Turning 25: A Golden State of Mind

For two years I had been promising my cousin that I would come out and visit her in California. For every reason I could think of to go, there were ten more reasons to wait.

It wasn’t until about half way through the little quarter life crisis I mentioned in my last post, that I realized, somewhere along the way I started settling for “someday”. I was always waiting, for the right time, the right people, for more money and better opportunities; it was almost like I was waiting for some formal invitation to resume actually living. Not just existing, but really living: chasing dreams, making plans, crushing goals, seeking purpose, cultivating happiness, etc.  One day I caught myself mid conversation saying to a friend, “I’ll be happy when…”, and in that moment I knew something had to change. So I called my sister and we booked two flights to Cali. They say the best time for new beginnings is now, so even though it may seem like a relatively small event, for me, turning 25 and taking a trip out to the West Coast for the first time represented a significant shift, both within myself, and in the way I’m choosing to live my life.

Here’s what my whirlwind 4 days in California looked like:

  1. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (aka The Culver City Stairs):

Here’s what you need to know about the stairs:

  • There are 282 steps (according to the internet, I didn’t count them myself).  That’s approximately a 15-18 story building!
  • The steps go straight up a 500-foot hill, so it’s basically a real life Stairmaster.
  • Each step is made of recycled stone and concrete and varies from 3 inches to nearly 2 feet in height.
  • If the steps are too challenging, you can opt for the paved road or dirt path, both of which wrap around the hill and wind gradually up to the top.
  • Your reward for making it to the top? Unbeatable sweeping panoramic views of: the Santa Monica Bay, Malibu, the Hollywood sign, Griffith observatory, the downtown LA cityscape and the San Gabriel mountains beyond.

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2. Lunch at Rush Street:

The Chicago inspired, upscale casual restaurant boasts a modern, downtown vibe, has friendly staff and bangin’ food.  There you can enjoy a delicious lunch out on the patio while soaking in the California sunshine, or grab a spot inside at one of the high top tables or king size booths for a more barroom like experience. It also apparently doubles as a night club when the DJ gets going and the second floor lounges and patio open up. But that said, I can only vouch for the lunch time vibe and menu, both highly recommended. For an appetizer we went with the “best baked mac & cheese ever”. Although it didn’t quite live up to its name, it’s definitely a must try for any mac lovers out there. Also highly recommended, the blackened fish tacos, falafel wrap and grilled flat iron steak salad. So good!

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3. The Magic Castle:

This isn’t your standard birthday party kind of magic. The Magic castle is an exclusive private club where guests must be formally invited or accompanied by a current member. There is no photography allowed inside, so pictures are limited, but this place is most definitely a unique and unforgettable experience you’ll want to try if you ever get the opportunity. The atmosphere is reminiscent of an old Hollywood night club complete with secret rooms, multiple bars and a full service restaurant. The main entrance is a voice activated bookcase, most of the bartenders double as close up magicians and the food is incredible, a bit pricey, but quite possibly the best sea bass I’ve ever had.  Both formal and informal performances take place throughout the night, and include, but are not limited to: sleight of hand magic, close up magic, table magic, card tricks, illusionists and clairvoyants. I went in a skeptic, but now, I’m definitely a believer.

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4. Pacific Palisades Hike:

We did the Temescal Canyon Trail at Sunset Boulevard with the Bienveneda and Skull Rock Trail Extensions –

What started out as a quick 2 mile hike turned into a 5+ mile adventure up the coast and down through a canyon with the most breathtaking views of the Santa Monica Bay and surrounding areas. A few hours of calm spent out in nature, with my sister and cousin, was just good for the soul. Check out these views:

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5. Malibu seafood:

The BEST food of the trip. Hands down. Ridiculously fresh, made to order, generous portions, at a surprisingly affordable price. Located adjacent to the beach, Malibu Seafood is a no frills, laid back environment where food is served on paper plates and the tables are of the picnic variety. An ocean breeze, the sound of waves crashing in the background and the greatest seafood that I (and probably you) have ever had, makes this place an absolute must if you’re ever in the area. I mean seriously, look at this juicy, flavorful, fried and flaky plate of deliciousness (also known as the seafood combo). Ya’ll that’s a fish stick on top, and it’s actually full of meat.

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6. Santee Alley Shopping and Dancing Downtown:

Located in the heart of the L.A. Fashion district, Santee Alley is basically an outdoor marketplace with a bazaar meets flea market vibe. There you can buy clothes, anything from jeans to prom dresses, jewelry, footwear, fragrances, make-up, accessories, gift items and so much more. I actually snagged a pair of Minnie Mouse ears for $1 and a pair of Birkenstock-like sandals (knockoffs, obviously) for $10. There were also stores with dresses that ranged from $15-200, so there’s something for everyone. Just use your common sense to scope out the cheap quality and/or over priced items. That said, you might be surprised what you can find.

That night we went out to a Latin club in downtown LA. We drank, danced, took a few shots of tequila at midnight to ring in my 25th, hit up another Latin club in Silver Lake, drank a little more, danced a lot more and then wound up at an all night diner for a delicious birthday breakfast. Surprisingly, we don’t have any pictures from this night, just a few snapchat videos that can’t be converted. I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s probably for the best though.

7. Birthday Brunch at Brick + Mortar:

Babes, bomb food & bottomless booze. What more could a girl ask for? Answer: nothing.

Brick + Mortar is a rustic, yet chic, gastro pub style restaurant with a must try brunch menu. There are multiple TVs on every wall and a DJ to keep the party atmosphere alive. We went on a Sunday so the combination of trendy girls and dudes in football jerseys made for the perfect low key, laid back bday brunch, which was exactly what I wanted. A bunch of my cousins’ friends met us there and before I knew it, Sunday funday was in full swing. The food was incredible and the service was even better. When they advertise bottomless mimosas, they aren’t messing around; our server was topping off our glasses every few minutes, I never saw the bottom of mine. In terms of food, I can personally vouch for both the chicken and waffles and the breakfast pizza. They did not disappoint.

After brunch we went to a place called The Bungalow. Picture a ginormous, swanky, beach house, you know, like the ones from every single movie where the rich kid’s parents go out of town and he throws a house party – that’s The Bungalow. Perfect day drinking vibe. From there it’s all kind of a blur (can you blame me though?). We bar hopped to a few other places in Santa Monica, Venice and Marina Del Ray. We walked the boardwalk, danced on the beach to a live band and ran through the waves of the Pacific Ocean – bucket list for this East Coast girl.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

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8. DISNEYLAND:

For years my sister and I have been talking about going to Disney for my 25th birthday. Turned out to be Disneyland instead of Disney World, but she kept her promise and I’m definitely not complaining! We raced back and forth between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks, we waited in long lines, bought overpriced food and souvenirs and one of us (me) even sprained her foot racing to make a fast pass time, and yet, it was still the most magical day I could have imagined.

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Always remember: It doesn’t matter if it’s taking a bucket list vacation, applying for a new job or even just vowing to make a small change in your day to day life, “the biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams” (Oprah).

 

So until next time…

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Sincerely,
Stephie

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