California Dreamin’

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Los Angeles is one of my favorite places to go for a long weekend. Everything about a visit to L.A. sings the sweet song of vacation – the sunshine, the beach, the other tourists scrambling about taking pictures. It’s a strange place, but a beautiful one and the perfect place to make an escape.

Growing up in the Midwest, it seemed like all of the TV shows I watched, all the movies I saw, everything was taking place in California. Hollywood seemed more like a fantasy land, like a Disney World for adults with dreams of stardom, where reality and make-believe intertwined and one was never quite sure which was which. The L.A. version of high school was what we all had in mind when we pictured it, the Muscle Beach sand and bikini clad girls on rollerblades skating past two teams of hunky dudes playing volleyball. It wasn’t real; but somehow, it was also the most real thing I knew.

And then, I started visiting L.A. as an adult. And while not everyone looked like they just stepped off the runway, a lot of people did. There were volleyball games all over the beach, rollerbladers and skateboarders and high school-age kids milling around the Santa Monica Pier. There are cafés that look like someone’s basement and matcha shops completely bedecked in bright pink, ice cream stores that look like museums and clothing stores with single racks of garments obviously too expensive for anyone to actually buy. No one has a single-use plastic bottle and you better have brought your reusable grocery bag, because no one in Venice Beach has a plastic one for you.

Head to Beverly Hills and the houses drop your jaw. Some look like they’ve come right off your television – and some look even better. The shops in The Golden Triangle, with the famous Rodeo Drive in the middle, aren’t anywhere to score a bargain, but they’re the perfect place to run into a celebrity or three.

That’s why Los Angeles is the perfect getaway – because it feels so much like another world, a made-up place where reality doesn’t exist. With golden sunshine dripping down from the sky, you can be in Hollywood in the morning, the Pacific Palisades for a hike at noon and over to Malibu for dinner. L.A. is so gigantic, so sprawling, that every part of the city feels like a different place altogether. And yet, because of how often we’ve seen the sights in our favorite films and shows, everything seems somehow familiar. We’re accustomed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, almost as if we’ve been there. And the Hollywood sign? We all know what it looks like.

What about Disneyland and Universal Studios? Yup, we know them sight unseen, as well. The Getty Museum, the Griffith Observatory and the Venice Canals … all lovely, all worth seeing, worth visiting, incredible to experience. So much to do, so many different things to see; but again, everything is startlingly familiar.

These places in Los Angeles feel a little like home, even though they are nothing like the Michigan I grew up in. But at least for my generation, we know the sights, we’re familiar with the landscape, some very emotional moments in our television lives happened on those streets and in the sand along the beach. When we visit, we aren’t only creating our own experiences, but we are also revisiting those we grew up watching. The curtain is pulled back a bit, reality and fantasy merge a little, and it makes for a satisfying adventure away from our day-to-day.

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