A Traveler’s Guide to Southern California

Whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner or with a group of family and friends, Southern California has something for everyone. Its sunny weather and beautiful Pacific coastline create the perfect atmosphere for both adventure and relaxation.

Southern California is my favorite travel destination. The people are friendly and there is so much variety throughout the region. Here are some of the best places to visit in SoCal.

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, California’s largest city, you can find A-list celebrities and enjoy great rooftop dining with views of the ocean and the city. L.A. is also where you can find legendary Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The city also boasts sports and music entertainment, like the Staples Center and LA Live. Universal Studios Hollywood features movie-themed rides and tours that are perfect for movie lovers.

Disney

In Orange County, you will find all things Disney. The Disneyland Resort features Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. The rides, shows and attractions are perfect for kids, but also provide a magical atmosphere for adults. For thrill-seekers, an alternative to Disneyland is Knott’s Berry Farm. Less than a 15 minute drive from Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm offers bigger, more intense rides in comparison to Disneyland.

San Diego

If you want to walk away from vacation more knowledgeable, San Diego is the place to go. It’s home to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego, where you can learn about the world’s most magnificent creatures. Very close to these two attractions is also the Science Center and Natural History Museum. Younger children may also enjoy the carousel and miniature railroad. Just 30 minutes north of San Diego, you can visit Legoland in Carlsbad, CA.

Huntington Beach

Were you even in SoCal if you didn’t check out the area’s legendary beaches? Huntington Beach is one of the best. The downtown area has great food and the perfect atmosphere for a leisurely walk, morning run, or drive along the coast. While in Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA, you could take surf lessons with a professional to improve your skills. The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa has a relaxing spa for adults and fun pools for the kids. Another great SoCal Beach is Venice Beach in Santa Monica. Its world-famous boardwalk and scenic canals will not disappoint.

National Parks

Channel Islands National Park consists of 5 uninhabited islands preserved for the public. You can camp overnight or just go for the day to see sea caves and kelp forests, scuba dive or snorkel. If rock climbing, hiking and photography are more your style, you’ll love the Joshua Tree National Park. There are more than 4,500 established rock climbing routes, natural springs and camping areas.

I could spend days talking about Southern California’s best attractions. Book a trip to see SoCal for yourself.

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Content was originally published on my travel blog.

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A Traveler’s Guide to Cultural Norms in Italy

Finally taking that long-dreamt-of trip to Italy? Bravissimi! The country is steeped in rich history, culture, and a vast palette of heart-stopping views. Stateside tourists, however, often find themselves out to sea when it comes to the mores and manners of the Italians. This won’t deal a fatal blow to the vacation, but nonetheless, it’s better to arrive prepared. Here’s a primer on some of the cultural norms of Italy to steer you down the right path.

Know the proper greetings. While ciao (“hello”) is often heard in movies, it’s a casual greeting used mainly among young people and close friends. When greeting strangers, it’s proper to extend a hand and say buonguorno (“good day”) instead. Similarly, when meeting your host for the first time, molto lieto (“pleased to meet you”) is customary and appreciated.

The kiss. Italians, like many Europeans, kiss one another on both cheeks upon greeting. It’s best to know this going in, or the situation might be awkward for both parties. Just go with the flow.

Il pisolino. The afternoon nap is not observed by all Italians, but its influence is such that it is best to avoid making telephone calls or social engagements between the hours of 2 and 4 pm.

Dinner invitations. It is customary for invited guests to offer a small token of appreciation, such as chocolates or flowers. Be sure to ask the local florist for advice, as certain flowers in Italy have connotations you may wish to avoid (i.e., chrysanthemums are associated largely with cemeteries).

Before digging in at the table, wait for the host to say buon appetito (“good eating”), as this signifies the official start of the meal. Similarly, if wine is offered, don’t take the first sip until the toast (salute). Be aware that guests who drink to excess or cannot handle their alcohol are unlikely to be invited back.

Dress appropriately. Italians place great value on clothing and appearance. Make a good impression by dressing in proper attire when out in public, particularly if you’re traveling for business. This usually means a suit for men (with or without a tie), and a simple dress or suit for women. Be careful not to go overboard, however—it’s just as inappropriate to dress too formally as it is to underdress.

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Content was originally published on my travel blog.