The theme of my time in Southern California could be described singularly as magic. I went back to my old hometown for actual magic (or at least the movie version of it) and stumbled across a few real life bewitching spots along the way.
First was Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch (24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368-9729), located in San Bernardino County. You have to drive about 20 miles off the highway to get there, but it is worth the trek. It’s breathtaking to see what this man has done with other people’s detritus. The light passing through all the different colored glass plays with your sense of time as you wander around. Elmer has created wind chimes which provide a sparkling soundtrack for your imagination. The best part is, he shares his art freely with anyone at any time so you can enjoy his otherworldly forest whenever you find yourself on the road.
Pro Tip: Cell reception goes in and out as you approach, so take note of the location and how to return to the highway. When you arrive, the entrance to the ranch is at the very front of the place. Park on the right-hand side and walk round (watch the divet in the ground or risk scraping the bottom of your car something fierce).
Oh, man, do I love Eso Won Books. Located in the Leimert Park neighborhood, Los Angeles, this place is flat magic. Eso Won is a Black own book store specializing in books by and about the African diaspora. It is the book shop of my dreams and I only wish I lived closer so I could browse the shelves more frequently. I regularly lament how infrequently I see diverse perspectives on historical events or important people. Eso Won has done a fantastic job curating their books, from best sellers to tomes on less frequently examined artists of the jazz era. This place is nourishing for the soul. Do not step foot in Los Angeles without going to visit.
Pro Tip: The street the bookshop is located on has some really cool stuff going for it, including restaurants, local theaters, and galleries. Make it a date and go visit the world’s most wonderful bookstore.
After a few days in Death Valley and Las Vegas, it was good to return to my old stomping grounds to see how much damage I could do before my flight. And, by damage, I mean how much jumping up and down I could do at one theme park. That’s right, I finally made it to the WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
Y’all I had the actual time of my life! To be clear, I am a massive Harry Potter fan so almost nothing short of being pooped on by a hippogryph could’ve slowed my roll. The park itself is small, with just two rides and a lot of things to spend your hard earned paycheck on. I confess that I rode exactly four rides in the entire park, three of which were in the WWoHP, and the last was the Universal Studio tour which has a Fast and Furious theme (my other cinematic love) so that gives you an idea of how much time I spent in the WWoHP. It will cost you your life savings to visit, but the magic is worth it!
Pro Tip: It’s going to be crowded, and very hot, plan accordingly. Your best bet is to get there early, with lots of sunscreen to spare. I recommend bringing a game or two to play while you wait in the long lines.