Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group's updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

Top 10 Things to Do in Mexico City

There’s no shortage of things to do in Mexico City, a busy modern metropolis where history is right around the corner–every corner. To fully immerse yourself in its history, culture, and cuisine, from museums to cantinas, add these ten great experiences to your travel wishlist.

front view of mexico city's palacio de bellas artes with garden in front
Palacio de Bellas Artes. Photo © Dreamstime.

Museo del Templo Mayor

Mexico City’s tumultuous history is visible at the ruins of the Templo Mayor(55/4040-5600, ext. 412930, Tues.-Sun. 9am-5pm; US$5, free on Sun.; Metro: Zócalo), a great temple-pyramid that was destroyed during the 16th-century Spanish siege of Tenochtitlán. The museum showcases artifacts recovered from the archaeological site.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

With its grand marble facade and opulent art deco interior, the incomparable Palacio de Bellas Artes (55/5512-2593; Tues.-Sun. 10am-9pm; free to enter the lobby, US$4 admission to museum and mezzanine level; Metro: Bellas Artes) is one of Mexico’s most striking buildings, as well as a keynote arts institution. On the second and third floors, the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (55/5521-9251, Tues.-Sun. 10am-6pm) has hosted some of the most important art shows of the past decade.

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Take a grand tour of the many pre-Columbian cultures in Mexico through artifacts and art at the Museo Nacional de Antropología (55/4040-5300; Tues.-Sun. 9am-7pm; US$5; Metro: Auditorio). The most impressive rooms are dedicated to the people who lived in Teotihuacán and in what is today Mexico City.

Museo Frida Kahlo

A superbly talented painter and a beloved icon the world around, Frida Kahlo is celebrated at the lovely and intimate Museo Frida Kahlo (55/5554-5999; Tues., Thurs.-Sun. 10am-5:45pm, Wed. 11am-5:45pm; US$4.50 adults, US$2 students; Metro: Coyoacán) housed in her childhood home.

Blue wall in Frida Kahlo Museum
Museo Frida Kahlo. Photo © Dreamstime.

Teotihuacán

Admire the views from the top of two spectacular temple-pyramids at the country’s most-visited archaeological site, the Teotihuacán archaeological zone (Ecatepec Pirámides km 22 + 600, Municipio de Teotihuacán, Estado de México, 594/956-0276; daily 9am-5pm, US$5, children under 13, students, teachers, seniors, and people with disabilities free), a day trip just outside the city limits.

Cantina Culture

These relaxed neighborhood bars are quintessential to Mexico City. Spend a few hours enjoying the convivial atmosphere with a shot of good tequila in hand. Try Bar La Ópera (Av. Cinco de Mayo 10, 55/5512-8959; Mon.-Sat. 1pm-midnight, Sun. 1pm-6pm; Metro: Bellas Artes) or Centenario (“Vicente Suárez 42, 55/5553-5451; Mon.-Sat. noon-1am; no cover; Metro: Patriotismo).

Classic Cuisine

Mexico City’s tremendous food scene is reason alone to visit the city. You’ll find ace eats in every price range and in every neighborhood, from old cantinas and street-front taquerías to fine dining.

Traditional Markets

The city’s colorful and atmospheric markets are where locals shop for everything from home goods to used LPs. If you only have time to visit one, make it Mercado de la Merced (Circunvalación between General Anaya and Adolfo Gorrión, Col. Merced Balbuena, 55/5522-7250; daily 6am-6pm; Metro: La Merced).

man wearing hat in a market in mexico city
Mercado de la Merced. Photo © Julie Meade.

Pulque

This fizzy fermented beverage, made from the sap of the maguey cactus, is a capital tradition. As the younger generation discovers this drink, it’s experiencing a deserved revival. Try it at Pulquería Las Duelistas (Aranda 28, 55/1394-0958; Mon.-Sat. 10am-9pm; no cover; Metro: San Juan Letrán), one of the oldest traditional pulquerías in Mexico City.

Contemporary Art

With the opening of new museums and the continued excellence of many long-running galleries, there’s never been a better time to be an art lover. The Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (Insurgentes Sur 3000, 55/5622-6972; Wed., Fri., and Sun. 10am-6pm, Thurs. and Sat. 10am-8pm; Wed. and Sun. US$1.50, Thurs.-Sat. US$3.50, children under 12 free; Metro: Universidad, Metrobús: CCU) in the heart of the UNAM campus has consistently been one of the best places to see contemporary art in Mexico City since it opened in 2008.


Related Travel Guide

Best California State Parks

California’s National Parks may bring the big guns (Yosemite, Muir Woods, and Alcatraz, for example), but the Golden State’s vast network of state parks showcases its rich history, diverse ecosystems, and sublime scenery. With 280 separate parks, the California State Park system is the largest in the United States, and accommodates everyone from solo wilderness hunters to boisterous families.

If you’re looking to take it all in, these parks boast some of the state’s best and most accessible views.

view of the San Francisco Bay from Angel Island
Angel Island has stunning views. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.
  • Take advantage of one of California’s most famous photo ops at Big Sur’s Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. McWay Falls, with its ribbon of water hitting a white sand beach feet away from a rocky, aquamarine cove, is an easy stroll from the parking on Highway 1. Take any one of the trails climbing the hillsides east of the highway for grand views of Big Sur’s coastline plunging into the vast Pacific.
  • If the beauty of crystal-clear Lake Tahoe wasn’t revelatory enough, true inspiration can be found at Inspiration Point, overlooking the jewel-like waters of Emerald Bay State Park. Once you’ve caught your breath, follow the easy and scenic Rubicon Trail to Vikingsholm Castle for some added grandeur.
  • Catch diverse views of wild mountains, Marin’s waterfront, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s cityscape, and Alcatraz, while hiking around Angel Island State Park. The sights begin as soon as you board the ferry in either San Francisco or Tiberon, and keep on coming—even as you visit the Immigration Station, the poetry of which is sure to inspire a pause for reflection.

Wild California certainly means wild, and parks offer first row seats to some of California’s most charismatic creatures.

elephant seal winking
Año Nuevo is awash in elephant seals. Photo © Frank S. Valli.
  • Marvel at the sheer size and numbers of the elephant seals that congregate every year at Año Nuevo State Park to mate, breed, fight, and play. Join a tour January through March when the pups are at their cutest, or come in the quieter summer months and enjoy the rich ecological diversity.
  • Bring your binoculars and hunt for Eared Grebes among the two million nesting and migrating birds at Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. Thanks to the brine shrimp and alkali flies, nearly 100 different species of birds flock to California’s most stunning and unusual lake, making it a birder’s paradise.
  • Discover Roosevelt Elk, nestled in the sand dunes and meandering the trails in the Fern Canyon of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. As if the park’s windswept beach at the foot of an old growth redwood forest weren’t magical enough, these oversized ungulates add to the wonder.

Families traveling through California will find a friend in the State Parks. All are accessible, affordable, and come with a wealth of activities and attractions, but some truly stand out in terms of exciting the imagination and burning off restless energy.

blonde boy panning for gold
Panning for gold in Malakoff Diggins State Park. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.
  • Undoubtedly the kids will beeline it to the old-fashioned candy store, but Columbia State Historic Park has more than just sticky sweets. This preserved Gold Rush town offers carriage rides, gold panning, and cheerful docents in period costume bringing the Wild West to life.
  • Set up camp like a real gold miner at Malakoff Diggins State Park. With huge, shaded camp sites, a preserved Gold Rush town, a creek for gold panning, and the biggest the hydraulic mine in the state, this laid back park will keep kids entertained for days.
  • All the ingredients for a classic California summer camping trip come together at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Swim in the Stanislaus River, bike the myriad of crisscrossing trails, and explore the giant sequoias at this family favorite.

So, no matter what your looking for—a wilderness adventure, a kid pleasing camping trip, or a snap shot of the state’s most beautiful sights—be sure to add one (or two) of California’s state parks to your itinerary.


Related Travel Guide

Start Reading THE BRIDGE by Stuart Prebble

To him, she seemed perfect. But what is Alison hiding?

THE BRIDGE, Stuart Prebble’s “brilliantly executed” (Dayton Daily News) new thriller, goes on sale today. It’s a gripping novel (with a stunning cover, if we do say so ourselves!) that asks the terrifying question: what if the woman of your dreams is not what she seems? Get started into the mystery with this exclusive excerpt.

IT WAS A sunny Saturday afternoon, and sightseers and tourists from all parts of the world crowded onto the South Bank, streaming in both directions across Waterloo Bridge. Some were walking to or from Covent Garden or the theaters; others stopped to admire the spectacular London skyline. At first glance the Madman seemed harmless enough, just a little the worse for wear from alcohol perhaps, or maybe celebrating a victory by his football team. Dressed in blue jeans and a gray hoodie, he muttered to himself and danced light-footed as he progressed, lifting his legs high like a week-old pony. Once or twice he paused and bent his knees to speak at eye level to a child, but later no one could identify the accent or decipher the words. Parents kept a watchful eye, but there seemed to be no reason for alarm. Then, with no warning, in a single sweeping movement and before anyone could intervene, the Madman scooped up the first tiny child, a four-year-old boy apparently selected at random, and swept him over the barrier.

There was a momentary snapshot of paralysis. The boy had made no sound. Was it some trick? Had the man switched the real boy for a dummy in some bizarre and ill-judged entertainment? Before anyone could take a breath the Madman had run half a dozen steps farther towards the next child, a three-year old girl in a pink dress with birthday ribbons in her hair. Once again he gripped the child under the arms and swept her up and over the barrier, her legs suddenly pedaling through nothingness. Even now, shock and disbelief immobilized bystanders. He darted forward again and grabbed another, and yet another. Each child was seemingly as light as a wafer, flicked up to shoulder height and thrust out into emptiness. Four small people, infants and toddlers, lifted up in the space of twelve or fifteen seconds and thrown over the wall before the Madman took to his heels and vanished like a phantom into the holiday crowds.

A mother fell to her knees, cracking bones against pavement, and shuffled towards the wall as if drawn towards it like a magnet. It took more moments for the screams from the bridge to catch the attention of people below on the South Bank, and fuller realization of what had occurred spread through the crowds like waves of poison gas across a battlefield. Scores of people held their heads and covered their ears as if to prevent the news from penetrating. Eyes were turned upwards towards the sound of the cries and then followed the pointing arms into the water below. Desperate and still confused, one father jumped from the bridge and hit the surface with the slap of raw meat against concrete, but even as he submerged, already the bobbing heads which were still visible had traveled a hundred yards in the churning foam. Another brave man jumped into the water from the riverbank and struck out with an urgent stroke in the direction of the fast-moving shapes. Both were overwhelmed within moments by the strength of the swell.

The first police officers arrived on the bridge within two minutes and began trying to calm the hysteria sufficiently to understand what had happened, but it seemed that no two accounts from among the many were sufficiently similar to produce a consensus. He was variously described as eighteen years old at one extreme to about thirty-five at the other. He had brown hair or black hair or auburn hair. He was tall, medium, and short, and had an athletic build or was running to fat. The only clear agreement was about the jeans and the gray hoodie, which made him a match for about two hundred other young men in the vicinity that afternoon. CCTV recordings examined later lost track of him minutes before the incident and lost him again as a pinprick in the crowd within seconds after it.

Continue reading “Start Reading THE BRIDGE by Stuart Prebble”

Touring the Sahara Desert in Morocco

A trip to Morocco feels somehow incomplete without spending at least one night in a desert oasis. Ouarzazate and its surroundings are chockfull of them, some more explored than others. Here, paved roads give way to packed dirt and sand. If you’re lucky, just over the next dune is a fresh, quiet palm grove. Moroccans and foreigners alike come to take in the great expanse of the Sahara Desert and experience the warm hospitality for which this region is known.

Snug against the edge of the vast Sahara Desert, Merzouga was little more than a collection of a few Bedouin tents a few short years ago. The irresistible draw of the desert is evident in the number of hotels and specialty riads that have recently sprung up, as well as the new paved road from Er-Rissani.

lamps lining a path to a tent in the Sahara Desert, Morocco
Desert accommodations in Merzouga. Photo © Lucas Peters.

Merzouga is one of the more accessible portals to the desert. Trekking into the desert on camelback for a quiet night in a Bedouin tent, sipping mint tea on the great Erg Chebbi, enjoying a wood-fired tajine, stargazing late into the night and waking early to watch the pink and crimson sunrise is something of a quotidian affair.

From a great distance, the ochre brilliance of Erg Chebbi rises high above Merzouga, a stunning reminder of the sheer awesomeness of the Sahara. Throughout the day, the sands here shift in shades of red and pink, making for breathtaking pictures and ever-changing scenery. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry described this experience best when he wrote: “One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.”

A vast hamada (barren, rocky plateau) separates this piece of the Sahara from the rest of the desert, rendering it an especially curious sight in this otherwise rocky region. The dunes rise to heights of nearly 500 feet (150m) and spread out over an expanse of 200 square miles. Even with the rise in tourism, it’s still very possible to enjoy a quiet night beneath the stars in the hush of the desert.

There are several ways to tour Erg Chebbi. The easiest is to walk, though trekking through the dunes is tough work. Still, many people make it out on foot to the tallest sand dune to take in a sunset. ATVs are another possibility, are generally discouraged due to noise and pollution. The most natural method of transportation is by camel—specifically, dromedary.

There are numerous guides with their dromedaries hanging out at the beginning of Erg Chebbi. In the offseason, some deals can be found if you bargain hard. The typical rates are 100Dh for a ride out to enjoy the sunset, 200-500Dh for an overnight stay with dinner and breakfast in a Bedouin tent, or 700-1000Dh for a “luxury stay” overnight, complete with en suite toilets. You’ve come all this way…it would be shame not to ride that dromedary out into that wonderful Saharan sand and experience a taste of life in the desert.

The seasonal lake of Erg Chabbi is surrounded by sand in the Sahara Desert, Morocco.
The seasonal lake of Erg Chabbi. Photo © Lucas Peters.

When to Go

The spring and fall are generally considered the best months to visit. Temperatures can be hot during the day and cool at night, but the weather is generally fair. Winter can be an excellent time to visit, though rain storms and flooding can be a concern and temperatures will dip below freezing at night in some parts.

Planning Your Time

For those on a tight schedule, be aware that travel times will be long. The roads are slow and generally not well-maintained. From Marrakech, you most likely come via the N9 through Ouarzazate. From Fez or Meknes, you will arrive from the north via the N13 by way of Midelt and through the Ziz Valley. It’s best to traverse this region with a map, as roads are often unmarked and sometimes marked only in Arabic. Before setting out, have an idea of the roads you’ll take and possible circuits. Roads are all two-lanes, meaning that traffic can get backed up because of farm equipment and herding animals.

From Marrakech, it’s possible to take a three-day trip into the Sahara via Ouarzazate, though this will mean a lot of travel time per day. Four days is preferable: one day to get to Ouarzazate, another half day to explore one or two of the kasbahs around Ouarzazate (such as the famed Ait Ben Haddouh), and then a half day to continue to the first erg of the Sahara outside of Zagora (or to Erg Chebbi at Merzouga). Plan for one day in the Sahara and then another for the return trip. It’s possible to continue from Marrakech all the way to Zagora in one day, though this is a lot of driving.

From Fez or Meknes, it will take a full day of driving to get to Merzouga. If you leave early enough, it’s possible to take a camel or 4×4 out to a Bedouin tent and then return the next day, but three or four days is a more relaxing pace.

Agencies and Guides

The region is best explored with a guide for those who don’t have much time and want to do more than just a night in the desert. The most dependable, honest guide in the region is Abdelkarim Tata (tel. 0662/294 386). Tata can arrange for day trips in the region, including the nearby Ziz Valley, 4x4s into the desert, overnight trips into reputable Bedouin nomad camps, and meals with a nomad locally famous for his madfouna—a local specialty of ground camel, chicken or cow and onion, seasoned, spiced and folded, slow cooked beneath hot desert sands (a non-traditional, but equally delicious, vegetarian option is available).

If you’d like to include a trip to Merzouga as part of your Moroccan vacation, consider contacting Journey Beyond Travel (tel. 0610/414 573 in Morocco, U.S. toll-free tel. 855/687-6676), one of the best travel companies in Morocco. They create custom packages and tours while working to maintain an eco-friendly, socially sustainable business model. They can arrange for trips throughout this region with reliable, friendly drivers and the best accommodation in the area.

man pouring tea surrounded by Moroccan desert sand
Taha pouring tea in the Moroccan desert. Photo © Lucas Peters.

Getting There

Getting to the edge of nowhere can be a little tricky without a car, and even with a car you will likely want to rent a 4×4 vehicle to further explore this edge of the Sahara. The national road (N13) stops in Merzouga. It is possible to take this road from Fez (292mi/470km, 9hr), following the N8 into the Middle Atlas, past the towns of Imouzzer, Ifrane and Azrou before joining the N13 and following the road signs to Midelt and Errachidia (83mi/133km, 2hr). From Meknes (287mi/462km, 9hr), the route is a bit more straightforward, taking you directly through El Hajeb and Azrou on the N13.

From Ouarzazate (229mi/368km, 8hr), follow the N10 through the North Draa Valley, past the Dades and Todra Gorges. At Tinejdad (91mi/146km, 2.5hr), turn off the N10 and follow the R702 (Route de Jorf) to Erfoud (37mi/60km, 1hr).

There is convenient free parking at the end of the main road, where the pavement meets the desert at the base of Erg Chebbi, the largest single erg in the region.

The Supratours (tel. 0524/888 566 or 0524/885 632) bus runs all the way to Merzouga from Fez (11hr, 1 daily, 190Dh) and Marrakech (12.5hr, 1 daily, 200Dh). You can also catch this bus in Errachidia (2.5hr, 2 daily, 60Dh), Ouarzazate (8hr, 1 daily 130Dh), Boulmane Dades (6hr, 1 daily, 90Dh) or Tinghir (5hr, 1 daily, 80Dh). Buy tickets a few days in advance to guarantee seating.

If arriving via CTM (Call Center: tel. 0800 0900 30), the bus only runs up to Rissani; after that, you’ll have to get a grand taxi (42km, 45min, 10Dh).

The Supratours buses leave Merzouga at 8am and 7pm. Travelers heading south will want to take the morning bus that passes through Rissani and Errachidia before turning south on the N10 and stopping at Tinghir (4.5hr, 1 daily, 80Dh), Boulmane Dades (6.5hr, 1 daily, 100Dh), Ouarzazate (8hr, 1 daily, 120Dh), and Marrakech (12hr, 1 daily, 175Dh). The 7pm bus runs through Errachidia before continuing overnight until Fez (11hr, 1 daily, 160Dh).


Related Travel Guide


Pin For Later

If you're traveling to Marrakech, you're going to want to take a trip into the Sahara Desert. And with these tips, you can tour Morocco's enchanted land by car or camel.

Inca Trail Permits and Preparing for Machu Picchu

Trekking through the clouds and lush highlands of Peru to see the fabled city of Machu Picchu is the trip of a lifetime, but you have to be prepared. We reached out to our friends at Andean Treks, a licensed tour group recommended by Moon Machu Picchu author Ryan Dubé, for some tips and insight on planning your Incan adventure. You can find more details, itineraries, trek suggestions, and background information in the Moon Machu Picchu travel guide.

Machu Picchu Tourist sitting with Llama
Trekking through the clouds and lush highlands of Peru to see the fabled city of Machu Picchu is the trip of a lifetime. Photo © Pawel Opaska/123rf.

Decide When to Go

The traditional trekking season in Peru is May–August, but the best weather is in June and July. Avoid the last week in July, when Peru’s hotels are often booked solid for the Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day) celebration around July 28. The “shoulder months” of April, May, September, and October are the best times to trek in Peru, as they are outside of both the rainiest months (November–March) and the busiest tourist months (June–August). April and May, and even March if you don’t mind an occasional rainstorm, are especially scenic because the rainy season has just ended and the highlands are lush and green.

Inca Trail permits sell out completely for most dates from March through mid-November, so you will encounter roughly the same number of people every month, with the exception of odd dates in November, December, and January. The trail is closed to trekkers in February for maintenance.

Make Advanced Reservations

Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South America. If you want to hike the Inca Trail during the high season (May–October), book six months ahead. For the rest of the year, three to four months is recommended.

Choose Your Trail

The popular Inca Trail trek takes two to four days exploring smaller Incan ruins before arriving at Machu Picchu. Longer treks are also available. All trekkers must hike with a licensed guide; there is a limit of 500 people per day. Sign up early—six months or more ahead of time. Bookings are almost exclusively online. To check availability, visit the website www.machupicchu.gob.pe.

If you are too late for the Inca Trail, there are several excellent alternate routes which do not require permits. The Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an excellent option: you experience the beauty and excitement of the Inca Trail without having to commit to four days of challenging trekking. The route has a maximum elevation of 2,707 meters over roughly nine kilometers of trail leading to the citadel of Machu Picchu. The route requires a trail permit and licensed guide, but usually permits are still available up to a month prior to your travel date.

3 people stand on a mountain admiring the peaks of the Urubamba Range along Peru's Inca Trail
A trekking group admires the peaks of the Urubamba Range along the Inca Trail. Photo © Andean Treks, Inc.

Consider a Day Trip

If you don’t have the time, ability, or confidence for a trek, consider a two-day tour from Cusco. Most tours spend the first day exploring the Sacred Valley by van before reaching the small town of Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo, a PeruRail train continues on to Aguas Calientes, the tiny town below Machu Picchu. The next morning, shuttle buses begin heading up to Machu Picchu every five to fifteen minutes, starting at 5am. Visitors with tickets in hand begin lining up at 4am or even earlier, hoping to get on the first bus and avoid the crowds.

Choose Your Guide

It’s easiest to sign up with a reputable agency and let them take care of all the details. Tour companies from Lima, Cusco, and abroad organize both day trips and the longer hikes.

If you can find a reliable trekking or climbing guide, available for US$80–110 per day, he or she can organize all these details for you for an extra fee.

Plan for Acclimatization

Altitude sickness is a real health concern when traveling in the Andes. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, quickened heartbeats, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

After arriving in the Andes, plan for at least three to four days to acclimatize before heading out on a trek. One strategy is sleeping low and hiking high: spend your first few days in the Sacred Valley and then hike up out of the valley floor from places like Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo, gradually adjusting to the higher elevations.

Minimize altitude sickness by avoiding heavy exercise until you get acclimatized and by drinking plenty of water and liquids in general. Also avoid alcohol; dehydration is a real risk at high altitudes. Many travelers carry acetazolamide, commonly known as Diamox, usually prescribed by a doctor in doses of 125–250 milligrams, taken during the morning and evening with meals. However, these medications are not for everybody and can cause drowsiness. In Cusco, coca leaf tea (mate de coca), taken in plentiful amounts, is the best remedy. A 100-milligram dose of the Chinese herb ginkgo biloba, taken twice a day, seems to work efficiently too. If you feel sick, it’s good to know that all hospitals and clinics in Cusco have bottled oxygen.

Storm clouds gather over Cusco
Storm clouds over Cusco. Photo © Fabio Lamanna/123rf.

Book Your Flights

For flights to Cusco, the main carriers are LAN, Avianca, Peruvian Airlines, STAR Peru, and LC Peru. LAN has the most flights and best-equipped airplanes, but unless you’re booking six months out, it is typically considerably more expensive than its competitors.

Book Your Hotels

Just as the trek permits sell out, so does your lodging!

Remember Your Passport

No one wants to get to the airport all set for adventure and have to race home for your documentation; put your passport in your suitcase first thing.


Andean Treks has been operating treks and tours to Machu Picchu and beyond since 1980, making it one of the most experienced adventure operators in Peru. Their reputation is built on reliable operation, attention to detail, and fair treatment of porters. With an operations office in Cusco and sales office in USA, their experts can answer your detailed questions and speed your trip planning. In addition to treks they can assist with custom Peru adventures, as well as addressing your travel needs in Galapagos and Patagonia. USA toll-free telephone 800/683-8148.


Related Travel Guide


Pin For Later

Machu Picchu Trek Planning Pinterest graphic

Four-Day Best of Southern California Itinerary

This Southern California itinerary starts in Los Angeles, explores Santa Monica and Long Beach, and ends in sunny San Diego.

Day 1

Fly into LAX and rent a car for your Southern California road trip. Walk down the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and a stop at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can find the handprints of your favorite movie stars. Or, for aesthetic stimulation, tour the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. End the day with a cocktail at Sunset Boulevard’s Rainbow Bar & Grill.

TCL Chinese Theatre. Photo © Valentin Armianu/Dreamstime.
TCL Chinese Theatre. Photo © Valentin Armianu/Dreamstime.

Day 2

Grab breakfast The Griddle Café before heading to the coast for a day of culture. Jump on U.S. 101 to I-405 south to visit the world-famous Getty Center. Admire Richard Meier’s soaring architecture before gazing at the magnificent works inside. Continue south on I-405 exiting towards Santa Monica. Enjoy the amusement park rides of the Santa Monica Pier or just take a break on Santa Monica Beach. Stroll along the Venice Boardwalk to take in the bodybuilders, street performers, and alternative-culture types of Venice Beach. After a day gazing at the sea, dine on seafood at Salt Air.

For the ultimate in SoCal kitsch, you can't miss the Santa Monica Pier.
For the ultimate in SoCal kitsch, you can’t miss the Santa Monica Pier. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

If You Have More Time

Kids (and kids at heart) might prefer to skip the L.A. beaches and spend a full day and night at Disneyland instead.

Day 3

Follow I-405 south, stopping off in Long Beach for a tour on The Queen Mary, an ocean liner now home to restaurants, a hotel, and a museum. From Long Beach, head south on Highway 1 through the North County beach towns of Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. Stop off for a surf or a swim, or soldier on to La Jolla Cove to go kayaking or snorkeling. Then satiate that appetite with lobster tacos from Puesto.

La Jolla Caves. Photo © Dollar Photo Club.
La Jolla Caves. Photo © Dollar Photo Club.

Day 4

Easygoing San Diego is a great place to end any vacation. Visit Balboa Park, where you’ll spend most of your time at the San Diego Zoo. Follow a day in the park with a meal in the Gaslamp Quarter, then end your day with a craft beer at one of San Diego’s many breweries, like the giant Stone World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station.

Balboa Park in San Diego. Photo © F11Photo/Dreamstime.
Balboa Park in San Diego. Photo © F11Photo/Dreamstime.

Related Travel Guide

Thousand Words

Thousand Words coverThousand Words

By Jennifer Brown

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Subjects: Personal Development: Friendship, Teen Life: Personal Development, Teen Life: Relationships/Sexuality

Grade: 10-12

 

Educator Guide Book Club Discussion Guide

Ashleigh’s boyfriend, Kaleb, is about to leave for college. So at a legendary end-of-summer pool party, Ashleigh’s friends suggest that she text him a picture of herself—sans swimsuit—to take with him. Before she can change her mind, Ashleigh has snapped a photo and hit “send.”

 

But when Kaleb and Ashleigh go through a bad breakup, Kaleb forwards the text to his baseball team. Soon the photo has gone viral, attracting the attention of the school board, the local police, and the media. In the midst of the scandal, Ashleigh feels completely alone— until she meets Mack at community service. Not only does Mack offer a fresh chance at friendship, but he’s the one person in town who received the text of Ashleigh’s photo and didn’t look.

 

Acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a gripping novel about honesty, betrayal, redemption, and friendship, as Ashleigh finds that while a picture may be worth a thousand words . . . it doesn’t always tell the whole story.

 

PRAISE

★ “Thousand Words is a powerful, timely, and compulsively readable story…This is an excellent choice for book discussions and a must-purchase for all libraries.” —VOYA

 

Moroccan Street Food

Grabbing a bite at one of the seemingly infinite snack carts in Morocco’s medinas is a wonderful way to interact with locals and indulge in some fast food, Morocco-style. For a true taste of local flavor, it doesn’t get any better (or cheaper)! Moroccan street food generally ranges between 1-10Dh per serving, making this ideal for those traveling on a shoestring budget.

Evening at Jemaa el-Fnaa, where visitors can find all manner of Moroccan street food.
Evening at Jemaa el-Fnaa, where visitors can find all manner of food stands and local culture. Photo © Simon Hack/Dreamstime.

One of the more common street foods you’ll find is a steaming bowl of snail soup, a brothy treat perfect for the escargot lover. The snails are typically seasoned with a warm mix of spices such as licorice, cinnamon, bay leaves, and the eponymous ras el-hanoot.

In the north, you’ll likely see street vendors with large, round pies on hot plates. These are caliniti, derived from the Spanish caliente: a savory, flan-like treat made of chickpeas. It’s almost always generously seasoned with cumin and har (a spicy chili pepper), but if you’re up for it, dial up the heat by asking for more spices to shake on yourself.

Another chickpea treat is hoomus (from hummus). This steamed snack of whole chickpeas is generously seasoned with salt and cumin. It’s something akin to popcorn, usually served in a paper cone and made to be eaten on the go.

moroccan street food includes snail soup
Bissara soup in the Fez medina. Photo © Lucas Peters.

A more filling indulgence is bissara, generally made with fava beans, though sometimes with split peas. This is a thick, hearty soup, popular with sailors for its rumored ability to heal rheumatism and pulmonary disease. This staple is usually served with a generous half loaf of round bread, plenty of olive oil, and chili pepper.

Barbecues are also immensely popular, offering brochettes of seasoned chicken and beef, as are the fruit vendors, with tropical delicacies sold by the slice. For some energy on the go, consider the local nutjob who’ll be selling a variety of roasted nuts—such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews—that can be had for peanuts…horrible puns fully intended.

To wash it all down, consider grabbing a refreshing, energizing sugar cane juice — these are surprisingly full of proteins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and potassium, as well as vitamins A, B-complex, and C. Of course, if sugar cane juice isn’t your thing, fresh-squeezed orange juice or a free public water fountain are never far away. Whatever you guzzle, you’ll want to pack your own bottle to wash and refill as the alternatives are plastic cups or glasses that are not always thoroughly cleaned.


Related Travel Guide


Pin For Later

Travelers on a budget will definitely want to try Moroccan street food. Find out where to find it and what to eat.

History of Traditional Hawaiian Foods (and Where to Try Them on the Big Island)

I was first drawn to the Big Island of Hawai‘i sixteen years ago after a lecture by Haunani-Kay Trask, a political scientist and Hawaiian nationalist who came to my university to speak about the rights of native Hawaiians. At the time, I knew Hawaii only as the place in my parents’ ’70s honeymoon photos, or as the tropical vacation getaway in ads and movies. I was surprised to learn about the rich, complicated, and occasionally tumultuous history of the state, beginning with the settlement of the indigenous people of Hawaii, the colonial period, and through to Hawaiian statehood in 1959.

While a vast body of literature exists detailing everything from Captain Cook’s failed exploration of the islands to the recent struggle over Mauna Kea (as it relates to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement), to me, a cultural history of the Big Island can best be learned on a plate.

The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage by Rachel Lauden is part food history, part cookbook, and it’s my go-to book to better understand how common foods found on the Big Island are deeply embedded in the history of Hawaii.

Hawaii's traditional plate lunch featuring lau lau. Photo © cokemomo/123rf.
Hawaii’s traditional plate lunch featuring lau lau. Photo © cokemomo/123rf.

Traditional Hawaiian Foods and their History

Lau Lau

Lau lau, which translates to “leaf, leaf,” is technically is a way of cooking, but it’s also the name of a traditional Native Hawaiian dish prepared by wrapping pork and/or fish in taro leaves and steaming it over an imu–an underground fire. Today the dish is prepared with any protein and steamed in the oven. Oftentimes, lau lau is part of a plate lunch.

Where to get it: Kaaloa’s Super J’s in Captain Cook. Even people who say they don’t like lau lau love it here (I can vouch that it’s delicious!).

The Plate Lunch

The quintessential local food, a plate lunch usually consists of white rice, macaroni salad, and a meat entrée. Found at food trucks, drive-ins, and parking lot pop-up stalls, this carb-filled dish originated in the late 1800s and offered a cheap, filling lunch for plantation workers. The various types of meat entrées reflect the many origins of plantation workers, including places as diverse as China, Japan, the Philippines, and Portuguese colonies.

Where to get it: The Hawaiian Style Cafe in Hilo or Waimea offers both quality and quantity in a nice (air-conditioned) setting. You can also ask for variations such as brown instead of white rice.

Malasada

Malasada, a deep fried pastry that somewhat resembles the Polish paczki donut, was brought to Hawaii in the late 1800s by Portuguese plantation workers from the Madeira and Azores islands. Traditional malasadas just are rolled in sugar, but these days, you’re more likely to taste them stuffed with mango, passionfruit, or even coconut pudding.

Malasada. Photo © Bree Kessler.
Malasada. Photo © Bree Kessler.

Where to get it: The classics are found at Tex Drive-in in Honokaa or Punalu’u Bake Shop in Naalehu.

Spam Musubi

A distant cousin of sushi, spam musubi looks like a long, uncut sushi roll with a thin-cut piece of shoyu-seasoned spam sitting on top of a layer of rice and then wrapped in nori (dry roasted seaweed). Created during World War II when spam was plentiful on the islands, the origins of musubi can be traced back to Japanese internment camps.

Spam Musubi. Photo © Kimi Owens.
Spam Musubi. Photo © Kimi Owens.

Where to get it: You can find variations on spam musubi at any convenience or grocery store. One of my favorites is at the 7-11 in Kurtistown where it’s served hot with an egg on top of the spam layer.


Related Travel Guide

Amazing Northern Baja Cuisine Experiences

In the past few years, Northern Baja California has stepped into the spotlight for its burgeoning culinary scene. It’s a cuisine that focuses on fresh local ingredients like seafood, locally raised meats, regional cheeses, and native produce. These ingredients are prepared with Mexican traditions and flavors while adding a twist of Mediterranean and Asian influence.

Chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, and Rick Bayless have visited and promoted the region and Baja California cuisine restaurants are opening around the world. With everything from street food to fine dining and craft beer or wine to wash it all down, it’s not hard to see why Northern Baja is one of the best new culinary hot spots.

http://moon.com/books/moon-zion-and-bryce/
Fish tacos are a well known food in Baja. Photo © Brent Hofacker/123rf.

Cuisine Experiences in Tijuana

Tijuana is a city that has it all in terms of food, with savory street food and beautiful, refined restaurants. Located just across the border from San Diego, Tijuana also has a growing craft beer scene that echoes that of their neighbors to the north. The city is going through a cultural renaissance, with the culinary scene leading the way.

Misión 19

No conversation about Northern Baja’s culinary scene is complete without mentioning the fine dining restaurant Misión 19. Chef Javier Plascencia is the poster boy for Baja California cuisine, and at Misión 19 he delivers dishes like filet mignon, pork belly, bone marrow, and octopus in a sleek and sophisticated setting in one of Tijuana’s most upscale highrise buildings.

Las Ahumaderas

Also refered to as “Taco Alley,” Las Ahumaderas is a series of six taco stands that have been serving up tacos to locals since 1960. Don’t miss the adobada tacos (called al pastor in other parts of Mexico), marinated pork that roasts on a spit.

Food Garden

A great way to sample a variety of local food is to head to one of Tijuana’s food colectivos (collectives). With a nice courtyard setting and a variety of options for tasty food, Tijuana’s first colectivo was Food Garden, and it remains a local favorite, with options like chilaquiles, vegetarian food, and crepes. They now have a second location in Plaza Rio mall.

Tijuana's Food Garden is a local favorite. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.
Tijuana’s Food Garden is a local favorite. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Plaza Fiesta

While Tijuana has a number of individual breweries with tasting rooms that are worth visiting, such as Norte Brewing Co. and Mamut, many beer drinkers will enjoy a visit to Plaza Fiesta. Here, dozens of Northern Baja craft breweries have gathered in an old defunct mall to create a collection of mini tasting rooms.

Cuisine Experiences in Ensenada

Just down the coast a few hours from Tijuana, Ensenada is a port town offering delicious seafood that comes straight out of the Pacific. There’s a large craft beer scene here as well, and everything is enjoyed with a beautiful ocean backdrop.

La Guerrerense

Called the “best street cart in the world” by Anthony Bourdain, La Guerrerense is a must-visit for any visitor to Ensenada. Here, Sabina Bandera and her family serve up sophisticated seafood ceviches and tostadas like the award-winning ceviche de erizo con almeja (sea urchin with clams).

Tacos El Fenix

As Ensenada is one of the Baja cities that claims to be the home of the fish taco (the other is San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez), the battered and delicious street food is not to be missed here. Locals head to Tacos El Fenix, where they’ve been serving up shrimp and fish tacos since 1970.

Boules

For a nice dining experience in Ensenada, hip locals and foodie travelers head to eat at Boules (tel. 646/175-8769). Enjoy dishes like queso fundido de mar (seafood in melted cheese), crab ravioli, and tuetano (bone marrow). Seating is outdoors in a patio setting under trees with strung lights.

Baja Brews

Ensenada, like Tijuana, is home to a number of great microbreweries. Independent tasting rooms like Agua Mala and Wendlandt are favorites with locals and visitors. The beer colectivo Baja Brews features stands from a number of local craft breweries as well as stunning ocean views.

Enjoy Baja brews with a view. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.
Enjoy Baja brews with a view. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Cuisine Experiences in Valle de Guadalupe

Mexico’s premier wine region is located less than two hours south of San Diego. With over 120 wineries and a number of gourmet restaurants to accompany them, Valle de Guadalupe is attracting travelers, foodies, and oenophiles from all over the world. The web of dirt roads is spotted with beautiful boutique wineries, intimate B&Bs, and outdoor campestre restaurants, giving the region rustic charm and character.

Las Nubes

With incredible views, a large outdoor patio, friendly service, and wines that are easy to drink, Las Nubes is a definite crowd-pleaser. Order one their cheese plates to nosh on for a taste of regional cheeses and local olive tapenade.

Lechuza

You’ll need a reservation to visit the small and intimate family-operated winery, Lechuza. Here you’ll find a tranquil boutique winery offering personal attention, and a rare chance to talk with the winemakers themselves. With some of the best wines coming out of Mexico, Lechuza was recently picked to be on the wine list at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa.

Finca Altozano

For incredible food and a casual but chic atmosphere, locals and tourists flock to Javier Plascencia’s campestre restaurant, Finca Altozano. The food is cooked over a wood-fire grill and produces unforgettable flavors in dishes such as grilled octopus and lamb birria. After your meal, grab a glass of wine and climb up to the top of one of the giant wine barrels scattered around the property to relax enjoy the vineyard and valley views.

Dine at Finca Altozano for incredible food and a casual but chic atmosphere. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.
Dine at Finca Altozano for incredible food and a casual but chic atmosphere. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Malva

Diners have the option of dining a la carte or choosing from a seven or ten course dining experience at Chef Roberto Alcocer’s Malva. The beautiful outdoor deck with a tall palapa roof is nestled into a grove of trees overlooking the valley, and gives the sensation of being in an exclusive treehouse.


Related Travel Guide

We use cookies to enhance your visit to us. By using our website you agree to our use of these cookies. Find out more.