The Real Southern California

Reflections of Southern California

Wow, that was some trip.

I just returned from a two-week whirlwind tour of Southern California with my family, and considering that LA isn’t exactly known for its hospitality, I have to say: I’m really impressed with its hospitality.

To be completely fair, some of the people we met knew that we were coming – they were tourism officials who were supposed to be friendly. But many more people we met didn’t have a clue about who we were. They just saw an average-looking family of five from Florida.
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At Terranea

Here’s the view from our room at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. The strip of blue in the background is the Pacific Ocean. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Of course there’s more to this place than spectacular scenery, although you can’t do much better than the dramatic cliffs, with Catalina Island in the distance. The spa and fine dining? That goes without saying. But I was really surprised to find they had excellent shore diving here — as I was sitting at the pool, I saw the Scuba divers walking up from the beach. This is said to be one of the most valued diving locations in the world, and I need to come back and see it when I’m not pressed for time.

Speaking of pools, the “fun” one, as my kids like to call it, has a slide. There’s a quiet “no kids” pool with nice views of the Pacific, too.
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King Kong 360 3-D: That’s it?

This is what you get when you invite a consumer advocate to review a theme park ride. You see that? It’s a shot of my family’s reaction to the new-and-improved King Kong 360 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood, which opens July 1.

Their verdict: That’s it?

If you remember the old Kong, which burned to the ground two years ago, then you’ll find some similarities here. There’s the obligatory tour of the Universal lot. There’s a dark tunnel. Lots of noise and spraying water, too. But the animatronic ape has been replaced by a massive 360-degree, 3D screen and a multi-sensory experience that includes dinosaurs, giant spiders, and Mr. Kong himself.
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In the Ballona Wetlands

The Ballona Wetands is probably the last thing you’d expect to find in a place like Marina del Rey. It’s 600 acres of protected land in one of the most developed urban areas on the planet. Here’s a picture of Iden exploring the saltwater marshes. We’ll have more on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog next week.