Food, Where to Eat

The Best $15 Menus During dineL.A. (July 12-26) You Have to Try

July 8, 2019 by Christina Champlin

dineL.A. Restaurant Week returns for its summer edition from July 12-26. The two-week promotion features special prix-fixe menus from over 400 restaurants across Los Angeles.

Here’s how it works: participating restaurants offer tasting menus from $15 to $35 during lunch and $29 to $99+ during dinner. Usually we dig through all the menus to find the ones we think are the most worthy to visit. This time we are zeroing in on the best $15 deals during dineL.A., leaving you satisfied in the stomach and wallet.

Here’s a quick rundown of $15 lunch menus that should be on your checklist as you eat your way through the city the next two weeks.

HiHo Cheeseburger

Take a bite into Wagyu Cheeseburgers during dineL.A. HiHo is offering a triple patty with hand-cut fries and your choice of a slice of pie or small shake. The lunch deal is available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. –> More information

Cosa Buona

Zach Pollack is not only a pasta master he’s also managed to produce some of the best pizza pies in Echo Park. The menu for dineL.A. will have you choose between a green salad or marinated olives with garlic bread. Your main is either a Veggie Supreme Pizza, BBQ Chicken Pizza or The Stepmother, an Italian Submarine sandwich. The menu is available Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 2:30 p.m. –> More information


Some of the finest modern Filipino cuisine can be found at LASA in Downtown Los Angeles. Named a 2018 Food & Wine Restaurant of the Year, this is one of the best restaurants participating during dineL.A. Available only on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You’ll dine on a starter made of watermelon and cucumber and move onto your choice of Longsilog, a dish made up of house-made sausage, garlic rice and a fried egg; or if you have a sweet tooth a Pan Del Sal French Toast with whipped coconut cream and a cured egg. –> More information

Eataly L.A.

It’s a pizza and pasta affair during dineL.A. at Century City’s Italian marketplace. Stop into La Pizza & La Pasta one of several restaurants at Eataly L.A. to enjoy a starter and a main course. For starters, diners can choose between house-made mozzarella, bruschetta or an arugula trumpet mushroom salad. Then it’s a choice between a brisket ragù tagliatelle, an Italian style niçoise salad and two types of pizzas. This deal is available everyday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. –> More information

Chao Krung Thai

The second oldest Thai restaurant in Los Angeles, Chao Krung is over 50 years-old. For dineL.A. the restaurant will feature some of their signature dishes for diners to enjoy. Starters include your choice of Tom Yum Chicken soup, wok fried cabbage and “Thai Dim Sum.” Mains include rice dish Gra Paw Lab Khoa Beef, Thai Green Curry Tofu and pad Thai Chicken. The two course meal includes your choice of Thai iced tea or a Thai Pancake with condensed milk. The dineL.A. menu is available daily until 3 p.m. –> More information

Voodoo Doughnut

Not necessarily a place to have lunch but these famous donuts are a transplant from Portland Oregon that’s taken L.A. by storm. So tasty that people happily stand inline for these sweet treats, they’ve decided to get in on the dineL.A. action by offering a Bakers Half Dozen featuring the famous spooky looking Voodoo Donut and a special dineL.A. edition donut made of bread pudding and topped with white chocolate. –> More information

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

This oyster purveyor located at ROWDTLA also makes one of the most delicious burgers in town. During dineL.A. you get to pick between their popular Rapp Burger, a Tuna Melt Conserva or a Charred Avocado Salad. Three side options also come with the meal. This deal is only available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. –> More information


Hand rolls from SUGARFISH are so legendary that they’ve opened a separate sushi bar entirely dedicated to the handheld dish. During dineL.A. all three locations (Downtown, Westwood and Santa Monica) will participate. Diners will get three hand rolls (Toro, cucumber and crab) and a salmon sashimi. –> More information

Remember you can check the entire list of participating restaurants from all price ranges on the official dineL.A. site here.

Food, Where to Eat

14 Mother’s Day Brunches in L.A. for 2019

May 9, 2019 by Christina Champlin
Photo Credit: Farmhouse

It’s kind of a cliche but we know you’re thinking about taking mom to brunch for Mother’s Day weekend (and why not!). There’s still time to make reservations but you have to act fast. Below are a few choice options for where to brunch with mom in L.A. for 2019, and and a few other fun things to do with the special woman in your life for this Sunday, May 12. Enjoy!

1. Moms who are fans of farm to table dining can head to Farmhouse Los Angeles located at the Beverly Center where Executive Farmer Nathan Peitso and his team is serving a Mother’s Day special brunch prix fixe menu for $42. Menu options include fig & ricotta toast, fine herbs goat cheese omelette, warm grain bowl, lemon cheesecake and more. –> More information

2. Treat mom to a lavish brunch buffet at Avec Nous, located inside Viceroy L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills. On Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Avec Nous will open up the property’s historic pavilion room for a buffet featuring a seafood bar, omelet station, crepe station and carving station as well as assorted salads, charcuterie and pastries. The buffet cost $110 per adult and $35 for children under 12. Bottomless mimosas cost an additional $20.–> More information

3. Rooted LA and Dry River Brewing in Downtown will host Sours and Succulents on Sunday where beer loving mom’s can enjoy a flight of beers and create a succulent arrangement to take home. Tickets cost $50 per person. –> More information

4. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar will host a Mother’s Day weekend menu for Saturday and Sunday offering a Mom-Mosa Flight for $15, Strawberry Souffle Pancakes for $16 and Mama’s Coffee Cake ($14). –> More information

5. Celebrate mom all weekend long by first stopping at ROW DTLA for their Mother’s Day celebration with plenty of activities for the whole family including glam sessions from BeGlammed and workshops with Makers Mess and Still Life Ceramics. There will be special deals and activities from many vendors at ROW DTLA and dollar oysters and rosé specials will be offered at Rappahannock Oyster Bar. Baby2Baby will be onsite to accept donations like diapers, toys and other supplies for Angelenos who want to give back. –> More information

6. Cattle & Claw located at the Sofitel hotel will host a Mother’s Day brunch buffet this Sunday inspired by spring. Highlights include a Spring Squash Frittata, Maple & Brown Sugar Glazed Ham, Brick Chicken with Cacciatore Sauce and Creamy Polenta and more. As for dessert there’s a whimsical Donut Wall, a Chocolate Fountain, and Nutella Waffles. The brunch cost $69 per adult, $34 per child 12 and under and free for kids under 5. –> More information

7. Take mom out for a meal and give her a little gift. Otoño in Highland park will be hosting a festive Mother’s Day brunch and dinner on Sunday where all mothers in attendance will be treated to flowers and homemade chocolates. –> More information

8. The Front Yard located at The Garland in North Hollywood will host a Mother’s Day brunch buffet featuring capicola ham eggs benedict, tomato and watermelon gazpacho, chilaquiles, a waffle station and ice cream cart. The meal cost $59 per adult and kids 12 and under cost $29. –> More information

9. Kreation Organic wants to help you save some money this Mother’s Day. Stop by any Kreation Kafe for a free O-Mega Bowl and Matchappreciated Latte with the purchase of an entrée of $20 or more. The O-Mega Bowl is made up of six organic egg whites scrambled with spinach, organic free-range chicken, bruschetta, quinoa and avocado. Their Matchappreciated Latte is a whipped matcha with coconut mylk and vanilla. –> More information

10. Treat mom to a meal with a view at Dekkadance located inside the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown. Their special Mother’s Day buffet features made-to-order brunch specialties, a chilled seafood station, duck confit, cioppino, herb roasted salmon, New York strip, porchetta, house-made desserts, a children’s menu and many more. The buffet cost $90 per adult and $40 per child (ages 5-12). –> More information

11. Hotel Figueroa is hosting a Mother’s Day Brunch buffet with live music this Sunday sponsored by Veuve Clicquot. The buffet cost $65 per person, mothers will enjoy complimentary bottomless mimosas and guests can get in on the bottomless mimosa fun for an additional $11. Children 12 and under dine for free. –> More information

12. Celebrate Mother’s Day at OUE Skyspace LA where mom’s will enjoy 360-degree views of Los Angeles, a delicious breakfast buffet, access to all levels of OUE Skypace LA and a ride on the Skyslide (unlimited rides for kids 5-12). The event cost $70 for adults, $40 for kids 3-12 and children under 2 are free. –> More information

13. On Sunday The Bazaar by Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel will host a fabulous Mother’s Day Brunch. Highlights include the signature Valencian-style paella, and several live stations featuring oysters and caviar, Jamon and cheese, traditional carvings, a sweets bat and more. The buffet cost $120 per adult and $45 for children (3-11 ages). –> More information

14. If you’re thinking mom might enjoy a brunch with a show consider VIP brunch experience featuring Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna at the LA Waterfront. Mom’s special brunch package features premium tickets to the show, access to the exclusive VIP suite, and a menu that includes chef attended food stations (including waffles), passed hors d’oeuvres, desserts, sparkling mimosas, and more. 

Food, Happenings

12 Cinco de Mayo Parties and Food Specials in Los Angeles

May 2, 2019 by Christina Champlin
Photo Credit: Tam O’Shanter

There are plenty of parties and food-centric events happening for Cinco de Mayo this weekend. From an all you can eat and drink party, to cheap tacos and loads of drink specials. There’s even a Star Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo mashup party happening in Downtown Los Angeles for those who like their tequila shots with a side of Wookie. Take a look at our round up below of fun parties and food events happening for Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles and remember to celebrate responsibly.

1. Tam O’Shanter will host an all-inclusive Cinco de Mayo celebration with unlimited margaritas and Palomas; Don Julio tasting and an all you can eat taco station. Entertainment and giveaways will also be happening during the party. Tickets cost $89 per person. –> More information

2. Arts District cocktail bar Here and Now is celebrating both Star Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo with a mashup weekend of festivities named Estar Guars Weekend. Highlights include Star Wars loteria and trivia, vendors, a print signing from cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, a pet costume contest, and a vintage espanol vinyl set from DJ Lito on Sunday. An exclusive themed food and drink menu will also be available with goodies like Jarjar Links Mexican Street Dog, Yoda Soda and Wookie Cookie Sandwich. –> More information

3. Gracias Madre host their 2nd Annual Pop-up Margarita Garden Party on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. On the menu is street corn, fruit salad, cauliflower tacos and nachos. Folks can wash it all down with Purista Margaritas, Mezcal Mules and Sangria. 5% of the total sales will got to fund a memorial for a former employee and to the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. –> More information

4. On Sunday Nixo Patio Lounge will host food and drink specials that include Partida Tequila margaritas at buy-2-get-1-free ($12), queso fundido with spiced chorizo, mini carnitas tacos with smokey salsa negra, crispy pigs’ ear and mahi mahi aguachile. A DJ will be spinning latin beats as well. Party happens 5-9 p.m. –> More information

5. Te’Kila located in Sherman Oaks will host a Cinco de Drinko all-day happy hour offering house margaritas for $6, Mimosas $5, and Bloody Mary’s $7 plus an additional happy hour food menu. –> More information

6. Wake up early on Saturday and Sunday to score 50% off any brunch plate at Public School Restaurant + Bar (Sherman Oaks and Culver City) before 11 a.m. They’ll also have bottomless cocktails, including Bloody Mary’s, Micheladas and mimosas, for $15 per person. –> More information

7. Azule Taqueria in Santa Monica will price every taco on the menu for $2. This includes the Beach Barbacoa, charred Pineapple Pork Belly, and a roasted Cauliflower Al Pastor. $3 Tecate and Corona bottles, $4 Micheladas and a bucket of 6 beers for $27 will make this a true taco party. –> More information

8. For a health focused celebration stop by the Brentwood location of Kreation Organic’s for guilt-free fare this weekend. Dine on a Keto Taco Salad and Flakita Margaritas made with Kreation’s Organic Cold-Pressed Master Cleanse (alkaline water, agave, lemon, cayenne), tequila-infused sabe blanco, lime, orange Juice and agave. –> More information

Photo Credit: The Pie Hole

9. All locations of The Pie Hole will offer Strawberry Margarita Pie Holes for Cinco de Mayo weekend priced at $1.50 each. The Margarita Pie Holes are stuffed with strawberry filling, topped with red triple sec icing, a candy lime slice and salt flakes. –> More information

10. STRFSH in Santa Monica will serve up a Cinco Combo featuring two beer battered fish tacos, a side of fries and a drink for $10. –> More information

11. Tocaya Organica will be offering select dish combinations for $5.50. Margaritas also for $5.50 will be available at select Tocaya Organica locations. –> More information

12. There’s a Cinco De Mayo block party happening at The Victorian in Santa Monica. There will be four rooms featuring taco trucks, tequila shots, DJ’s and more. –> More information

Sponsored, Travel

Exploring the Morongo Basin of San Bernardino County (Sand to Snow Monument, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Pioneertown, Yucca Valley, and Landers)

April 30, 2019 by Christina Champlin and Brian Champlin

The following is a sponsored collaboration between San Bernardino County and We Like L.A.

Mission Creek Preserve / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

So far through our ongoing series of content produced in partnership with the County of San Bernardino we’ve had some terrific experiences. Back in February we played in the snow of the SBC mountains, and then to kick off the spring we spent a week in Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms researching things to do in the area.

For our third installment we’re back in the Morongo Basin exploring some of the not-quite-as-well known communities including Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Pioneertown, and Landers. Time and again what we’ve come to recognize is there are A LOT to do that you’ve probably never heard about, or probably driven right past and not even realized (this was true for us, at least).

With Joshua Tree National Park claiming much the attention from visitors to the local area, the communities listed above can make for great getaway destinations if you’re looking for an alternative desert road trip where crowds won’t have as big an impact on your experience. That’s especially the case for peak tourist seasons during the springtime and holidays (and it helps combat over-tourism too!)

That said, we think we’ve got more than a few gems that you’ll want to check out for yourself, so let’s dive in!

Morongo Valley / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Morongo Valley

Drive the 10 freeway out toward Palm Springs, exit the 62 north and in about 10 miles you’ve crossed the Riverside County line and entered Morongo Valley. If you’re just on your way out to J-Tree you’ll probably drive right through and not even notice there are a couple of excellent hiking spots along the route that deserve your attention.

Mission Creek Preserve: Part of the Wildlands Conservacy, the largest nonprofit nature preserve system in California, the Mission Creek Preserve is well maintained and has limited foot traffic. At times you might be the only ones around for miles (make sure you sign in at the trailhead!) You can enter MCP at the intersection of Mission Creek Road and Highway 62. You’ll drive on a dirt road until you reach a locked gate and parking area. You can walk through the gate and down the road about a mile to get to a second parking lot (Stone Creek Parking Area) where the trailhead is, or if you want to bypass the extra walking, get in touch with The Wildlands Conservancy ahead of time to get a code to open the lock so you can drive through. A short walk from the trailhead leads to Mission Creek, which depending on the time of year and annual rainfall may provide more or less of an obstacle (plan on getting your feet at least puddle-deep wet). Once you hop through the creek you can head up about 2 miles through a winding, unshaded trail to get a glimpse of the Pacific Crest Trail. There are plenty of flowers in bloom during the springtime, and lots of lizards and birds about. This is a great morning walk, but on a sweltering summer afternoon may not be as enjoyable for obvious reasons. Either way, make sure to bring your sunscreen, hat and water. → More information

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve / Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve: Part of the Sand to Snow Monument, BMCP offers a variety of hiking trails of various lengths. You could do as little as a 20 minute stroll on a boardwalk or go on a 9 mile up and back hike on Canyon Trail. Springtime brings wildflowers and if you slow down and look closely you might get a glimpse of wildlife in the marsh habitat or up in the trees (we saw a Gilbert’s Skink for the first time while on the boardwalk!) The BMCP is also internationally recognized as a bird-watching site where several rare species nest and stop by during migration seasons. So far BMCP has managed to record 254 species in the Morongo Valley alone. → More information

Cactus Mart / Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Cactus Mart: Desert plant lovers need to stop by Cactus Mart a plant emporium housing a variety of cacti, succulents and other native plants. The main attraction is their “Dig Your Own” cactus for the modest price of 59 cents. → More information

Yucca Valley

Yucca Valley is the second largest (by population) community in the Morongo Basin. Here you’ll find a unique variety of shops, a couple of excellent cafes, and central access to the adjacent Morongo Basin communities. Town center is about 20 miles from the west entrance station of Joshua Tree National Park.

Sky Village Market Place / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Sky Village Market Place: Open on weekends, the outdoor shopping space operates like a flea market with outdoor vendors selling used items that range from vintage hats to art and furniture on seven acres of land. Make sure to stop by brick and mortar shop Dakota Bob’s near the entrance, it’s the premier spot with a huge selection of “broken-in” western wear. → More information

Bob’s Crystal Cave / Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Bob’s Crystal Cave: Located on the grounds of The Sky Village Market Place in Yucca Valley, the Crystal Cave a psychedelic meditative space created with spray foam and thousands of crystals, shells and porcelain each arranged by hand can be found near the Sky Village Cafe. You can’t go inside the cave but port holes surround the cave from the outside allowing visitors to to peer into the trippy creation. Bob’s Crystal Cave is open only on the weekends. → More information

The BLT at Frontier Cafe / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Frontier Café: Being back in Yucca Valley for the second time, and now having visited Frontier Café about a half dozen times, it’s safe to say this is one of the most popular spots in town. Everything we’ve had on the menu has been solid (salads, BLT, breakfast sandwich, and more) so you can’t go wrong there. If in need of somewhere to do a little work while you’re in town that has WiFi, this will be your go-to. Just be sure to get there early to snag a table. → More information

Cedar & Sage Wellness Studio / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Cedar & Sage Wellness Studio: Right across from Frontier Cafe, Cedar & Sage offers a variety of yoga classes, sound bath meditations as well as community hikes, wellness workshops and more. On our visit we enjoyed the Saturday Morning Power Hour yoga class and felt invigorated for the rest of the day. Classes are suitable for advanced and beginners, call ahead to see which class best suits your needs. → More information

Crispy Blackened Chicken Plate at La Copine / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

La Copine: Located in Flamingo Heights (north part of Yucca Valley) the New-American restaurant is one of the most popular and hip places to eat in the area. On the menu is a mishmash of Italian to Southern, French and even South Asian inspired dishes. Personally we couldn’t get enough of the wild caught shrimp ceviche, Eggplant Al Forno and the Crispy Blackened Chicken with cheese grits. La Copine is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 2 to 7 p.m. we suggest coming early to secure a table or be prepared to wait. Luckily the friendly staff will happily serve you beer and wine while you hang out. Peek around the corner of the deck and you’ll find Teocali, a shop inside an Airstream promoting handmade, fair trade, sustainable textiles and accessories. → More information

Larry’s & Milt Western Cafe: This western cafe serves heaps of biscuits and gravy, hearty breakfast plates and omelets that will keep you full for the entire day. A great spot for breakfast lovers and folks who need to fuel up for a big hike. → More information

The End / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Additional Shopping in Yucca Valley: On the stretch of Twentynine Palms highway in Yucca Valley you’ll find your pick of cute stores. From hand selected vintage at Funky & Darn Near New and The End to trendy hipster desert wear at Hoof & the Horn.


Following Pioneertown Rd. northwest from Yucca Valley for about 15 minutes and you’ll hit Pioneertown, an unincorporated community originally built in 1946 for film and television westerns. What was once a set for movies and TV is now a tourism draw where visitors can explore local shops operating in select buildings, and watch Old Western reenactments happen on Mane Street (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) during the weekend from April through October at 2:30 p.m.

Pappy + Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace: Operating since 1982, they are best known for their live music events and Santa Maria style mesquite bbq. Many famous faces have played there including Sir Paul McCartney. Bands play Thursday through Sunday evenings. Mondays are open mic nights. Keep in mind they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. → More information

Pioneertown Motel / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Pioneertown Motel: Located a short walk from Pappy’s is the Pioneertown Motel, which was our home away from home on our most recent visit. We found it to be a convenient and peaceful spot to rest your head as you explore the Morongo Basin and its surrounding area. Rooms have a rustic western chic appeal with extremely comfy beds. Amenities are limited but they have serviceable (though not lightning fast) WiFi and a main lodge with coffee, tea and water available 24/7. The motel’s backyard is the desert with towering Joshua Trees and other local plants. It’s the perfect place to relax on hammocks and do some stargazing, or even try your hand at a little astro photography (see our attempt below).  → More information

Stargazing at Pioneertown Motel / Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Pioneertown Mountain Preserve: This 25,500 acre wilderness preserve offers some terrific moderate level hikes and walks, including a route to the ruins of the Olsen homestead, and an out-and-back 7 mile hike to Chapposa Peak, which will put you over 5,000 feet above sea level. The terrain is rocky you won’t find shade, so make sure to take your time, bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water. -> More information


Head north on the 247 past Flamingo Heights and you’ll enter Landers, an unincorporated area with strong ties to the UFO culture that developed mid 20th century.

Gubler Orchid Farm / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Gubler Orchid Farm: The nursery cultivates a stunning variety of orchids as well as carnivorous plants. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the farm offers tours of their nursery every 30 minutes. Closed toed shoes are required for the tour. Gubler Orchid Farm is a great place to pick up a few house plants as gifts and for yourself. The Orchid farm is just a stone’s throw from the Integratron, so if you’re lucky enough to make a reservation for the sound bath, definitely stop by the orchid farm on your way in or out. → More information

Integratron: The 38-ft tall domed structure designed by George Van Tassel has reputed powers of rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel (we’ll let you judge that for itself). The signature experience here would be a hour-long sound bath inside the dome. Public reservations fill up fast, so you’ll likely need to book some weeks in advance if you want to partake. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Twentynine Palms, or 20 minutes from Joshua Tree. → More information

Giant Rock: The seven-story high Giant Rock is purported (though unverified) to be the largest freestanding rock in the world. It was certainly enough to impress the aforementioned Van Tassel, who, after taking over the property in 1947 eventually dug out a structure underneath the rock and held UFO conventions in its shadow that helped fund the eventual construction of the Integratron. We weren’t able to make it up to see Giant Rock because locals recommended a 4-wheel drive vehicle to tackle the soft dirt road that leads up there. Definitely something to keep in mind if you plan to visit. → More information

Helpful Reminders

  • Common sense: Bring lots of water with you, wear sunscreen and a hat if need be.
  • You can request gate access to Mission Creek by gong to this page on The Wildlands Conservancy website.
  • Hours for sound baths at the Integratron vary seasonally. We recommend making reservations months in advance if possible.
  • Some restaurants in the area have limited hours during the week (may be closed on Mondays or Tuesdays or close early Monday through Thursday) so always check hours and make reservations on weekends when possible.

If you’d like to learn more about We Like L.A. sponsored posts and how we work with our partners, you can go here.

Food, Where to Eat

11 Last Minute Easter Brunch Options in L.A. for 2019

April 18, 2019 by Christina Champlin
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is SLS-Beverly-Hills_Paella_Credit-Dustin-Downing.jpg
SLS Beverly Hills Paella / Photo Credit: Dustin Downing

Easter is just around the corner and several Los Angeles hot spots are going all out in honor of the upcoming holiday. For one day only Angelnos will indulge in spring themed menus, over the top buffets, unlimited champagne, and even house-made peeps.

Check out our list below and make your reservations immediately. Have a happy Easter Sunday!

1.The SLS Hotel will host an Easter Brunch on their sunlit Garden Terrace. Prepared by Chef José Andrés team, the brunch will feature several made-to-order stations featuring breakfast classics; a carvings display with slow roasted leg of lamb and mojo sauce; a seafood spread of fresh oysters, king crab, paddlefish caviar, ceviche, smoked salmon from New York’s Russ & Daughters; and Valencia-style paella. Head Pastry Chef Mitzi Reyes will create modern Easter-themed desserts such as carrot-infused macarons, mousse “Peeps,” chocolate painted eggs and more. The Easter Bunny will be passing around treats to all the kids and endless champagne will be served to adults. The brunch cost $125 for adults and $35 for kids. –> more information

2. Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel Air will serve a three-course brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Menu highlights include a spectacular seafood tower, handcrafted bloody Mary’s and an Easter-inspired dessert. Children can also explore the grounds with an egg hunt on the Front Lawn. The brunch cost $225 per person. –> more information

3. The Raymond 1886 in Pasadena celebrates the holiday with an Easter Sunday Brunch. Guests can start with a shared Family Breakfast Platter filled with fresh fruit, muffins, and homemade cinnamon roll. Then move onto mains like Lobster Benedict, Chilaquiles and Mediterranean Lamb Wrap prepared by Executive Chef Jon Hung. –> more information

4. KASS Wine Bar + Restaurant celebrates Easter with a French-inspired three-course prix-fixe menu offered during brunch and dinner. Guests can enjoy Poached Egg with Californian morels and white asparagus, Smoked Salmon Macarons, Braised Lamb Shank, Chocolate Brownies with white chocolate ice cream and more. The meal cost $65 per person with an optional wine pairing supplement for $35 per person during dinner service. –> more information

5. The Restaurant at Mr. C’s annual Poolside Easter Brunch tastes place on the yacht-inspired pool deck from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A special buffet of Cipriani cuisine will be served including an omelet and waffle station, carving station with slow roast leg of lamb, and crudo raw bar station with an option to pair their brunch with bottomless Bellinis. Family friendley entertainment will be provided by the Angel Town Combo Band, the Easter bunny and a candy-filled egg hunt. The brunch cost $105 per person, $45 for ages 4-12, and free for ages 4 and under. –> more information

6. Crustacean located in Beverly Hills will open for brunch for the first time this Sunday. From noon to 3 p.m. sip on unlimited Champagne cocktails and dine on Dungeness Crab Omelet with Meyer lemon aioli, Lobster Eggs on Bao “Benedict” with garlic lime hollandaise and a Saigon Braised Lamb Shank with garlic rice and spring vegetables to name a few. –> more information

7. Spago in Beverly Hills will celebrating Easter with a three course brunch menu from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The menu includes a champagne tincture bar, pop-up pie & bake shop and an appearance from the Easter Bunny. The brunch cost $175 per adult and $75 per child under the age of 12. –> more information

8. Sushi Roku in Pasadena will feature an Easter Brunch menu that includes Yuzu Avocado Toast, Morning Noodles, Sunny Side Eggs and more. Guests will also enjoy complimentary face painting, balloons, candy bars and a take home keepsake photo for the entire family. –> more information

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Lobster-Avocado-Toast.jpg
Ocean Prime Lobster Avocado Toast

9. Ocean Prime in Beverly Hills will offer an Easter Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sip on Blood Orange Mimosas or their Signature Bloody Mary then dine on Crab & Eggs, Lobster Toast or Braised Short Rib Surf & Turf. –> more information

10. Castaway located in Burbank will serve Easter Brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring honey bourbon-glazed ham, spice-rubbed leg of lamb, raw bar, charcuterie, sushi, pastry stations and other Easter treats. The brunch cost $79 per adult and $35 per child ages 5 to 12. –> more information

11. BOURBON STEAK Los Angeles celebrates Easter with a three-course menu that includes choices like “Bacon and Eggs” with pork belly, quail egg and shakshuka; Lobster Eggs Benedict; ‘Elvis’ French Toast with peanut butter, banana, and honey gastrique; Filet Mignon and more for $65 per person. Folks who love a Bloody Mary can indulge in cart side service and custom garnishes. –> more information

Food, Happenings, Things To Do, Tips

L.A. Spots Where You Can Get $1 Drinks on Tax Day April 15, 2019.

April 14, 2019 by Christina Champlin

No one loves Tax Day, but at least you can enjoy $1 drink deals to take the edge off. Below we highlight nine Los Angeles bars giving Angelenos a break this upcoming Tax Day, April 15, 2019.

bigfoot west old fashioned
Image via Bigfoot West

1. Bigfoot West

$1 Old Fashioned – 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 10939 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 -> More information

2. Idle Hour

$1 Moscow Mules – 4 to 7 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 4824 Vineland Ave. Los Angeles, CA 91601 -> More information

3. Sassafras

$1 Old Fashioned- 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 1233 N. Vine St. Los Angeles, CA 90038 -> More information

la cuevita tequila press
Image Via La Cuevita

4. La Cuevita

$1 Tequila Press and a Mexi Mule – 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 5922 N Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90042 -> More information

5. Oldfield’s Liquor Room

$1 Old Fashioned – 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 10899 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 -> More information

6. Highland Park Bowl

$1 Old Fashioned – 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 5621 N. Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90042 -> More information

Thirsty Crow Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

7. Thirsty Crow

$1 Old Fashioned – 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 2939 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026 -> More information

8. Harlowe

$1 Old Fashioned – 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 7321 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90046 -> More information

9. Bigfoot Lodge

$1 Old Fashioned – 5 to 8 p.m. (while supplies last). Location: 3172 Los Feliz Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90039 -> More information

Sponsored, Travel

Let’s Take a Trip to Joshua Tree and 29 Palms

April 5, 2019 by Christina Champlin and Brian Champlin

The following is a sponsored collaboration between San Bernardino County and We Like L.A.

Joshua Tree National Park / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

As we make the leap into spring the beauty of Southern California is in full bloom, and there’s no better time than right now to take a road trip from Los Angeles to experience it for yourself. And we’ve got an idea for you:

A few weeks back we continued our collaboration with the county of San Bernardino by embarking on a week-long adventure to Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree. Along the way we gazed at the stars, scoped out art installations, learned rock climbing, hung out at an old west town, and learned the history of the native peoples and the geologic background of a desert oasis.

Below is a rundown of some of our favorite experiences from the trip, along with additional fun to-do ideas, plus a few helpful reminders to wrap it up.

If you’re thinking that a desert road trip is in the cards this spring, this will be a great place to start.

Cholla Garden in Joshua Tree National Park / Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Getting there from L.A.

A straight shot drive from central Los Angeles to Twentynine Palms (minus any traffic hiccups) is a shade under two and a half hours. If you plan to stay in or explore the city of Joshua Tree, you’ll hit that first on your way over, as it’s about 20 minutes west of Twentynine Palms.

Staying in Twentynine Palms

You have numerous options if you’re going to stay in one of the national park gateway communities (as opposed to camping). Lodging in the city is a smart move if you want to explore the park by day and unwind at a few restaurants and bars in the evening.

One advantage of driving the extra 20 minutes to Twentynine Palms is that the west entrance to the national park located in Joshua Tree can get extremely crowded (probably because it’s a bit closer to L.A.). Lines may back up for potentially hours (yes, hours!) when there’s a flood of people entering on the weekend. The north entrance accessible via Twentynine Palms tends to have fewer entrants (though it still may crowd), so something to keep in mind.

If you do stay in Twentynine Palms, there are a couple of really nice options you may want to consider.

One is Campbell House, a historic retreat on 25-acres that features a dozen unique suites and cottages. Your stay comes with breakfast in the formal dining room.

Breakfast at Campbell House / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Another option is 29 Palms Inn, where guests can stay in an authentic 1930’s adobe bungalow, wood frame cabins or large guests houses. The 70-acre property includes the 9,000 year old Oasis Mara, plus one of the best restaurants in town (more on that later).

Exploring Joshua Tree National Park

If you’re planning the trek from Los Angeles then it goes without saying you’re going to want to visit Joshua Tree National Park, and take in all the park has to offer.

Joshua Tree / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Of course, as with any National Park visit, you’ll want to make sure yours is a responsible one. After speaking to several local tourism officials and a park guide, two specific issues that come up time and again are tree vandalism and complications from pets in the park.

In the case of the trees, it’s pretty much common sense: Don’t climb on them, write on them, attach things to them, or use the branches for firewood. For pets, the NPS has specific guidelines if you’re planning to bring your four-legged friend along.

That said, we want to stress how important it is to follow Leave No Trace principles during your visit and remind you by being a good steward of the park your ensure the natural ecosystem maintains itself and other visitors will be able to enjoy it in the future.

Of course, if you can explore the park responsibly, there’s A LOT to do!

Photo Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

Rock Climbing: Rock climbing tops bucket list items for many park visitors, and there are a number of rock climbing guide options based in Joshua Tree. What we can tell you is our experience with Cliffhanger Climbing Guides was absolutely first rate. Seth, our guide for the day, gave us clear, quality instruction and made us feel confident and relaxed in no time, despite being first-time climbers. The location he chose was secluded enough that it made us feel like we had the park all to ourself, and a picnic-style lunch was provided as part of the experience. We highly recommend for families, newbies, or even experienced climbers who want to fast-track their way to some unique climbing spots within the park. → More information

Catered snacks by Cliffhanger Climbing Guides / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park: The White Tank Campground is adjacent to some of the most unique rock formations in the park, foremost of which might be the Arch Rock. There is a very small day-use parking section (see map here) if you’re not camping in that area. That said, the Arch Rock trail has become a very popular destination, so if parking is an issue at the campground an alternative might be to park at Twin Tanks and then cross the highway and walk over to the campground from there (probably adds another 15 minutes each way). The Arch Rock loop itself is only around 0.4 miles, but there’s lots to see. Short hike, great photo ops, and lots of spots for bouldering. → More information

Arch Rock / Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Cholla Cactus Garden: This 10-acre flat expanse is filled as far as the eye can see with teddybear cholla. Be alert when walking on the trail, and do not touch the cactus and try not to step on one or you’ll be in a world of hurt. The stem-joints of the teddybear will snap off easily and if they spike you, the barbs are exceptionally difficult to remove. Choose to see the garden during sunset or sunrise, the golden hour light sparkles off the sea of Cholla producing a magical moment. → More information

Cholla Cactus Garden / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Catch the Seasonal Wild Blooms: One of the marvels of Joshua Tree National Park is that it actually bridges two distinct desert eco-systems: The Mojave Desert on the north side and the Colorado in the eastern and southern portions. It’ll take you about an hour to drive straight through the park from north to south, but watching the landscape change before your eyes is a sight to behold And as the Joshua Trees become fewer and fewer, eventually (seasonally dependent!) you might even start to see some wildflowers. One spot in particular for that is at the Bajada All-Access Nature Trail, located on Cottonwood Springs Rd. just north of the south entrance to the park. The trail is a breezy 0.3 mile loop that pops with a rainbow of blooms during springtime. Poppies, lupine, brittle bush, daisies, desert dandelions are just a few of the fauna found there. Oh, and one important note here: Please stay on the trails and don’t trample the wildflowers! → More information

Bajada All-Access Nature Trail / Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Keys Point: If your trip to J-Tree isn’t complete without an epic sunset or sunrise photo, this is the spot. Joshua Tree’s highest viewpoint offers a panoramic glimpse of the park. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive from the north or west entrances to the park. → More information

More hiking in Joshua Tree: The National Park Service has compiled a terrific list of their Top 10 Hikes in the park, ranging from breezy nature walks (similar to the kind we mention above) to longer, more engaging hikes of up to 6 or 7 miles. You can search for lost mines, scope out unique rock formations, or get up early to spot some wildlife at Barker Dam. Lots of options!

Things to do in Twentynine Palms

Sky’s The Limit Observatory & Nature Center:  This observatory sits on the border of Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Park. The nonprofit group that manages Sky’s the Limit regularly hosts free public programs where visitors can marvel at wonders of the universe. Sky’s the Limit is also home to a true-to-scale orrery (model of the solar system) where planetary markers are moved regularly to mirror their real-life movement around the sun. The scale of the orrery is 20 billion to one. → More information

Sky’s The Limit Observatory & Nature Center / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery:  Located on Thunder Road off Highway 62 the art gallery holds many installations. Including a glass outhouse offering panoramic view of the desert. It is walled with one-way mirrored glass providing the viewer with complete privacy. → More information

29 Palms Inn Restaurant: Enjoy a meal and drinks at the 29 Plams Inn Restaurant over looking the crystal blue pool. It’s a seasonal menu featuring seafood, steaks, daily pasta specials inspired by their on-site organic garden. The restaurant is extremely popular and open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended. → More information

29 Palms Inn Restaurant / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Oasis of Murals:  Dozens of beautiful outdoor murals can be found on building walls all over the area. They vividly illustrate the history of Twentynine Palms some highlight public figures and others showcase the flora and fauna of the desert. → More information

The Rib Co.: Grilling since 1997, this family owned establishment serves large plates of baby backs, St. Louis and beef ribs. Often you’ll see the chef grilling right out front. → More information

29 Palms Creative Center & Art Gallery: Stop in for art workshops on the fly. Great for children and creative adults, guests can enjoy pottery painting, canvas painting and more. No reservations are required. –> More information

29 Palms Creative Center & Art Gallery / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The Fine Line: Have a few cocktails at a railroad themed bar. After a day of exploring 29 Palms it’s a good idea to unwind at this hip dive spot. → More information

Art Cruise 29!: Happening on the first Saturday of each month, many local galleries and art studios will open their doors for a day of demonstrations, art classes, show openings, artists meet and greets and more. → More information

Mojave Moon Cafe: A mishmash of cuisines from Italian, South American, Southern to American each with a twist by chef and owner Hamilton Lewis. → More information

Things to do in Joshua Tree

Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art : Walk through 7.5 acres of large-scale sculptures made from burnt wood, used materials, old objects and even toilet bowls. The outdoor museum is open from sunrise to sundown and is free to attend with a suggested donation box at the entrance. → More information

Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Museum. Photo credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

Joshua Tree Art Walk: Held on the second Saturday of each month from 5 to 9 p.m. Local galleries will host their openings during this time. → More information

Institute of Mental Physics: Also known as the Joshua Tree Retreat Center is a spiritual center dedicated to the “science of the future.” Built by Frank Lloyd Wright and his son Lloyd Wright in 1946, the space features workshops decided to spiritual healing and awareness. → More information

World Famous Crochet Museum: Housed inside an old school California photo stand is the cutest little museum of crocheted objects. It’s free to enter the cozy space. It’s also on a lot where other art galleries and stores reside. → More information

World Famous Crochet Museum / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Art Queen: A funky store with spray painted clothing and quirky art located next to the World Famous Crochet Museum. → More information

Joshua Tree Coffee Company / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Joshua Tree Coffee Company: The desert’s best organic coffee roasters, Joshua Tree Coffee Company uses a Loring Smart Roaster on their Fair Trade and/or Rainforest Alliance certified sourced bean. They also have free wifi and lots of outdoor seating. → More information

Joshua Tree Saloon: Established in 1983 the saloon serves breakfast, lunch, cocktails and dinner. Located in Downtown Joshua Tree this is the perfect watering hole after a day of exploring. → More information

Natural Sisters Cafe: Reset your body with a fresh pressed juice, or smoothie at Natural Sisters. You’ll find organic, plant based and locally sourced food here as well. → More information

Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum: Get your hair done inside the most popular and lively salon in downtown Joshua Tree. This spot is also home to the largest collection of hair memorabilia. The owner Jeff is super nice and encourages everyone to look around freely even without a hair appointment. → More information

Beauty Bubble Salon & Museum / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Crossroads Cafe: A solid diner that’s big on breakfast and good for vegans. Consider it a bit more upscale than the usual greasy spoon. → More information

More Ideas for a Desert-Inspired Adventure

Pioneertown / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Pioneertown: Built in 1946 for film and television westerns, today tourists can check out local shops operating in select buildings and Old Western reenactments on Mane Street during weekends in April through October at 2:30 p.m. If you’re planning a trip to Pioneertown, then a meal at Pappy + Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is a must. Operating since 1982, hungry diners can enjoy mesquite bbq, massive burgers and cocktails at this popular hang out. Also recognized as a legendary place for live music, many famous faces have played there including Sir Paul McCartney. Bands play Thursday through Sunday evenings.

Pappy + Harriet’s / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Yucca Valley: Visit Frontier Cafe where they serve local Joshua Tree beans, perfectly prepared espresso drinks and seriously delicious sandwiches like their on-special Green Dream made with artichoke cashew spread, loads of greens on wheat rye. After a quick bite, explore the shops along Twentynine Palms Highway that include hand selected vintage spots like Funky & Darn Near New and The End to trendy hipster desert ware at Hoof & the Horn.

Bob’s Crystal Cave: Head to The Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley to get a peek inside Crystal Cave a psychedelic meditative space created with spray foam and thousands of crystals, shells and porcelain each arranged by hand. → More information

Rimrock Ranch: This stunning 36-acre ranch outside of Joshua Tree (near Pioneertown) was once a retreat for western actors like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. The ranch offers guests rustic cabins, airstream trailers, a two floor lodge and a modern suite called the Hatch House. → More information

Rimrock Ranch / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The Integratron: The 38-ft tall domed structure designed by George Van Tassel has reputed powers of rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel (we’ll let you judge that for itself). The signature experience here would be a hour-long sound bath inside the dome. Public reservations fill up fast, so you’ll likely need to book some weeks in advance if you want to partake. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Twentynine Palms, or 20 minutes from Joshua Tree. → More information

Hi-Desert Nature Museum: Located in the Yucca Valley Community Center Complex, the collection is focused on the cultural heritage and natural splendor of the area. → More information

Helpful Reminders

  • Local visitors centers are a great way to get informed and find experiences you can have in the area, or pick up trail maps (remember you won’t have cell service in the park!). Depending on where you’re staying, we’d recommend stopping in to the Twentynine Palms Visitors Center, Joshua Tree National Park Visitors Center, or The Oasis Visitors Center.
  • Common sense: Bring lots of water with you, wear sunscreen and a hat if need be.
  • Remember there are usage fees to enter the park, a full list can be found here. A 7-day pass for a single vehicle, cost us $30.
  • Some campgrounds are first-come, first-serve, others are reservation only. Visit the NPS campground page for all the info you’ll need if you’re planning a camping excursion to J-Tree.

If you’d like to learn more about We Like L.A. sponsored posts and how we work with our partners, you can go here.

Sponsored, Travel

Awesome Things to do in the Mountains of San Bernardino County (Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead and Wrightwood)

February 25, 2019 by Christina Champlin and Brian Champlin

The following is a sponsored collaboration between San Bernardino County and We Like L.A.

Alpine Pedal Path Big Bear Lake California
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

As Southern Californians we sometimes hear phrases like ‘from the sand to the snow’ meant to suggest extraordinary days spent surfing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon. But who among us has actually lived that experience? How many take advantage of the marvelous geographic diversity that surrounds us? Who even just gets in their car and takes a drive to the mountains?

One of us (Brian) can probably count the number of times he’s been in snow on one hand. The other (Christina) has been on a skiing/snowboarding trip exactly once in her life. But when we were offered the opportunity a few weeks back to work with San Bernardino County to create content guides that specifically touched on the mountainous regions of the area, we jumped at the chance.

Our experience both informed and inspired us. Really it was just a lot of fun. We took a skiing lesson, rode horses, learned the history of two massive man-made lakes, walked a natural arboretum, and even hiked to a sacred site of the native Serrano people. And of course there was lots of time in between to find some delicious places to eat!

We visited three destinations in all: Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, and Wrightwood. Belowe we’ve created a detailed rundown of our itinerary as a list of things to do, and then supplemented that list with some additional ideas that you may want to add to your own trip.

The notion is that you’ll take a look at the myriad activities, see a few that really speak to you, and then decide to plan your own trip. Or maybe you’re already in the stages of planning, and this just gives you an added layer of insight into what you might like to do.

With this year’s snow fall packing the mountains more than any time in recent memory, now is the time to plan an awesome adventure just a short drive away.

So let’s get planning!

On the water of Lake Arrowhead
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Getting to Lake Arrowhead

It’s about a 90-minute drive to Lake Arrowhead from Los Angeles proper, with the most direct route being a straight shot on the 210 to highway 18. If you’re like us, you’re going to lose phone service at some points along the 18, so either printing directions or saving them to your phone is always a good idea.

Upon arriving in Lake Arrowhead we checked into Arrowhead Pine Rose Cabins, a charming resort known for their festive themed-cabins. There are 20 cabins to choose from each with their own unique decor and names. Large parties can consider the lodge option which fits up to 21 people. All cabins have a kitchen, bbq, fireplace and private outdoor space. There’s even a little creek located on the property where you might just catch a glimpse of some early morning deer.

We had about a day and a half to explore after checking in, so there was no time to waste!

Things to do in Lake Arrowhead

Belgian Waffle Works: Breakfast is always a good place to start, and Belgian Waffle Works (open since 1982) located in Lake Arrowhead Village is a wonderful option. They have 17 specialty waffles that range from savory like the Benedict Belgian to sweet like the popular Strawberry-Banana Royal. -> More information

SkyPark at Santa’s Village
Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

SkyPark at Santa’s Village: If you’re traveling with kids, this is a must. The whimsical Santa’s Village first opened in 1955, just 45 days head of Disneyland. Today it has been updated as an adventure park featuring year round fun including a bike park, simulated ice climbing, zip-line, archery, bungee jumping and more. The park is suitable for all fun loving adults and kids. Of course at the heart of the park is a love for all things Christmas. Food-wise, your day might include sipping coffee at Kringle’s coffee shop, enjoying homemade cookies at The Gingerbread House (housed inside an actual gingerbread house) and enjoying handcrafted burgers over at St. Nick’s Patio and Grille. –> More information

Heaps Peak Arboretum: Just minutes away from SkyPark at Santa’s Village is Heaps Peak Arboretum. Open from dawn to dusk 365 days a year, the roughly 1-mile Sequoia trail is an easy loop that takes 30 to 45 minutes to complete. You’ll see six types of pine trees, local birds, forrest animals, oak trees, towering sequoias and wildflowers (when in season around the month of May.) Please note that while it is free to explore, the U.S Forest Service requires all parked cars to have an Adventure Pass while at the Arboretum. Passes can be purchased Tuesday through Sunday at the information booth and at a number of local stores nearby. -> More information

LouEddie’s Pizza
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

LouEddie’s Pizza: LouEddie’s hand tossed fire-roasted pizzas are some of the most sought after pies in SoCal. There are over a dozen pizza combinations and ingredients are all locally sourced. When available, order the hand braided garlic knots. Watch out for long lines and wait times during peak hours like the weekends. To avoid lines, we suggest going on a weekday during off times, or maybe opt for lunch instead of dinner, otherwise be prepared to wait (we think it’s worth it!). If the weather permits, opt to enjoy your pizza at Willow Woods Park just steps away from LouEddie’s. The pizza shop has expanded with a microbrew program as well, and there is a bar located right under the restaurant. -> More information

Lake Arrowhead Village: This is pretty much the town center, so if you’re in Lake Arrowhead, you’re bound to end up at the village at some point. Get your shopping done, enjoy a meal with a view and feed the happy ducks that reside on the private lake. Children will also get a kick out of Lollipop Park located on the peninsula. -> More information

Lake Arrowhead Village
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Lake Arrowhead Queen Boat Tour: Maybe the best way to see the sights and learn about Lake Arrowheads storied past is to climb aboard the Lake Arrowhead Queen for a one-hour narrated boat tour. You’ll hear some history about the area, get a glimpse of the lakefront homes of the rich and famous and if you’re lucky you might spot the elusive bald eagle resting on a secluded island. The Queen sets sail daily on the hour year-round. It is also the only way the public can get on the lake since it is deemed private. -> More information

The Lakefront Tap Room Bar & Kitchen: A boat adventure will work up an appetite, head back into Lake Arrowhead Village for dinner at The Lakefront Tap Room Bar & Kitchen. Pastrami Reuben with champagne sauerkraut, stacked burgers and lots of fried delights like pickle fries and elote street corn tots are just a few things on the menu. Pair your meal with a wide selection of over 20 beers on tap and even more brews rotating, bottled and canned. -> More information

Additional Lake Arrowhead Ideas

Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout Tower: Get a spectacular view of the San Bernardino National Forest while standing on a historic fire lookout. -> More information

Heart Rock Trail: A short and moderate hike with plenty to see before spotting the natural wonder that is a heart carved into a solid rock cliff. –> More information

Wildhaven Ranch: A wildlife sanctuary for endangered and indigenous wild animals. You have to make reservations to visit. –> More information

Tour The Tudor House: A building with a sordid history of underground gambling, brothel and moonshine, The Tudor House host live music, plays, yoga and a Sunday Champagne Brunch. -> More information

Rosalva’s Skyforest: Enjoy Mexican cuisine at Rosalva’s and save room for dessert because they have something called “ice cream nachos” and some killer sopapillas- a fried dough dessert drizzled in honey. -> More information

Cedar Glen Malt Shop: An old fashioned joint with over the top burgers and delicious milkshakes. -> More information

View of the drive from Lake Arrowhead to Big Bear
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Getting to Big Bear

If you’re driving to Big Bear from Lake Arrowhead (this was us) you can continue on Highway 18 through Running Springs and past the Snow Valley Resort. It’s a beautiful, scenic drive with plenty of turnout opportunities if you’d like to take a picture or two. If you’re coming from L.A. directly, it’s going to be a minimum of a two and half hour drive, and you’ll either end up taking the 15 to the 18 around the north side of the mountains, or approach from the south via I-10 and Highway 38.

***NOTE: Due to the heavy rains over the past few weeks some routes are closed and under repairs. The current access points to Big Bear Lake are highway 18 through Lucerne and via highway 38. Before you always check current road conditions before you depart!***

Our home away from home in Big Bear was the Big Bear Chateau, a great choice for those who want to maximize their time while up on the mountain (it’s literally just down the street from Snow Summit Resort). Complimentary breakfast with waffles, bacon, omelets and a strong wifi is a definite plus.

Overall, we spent about two and a half days and two nights in Big Bear. As you’ll see, we did a lot!

Things to do in Big Bear

The Village: At the heart of Big Bear Lake is The Village, a destination for shopping, dining and entertainment. Grab some Big Bear souvenirs, have a meal and be sure to stop by the visitors center. Open daily the visitors center is a helpful place where you can grab brochures, maps of hiking trails and get your questions answered. -> More information

The Village Big Bear Lake
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Peppercorn Grille: Located in The Village, Peppercorn Grille is a popular restaurant serving American faire, thick crust pizzas, steak, seafood and more. -> More information

Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain: Nearby The Village, Alpine Slide is the perfect place to let loose snow tubing, tobogganing and taking a ride on The Soaring Eagle. Great place for children and adults. -> More information

Baldwin Lakes Stables
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Baldwin Lakes Stables: Head to the east end of Big Bear Valley and visit Baldwin Lakes Stables. The only place in the area that you can take a tour of the surrounding National Forest on horseback. Beginners are welcome and the guides are extremely helpful (and friendly!). Rides come in one or two hour options. Be sure to bring a little cash to tip the guides for their hard work. -> More information

Gaby’s Latin Flavors: Delicious Bolivian food in Big Bear Lake can be found at Gaby’s Latin Flavors. Popular items include the avocado salad, housemade chips and cheese dip plus a unique Picante baked chicken with a peanut sauce pasta. Order one of the many soups available daily to warm up on a cold day. -> More information

An Ran Ju Gelato & Teahouse: Hot chocolate is the ultimate partner for chilly weather. An Ran Ju makes theirs with lots marshmallows and whipped cream. -> More information

Snow Summit
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Snow Summit Ski Resort: Snow Summit Ski Resort boasts 240 acres of snowy terrain and 27 trails to suit all levels of skiing and snowboarding. If you’re a newbie to snow sports consider taking lessons, it will save you some frustration and possible injury. Snow Summit also has everything you need in the rentals department which is a total plus. The best advice is to arrive early. Less people will be there meaning shorter lines, better parking and fresh snow. -> More information

Nottinghams Tavern: Part of the Robinhood Resort located conveniently in Big Bear Village, Nottinghams Tavern offers casual American faire. On the menu you’ll find steaks, burgers, pasta, sandwiches and a full bar. Take a peek around the different dining rooms and you’ll spot lots of lively Robinhood references. -> More information

Gems of the West: Right across the street from Nottinghams, and just a few steps outside of The Village, is Gems of the West a wonderland for geology enthusiasts. The employees are full of knowledge and they’re happy to share some of the most unique items from the store. We touched a meteor explored different types of crystals and even held petrified dinosaur poop. -> More information

The Eye of God Big Bear
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The Eye of God: After striking up a conversation with a couple employees at Gems of the West, we got a tip to visit a hillside dome made up of milky quartz. The site, called ‘The Eye of God’, is a sacred tribal landmark for the Serrano people who use to live in the region. The Serrano believed the site was the literal eye of their creator Kruktat watching over them. The rocky quartz megalith was once a complete dome, but in the 1940’s gold prospectors dynamited the structure (sadly) hoping to strike it rich. Today the public can access the trailhead on Burns Canyon Road. You can hike up to (1.8 mile round trip) or if you have a capable off-road vehicle with four-wheel drive you can skip the hike and make it to a spot within about 300 yards of the site. We opted to go off trail with a Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss, and it worked out well! -> More information

Alpine Pedal Path: At the end of a full day, unwind with a sunset walk down Alpine Pedal Path along the north shore of Big Bear Lake. It’s a beautiful place to take photos and often you’ll catch a colorful sky moment right before the sun finishes setting. -> More information

Alpine Pedal Path
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Captain’s Anchorage: Celebrate a perfect day of exploring with prime rib, steaks and fine wine. Captain’s Anchorage is Big Bear’s historic dinner house that dates back to 1946. Known for delicious prime rib the restaurant also has a resident ghost named George. Don’t worry though, he’s friendly and usually upstairs doing his own thing. -> More information

Additional Big Bear To-Dos

Springtime activities: kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding on Big Bear Lake. -> More information

Summer activities: wakeboarding (lessons are available), parasailing and jet-ski on Big Bear Lake. -> More information

Big Bear Pirate Ship: A lake cruise aboard a funky pirate ship with live entertainment and pirates. -> More information

Big Bear Coffee Roasting Company: The local coffee shop is a great place for some cold brew and fun lattes like the Almond Joy. -> More information

Big Bear Solar Observatory: Free public tours inside a cozy observatory located right on the lake. Only open on the second Thursday of the month during fall and winter and additionally on the fourth Thursday during summers. Reservations are required. -> More information

Mountain Witch Tea Company: If you’re looking for thoughtful gifts, check out Mountain Witch Tea Company. The county store carries locally made items like handcrafted tea, fruit butters, old fashioned candy, knick knacks and other handmade goods. They also bake pies and cobblers for those looking for a sweet treat. -> More information

Castle Rock Hike: A two-mile round trip hike surrounded by granite stones that you can climb up to for a view of the vista. The hike is steep and an Adventure Pass is required. -> More information

Big Bear Lake Brewing Company: Enjoy dozens of craft beer plus an all day menu from breakfast, snacks to dinner. The Original “Avocado Bomb” is their signature dish. It’s a honey ale battered avocado stuffed with spicy ahi and crab shrimp cake. -> More information

Big Bear Alpine Zoo: A rehabilitation center for injured, orphaned and in-need animals. 90% of the animals are successfully rehabilitated and released back into their environment. In the zoo it is possible to get a glimpse of an Arctic Fox, American Badger, Black Bear, Flying Squirrels, Screech Owl and much more. -> More information

Lumber Jack Cafe: Grab some sourdough pancakes or waffles plus large breakfast plates over at Lumber Jack Cafe located in Big Bear City. They also have family style breakfast and biscuits & gravy, perfect for large parties. -> -> More information

We found a snowman friend in Wrightwood
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Getting to Wrightwood

Wrightwood ended up being a separate trip for us, in part because it resides in a different part of San Bernardino County. The town is located on the western edge of the county line, nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains. The quickest route is a drive along the 15 to the Cajon Pass where you can hook up with Highway 138. It takes about 70 minutes or so if you’re not fighting traffic.

If you want something more scenic, you could also drive Highway 2 through the Angeles National Forest, but that’ll add time to your drive, and could be a bit more treacherous depending on the weather conditions (more on that in our notes below). We have heard this is an absolutely stunning drive during the spring.

Because of the close proximity, Wrightwood and the neighboring Mountain High Resort make for a perfect day trip, which is exactly how we planned it!

View of Mountain High
Photo Credit: Brian Champlin

Things to do in Wrightwood

Coffee at The Village Grind: If you arrive in Wrightwood in the morning grab a quick brew at The Village Grind. They serve espresso, coffee, hot chocolate, smoothies and a casual food menu. They also have a wine bar that host tastings and serve microbrews should you find yourself stopping by later in the day. -> More information

Ziplines at Pacific Crest: Now that you’re caffeinated, get ready for an adrenaline rush through the San Gabriel Mountains. Ziplines at Pacific Crest will have you soaring heights of up to 300 feet above the forest from tree to tree. -> More information

Mountain High Ski Resort
Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

Mountain High Ski Resort: Considered to be SoCal’s most visited and closest winter resort Mountain High has deep roots in California skiing history. Known as one of the oldest ski resorts in the country today, they have three locations each offering different winter activities. Take your pick of snowboarding, skiing, snow tubing, snow play, disc golf, night skiing and if you are serious about acing the slopes you can even attend ski school. -> More information

Grizzly Cafe: By the end of the day you’ve probably built up an appetite. Head over to the Grizzly Cafe for traditional American grub. You’ll find several burgers, salads and hot sandwiches on the menu. We enjoyed The Grizzly Bear burger topped with applewood smoked bacon and the straightforward Beef Dip sandwich. -> More information

Additional Wrightwood To-Dos

Applewood Court: An old school sweets shop offering candy, fudge, ice cream and small gifts. -> More information

Wrightwood Vintage Antiques & Oddities: A barn style antique store where you can spend the day searching for unique keepsakes of the past. -> More information

Cinnamons Bakery: A casual spot where you can grab baked goods, sandwiches and breakfast. -> More information

Helpful Reminders

  • Be extra vigilant about checking the weather before you depart, so you’re aware of warnings or alerts. A quick Google search for the National Weather Service forecast for San Bernardino will pay big dividends.
  • Bring tire chains or cables for your vehicle. Caltrans has a detailed post about requirements for chains and associated driving conditions. If you’ve never driven in the mountains, it’s worth a read. Whenever you’re driving in unfamiliar or possibly dangerous conditions, just remember to take it slow.
  • For your drive… keep your phone fully charged, bring bottled water, snacks and blankets in case you get stuck in traffic or due to weather conditions.
  • If you’re doing a weekend trip into Big Bear (maybe an Airbnb with friends or something) during peak snow season, we suggest loading up on any supplies before you get to town. After speaking to a few locals, it sounds like grocery stores tend to run pretty bare after the first wave of visitors hits to kickoff a busy weekend, so stock up before you arrive!
  • The snowy season tends to wrap up by the end of March, so if you’re thinking you still want to make it for that this year, plan accordingly.
  • Speaking of crowds, remember that the influx of tourists for snow play or weekends can also affect things like wait times at restaurants, so either plan ahead by making reservations, or prep your group for a little longer wait.
  • Take your time, have fun!

If you’d like to learn more about We Like L.A. sponsored posts and how we work with our partners, you can go here.

Food, Happenings, Where to Eat

The 17 Top dineL.A. Menus for January 2019

January 9, 2019 by Christina Champlin


Photo Credit: Jacob Layman for E.P & L.P

dineL.A. Restaurant Week returns for its winter edition from January 11-25. The two-week promotion features special prix-fixe menus from top restaurants across Los Angeles, with lunch deals starting at $15 and dinners from $29 to $99.

With over 400 restaurants participating, even just a glance at the roster can be a bit dizzying. But my goal here is to shortcut the process for you. I’ve been through the entire list, earmarked my favorites and made a quick compilation of what I believe to be the best deals out there. Here’s a quick rundown of places that should be on your checklist as you eat your way through the city.

The Fields (DTLA)

The stunning food hall houses some of L.A.’s most coveted bites all under one roof. El Monte’s Burritos La Palma, Inglewood’s Coni’sSeafood and Tim Hollingsworth of Otium fame CJ Boyd’s Fried Chicken plus others will participate in dineL.A. For lunch, $15 gets you a combo of three to five items (depending on the vendor) and dinner for $29 gets you the same but with a draft cocktail or beer.  –> More information

Ma’am Sir (Silver Lake)

Dinner menu that includes two appetizers, an entrée and dessert for $39. Highlights include sea urchin lumpia, crispy pork lechon and halo halo. You’ll also receive a complimentary glass of white or red wine with dinner. –> More information

APL Restaurant (Hollywood)

A five-course dinner from grill master and meat connoisseur Adam Perry Lang for a cool $99 is a steal. On the menu, you’ll dine on filet mignon tartare, dry aged ribeye, lemon brown butter branzino and more. –> More information

Rappahannock Oyster Bar (DTLA)

Lunch and dinner are both great options. For lunch you can get their famous Rapp Burger and a vegetable side for $15. Dinner is a three-course affair for $39. You’ll choose your starter (smoked trout deviled eggs, crispy oysters, bay scallops) and your main (roasted chicken, shrimp & grits, brown butter trout) then end with a warm chocolate brownie paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. –> More information

Spago Beverly Hills (Beverly Hills)

Wolfgang Puck’s signature restaurant offers a California tasting menu for $99. Modified for dineL.A. you’ll indulge in their popular “The Egg” dish, olive oil poached Ora King Salmon and Snake River Farm’s wagyu rib-eye steak, all of which is on the regular tasting menu. For this special occasion, you will also dine on roasted baby abalone in parsley-garlic lemon butter, braised veal cheek in a stone pot and more. –> More information

Robata JINYA (West 3rd)

Five-course dinner menu for $49. Includes a plethora of starters, modern style sashimi and nigiri, blue crab truffle hand roll and your choice of entrée. Choose from garlic shrimp, beef hobayaki grill, or assorted grilled vegetables. White chocolate terrine will be served for dessert. –> More information

Bone Kettle (Padadena)

Three-course dinner menu for $29. Includes you making choices from finish to start. I suggest the oxtail dumplings to start, braised oxtails with bone broth and noodles as a second and pandan crème brulee to end. A sake pairing for $19 a person is also available. –> More information

FARMHOUSE (Beverly Grove)

Lunch and dinner are both great options. For lunch you can get three-courses for $25 that includes ricotta gnocchi in a tarragon pesto, grilled chicken breast with winter vegetables and more. Dinner also comes with three-course for $49 but an amuse-bouche will be served before your dining expereince begins. Appetizers are similar to the lunch options but the main courses have expanded to include a seriously delicous beef short ribs plus line caught cod and grilled tri tip. –> More information

Rossoblu (DTLA)

Three-course dinner for $49. Highlights from the menu include lightly cured beef tenderloin as a first course, grilled lamb chop and lobster risotto as a main and a chocolate hazelnut budino for dessert. –> More information

Tam O’Shanter (Atwater Village)

Four-course dinner for $49. Lawry’s prime rib fans take note, Tam O’Shanter is the OG restaurant from the owners of Lawry’s. You’ll see the roast prime rib of beef on the menu served with mashed potatoes and gravy, Yorkshire pudding, whipped horseradish and creamed spinach. That’s just the entrée. Remember there are four courses to this dinner. Come hungry. –> More information

Castaway (Burbank)

Three-course dinner menu for $59. Includes choice of starter (hokkaido scallop, steak tartare, grilled octopus), choice of entrée (steak frites, 8oz filet, ora king salmon, wild mushroom parpadelle) and dessert choice of tiramisu or Banana “Brûlée”. –> More information

Providence (Hollywood)

A Michelin star restaurant in Los Angeles is rare enough. A tasting menu for $99 is even more impressive. Get a fine dining experience unlike any other in the city at Michael Cimarusti’s Providence. You’ll dine on sashimi, California rockfish, liberty farms duck, impressive amuse bouche bites in-between and beautiful sweets at the end. –> More information

Bar Ama (DTLA)

Three-course Tex-Mex dinner menu for $39. You’ll be given a choice for each course. I suggest starting with the queso and chorizo then move on to a shredded pork molcajete or a short rib chalupa and end with the churro funnel cake. –> More information

Free Play (DTLA)

Three-course dinner menu for $29. You’ll have your choice of starters like Frito pie and deviled eggs then an entrée of either harissa chicken or braised pork shank. For dessert you can choose either birthday cake or an ice cream sundae. Take a break in between meals to enjoy the arcade inside the restaurant. –> More information

bushi by JINYA (Mid-Wilshire)

$15 menu available 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The deal includes choice of ramen (Spicy Creamy Vegan, Bushi Soul Black, Spicy Chicken) and choice of hand roll. –> More information

E.P & L.P. (West Hollywood)

Brunch, lunch and dinner are available during this event. All are solid options. Brunch/Lunch is a two course occasion for $20 with a drink included. On the menu you’ll find chicken & Hong Kong style waffles, Indonesian style fried rice and short rib and eggs. During dinner, $29 will get you three courses that include sweet & sour pork ribs, Bangkok crispy chicken, green curry of Hirmasa kingfish and more. –> More information

Kali (Larchmont)

Three-course lunch menu for $25. I suggest starting with the black barley risotto, then move onto the semolina spaghetti with local sea urchin and end with the meringue gelato. –> More information

Cool Spots, sightseeing, Tips

42 Essential Tips for Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

October 31, 2018 by Christina Champlin


Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

Universal Studios Hollywood bills itself as “The Entertainment Capital of L.A.” Famous for combining their film studio with a massive theme park, guests get a behind the scenes look at a real life working studio, see iconic movie sets from the past,  and immerse themselves into their favorite worlds like Harry Potter through the Wizarding World or Springfield USA, home of The Simpsons. Universal Studios brings these franchises and others to life, which offers fun for all-ages, all year round.

That said, like all theme parks, the time and money to visit is a big investment. You know it’s going to be a full day and night excursion. There will be crowds, long lines, fussy children and over-priced everything. Take some control back into your hands and turn your day at one of the most popular theme parks in California into a seamless good time with our nifty list of tips on how to navigate Universal Studios Hollywoods like a pro. Trust us, a little preparation and planning will go a long way!

Ticket options and tips

1. Avoid busy ticket lines by ordering tickets online in advance. Prices are usually cheaper online ranging from $99 to $129 for general admission.

2. Unsure what day you’ll be going to the park? Purchase Anytime Admission tickets online for some flexibility. This ticket allows you to visit on any date of your choosing.

3. Online ticket purchases will also give you Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Early Park Admission begins one hour before the park opens and is subject to availability. Visit the park calendar to see future availability.

4. Get the Universal Express Pass. It gives you front of the line access to all attractions and shows which cuts your wait time by more than half. This is especially important during busy times like the weekend or holidays. Prices run $169 and up depending on the day. If the price difference from GA is negligible to you (and it’s not to everyone), then we strongly recommend the Express Pass.

5. Children two years old or younger enter the park for free without a ticket. But keep in mind that there are height requirements for a number of rides.

6. There’s a Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience package where you get valet parking, a personal guided tour of the park, unlimited priority access to rides and shows, breakfast in a private VIP lounge, backlot access to sound stages, prop warehouse, and other restricted areas, plus a gourmet all-you-can-eat lunch at the Moulin Rouge dining room. There is limited availability for this package and you must book in advance. Children under 5 are not allowed for this offer. Currently prices range $349 and up depending on the day.

7. Going with a big squad? The park offers group discounts for 10 people or more. Call 1-800-959-9688 for more information and to reserve tickets.

8. Do not buy tickets from third party resellers. Buying directly from the park ensures that ticket are valid and authentic.

Best time to go

9. If it can be helped, avoid days where children are out of school like a holiday or the weekend.

10. The busiest seasons are the summer with spring in second and fall and winter being the least congested.

11. Check the Universal Studios Hollywood calendar to see which celebrities might be in the area. EXTRA is usually filmed at the Globe Fountain found at the front of the park entrance and The Voice is film on the studio grounds. Celebrity sightings during the famous tram ride are possible as well.


Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

Park Tips

12. Go early in order to beat the heat and crowds in the warmer seasons. Early park guests all year round get the whole experience of Universal Studios Hollywood without the massive crowds that tend to enter the park later in the day.

13. Head to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first. It’s located at the front of the theme park and that area can become extremely crowded later in the day.

14. The park is divided into an Upper and Lower Lot. The Lower Lot (the smaller of the two) is usually less busy but it also have two of the most exciting rides; Transformers: The Ride 3-D and Revenge of The Mummy The Ride with a third, Jurassic World set to open in 2019. Keep in mind that depending where you start from the walk from Upper to Lower may take you 10 to 15 minutes. Try to build out your day so you’re not shuttling back and forth from one lot to the other, as this can be tiring and takes up valuable time.

15. The Universal Studios Hollywood app is a helpful guide to the park right in your phone. The app helps guest find upcoming shows, estimate ride wait times, locate restaurants and shops, as well as small performances like the Triwizard Spirit Rally performances and character meet and greets.

16. The park offers free WiFi. Use it to visit the wait times webpage here while visiting the park. Or download the app.

17. All the excitement of a theme park will leave you dehydrated. Bring an empty water bottle into the park and fill it up at water fountains inside the park. This is also a great tip to avoid being over charged for water at concession stands.

18. Going to the park with non-english speakers? Studio Tours are offered in both Spanish and Mandarin every day. Visit Guest Relations for tour times.


Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

Rides & Show Tips

19. Single Riders Line is a great option for those who don’t care if they split up from their group. It’s the fastest way to get on a ride. The following has single rider options: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride and Transformers: The Ride 3D.

20. The park offers a “child switch” program. If a child in your party cannot ride an attraction, one or two adults can wait with the child in the attraction’s Child Switch room. When the rest of your party returns, they simply switch with those who were waiting with the child, without having to wait in line again. Inquire with a park team member at the entrance of an attraction and they will assist you.

21. Ollivanders Wand Shop does not accept an express pass. It is longest in the morning when kids and adults are buying their wand for the day. Wands are able to perform magical spells at most of the Harry Potter world store front windows.

22. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is AWESOME. You’ll be transported into the magical world the minute you step in. Explore the many shops of Hogsmeade, throw back a couple Butterbeers and get yourself a wand at Ollivanders. This is a good place to splurge a little if you’re a die hard Potter fan. Rides include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey located inside of Hogwarts castle. You’ll see the great hall, the Sorting Hat, Hogwarts Portraits and more. The ride is a little scary so beware. The second ride is a family friendley outdoor coaster called Flight of the Hippogriff  where you’ll riding on a Hippogriff (Hagrid’s magical pet) around a pumpkin patch.

23. The Studio Tour is now action packed! Guests will be taken around the studio lower lot where some of the most iconic movies have been filmed like JAWS and Psycho. Fairly new is a ride along with the cast of Fast & The Furious the hyper-realistic journey with loads of special effects, 3D-HD, 4-D all projected onto the world’s most expansive 360-degree screens will transport you into a crazy car chase adventure. But wait… there’s more. You also get to experience a very intense King Kong 360-3D experience created by Peter Jackson. Considered to be the worlds largest 3-D experience, guests will be caught in the middle of a heart pounding fight to the death between King Kong and a 35-foot T-Rex. Keep your belongs close to you on both 3-D experiences, you’ll be rocking side to side a lot on both rides. Head to the tour when your legs begin to tire and you need a period of rest (but still want a little excitement!).

24. WaterWorld is still one of the most popular shows in the park. Run time is 20 minutes. Head over to the show when you need a break from walking or standing. Do not sit in the splash zones unless you want to get seriously wet. The show’s cast members are not shy about dumping buckets of water on guests. You’ve been warned.

25. Revenge of The Mummy: The Ride is located in the lower lot of the park. Be prepared to go up to 45mph into virtual darkness with ancient horrors lurking at every turn. All riders must place their items in the free lockers located next to the ride entrance.

26. Transformers: The Ride 3-D located in the lower lot is one another popular ride in the park. Spot Optimus Prime and Bubble Bee outside giving a heroic speech, a great spot for photo opps before entering into the world of Autobots vs. Decepticons where you’ll be tasked to protect the Allspark.

27. The old Jurassic Park ride closed on September 3, 2018. The park plans update the ride as Jurassic World in 2019.

28. Bring a swimsuit for the little ones. There’s a Wet Zone area called Super Silly Fun Lands, with over 80 water play features near the Despicable Me attraction. A perfect cool down option in the summer time.

29. Night Time Lights at Hogwarts Castle is a dazzling light show using the castle as the backdrop. Available during summer. If you can’t make it then, don’t worry the light show returns every year. There’s also a holiday edition in the winter time too.

30. The annual Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights starts in mid September and runs through the first week of November. See some of the most iconic monsters come to life during this popular Halloween series. You’ll experience spine chilling mazes usually themed from the latest Universal horror flick, live shows, scare zones and the Terror Tram experience where the studio tour tram ride takes a very dark turn. Be prepared to take a stroll off the tram during Halloween Horror Nights. This year the Terror Tram theme is Hollywood Harry’s Dreadtime Storiez based on the 1950’s demented clown infamous for terrorizing the Universal Studios backlot. Additional 2018 attractions include Stranger Things, Trick ‘r Treat, The First Purge maze, Halloween 4 maze and much more.

31. Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is truly a special occasion. Expect Hogsmeade to be decorated in Christmas decor, holiday themed food, drinks, snowfall and The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle a dazzling projection show that wraps around the castle. “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” will take place daily from November 17, 2018 through January 6, 2019.

32. For 2018, the holidays will see the return of “Grinchmas” an annual event featuring a 60-foot tall “Grinchmas” tree and performances by Martha May Who-vier and the Who-liday Singers. “Grinchmas” will take place weekends on December 1-2 and 8-9, and daily from December 14 through December 30, 2018.

33. New Year’s Eve at Universal Studios Hollywood will host multiple party areas with music, dancing, drinks, special souvenirs and a midnight countdown celebration with fireworks.

34. Lunar New Year is also a fun time to go to the them park. Meet characters like Po and Tigress from Kung Fu Panda, Illumination’s Minions in traditional Chinese attire and a Mandarin-speaking Megatron from TRANSFORMERS. For 2019 you’ll also see a Dragon Warriors Kung Fu training show, Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop, live themed performances and more.

35. For the most up to date list of all rides and attractions, checkout the USH official site.


Photo Credit: Universal Studios


37. Three Broomsticks in Wizarding World is set up as the rustic tavern where Harry Potter first took a sip of Butterbeer. You can do the same and feast on Hogwarts approved British fare. The menu includes Bangers & Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, Fish & Chips and Beef Sunday Roast. If you have four people with you, consider “The Great Feast” a tray bursting with ribs, roasted chicken, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables.

38. If you’re a Harry Potter fan you have to get a taste of Butterbeer. It comes frozen, hot, cold on ice and taste like cream soda and caramel.  The frozen Butterbeer is the best one in our opinion. Skip the long lines at the kiosks and go inside Hogs Head Pub. There you can also order the exclusive Hog’s Head Brew or Pumpkin Juice, Gillywater (aka bottled water), wine, spirits, cocktails and a selection of beers.

39. Springfield U.S.A. carries one of the most immersive food options in the park showcasing eateries, bars and items from the show.

    • Guests can dine on Krusty-certified meat sandwiches at Krusty Burger like the Sideshow Bob Foot Long, Clogger Burger, Ribwich and the classic Krusty Burger.
    • Moe’s Tavern is the perfect watering hole to score some real Duff beer and even a Flaming Moe. While you’re there, snap a picture with some of the bars most valued customers like Barney Gumble!
    • There’s a Duff Brewery Beer garden and located next to it is Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck.
    • Lard Lad Donuts is where Homer’s favorite iced pink donuts with sprinkles can be found. In the park they are giant, making it fun for sharing and having a photo moment with.
    • Suds McDuffs Hot Dogs carries memorable items from the show like Krusty’s Non-Kosher Hot Dog Kombo, Marge’s Twisted Pretzel, Ralph Wiggum’s Choo-Choo Churro and Buzz Cola.
    • Hankering for some fried chicken? Head to Cletus’ Chicken Shack for a Chicken and Waffle sandwich, Chicken Platters and something called Chicken Thumbs.
    • Luigi’s Pizza offers hot and fresh pizza by the slice and an entire pie.
    • Phineas Q. Butterfat’s Ice Cream shop will have you indulging on Ice Cream Swirl ‘n’ Hurl, Ice Cream Conans, Brain Freezin’ D’oh-Nut Sundaes and more.

40. To maximize your time you are allowed to bring your food into Universal’s Animal Actors and WaterWorld shows.

41. CityWalk also has many food options such as Voodoo Doughnut, Karl Strauss, and Margaritaville.

42. You can go in and out of the park. Lines for food will be less extreme at the sit down options at City Walk. Don’t forget to get your hand stamped and hold onto your ticket.

Food, Where to Eat

Panxa Cocina Rolls Out a Hatch Chile Menu for September

August 30, 2018 by Christina Champlin


Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

September is hatch chile season and Panxa Cocina in Long Beach is the best local place to get a taste of New Mexico’s most famous green chile. For the entire month of September Panxa, along with the help of The Chile Pepper Institute in New Mexico, will feature dishes highlighting hatch chiles. September is peak harvest season for hatch chiles, and at Panxa you’ll be eating some of the best selections from that harvest and it will be prepared by a chef with a vast knowledge of Southwestern cuisine.

California native Art Gonzales spent years cooking in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the James Beard award-winning restaurant Geronimo. There he found a mentor in the revered Chef Eric Distefano. It was in New Mexico where he also first encountered the hatch chile roasting inside a barrel roaster. Now back in California working at his own restaurant Panxa, Gonzalez is helping Angelenos expand their palettes by shining a spotlight on Modern Southwestern cuisine and some of it’s most fundamental ingredients. Being one of the few Southwestern-focused restaurants in Los Angeles, Gonzalez’s gospel of blue corn, hatch chiles and tequila has outlets like Thrillist, Eater, OC Weekly, and CBS-LA singing some well-deserved praises.


Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

Stop in for the September Hatch Chile Menu and be dazzled by the culinary range of the hatch. Order a round of Green Chile Cornbread for the table to start. It comes in a cast iron and topped with whipped honey butter. If you usually skip carbs, don’t do it at Panxa. It’s worth it, trust me.

Your hatch chile journey should begin with the Heirloom Blue Corn Quesadilla paired with roasted hatch jam that is both spicy and sweet. The second dish, Wild Prawn and Hatch Relleno topped with walnut sauce, infuses the heat from the chile into savory prawns and corn. My mouth was watering before, during and after eating the relleno. Even thinking about it now, I can feel the tastebuds firing up on the back of my tongue.

Up next, things get extra hearty with a Wagyu Chicken Fried Steak smothered in hatch chile gravy. The steak is tender and juicy, but also quite heavy. The combination of white gravy and a fried exterior may have you tail spinning into a food coma within minutes.

To end the meal, you’ll find bits of hatch delightfully stuffed inside a Sopapilla (sweet fried pastry) accompanied by bits of pear and placed on top of smoked vanilla ice cream.

The hatch heat reveals itself throughout the menu, so I suggest combatting the spice by ordering a margarita. The guava marg, in particular, is a mildly sweet and refreshing cocktail with a crushed hibiscus chile rim. Oh, and by now you’re probably curious what Panxa means. In Catalan panxa means belly. Here at chef Art Gonzales love letter to New Mexico cuisine, your panxa will definitely be filled with mighty Southwestern delights.


Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

As an added bonus for those who want to experience a hatch chile roasting, on September 15 and 16 from noon to 4 p.m. Panxa will host their first Hatchchile Roast & Fest. Held in the outdoor space across from the restaurant, guests are welcome to stop by the roast-out and pick up some up to take home.

Panxa Cocina is located at 3937 E Broadway Long Beach, CA 90803

Food, Where to Eat

Marugame Udon Brings a Unique Cafeteria-Style Food Experience to The Beverly Center

August 23, 2018 by Christina Champlin


Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

A cafeteria-style udon and self-serve tempura spot opens today at the Beverly Center, bringing a unique take on a traditional Japanese staple. Step inside the world of Marugame Udon, where workers great you in Japanese before beckoning you over to a long counter of segmented mini food stations. Immediately you”ll hear and smell the intoxicating tempura oil sizzling in the background. This is a place that engages the senses.

To begin your journey, grab a tray and a tempura plate. Step to the noodle counter and select an udon bowl, then watch your order be prepared right before you eyes. Udon is offered in soup or dry, either cold or hot. Toppings and soups include curry, Thai spicy chicken, beef, Tonkotsu and more. One of the menu items is something called bukkake udon, which has no relation to the other bukkake you may be thinking of, but is actually a simple order of Japanese cold noodles with broth. I didn’t order it.

Other offerings include the Kama-Age udon, where the noodle is cooked in between and served in a wooden flat bottom bowl. Each bowl of udon is prepared to order; one person will boil the noodle and swirl it into a bowl, another will add the finishing touches like broth, toppings and garnish.

Once your udon is placed on your try, make your way to the tempura station to complete the meal. All tempura is served a la carte and priced individually. Try to keep your composure as you select these crispy temptations or you might end up with a mountain of fried vegetables and shrimp. When I was there the tempura bar was stocked with shrimp, chicken, sweet potato, zucchini and squid. If udon and tempura are not enough, at the end of the counter are freshly made inari and triangular musubi stuffed with a variety of flavors that include crab, salmon and tuna.

When you’ve reached the end of the counter it’s time to pay. Udon bowls will run you between about $5 to $9 depending on size and style, and the tempura sides are between $1 to $2 each. Once you’ve settle your bill, now it’s time for additional flavor customizations.

Take your tray to a free standing condiments station and top your bowl off with crushed garlic, green onion, cilantro and shichi-mi tōgarashi a Japanese seasoning made up of coarsely ground chili peppers, seaweed, sesame seeds and more. You’ll also find a hot water dispenserat the station,  which is filled with piping hot tempura dipping sauce. They’ve thought of everything here.


Photo Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

I must admit there’s something seductive about the act of tailoring your meal exactly to your specifications. I’m the type of eater who is always looking to tweak and enhance. Extra lettuce; sauce on the side; sandwich cut in half. These are the hallmarks of every order I’ve ever made. For people like me, it’s easy to see why Marugame Udon was a hit when they first opened on Sawtelle. With this second location they’ve only enhanced their reputation for the power of choice.

Marugame Udon is located at 8500 Beverly Blvd. suite 105 Los Angeles, CA 90048