A Long Weekend in Los Angeles & Joshua Tree

Now, folks, this happened a longgg time ago. Like, February long ago. But I can only do so many trips every year, and I would primarily like this to be a travel blog, so we’re going to do some retroactive posts! 

But first off, Why did we choose to do this trip?

  1. Simply put, California is just superior as a state. (IN MY OPINION. Geographically, at least.)  I completely understand why and accept that I’d have to sell my kidney to live there. 
  2. We wanted to enjoy nature, and seeing as it was February and I have an aversion to blistering cold weather, that crossed a lot of states off the list. 
  3. We found cheap flights.*

*The reason I choose most trips

Before I dive into our itinerary and what we did, I want to share some tips on how we kept costs low so we can continue to escape Chicago winters and enjoy California winters instead.

Keeping Costs Low

  1. Fly a Budget Airline – I am 24 years old and I only have so many years left of being fine with an airline that doesn’t even serve water. I figure a few hours of suffering is worth a $50-$200 difference. CALL ME CRAZY! We flew Spirit for $150 round trip, which is an absolute bargain. If you’re doing a long weekend, split a checked bag with your travel partner. It’s cost-efficient, you’re not hauling suitcases around, and you’re forced to pack light which will save you time on your trip. 
  2. Use Turo – A friend of mine told me about Turo, a “car sharing” service. It’s basically Airbnb for cars! We “rented” our car online, picked it up near the airport, and returned it at the end. It sounds weird, but it’s also similar to Airbnb in the way that many of these people don’t actually use these cars and their sole purpose is for Turo. Anyway, we spent about $200 total for a four-day rental, and you can get that number much lower depending on the car you pick. They still charge you if you’re under 25 which is a BUMMER, but I’m sure it’s a law of some sort??
  3. Get a bare-minimum Airbnb – If your weekend trip is anything but a resort-style, pool-lounging trip, get a no-frills Airbnb. Our rental in Los Angeles was LITERALLY a garage converted to a studio. And it was perfect. We slept there, got ready there, and that’s about it. Because your weekend will most likely be packed with activities, put your money toward that and not a fancy place.
  4. Make a breakfast or two – You don’t have to go out for brunch every day, and I’m saying this as a huge brunch fan. Pick a day or two you’d like to go out for breakfast and grab some ingredients from the store for the other days. We stopped at Trader Joe’s for some road trip snacks and picked up sourdough and avocados. It was perfect and we probably saved $40/person. More if you’re the kind of person who orders mimosas and Bloody Marys at breakfast. 

Now, we of course could have fronted the extra money to get a nicer place, rent from Hertz, and have another breakfast at the Butcher’s Daughter. I was just at the point where if I dropped $1,000 while I was there, these trips would become few and far between. And I want to leave CONSTANTLY, so that wasn’t going to work.

Now! On to the itinerary: 

Day 1 – Travel day to LA
Day 2  – LA
Day 3 – Joshua Tree
Day 4 – Joshua Tree
Day 5 – Travel day home

Los Angeles

I’ve been to LA a handful of times, but never on my own terms. I associated it with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and stalking celebrities’ houses, which are things that don’t exactly ~pique my interest these days. I was excited to explore the neighborhoods a little further as well as do some hiking, a concept that blew my mind. Hiking? In a big city?? I don’t get it. 

Overall, Los Angeles exceeded my expectations. Here are some areas we explored:

Culver City
Our Airbnb was in Culver City (along with some friends) so we spent our first night after we landed exploring the town and grabbing food and drinks. Walking by Sony Pictures Studios was EXCITING and I remember a very cute downtown area with lights. It was a late day and I was really exhausted so I don’t have much more for you. 

I will say, we loved its location and recommend staying there if you’re looking at jumping around to some of the below neighborhoods.


Venice Beach is by no means the nicest of LA beaches, but it has a ton of character and it’s always been one of my favorite spots. In Venice, there’s decent food around (for a quick breakfast, get eggslut) and Abbott Kinney Blvd. has a ton of photogenic shops and restaurants. The real attraction, in my opinion, was the Venice Canals. 

Grab a coffee and stroll the canals in the morning before it gets crowded. I loved admiring the architecture, seeing people relax in their quirky homes, and taking tons of photos. Highly recommend. 

Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach
Just go. So, so nice. Walking around and seeing homes/buildings anywhere is one of my favorite hobbies, and this one just included a couple beaches as well. We got drinks at Tower 12 in a very cute area of Hermosa Beach and just drove around Manhattan Beach until we felt bad that we’d never be able to live there. 

The only thing that brought us here was to do a hike (it didn’t hurt to see the Hollywood sign once while we’re in town though 🙂 ). We spent a couple hours hiking the Griffith Observatory trail before we headed to Joshua Tree and really enjoyed it. 

Downtown LA
Lastly, we headed to downtown LA, which was very cool to see as a Chicagoan. Los Angeles as a whole is so large but their downtown area was shockingly small. And I liked it!

We grabbed a couple flights at Angel City Brewing (highly recommend) and bar-hopped at a swanky hotel and a packed Irish bar.

Venice Canals
– Explore the neighborhoods
Griffith Observatory Hike

Food (that we ate at, there are SO many options I could cry)
The Butcher’s Daughter
Angel City Brewing
– Aaaand I don’t remember the rest 

Joshua Tree

Admittedly, this was the main attraction of the trip and what we were most excited for. I’m sure this is not the first time I’ll say this, but I was not raised in a family that visited National Parks. We mostly visited amusement, theme, and water parks instead (which was thrilling nonetheless, no complaints here). However, I can’t say I grew up with a real appreciation for nature and more importantly, what the United States has to offer on that end. (Note: I just remembered we did visit the Grand Canyon and I remember feeling like a tiny little ant and it being the coolest experience ever) 

What that sidebar led me to is that now I have a loooong bucket list of parks I’d like to visit, and Joshua Tree was high on the list. I have spent little to no time in the desert throughout my life, so if your typical landscape, like me, is fields of corn and the PRAIRIE, you will really enjoy it! 

We drove a little over three hours from LA on what I consider a very beautiful drive. Truthfully, my standards are very low living in the Midwest, haha. But I’ll sit in the car for ten hours if it means I arrive at an awesome Airbnb in the middle of the desert, which was what we got to do 🙂 

We rented a beautiful Airstream just outside the national park and loved it. Having a table to sit at, a toilet inside, and a comfortable and spacious bed (even with a tree for a boyfriend) was highly appreciated. Even more appreciated was the “en-suite” just outside the Airstream with an updated and modern toilet and shower 🙂 It was also around a ten minute drive to many of the restaurants we ate at.  Couldn’t recommend this Airbnb enough!

Night one we ordered pizza and drank California draft beer and watched the stars as we froze our asses off. It was magical.

In the morning, it was time for hiking! We drove to the nearest park entrance, paid $25 for access all weekend, and we were in. Initially, it felt like nothing had changed from the landscape in the area, but THEN, bigger and bigger rocks started popping up. And then I felt like a child because I was pointing out every Joshua Tree and annoyingly exclaiming how crazy everything looked. But it was true– it felt like I was in a Dr. Suess novel. Everything was so exaggerated and different and I loved it.

In Joshua Tree, we alternated between hiking around, driving around, and eating– a true dream. See below for the names of the hikes and restaurants.

Ryan Mountain
Cholla Cactus Garden
Hidden Valley
Keys View
Pioneertown (didn’t visit but wanted to!) 

Pie For the People – hippie pizza that we really liked (tip: get it to-go, the restaurant is very small!)
Crossroads Cafe – went here for lunch and was very veg friendly
Joshua Tree Saloon – came here for drinks while we waited for our pizza 🙂
Pappy & Harriet’s – it was closed so we didn’t get to visit, but have heard great things!

Now I’m sure a million of you have visited LA/Joshua Tree and are thinking I didn’t even skim the surface– and you’re right! I’ll be back 🙂

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