…They are looking for a place where they can be free, where they can do things they couldn’t do anywhere else.
Picture this, Inauguration Week in the Nation’s Capitol. The city is decorated, the staffers are preparing, and all the while you’re not thrilled about this particular inauguration. You want out-of-town and it’s the perfect time for a three-day weekend getaway. Where could you possible go to escape the feel of D.C.? Where is somewhere that you can get lost in your imagination? And also have friends that you can crash with. Answer: Clear across the continental United States to the sunny state of California.
Los Angeles. The city of movies, stars, and healthy eating. And apparently cold rain the one weekend I’m in town. Getting there was easy. I have a flight rewards credit card that earns points on my purchases throughout the year and I can use points to book my flights when and where I choose. D.C. offers three airports with multiple airlines and flight times. I was able to get a direct flight, use public transportation to get to the airport, and I only had to pay the six-dollar ticket surcharge.
I’m extremely lucky to have my sorority sisters live in L.A. and willing to host a political D.C. escapee for the weekend. They were able to pick me up from the airport and even in the pouring rain and dark of night, point a few things out and discuss the different parts of the greater L.A. area.
Weekends in L.A. are not much different from D.C. Brunch is a typical weekend activity in D.C. so it comes as no surprise when that became my first activity on a Friday. The perk, less crowds. A colleague of mine recommended a place famous for their extremely large pancakes. The Griddle Cafe was exactly what you would expect from a place that is well-known and liked… its small in that diner setting and wonderful in everything they serve.
My sorority sister and I decided to split a Red Velvet Pancake. The pancakes are made exceptionally large and usually come in stakes of three, but the red velvet is just one layer served with cream cheese frosting. This allowed us to order other breakfast items that we enjoy (bacon, potatoes, eggs, etc) and to top it all off, the necessary fuel to make it through any day… Coffee.
That afternoon, the rain finally stopped. Just in time to enjoy Universal Studios Hollywood. For California residents, theme parks offer year round passes for a discount. So my sorority sisters were all set with their tickets and by luck, I was able to get a two-day pass for the price of one. Upon arrival at the ticket booth, I was informed that the park would be closing in less than three hours. I didn’t really mind paying full price since I wanted to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and knew this would be my only chance for a while. The lady was so sweet when I told it this that she said she’s going to give me the late evening pass sale. Basically since the park was closing soon, I would be able to come back the next day for a full day experience with no extra change.
And just like that I was ready for school. The entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Diagon Alley, a place where all wizards and witches get their school supplies. I was able to run right up to the train conductor and hop aboard the Hogwarts Express. I watch students from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and Drumstrang Institute perform, drank cold butterbear for the first time, watched a witch earn her wand in my party, was able to purchase my wand, ride the rides, discover chocolate frogs and other wondrous treats, and lastly explore Hogwarts.
Inside the castle, you are able to wander. You’ll see things like the Mirror or Erised, pass Dumbledore’s office, and walk though classrooms. The broomstick ride was a 3-D experience that had special effects. In the gift shop, we decided that since we were all from different houses that we would get matches sweatshirts to show school unity but loyalties to our houses. While there, the staff in our perspective houses offered to show us our House Secret Hand Shakes. All staff working in Harry Potter World are sorted and trained on their house so they can assist or answer guest questions regarding the house.
Evening was spent on the Universal CityWalk. Many shops, lots of places to eat but ultimately, I was just happy to be reunited with sorority sisters. Saturday morning was the start to another beautiful day at Universal Studios. Donned in our Hogwarts House Sweaters, we started the day with brunch at the Three Broomsticks. This time I tried the warm butterbeer. Let me just say, that warm butterbeer is by far better than the cold butterbeer. Both are alcohol free so at some point Universal Studios Orlando will have to be tried in order to decide which butterbeer is the best.
We spent less time in Harry Potter World because I wanted to ride other rides and see the attractions. Next door was Springfield, home to the Simpsons. I’m not much of a beer drinking but it was fun to go from Butterbeer to Moe’s Beer. After some rides and character meet and greets we ventured to the lower end of the park.
Now Jurassic Park first came out when I was a small child. And it terrified me. Especially the T-Rex. So naturally I think it’s a good idea to ride a ride where a giant T-Rex brings to life your childhood fear. On the ride there’s two places where the T-Rex pops out. One is about three-quarters of the way in when things go badly in Jurassic Park. While everyone else jumped as T-Rex one popped out above our heads, here I am, screaming like a maniac, ducking for cover, and grabbing at my sorority sisters like they can protect me.
Now that everyone in my boat has been captivated by the wailings of Lisa, we still have a few more minutes on the ride. Which happens to be a water ride that drops at the end. And you probably guessed it. This is where T-Rex two pops out. But it’s not above me. No, the stupid animatronic pops out at you as you go off the cliff. So the boat starts to tip and there’s a water wall and just as it feels the boat is parallel to the water fall, T-Rex pops out straight at you. T-Rex is wailing. I’m wailing. It continues to lunge towards me. I grab at my sisters and try to throw them at this T-Rex like some sort of sacrificial goat. And just as it seems like the T-Rex will get you, the boat plunges.
Thanks to the modern world, pictures would be available once we exited the ride. Sorry to say, my luck hadn’t run out yet. The people sitting in front of me had their arms up, ultimately blocking my screams of shame. The bright side to all of this was the Raptor encounter next door. Because how often can you claim you took a Raptor Selfie?
The last part of the park was dedicated to the Transformers portion. It was a new ride for me and I thought it was done extremely well. I was also able to see the characters of Optimus Prime and Megatron. Optimus was cool and seemed to be recruiting strong females to fight against tyranny in the world. Political much Optimus?
Leaving the park early was a little sad but it was the first time we all got to have a girls night since college. Now I was given the option to get together at a dive bar type of place or to actually have a drink in a hip L.A. style place. What the heck, I went for the L.A. hip bar. And boy was I not disappointed. It was classy but decorated like something out of a 1910s movie. Plush furniture, old photographs, and classic drinks.
Talking to my friends about it and how I would like to recommend it to someone soon, their natural response was don’t bother because something newer and hipper would arise shortly. This is where the two coasts differ. The only downside to a place like this is the same as any popular bar. After a while, it becomes over crowded and you can’t hear anyone in your party. Or maybe its just an age thing at this point for me.
Sunday was a little bitter-sweet. It was the first time all four of us could hang out (another sorority sister lived with them) and it was also pouring rain. Venturing outside at Griffith Park was impossible, no Hollywood Walk of Fame for us, and the few indoor options that I wanted to see where packed. So what do you do while you brainstorm? Brunch. After juicy burgers and a little football, a visit to the mall was just the reminder of our college days.
A mall in California is hardly the highlight of my weekend, but my style varies from classic and vintage to adorable and new. Plus, they had specialty shops like the Lego Store and Lush which I don’t have unless I visit New York City. And randomly during all this, I was finally able to local a Captain America Lego Keychain, something I have been searching for now for years. Lush also gave me the opportunity to actually purchase bath-bombs for the first time. I had originally encountered the store in Spain a few years ago but I didn’t want to carry bath-bombs across the ocean. Across the country is a little easier. So with a few souvenirs for myself and others, Sunday proved to be the most relaxing day of the trip.
I cannot thank my sisters enough for hosting me for my weekend getaway. It was a wonderful time to catch up and I was able to do a few things with them that we enjoyed. And let’s face it, what better way to have a quick escape from your reality, than to spend it with friends in their reality. Hopefully sometime soon, they will escape L.A. for a chance to visit me in the fast-paced politics of D.C.
Until the next adventure or the remembrance of one,