Tonawanda News

September 30, 2012

GORANITES: California dreamin'

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Back in January, I headed out on a six-month trip to southern California, traveling with my girlfriend as she churned out a lengthy internship necessary for her college degree. Although I didn’t land the dream Hollywood acting job, I did get to dig into the West Coast lifestyle. I managed to find some treasures along the way. 

For starters, those who haven’t heard of In-N-Out Burger need to make it their first go-to stop if they ever head out West. Highly touted along the coast and seeping out as far as Texas and Utah, In-N-Out is the equivalent of Mighty Taco here when it comes to fan bases. While it’s easily categorized as fast food, it sure doesn’t taste like it. Think Five Guys Burgers and Fries quality. Ask for a double-double in Western New York, and you’ll be handed a coffee. Out West, it’s a double cheese burger with twice the cheese. 

About an hour off the coast sits the small city of Claremont, a quiet community commonly known for its seven colleges. One of the greenest areas in California, the town has been nicknamed “The City of Trees and PhDs,” and has a quaint atmosphere that’s hard not to fall in love with. The city is largely based around Claremont Village, a gathering of small streets lined with boutiques, restaurants, and a locally owned movie theatre, along with city hall and the library. While most people’s views of southern California may be defined by the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, it’s nice to know there’s a few relaxing oases left. 

Rhino Records, found in the heart of Claremont, gives Record Theatre a run for its money, and seems to be out to prove that the record stores of times past won’t go without a fight. Stuffed with a large selection of used and new vinyl, books, toys and more, Rhino Records brings a large amount of their shoppers in from the surrounding colleges. 

Speaking of record stores, Fingerprints Music, located in Long Beach, might be even better. With a spacious floor plan, bright lighting and just the right hint of quirkiness to their business model, it was hard not to pay the store a weekly visit, especially when looking for unique post cards, or a gift-wrapped, surprise grab bag of new music for the lengthy, gridlock-ridden commutes common around the area. 

If you’re in the Long Beach area, don’t miss scoping out the harbor. For starters, RMS Queen Mary, a beautiful retired ocean liner that sailed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967, is permanently parked there, and takes reservations for overnight stays and fancy dinners. 

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located right next door, with five acres of Pacific Ocean-related exhibits, including Shark Lagoon, where visitors can pet small sharks and sting rays. For an additional fee, the aquarium also offers whale-watching tours off the coast. 

When traveling to southern California, consider using the region’s useful mass transit system. A grid of train, subway and bus lines, Los Angeles’s Metro offers $5 all-day passes, cutting costs on both transportation and parking. Rather than wade through bumper-to-bumper traffic only to pay $15 in parking fees to see a Dodgers baseball game, one $5 pass was enough to convince me to ride public transportation. 

Long Beach’s beaches aren’t worth visiting — the coast sees practically zero waves due to a barrier installed out a ways into the water during the World War II. Venice Beach is worth a visit, if for nothing less than to eyeball all the oddities. From sideshow attraction halls to various bizarre tents along the boardwalk, Venice Beach delivers if you’re looking for a stroll on the wild side. 

For a more traditional beach experience, I found myself going back time and again to Huntington Beach. Although hardly secluded, Huntington Beach doesn’t get too crowded unless it’s a national holiday, and offers great views, shopping and waves. It’s everything a traditional California beach should be.

It’s good to be home for the Buffalo Bills season, but I can’t help yearning for a bit more of the sunny lifestyle. If I make it back, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for some more of the best the area has to offer — but not before I get my freshly made In-N-Out burger and hit the waves again.

Dean Goranites can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.

Dean Goranites can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.