Iowa during World War II. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled on the Iowa during World War II, so his room was modified to accommodate his wheelchair. It’s interesting to see the different levels of sleeping quarters, from presidential, to officers and crew. I was surprised at just how huge the Iowa is, and how much of the warship is open for visitors to explore.

If you visit, wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot of walking and going up and down narrow ladder-like steps, as detailed in these Yelp reviews.  The USS Iowa is open everyday except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Click here for information on visiting the ship and tours.

Traffic411 Insider Tip: While you’re at the Port of LA, visit the nearby Point Fermin Lighthouse. Even if you don’t go inside the lighthouse, the surrounding park is beautiful, perched along a breathtaking rocky cliff with waves crashing below.

Distance from LAX: 22 miles

LA's Battleship: USS Iowa

Visit this floating piece of U.S. history at the Port of Los Angeles.

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/las-battleship-uss-iowa/thumbs/thumbs_view-of-vincentthomasbridge_pfeiffer_traffic411.jpg]5250USS Iowa, LA's Battleship
The USS Iowa offers breathtaking views of the Port of Los Angeles, a cruise ship is docked in the distance next to the Vincent Thomas Bridge (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The Conning tower of the battleship USS Iowa (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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A statue of the iconic kiss photo between a sailor and a nurse is on display outside the USS Iowa (photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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A freighter heading into the Los Angeles Harbor passes by the USS Iowa (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The view from the bridge of the USS Iowa, Port of Los Angeles (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The big guns on the Battleship Iowa, Los Angeles Harbor (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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The poop deck of the USS Iowa (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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A US President slept here. President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled on the Iowa during World War II (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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President Franklin D. Roosevelt's quarters, FDR traveled on the Iowa during World War II (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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WWII Navy veteran Ernie Thompson entertains visitors with stories of the time he spent on the USS Iowa (Photo/Traffic411)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/las-battleship-uss-iowa/thumbs/thumbs_suzanne_whatley_iowa_andimarshallmemorial.jpg]120USS Iowa LA's Battleship
KPCC FM news anchor Suzanne Whatley speaks at a memorial for radio colleague Andrea "Andi" Marshall on the stern of the USS Iowa (Photo Traffic411).


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The memorial service for my KFWB radio colleague, Andrea 'Andi' Marshall was held on the USS Iowa. (Photo Traffic411)

The memorial service for my KFWB radio colleague, Andrea ‘Andi’ Marshall was held on the USS Iowa. (Photo Traffic411)

This post is dedicated to Andrea “Andi” Marshall, my friend and colleague from KFWB radio. Andi’s memorial service was held on a sunny Sunday on the stern of the USS Iowa. It was an honorable setting to celebrate a life well-lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carnival by the Sea: Pacific Park, Santa Monica

Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier offers free admission, just pay for the rides. It's a fun way to spend a few hours at the beach.

Admission is free at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, just pay for the rides.

If you’re looking for an amusement park adventure you can enjoy in just a few hours on a summer afternoon or evening, check out Pacific Park in Santa Monica.  Located on the Santa Monica pier, there is no admission fee. You only pay for the rides you wish to enjoy, or purchase a wrist band for unlimited thrills.

The Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel and West Coaster roller coaster are located along the edge of the pier, so you can look down right into the Pacific ocean, and maybe even catch a glimpse of dolphins.  So Cal locals who have ever been stuck in a traffic jam will appreciate the Sig Alert EV Bumper Cars (or at least the attraction’s catchy name!). There are a dozen rides in all, along with a Kid’s Cove and midway games.  If you’re daring, you might want to test your aerobatic skills in a trapeze class.

Also Read: Malibu Drive Pacific Coast Highway

The Sig Alert EV bumper cars at Pacific Park. The term "Sig Alert" is So Cal traffic jargon for a major traffic jam!

There are a few restaurants on the pier, including Mariasol and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co..  There are plenty more restaurant choices steps away, along Ocean Boulevard, at the nearby Third Street Promenade, and on Main Street south of the pier.

Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier bills itself as the 'west coast's only amusement park on a pier.' It's a cool place to spend a few hours!

Parking for your trip to Pacific Park can be a pain. Free parking in Santa Monica is limited, many neighborhoods require residential parking permits, so be sure to read all of the posted signs. There’s parking at the pier, but if you’re looking for a more economical alternative check out the lots just north of the pier on 2nd and 4th Streets, near the 3rd Street Promenade & adjacent Santa Monica Place mall.

Related: Parking in Santa Monica

There are also several reasonably priced lots south of the pier between Ocean or Main Street and Neilson way.  If you’re up for a walk, park in one of the paid lots on Neilson Way near  Hill or Kinney. Cross Neilson to the beach and walk the boardwalk to the pier.  It’s an easy walk, but you’ll be sharing the sidewalk with skaters and cyclists, so pay attention.

If you purchase time in a paid lot or meter be sure to keep an eye on the time! The meter maids in Santa Monica are very good at their jobs, so you want to be sure that your parking time does not expire, a parking ticket will set you back at least $63.

Related: Santa Monica Daycations

Pacific Park bills itself as ‘the West Coast’s only amusement park located on a pier.’ It’s a fun scene for people of all ages, even if you don’t get on the rides. It’s also a fun outing if you have an hours long layover at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It’s about a 20 minute taxi ride from LAX, just give yourself plenty of time to get back to the airport (it could take 40 minutes  during rush hour)  so you don’t miss your flight.

Traffic411 Insider Tip:  There’s some fun people-watching ops along the boardwalk just south of Pacific Park at International Chess Park.  Or, test your strength and coordination at the grown up jungle gym, Swings, Rings and Ropes.

Distance from LAX: 14 miles


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So Cal Chinese New Year Celebrations

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is among the many So Cal venues welcoming in the Year of the Snake. (Photo: Traffic411)

The Chinese (Lunar) New Year rings in on Sunday (February 10, 2013). Los Angeles and Orange County are home to some of the highest populations of Asian residents in the nation. Here are a few places you can join the celebration welcoming in the year of the Snake.

Kids in Orange County can sample popular Chinese foods and learn about the Snake and other symbols in the Chinese Zodiac at Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine.

In the Torrance area, dancers in colorful costumes will perform at the South Bay Galleria, and 100 children will receive traditional red envelopes with cash ($2) inside. Read more

Disney California Adventure is hosting a Lunar New Year Celebration (Feb 8-13) offering cultural foods, music and dance performances, featuring popular Disney characters. Click for details.

Several upscale boutiques at South Coast Plaza in Orange County are adding Asian fashion and flair in honor of the Chinese New Year.  And, across Southern California, Starbucks and Target have been selling Year of the Snake themed gift cards. Read a round up of So Cal retailers celebrating the Year of the Snake.

The Year of the Snake comes around every twelve years.  You can tune-in to the energy of this Chinese symbol by listening to your intuition, and gracefully shedding old thoughts, beliefs, issues, as gently as a snake sheds its skin. Chinese astrology says people born during the year of the snake are wise thinkers who enjoy living well.

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Whale Watching

Marina del Rey is one place in So Cal to take a whale watching tour.

Marina del Rey is one place in So Cal to take a whale watching tour.

It’s whale watching season in Southern California. This time of year, hundreds of pacific gray whales are migrating from the icy Alaskan sea to the warm waters of Baja California to give birth to their calves. From now until mid-April, you’ll have a good chance of seeing whales and dolphins up close when you embark on a whale watching tour in Orange County, Los Angeles or Ventura County.

The pristine waters off the Channel Islands in Ventura County (one hour north of Los Angeles), is a beautiful place to go whale watching. Public access to the Channel Islands is limited, so the natural beauty and ecosystem is largely untouched.  Island Packers and Channel Islands Whale Watching offer whale watching tours in Ventura County.

In Los Angeles, you can catch whale watching tours at several ports, including Marina del Rey, Redondo Beach and Long Beach. In Orange County, tours originate from Dana Point and Newport Beach.

Seeing these giant sea creatures up close can be a powerful and life changing experience. In March and April, mother whales can be seen migrating north with their recently-born calves. With hundreds of pacific gray whales moving along the California coast between December and April, it’s an ideal time to take a whale watching adventure.

My KFWB colleague, Phil Hulett, didn’t see any whales during his February outing in Ventura County, but there were plenty of dolphins!

Traffic411 Insider Tip:  Whale Watch in Ventura,  you’ll enjoy the added bonus of seeing the beautiful Channel Islands

Distance from LAX: various.  Ventura is 70 miles away

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What to Visit in L.A. on a Layover: Marina del Rey

Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey

Only a 10 minute drive from LAX, Marina del Rey is a nice place to visit during a layover in Los Angeles.

When your travel plans take you through LAX and you have a layover of three hours or more, you’ll have time to escape Los Angeles International Airport and visit some of LA’s nicest coastal areas.

Marina del Rey is only five miles north of LAX. It’s an easy ten minute drive when it’s not rush hour and, even at peak travel times, Lincoln Boulevard (Highway 1) isn’t among LA’s most traveled roads.

Marina del Rey is the world’s largest man-made small craft harbor and home to more than 5,000 boats. Much of the waterfront is lined with sidewalks, an ideal place for a brisk walk or relaxing stroll to stretch your legs in between long airplane flights.

Marina del Rey is home to an array of interesting restaurants, from casual to upscale dining. For casual dining on the waterfront, try Tony P’s Dockside Grill, with its large outside deck overlooking the water, or large inside bar. If you’re looking for something more upscale, try Cafe del Rey (one of LA’s best restaurants) or the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The Cheesecake Factory, the Chart House and the Warehouse are some chain restaurants located in the marina.  Shanghai Reds in Fisherman’s Village offers a tropical theme and a large outside dining area.

You might want to begin at the Marina del Rey Visitors Center, at Admiralty Way & Mindanao.  There are some restaurants within walking distance.  Right down the street from the visitors center is Burton Chace Park, located on a hilly peninsula at the end of Mindanao Way. Chace Park is a nice spot for a walk and ‘yacht watching.’ There are several private yacht clubs around the marina, too.

Some of my favorite spots in Marina del Rey include Cafe del Rey (a terrific ‘special occasion’ restaurant), Mermaid Cafe is a good spot for a super casual breakfast or lunch (it’s a little hole in the wall located on the waterside of the Marina Fitness Center.

If you are looking for a place to spend the night, the Best Western Jamaica Bay Inn at Mother’s Beach is a beautiful ‘barefoot elegant’ inn. The fire pit outside the bar is a great place to enjoy a drink on a cool evening, however, the restaurant, Vu, has gotten mixed reviews.

Related: Santa Monica Daycations

I always feel at home when I’m in Marina del Rey, I hope you have the chance to experience this oasis amid the giant city of Los Angeles.


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Marina del Rey

Marina del Rey is a ten minute drive from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) but, it feels like a world away. Travelers who have a 3+ hour layover at LAX can experience the So Cal lifestyle by taking in a waterside meal or walk. If you're into the boating lifestyle, Marina del Rey is terrific place to live or visit.

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/marina-del-rey/thumbs/thumbs_marinadelreysunset.jpg]1230Marina del Rey Sunset
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/marina-del-rey/thumbs/thumbs_ritzcarltonmarinadelreychannel.jpg]440Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey
Bring your own room. The Ritz Carlton offers room service to boaters docked at the hotel's slips!
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/marina-del-rey/thumbs/thumbs_marinacityclubritzcarlton.jpg]11940Marina City Club
This condo highrise is a landmark in Marina del Rey.
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/marina-del-rey/thumbs/thumbs_ritzcarltonapartmentbuilding.jpg]260Ritz Carlton
The Ritz Carlton on the left, and a modern highrise apartment building on the right.
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The view from the patio at Killer Shrimp.
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The calm waters of the Marina is an ideal spot for kayakers.
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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/marina-del-rey/thumbs/thumbs_marinadelreyharborarielview.jpg]550Marina del Rey Harbor, ariel view
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/marina-del-rey/thumbs/thumbs_billofrightstallship.jpg]2370The Bill of Rights sails into Marina del Rey
The Bill of Rights, a 137 foot replica vintage sailing ship, sails into Marina del Rey, CA on Wednesday, May 16th. The public can tour the Bill of Rights on Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20, during MarinaFest 2012. Image courtesy of http://americantallship.org/
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