Best places to visit in Southern California: A short travel guide

Nikita Bankar

Beautiful coastlines, relaxing beach fronts, bustling cities and delicious food — these are only a few of the many charms that Southern California has to offer. Being an easy drive down the coast, Southern California is a wonderful location for travel, with many spots to explore.

From simple day-trip activities to fancy restaurants at night, here is a small guide of the best places to visit while down south.

From left, author Nikita Bankar, author’s father Vikas Bankar and author’s sister Rasika Bankar take an evening stroll before dinner at the Pacific Pier on Nov. 20. (Nikita Bankar)

1. Pacific Park in Santa Monica

Pacific Park is a spot you won’t want to miss while traveling to Southern California! Located on the Santa Monica pier, Pacific Park has numerous activities for those of all ages. 

While the daytime has the pier warm under the California sun, the nighttime allows the whole place to light up with colors, especially along the Ferris wheel which stands as the park’s main focal point. 

From dozens of roller coasters, to food stands and shopping carts scattered along the beachfront, the pier is a lovely place to go with family and friends at any time of day. Whether it is taking a short walk along the boardwalk, or stopping to grab a quick bite to eat at Pier Burger after a few rides and winning some prizes, the pier is a place you must see!

Author Nikita Bankar standing in the Loews Hotel pool in Santa Monica on Nov. 21 with the Pier’s Ferris wheel visible in the background during sunset. (Photo courtesy by Rasika Bankar)

2. Loews Hotel Santa Monica Beach Hotel

If you are planning on staying in Santa Monica, you have to book the Loews Hotel on the beachfront containing stunning views of the pier, a lovely lounge area and a pool. The hotel also offers countless amenities inside including a fitness center, free bike rentals and a bar and restaurant in the lobby.

During my two-night stay here, the kind staff members were always willing to provide whatever I needed, whether it be food inquiries in the various restaurants or front desk requests. The beautiful rooms are reason enough to stay, but the view is unmatched and elevates the hotel to a new level.

Various marinated meats, seasoned noodles and a traditional dish, Bibimbap, are offered at Gyu-Kaku in downtown Santa Monica, as shown here on Nov. 22. (Nikita Bankar)

3. Guy-Kaku Japanese Barbeque in Santa Monica

If you are someone that loves barbeque of any sort, then Guy-Kaku is for you! Located in downtown Santa Monica, it is a delicious Japanese barbeque restaurant with a menu of tasty meats, noodles, rice dishes and seasoned items. 

The restaurant is large, with various seating locations all including a medium-sized grill in the center of the tables. A popular choice is to cook your own food for your table, but you are also free to order dishes that are pre-cooked. 

Our favorite dishes were skirt steak, short rib, bibimbap and chicken garlic noodles. The flavors that each dish presented were exemplary, and I would highly recommend visiting!

The nighttime view on Nov. 22 of the Hollywood hills accompanied with traditional decorations which add to the beauty of the Yamashiro restaurant. (Nikita Bankar)

4. Yamashiro Hollywood

With stunning views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood hills, the Yamashiro restaurant is a place with a beautiful ambiance, but most importantly, delicious food. Upon first entrance, the warmly lit lanterns are inviting, and the pagodas pay tribute towards Japanese culture. There are numerous photo opportunities by the edge of the restaurant along with a trail to walk along. 

The food is easily something to be excited for. The menu offers a variety of sushi rolls with sweet sauces and even extravagant sushi boats, but also offers a hot menu with dishes like fried rice and meats. The Green Dragon roll, Chef Val roll and the sushi pizza were our favorites! 

While slightly on the pricier side, the location is stunning to eat at, and you must go if staying in Hollywood.

Rodeo Drive lights up the night on Nov. 23 with Christmas decorations to celebrate the holidays. (Nikita Bankar)

5. Rodeo Drive 

Rodeo Drive is an upscale street to walk along, decorated with designer stores and fancy restaurants. During the holidays, the street lights up with Christmas decorations on the trees and plants that are placed along the path of Rodeo Drive itself. 

If you want to do some shopping and grab a delicious bite to eat, especially during the holiday season, this is the place for you!

Traditional lanterns line the buildings in Little Tokyo on Nov. 22, creating an authentic tribute to Japanese culture. (Nikita Bankar)

6. Little Tokyo, Los Angeles 

Little Tokyo is another spot you have to see in Los Angeles! While many people only think of a typical city when thinking of Los Angeles, there are actually many hidden spots of culture, such as Little Tokyo, Koreatown and Chinatown that are centered around Asian culture! 

Out of the cultural gemstones,  Little Tokyo has the cutest spots to visit! I highly recommend stopping by the Japanese Village Plaza, which offers a wide range of outlets from little gift shops with trinkets and traditional clothing to cafes with delicious treats. This mini city is something everyone must see!

My trip gave me a chance to bond with my family and discover places I had never seen before. Southern California is a unique location that houses numerous unique spots that are sure to satisfy your needs and give you unforgettable memories!