5 Places To Visit In Southern California Before School Starts

5 Places To Visit In Southern California Before School Starts

For that one last, great, Instagram Post.


I moved to Irvine, California in 2003. Northern California was my birthplace, but Southern California is where I grew up, lived, and loved. For those of you lucky enough to call this great place home, or for those of you who are just visiting, here's a list to the best places to visit before leaving or returning elsewhere for college- ranked in no particular order.

1. Sunken City, San Pedro

Located in the sleepy town of San Pedro, there is a rich history to these scenic spots. Sunken City has gained popularity recently, especially with Instagrammers, as its dystopian and graffiti-covered ruins provide a haunting backdrop for breathtaking photos. Created in the 1920's as an idyllic village filled with beach bungalows overlooking the ocean, a devastating landslide plunged the resort-like area into the rocks below, creating what would eventually become known as the "Sunken City" to locals. This area is now a popular hiking spot and provides a thrill for those seeking adventure, as it requires a bit of trespassing to access. This is by no means an encouragement, but if you do decide to check this spot out, be mindful of the restrictions and hazards it poses.

2. Pirate's Tower, Laguna Beach

There are 5 beaches that every Southern Californian knows: Huntington, Newport, Dana Point, Corona Del Mar, and Laguna. However, in between these massive and popular spots, are hidden gems tucked away with their entrances often harder to reach, and sometimes in residential areas. Pirate's Tower, as affectionately known by locals, is located within Victoria Beach. The history of this structure spans back to the 1940's, where a wealthy landowner was inspired by the gold-like quality of the beaches and desired to possess a piece of architecture that would bring him back to the tales of pirates and sparkling islands he loved. Beyond being a spot for captivating photos, there are legends that coins were buried beneath the foundation of the tower. This is most definitely a spot worth checking out.

3. Potato Chip Rock, San Diego

Beyond the thrilling, and rather unsettling picture it gives, I have a fond connection with Potato Chip Rock- simply because it reminds my fat ass of, you guessed it, potato chips. Located on top of Mt. Woodson in the middle of an 8 mile long trip hike, this particular scenic spot is not for the faint of heart. Although the trail to reach this iconic land mass is nothing too challenging, expect a full day of hot sun and trudging through inclined pathways. Attempt with only the closest of friends and family. If you make to the ascent, however, you'll be rewarded with one of the best views of San Diego, with a cool photo on top of a thin sliver of rock to boot. Be warned though, this rock can and will one day break, so best see it now and exercise caution while doing so.

4. Watt's Towers, Los Angeles

From afar, these art structures blend into the L.A. Skyline with their industrial and utilitarian silhouettes. Artist Simon Rodia worked for 34 years, since 1921, to singlehandedly build these towering monuments to a "Nuestro Pueblo" (our town) out of simple materials and pure ingenuity- without any scaffolding or modern equipment. Today, these structures are a fun and enriching area to visit, as well as a beautiful and different backdrop for the perfect photo. Entrance requires a small fee, and you can hear more about Rodia's passion and message, as well as see his other works once inside. It's definitely worth a look around.

5. Deep Creek Hot Springs, San Bernardino

Two weeks out of Japan, I found myself horribly missing one of the best experiences I had in the country: Hot springs. Called "onsen", the Japanese have had a long history with these beneficial bodies of water, and it is thought to cleanse and reinvigorate the soul to bathe in an onsen. Unfortunately, America, or more specifically, Southern California is not quite as abundant in its hot spring water sources, and what little exists lies often at the end of an arduous hike and without the luxurious offerings of the Japanese ones (my favorite was this little place, tucked away in the town of Hakone that featured a fresh milk vending machine from a local farm!). Since returning home, I began my research on places that could scratch this incessant need and stumbled upon Deep Creek Hot Springs, a natural basin of sulfurous spring water located in a 3.6-mile trail just outside Hesperia. Although quite well known, this spot was utterly relaxing and soothing after the dusty hike, and I found it to be sufficiently uncrowded during the weekday that I went. unforgettable memory taking a day trip to.

Southern California is a wonderful place. In N Out greets visitors and residents alike with their iconic red, white and yellow, and you are never more than 90 minutes from a local beach. These are just a few of the places that I believe would make a great day trip- however, there are undoubtedly more. Los Angeles alone is home to countless trendy rooftop bars, quirky museums, and hidden hot spots. Don't even get me started on the San Diego County. Before you return to a full schedule and nights of stress, treat yourself and/or your loved ones to a day or night out to a scenic and unforgettable memory.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.

After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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7 Dream Vacations That Will Inspire You To Keep Working Hard

Just a list of dream vacations I like to think of going on after I achieve my goals.


College can be a really overwhelming place to be. You're out of high school where life was planned out for you, but you don't have a job or a career yet. You're stuck in this middle ground of being a child and being the person you have always wanted to be. Because of this, thoughts start creeping into your head about why you're taking the classes you are or if you can even handle the life that you've been dreaming of. When these negative thoughts start creeping into my head, I like to think of dream vacations that I would want to take. Then it reminds me that I'll be able to finally go on at least one of these if I keep working hard for the life I want.

1. Me time at the Maldives.

I swear that I'm a people person, but a dream self-care vacation of mine is to go to the Maldives by myself. I would stay in a little house on the water with a glass floor. I'd bring my books and my phone and a speaker and spend at least three days taking in the crystal clear water.

2. Family vacation on a European cultural cruise.

Viking River Cruises are luxurious cruises where you can discover Europe, parts of Asia and parts of Africa. I always imagined that I would take my parents and sister on one of these cruises and we would spend almost two weeks floating down a river in the middle of Europe, exploring different countries and learning about their cultures.

3. Best friends take on Peru.

Peru has a beautiful Incan history that has always been intriguing to me. Machu Picchu is the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, and it's always been a dream to go there and explore the city with my best friend. And then, explore the rest of what Peru has to offer of course!

4. Lay under the stars and the northern lights of Ireland

The Northern Lights are a collision of gas particles that this girl can get with. Seeing this simple phenomenon with a boyfriend or girlfriend would be one of the most romantic experiences I can think of. And in a country like Ireland, nonetheless!

5. Explore the beauties of Botswana.

Botswana is an African country right above South Africa, known for its beautiful plant and animal life. I always imagined coming here with my sister and experiencing the incredible nature and culture that Botswana has to offer.

6. Gaze upon the pyramids of Giza.

These three pyramids have been a symbol for beauteous Egypt for as long as I can remember. I want to see these structures with my family and learn about the rich history of ancient Egypt and their emperors and empresses.

7. The Galapagos Islands.

As an animal admirer, the Galapagos Islands have always been a dream of mine. I want to see the sea lions and turtles. Better yet, I dream of being to touch one!

Now, it's time to get back to work so I can go to maybe one of these destinations one day!

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