Style and Culture in Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is a popular tourist destination and one of the largest cities in California. Explore the expansive metropolis and you’ll come to find that each neighborhood has its own distinct personality. Though widely recognized as the center of America’s film and television industry, Los Angeles is also home to incredible museums and cultural attractions. Locals and visitors alike gather at the world-class institutions to experience L.A.’s thriving art scene. Check out our recommendations for a weekend full of art, culture, and style in the City of Angels.

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W Hollywood

The chic W Hollywood is a boutique hotel located under the iconic Hollywood Sign. The property is known for its modern design that captures the glamour of Hollywood. Enjoy upscale restaurants, a rooftop pool and bar, and the luxurious Bliss Spa without ever leaving the hotel. It’s close to several LA landmarks, including the Hollywood Bowl, Universal Studios, and the TCL Chinese Theatre. At the W Hollywood, you’re steps away from the entertainment capital of the world! Live like a celebrity with the Suite Treats Package. It includes a VIP upgrade to a Marvelous Suite, complimentary Wi-Fi, and champagne upon arrival.

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The Getty

The Getty is one of the largest art organizations in the world and comprises two separate venues in Los Angeles, the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. Admission is free for both locations.

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Visit the Getty Center at the top of Los Angeles to see world-class art and architecture. The expansive campus incorporates unique design elements and includes beautiful vistas and peaceful gardens. The Getty Museum contains various European paintings, drawings, sculpture, and photography. The Getty’s collection features famous works such as Van Gogh’s Irises as well as impressionist pictures by Manet and Monet. Don’t miss In Focus: Electric! on display through August 28, 2016. The exhibition showcases historic photographs with a focus on artificial illumination from renowned photographers including Bill Brandt, Alfred Stieglitz, and Andreas Feininger.

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The Getty Villa in Malibu takes you back to ancient Greece and Rome. Opened in 2006, the museum and educational center is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The Villa currently houses almost 44,000 works of art, including antiquities that date back to 6,500 B.C. Peruse their collection of Roman mosaics recovered from Italy, North Africa, Southern France, Turkey, and Syria. Our favorite area is the Outer Peristyle, the largest garden on the site. Hedge-lined pathways and circular stone benches surround a stunning 220-foot-long pool. Keep an eye out for the numerous bronze sculptures scattered throughout the garden. They are replicas of statues found at the Villa Dei Papiri, a private house in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum.

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The Standard, Downtown LA

The Standard combines contemporary style with Los Angeles’ distinct personality. It’s an architectural wonder situated right in the center of vibrant Downtown Los Angeles. Originally built as the headquarters of Superior Oil Company, it now houses 207 spacious guest rooms, a rooftop pool and beer garden, a 24-hour diner, and trendy nightlife options. Book the Now Checking In: MOCA Package to immerse yourself in the culture of Los Angeles. The package includes deluxe accommodations, free admission for two and member privileges at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and a special souvenir gift at the MOCA store.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles presents avant-garde art pieces, emphasizing modern expression and the changing definitions of art. They collect, present, and interpret pieces created after 1940, preserving the work for future generations. There are three different locations throughout Los Angeles: MOCA Grand Avenue, The Geffen Contemprary at MOCA, and MOCA Pacific Design Center. Each one features unique exhibitions and educational programs. We recommend Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun at MOCA Grand Avenue. The futuristic video installation is an immersive experience set in a motion capture studio. Admission to MOCA Grand Avenue is free every Thursday from 5 – 8 pm.

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Viceroy Santa Monica

Stay at the elegant Viceroy Santa Monica for a beachside getaway. The property embodies classic sophistication with a modern flair. With ocean views, state-of-the-art amenities, dining and nightlife options, it’s perfect for business or pleasure. There are two outdoor pools, an on-site lounge and restaurant, a fully equipped fitness center, and complimentary Wi-Fi in all guest rooms and common areas. Book the perfect weekend getaway with the Plan Your Escape Package. Save up to 20% on deluxe accommodations and receive two complimentary cocktails and $10 off valet parking.

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LACMA

Founded in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest art museum on the West Coast. It’s located in the heart of Los Angeles, spanning 20 acres across Hancock Park. Their collection includes roughly 130,000 pieces that represent the history of art and the extraordinary diversity of Los Angeles. LACMA boasts an extensive collection of Asian and Latin American art, as well as one of the most prominent collections of Islamic art in the world. Millions of visitors flock to their numerous exhibitions, public programs, and research facilities every year. One of our favorite exhibitions is the Miracle Mile by Robert Irwin. It’s an exploration of light, material and color that consists of 66 fluorescent tubes suspended across a gallery wall. Buy tickets online.7

 

Discover the Beauty of Monterey, California

If you’re in need of a revitalizing vacation, escape the bustle of the city and retreat to Monterey, California. Located right on California’s central coast, it’s surrounded by picturesque scenery. There are plenty of parks, trails, and outdoor activities to explore. It’s the perfect setting to de-stress from work and enjoy a peaceful weekend getaway.

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InterContinental The Clement Monterey

Relax beside the waters of Monterey Bay at InterContinental The Clement Monterey. The luxurious resort is centrally located on Cannery Row, just steps away from various restaurants, shops, and attractions. Take a stroll down the pier or unwind in the outdoor Pacific Courtyard. The property features modern amenities including a heated outdoor pool and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Rejuvenate your mind and body with the Spa Vacation Package. It includes deluxe accommodations, overnight valet parking, breakfast for two, and two 30-minute Coastal Express Massages.

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 Fort Ord Dunes State Park

Start your day with a morning hike at the recently opened Fort Ord Dunes State Park, a 130-acre site right off the Pacific coast. The panoramic views of Monterey Bay are truly breathtaking. Follow the scenic foot trail to appreciate the beauty of the landscape, then make your way through sand dunes down to a secluded beach. There are eight educational panels throughout the park that display information about Fort Ord. You can go on a self-guided cell phone tour to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the area. Download the brochure to learn more.

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Pebble Beach Golf Links

GolfDigest has named Pebble Beach Golf Links the Greatest Public Golf Course in America every year since 2003. Once you visit the 18-hole course, it’s easy to understand why. The site is nestled right along the coast, providing open vistas and scenic fairways. Casual players, spectators, and golf legends have frequented the course since its opening in 1919. Many prestigious tournaments have taken place at Pebble Beach Golf Links, including five U.S. Open Championships. The U.S. open will return for the sixth time in 2019. Visit their website for reservation information or take a virtual course tour.

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The Bench Restaurant

After a round of golf, enjoy a satisfying lunch or a glass of wine at The Bench Restaurant. They’ve received Wine Spectator’s Best Of Award of Excellence since 2013. The comfortable yet sophisticated dining room overlooks the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The Bench Restaurant features a full bar, a glass-enclosed patio, and outdoor seating with fire pits. The eclectic menu showcases wood roasting and open-flame cooking techniques elevated with international flavors. We recommend the Grilled Swordfish served over Forbidden Rice with soy, cilantro, and ginger-sesame aioli.

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Bixby Bridge

Drive south on scenic Highway 1 through Big Sur to find Bixby Bridge, an iconic landmark built over a vast canyon along the coast. Completed in 1932, the bridge hovers 260 feet over Bixby Creek and provides incredible views of the ocean and surrounding cliffs. Pull over at one of the many turnouts along the south end to watch the sunset.

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Cannery Row Brewing Company

End your day with a hearty meal and a cold beer at the Cannery Row Brewing Company. Located in the heart of the historic Cannery Row, it’s frequented by locals and visitors alike. Neon lights, vintage décor, and communal outdoor fire pits create a casual and sociable atmosphere. The family-friendly eatery boasts the second largest number of beers on tap in Northern California. Enjoy a cold one with their signature CRBC Burger, wood-grilled and served on a house-made poppy seed bun. Customize it with tasty topping choices like applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, or a fried egg. They also host trivia nights and live music performances. Browse the full event calendar online.

 

Discover the Beauty of Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is a scenic destination off the coast of Georgia that is rich in history, nature, and culture. It’s home to pristine beaches, award-winning golf courses, and various nature trails and campgrounds. The historic district dates back to the 1700s, and many original buildings remain. The island is ideal for an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Step back to a simpler time and take in the natural beauty and wonder of Jekyll Island.

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Jekyll Island Club Hotel

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is an iconic property famous for providing outstanding hospitality in a timeless setting. Set in a quiet location on Georgia’s Atlantic coast, it’s the perfect place for a luxurious retreat. The Club Hotel is the only four-star resort on Jekyll Island, and Travel & Leisure has ranked the hotel among the top 500 resorts in the world! Create the vacation of your dreams with one of several special packages. Book the Bed and Breakfast Package to start your day with a generous meal. You’ll receive traditional Victorian accommodations and a breakfast buffet in the Grand Dining Room. If you’re looking for an intimate getaway with your loved one, consider the Romantic Escape Package. It includes a private dinner for two, chocolate covered strawberries, and Jekyll Island Club Signature Champagne.

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Historic District

Explore the famous 250-acre Historic Landmark District for a glimpse into Jekyll Island’s rich past. In 1735, the trustees of the colony of Georgia granted Jekyll Island to William Horton, a successful colony leader and top military aide. Horton built his home in 1743 and much of the structure still stands today. The Horton House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the oldest tabby buildings in Georgia.

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Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach is a stunning, white-sand stretch of coastline on the north end of Jekyll Island. The beach is widely known for the numerous driftwood trees scattered throughout the area. The gorgeous scenery makes it a popular destination for weddings and photo shoots. Bring a blanket and walk down to the Clam Creek Picnic Area to lay out and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Driftwood Beach is also just a short walk away from the Jekyll Island Campground, which offers campsites on 18 acres of land across the north end of Jekyll Island.

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Indulge in gourmet American cuisine at the Grand Dining Room and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Classic architecture and elegant white columns create the perfect atmosphere for a social gathering or an intimate date night. Request a seat by the window to enjoy the magnolia trees and spring blossoms that decorate the resort grounds. For a truly special evening, reserve a table for the Sunset Dinner served between 6:00 – 6:45 pm. We recommend the Fresh Catch entrée that highlights a local selection of seafood prepared by the chef. Reserve your table online.

Romance Through Arizona | Phoenix and Scottsdale

When you visit Phoenix, don’t forget to spend time in Scottsdale. Only a short drive from downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale is a smaller city that makes a perfect home base. Stay in a retro hotel in Scottsdale and visit their renowned art museum, then make your way into Phoenix for great food, an adventure up in the clouds, and more. The Scottsdale/Phoenix area is sure to become one of your favorite destinations – you’ll soon be planning your next trip back.

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Hotel Valley Ho

Step back into 1950s America for romantic weekend! Located right outside of Phoenix in Scottsdale, Hotel Valley Ho is a luxury hotel with a mid-century style reminiscent of old Hollywood. Built in 1956, the hotel maintains its rich history and incorporates fresh design and pops of color. You and your love will experience the glamour of another era. Pamper yourselves with the Romance Package and enjoy Veuve Clicquot Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a breakfast credit.

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Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Spend an afternoon at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, only a short walk from the Hotel Valley Ho. It features rotating displays of art, music, literature, film, and much more. Be sure to see the Betye Saar: Still Tickin’ exhibition, which features multimedia works with themes of nostalgia, memory, and mysticism and runs from January 30 – May 1, 2016. The museum also hosts events including author talks, comedy, and film showings.

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Pizzeria Bianco

Ready for some of the best pizza you’ve ever had? Pizzeria Bianco is an award-winning restaurant that uses fresh, local ingredients. Their menu is comprised mostly of simple, classic recipes, so you can be sure that anything you get will taste great. Stop by the downtown Phoenix location for a slice of the “Rosa,” which has red onion, parmesan, rosemary, and Arizona pistachios.

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Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum is an experience you can’t miss. The museum showcases over 6,500 instruments and sound clips from all over the world. Get up close and personal in the Experience Gallery, where you and your date can form a band and play the instruments yourself! Don’t miss the Artist Gallery, featuring instruments from stars like Taylor Swift, John Lennon, and Elvis.

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Japanese Friendship Garden

Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden, dedicated to the relationship between Phoenix and its sister city of Himeji, Japan. The garden’s Japanese name is Ro Ho En, a combination of three Japanese words. Ro refers to the White Heron castle in Himeji. Ho is the Japanese word for phoenix, and En is the word for garden. The ideal place for a peaceful stroll, the gardens feature an impressive waterfall, beautiful trees and flowers, a tea house, and a koi pond.

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Hot Air Expeditions

What could be more romantic than a hot air balloon ride over the desert? Hot Air Expeditions offers morning and afternoon flights that will take you up 5,000 feet, where you’ll see amazing scenery unfold below. After your time in the sky, you’ll sit down to savor an assortment of gourmet appetizers and drinks. It will be the perfect way to complete your trip.

Romance Through Arizona | Flagstaff

Flagstaff got its name when a flagpole was fashioned out of one of its tallest trees to celebrate America’s centennial. The San Francisco Peaks tower over the city, making Flagstaff a great setting for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike through the mountains and then take a stroll through the local shops and restaurants in town. Flagstaff is only about an hour and a half drive from the Grand Canyon – we know you’ll want to go!

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Little America Hotel, Flagstaff

Located right at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, the Little America Hotel Flagstaff has ornately decorated rooms and many great amenities that include a hiking trail, fitness center, badminton, and heated outdoor pool. Book The Couple’s Romance Package for an extra special experience. Enjoy accommodations, chocolate covered strawberries, champagne, a rose, and a $25 credit for breakfast to help you relax and rekindle your love in Flagstaff.

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Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course

For an adrenaline-filled experience, check out Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. Climb and swing your way through five courses that increase in difficulty as you progress. Race each other through rope swings, hanging nets, bridges, and more while ascending into the trees. But don’t worry, you’ll receive instructions and be decked out in safety gear before you start.

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Historic Downtown Flagstaff

Explore Flagstaff’s historic downtown, which has many fun shops and eateries like the local ones featured in the Old Town Shops. Most buildings were built in the early 1900s and retain their historic style. Hunt down the murals painted by famous artist Joe Sorren when he was a student at Northern Arizona University.

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Mother Road Brewing Co.

The beers at Mother Road Brewing Company are all brewed locally in Flagstaff. The brewery gets its name from author John Steinbeck’s nickname for Route 66. Visit their Tap Room and try the “Lost Highway,” a black IPA with flavors of espresso, orange zest, chocolate, and caramel. While you enjoy your beer, play some board games or visit their mini-library! Make it a date night and order in your dinner from a local spot.

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Humphrey’s Peak Trail

Did you know Native American tribes in the area consider the San Francisco Peaks to be sacred? The peaks are thought to be home to spirits, and to direct people to the holy site. Pick a day to hike up to Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet. The trail starts out easy and gets very difficult near the end due to steep climbs and thin air. Pace yourself and get as far as you can – you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views and you may even be able to see the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

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Drive about an hour and a half north to see the Grand Canyon, Arizona’s most famous treasure. 277 miles across, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon will definitely take your breath away. Visitors typically see the South Rim of the canyon, but don’t miss Horseshoe Bend on the east side, where the Colorado River curves around a magnificent butte. Feeling fearless? Venture out onto the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bottom walkway jutting out into the canyon where you can look down 2,000 feet over the west side.

 

Romance Through Arizona | Sedona

Sedona lies about halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, making it the perfect place to stop on your trip. Known for its many art galleries, vineyards, and spa retreats, Sedona is also said to have a unique energy that attracted the earliest Native Americans and continues to amaze people today. You’ll know you’re approaching Sedona when you see the spectacular red rock formations that make the town one of the most beautiful and romantic spots in the country.

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Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa

For an exquisitely comfortable stay, book a room at Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa. The Mediterranean style of the luxury rooms and suites gives way to views of Sedona’s sandstone formations right outside your window. The Wine & Dine package is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your loved one. Enjoy a two night stay in a deluxe room with a welcome package of fruit and sparkling water, a $100 dining credit to enjoy delicious comfort foods at REDS, and a wine tour to local wineries and tasting rooms with a fun picnic lunch.

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Devil’s Bridge

The largest sandstone arch in the area, Devil’s Bridge can be reached via a hike on the Devil’s Bridge Trail. The hollowed-out arch makes this rock formation look like a bridge, and when you reach the top, you can walk all the way across! Bring your camera to take pictures of the great views along the entire hike.

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Relax among the views of Oak Creek Canyon at Grasshopper Point Picnic Area. Enjoy a quiet lunch and splash around all afternoon at the swimming hole. End the day with a glass of wine and watch the sunset paint the rock formations red.

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Trailhead Tea

For some refreshment after your outdoor adventures, head to Trailhead Tea to enjoy one of 130 types of teas from all over the world! Check out the daily samples and grab something to go from the “tea bar.” The friendly owners will help you decide which tea is right for you, so you can bring it home or buy it from their online store. 

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Sedona Star Gazing

They say the starts are closer in Sedona because of its high altitude and low pollution. Sedona Star Gazing tours are perfect for a romantic night out together. With professional astronomers and equipment, you’ll see and learn about stars, constellations, planets, galaxies, and more! Plus, they supply chairs and blankets so you can cozy up under the night sky.

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Verde Canyon Railroad

Located just outside of Sedona, Verde Canyon boasts some of the area’s most impressive views and is only accessible by train. Take the Verde Canyon Railroad, a four-hour trip through 20 miles of the canyon. At the depot, learn about the canyon you’re about to journey through and the history of the railroad. On board, passengers are served appetizers and champagne as they enjoy the views of the Coconino and Prescott National Forests from the rail car. Venture out into an open-air car to get a look at the wildlife of the canyon. Keep an eye out for the bald eagles that make their home in the canyon.

 

Romance Through Arizona | Phoenix

The desert landscapes of Arizona offer a uniquely beautiful spot for a romantic getaway. Gaze at the stars in the desert sky or explore the Southwestern sophistication of Phoenix. Nature hikes, unique museums, major-league sports, and delicious local eateries offer perfect-for-two activities. For a vacation you won’t forget, start in Phoenix and make your way up to the Grand Canyon!

arizonagrandresortArizona Grand Resort & Spa

Tucked into a wilderness preserve, the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa will immerse you in Arizona’s natural beauty. Stay in a spacious suite or villa specially designed to feel like a comfortable oasis. You and your special someone have a choice of six great restaurants. Enjoy a couple’s massage at the spa, play a round of golf, or spend an afternoon at the water park. Book the Romance Package for the ultimate escape and you’ll receive a free upgrade, a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider, chocolate covered strawberries, and a $50 credit for breakfast. You’ll feel relaxed, pampered, and ready to explore Phoenix.

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Desert Botanical Garden

Walk together along any of five different trails that meander past trailside exhibits at Desert Botanical Garden. Explore the cactus and succulent gallery, exotic gardens, an Agave Yucca Forest, and much more. Pick one trail or do them all, and you’ll learn all about the Sonoran Desert.

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Papago Park

Surrounding the Desert Botanical Garden (and the Phoenix Zoo!) is Papago Park. Take one of the many easy hikes for a fun afternoon. The park is full of sandstone buttes formed over six million years ago – don’t miss the famous Hole-in-the-Rock. Be sure to take a picture together to remember this timeless setting.

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Sit Stay

After your hike, check out Sit Stay, a restaurant specializing in unique twists on the classic hot dog. They throw in add-ons like mac and cheese and substitute buns for naan and pretzel rolls. Try the Bear dog, which has your choice of wiener with peanut butter, smoked gouda, bacon, bbq sauce, and cracker jacks. If you’re feeling really adventurous, sample one of their distinctive cocktails or beer floats. The best part? All of their hot dogs are named after real dogs that the owners know.

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Heard Museum

The Heard Museum houses American Indian art, artifacts, and history. The Heard works hard to present Native art and culture accurately, and partners with tribal communities and artists. See over 40,000 pieces of beadwork, fashion, pottery, textiles, and more from various tribes in the Arizona area. Catch the We Are! Arizona’s First People exhibit, which celebrates Native American culture and features all of the 22 tribal communities in Arizona.

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 Glendale Chocolate Affaire

Driving north from Phoenix to visit Sedona, Flagstaff, or the Grand Canyon? It’s February and love is in the air! Take a detour and hit the Glendale Chocolate Affaire, an annual festival of romance and chocolate that takes place February 5-7, 2016. You’ll find chocolate makers from all over the country at this free event. Celebrate Valentine’s Day early with not-so-traditional confections including sweet potato fries with chocolate, fried Snickers, and to-die-for berry chocolate kabobs.

California on a Budget | Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara is a fabulous oceanfront city situated on the central California coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Mediterranean architecture reflects the city’s Spanish Colonial influences. Explore the lively downtown district, enjoy the beautiful beaches, and peruse the art galleries. The city is also widely known for its numerous urban wineries. But the gorgeous city doesn’t only cater to expensive tastes; there are countless activities that fit into any travelers’ budget.

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Hotel Milo

The Hotel Milo is a chic, vibrant hotel that offers beautiful oceanfront accommodations. The Spanish Colonial architecture and natural beauty of the surrounding area create the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing vacation. Enjoy the open garden and courtyard with outdoor pools, cabanas, and a hot tub. It’s across the street from the beach and just a short walk away from downtown. Book the Wine Tasting Package to get a taste of Santa Barbara. The package includes a wine tour for two at four local urban wineries, a bottle of wine upon arrival, and complimentary breakfast.

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Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens

Surround yourself with tranquility and lush greenery at the Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden. It’s an excellent place to take in fresh air and soak in the beauty of nature. Stroll through the park and enjoy the gazebo, koi pond, and picnic areas. The botanical collection boasts over 75 different species of trees and plants. There’s a sensory area that features plants with unique scents and contrasting textures, allowing visitors with visual impairments to appreciate the garden. Bring a few pieces of bread because the central pond is full of ducks and turtles that love visitors!

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Arroyo Burro Beach Park

Spend your day at Arroyo Burro Beach Park, known to locals as Hendry’s beach, and take advantage of Santa Barbara’s consistently sunny weather. It’s surrounded by beautiful cliffs and covered in soft sand. The pet-friendly beach is ideal for swimming, surfing, or just laying out on a blanket. The surrounding park area has BBQ grills, picnic areas, equestrian trails, and a snack bar. The entire park spans almost 7 acres! Keep your eye to the sky and you might spot hang gliders or paragliders launching from the nearby cliffs. Come towards the end of the day to watch the gorgeous sunset.

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Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art holds over 27,000 works that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The diverse collection is comprised of pieces from numerous Asian, European, and American artists. Peruse paintings, photographs, antiquities, sculptures, and so much more. The museum brings world-renowned exhibitions to Santa Barbara and holds the most Monet paintings on the west coast! They also hold events, art talks, and educational programs throughout the year. One exhibition we suggest is Looking In, Looking Out: Latin American Photography. Talented Latin American photographers share a glimpse of the life in their native regions. Admission to the entire museum is free through April 16, 2016.

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Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is a small summit that provides unparalleled views of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands, and the Pacific Ocean. You’ll find plenty of locals walking, running, or biking on the surrounding roads. The hike is mostly uphill and less than 2 miles from start to finish. It begins at Tunnel Trail and reaches an elevation of 800 feet. There are plenty of rocks at the peak that you can sit on while you marvel at the beauty of the landscape.

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Downtown

Downtown Santa Barbara is a vibrant historic art district. It’s home to various shops, restaurants, galleries, and entertainment venues. Wander through the neighborhood and appreciate the outdoor courtyards, beautiful plazas, and brick-lined sidewalks. The colorful Mediterranean architecture is truly stunning. Public parking is free for the first 75 minutes. It’s a great place to enjoy a simple afternoon walk or have a seat and watch the crowds of people go by. There are also numerous events held in the downtown area each month. Many of them are free and showcase local talent. Stop by Fuzion Gallery and see the Paint & Metal exhibit which features mixed media, large-scale metal works by local artist RUSO. Check out the full event calendar online.

 

California on a Budget | Los Angeles

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Los Angeles, the city of angels, is a California icon best known as the hub of the film and television industries. It’s home to the famous Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, and many high-end shops and restaurants. The sprawling metropolis is a mecca of culture, business, and entertainment. Don’t be fooled by the sparkling façade, because a visit to Los Angeles doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. We’ve put together a list of things to see and do that don’t cost a pretty penny.

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Miyako Hotel

Surround yourself with elegance and hospitality at the Miyako Hotel. The chic, minimalist design brings the style of Japan to the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The Japanese term miyako translates to “a flourishing center of business and entertainment.” The property lives up to its name. It’s located within walking distance to the Civic Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Japanese American National Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Each guest room is beautifully appointed, and children under 12 stay free! Book the Miyako Getaway Package and receive a free executive room upgrade and complimentary breakfast!

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The Broad

The Broad is Los Angeles’ newest contemporary art museum. The stunning 120,000-square-foot, $140-million building features two levels of gallery space and is home to a collection of 2,000 works of art. The Broad features contemporary art from the 1950s and operates a lending program to museums and galleries across the globe. The museum also hosts public programs that help foster education and appreciation for the art of our time. Don’t miss one of their inaugural installations: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room. It’s a mirror-lined room containing a dazzling LED display that reflects infinitely, creating the illusion of endless lights. Best of all, general admission is completely free! Advanced online reservations are available online.

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Wisdom Tree Hike

Climb to the top of Cahuenga Peak and find the mysterious Wisdom Tree. The mountain is located just west of the Hollywood sign and reaches an elevation of 872 feet. It’s a rugged, steep trail that rewards you with boundless views of Hollywood and downtown LA. When you get to the top, there’s a lone tree overlooking the city known as the Wisdom Tree. It’s believed to be the only tree left standing after the Hollywood hills fire in 2007. Next to the tree you’ll find an original ammunition box containing notes and souvenirs from past visitors.

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Eastside Music Crawl

Experience the booming nightlife and live music scene in East Hollywood. An exciting night out doesn’t have to break the bank! On Mondays, many venues offer free admission and showcase incredible local talent. Our favorites are The Echo, Satellite, and Bootleg Theater. Each location is within walking distance or just a short drive away. Stop by each of them to discover up-and-coming musical acts.

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The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore is every book lover’s dream. It’s currently the largest new and used book and record store in California, and it all began in a downtown Los Angeles loft. The bookstore now occupies a 20,000 sq. ft. space in the Spring Arts Tower. It’s been named one of the “20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World” by Flavorwire and the “Best Bookstore in Downtown LA” by LA Weekly and The Downtown News. The multilevel space is full of local art that creates a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. There’s even a dedicated section full of $1 books! Feel free to sell, trade, or donate your unwanted books and records. 

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Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is a monument to public astronomy, offering telescopes, exhibits, and live shows. It’s been a Los Angeles icon since 1935 and is one of the most popular attractions in Southern California. Admission and parking are always free. Check out the calendar for events held at the observatory throughout the year. Head to the top for amazing views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign!

 

California on a Budget | San Diego

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San Diego is often referred to as “America’s Finest City.” With pristine beaches, one of the largest zoos in the world, and beautiful sunny weather year-round, it’s not an exaggerated description. San Diego truly embodies the classic Southern California culture. But a great San Diego vacation is so much more than an expensive hotel and a trip to the beach. The city is full of incredible art, picturesque scenery, and a booming culinary scene. There are plenty of things to see and do in San Diego that are extremely budget friendly. Take a look at these suggestions; your wallet will thank you!

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Sofia Hotel

You’ll be right next to the excitement of the Gaslamp Quarter when you stay at the Sofia Hotel. This boutique hotel is set in an ornate gothic revival building that dates back to 1926. It’s the perfect combination of historic elegance and modern luxury. The well-appointed guest rooms feature flat screen TVs, mini fridges, microwaves, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The property is also pet friendly and completely smoke-free. Book the San Diego Zoo package to experience one of the largest zoos in the world! You’ll receive deluxe accommodations and two tickets to the San Diego Zoo.

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Tacos El Gordo

Skip the fancy white tablecloth and head south. Tacos El Gordo is a family owned and operated company that has been in service for over 40 years. The San Diego location first opened in 1998, and since then they’ve become widely known for their dedication to quality and authentic flavor. The menu is simple and consists of traditional tacos, quesadillas, and various preparations of meat cooked to perfection. The line to order can get long, but it’s worth the wait! Order a few of their adobada tacos made with marinated spicy pork, cilantro, onions, and their signature cream sauce.

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Chicano Park

Visit Barrio Logan to see the murals scattered throughout Chicano Park. Chicano Park spans almost 8 acres and showcases San Diego’s diverse Latin roots. The astounding works of art give you a glimpse into the unique history of the city. Mexican-Americans first settled in the area as early as the 1890s!

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Mt. Woodson Trail

Gear up and climb the scenic Mount Woodson Trail. It begins at Lake Poway and takes you through a challenging route that reaches an elevation of over 2,000 feet. It’s a challenging hike, but you’ll come across extraordinary landscapes as you make your way to the summit. Find the infamous “potato chip rock” before you reach the peak. Be sure to snap a picture! It’s a dramatic rock formation you won’t find anywhere else. Once you reach the top, you’re rewarded with panoramic views from Lake Poway all the way across the city.

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Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is a historical site located in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood near downtown San Diego. The pedestrian bridge is a hidden gem that was built back in 1912. It spans 375 feet long and hangs almost 70 feet above the ground. Be extra cautious if you’re afraid of heights! The bridge tends to wobble and sway towards the middle. Make your way across and you’ll find several “love locks” adorning the railings. Take in the beautiful scenery and hike down to explore the canyon below.

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Cabrillo National Park

Explore Cabrillo National Park to learn about San Diego’s cultural and historic past. The national monument commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the West Coast back in 1542. The plaza around the monument offers scenic views that stretch all the way down to Mexico. The park is also home to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, an original structure that’s been restored and is now open to the public. Head south from the lighthouse and you’ll find the whale watch lookout. Keep your eye on the water; January and February are peak months for whale watching!