A Dozen College (LA)ndm(AA)rks


Booking under: Nicole & Keith

After saying farewell to our college towns for about two years, it’s easy to feel emotional when we hear people talk about these two places. Can you guess what our college towns are by examining the title of this post? You got it! We are excited to share 12 Los Angeles and Ann Arbor landmarks with you this week.

Los Angeles

1. University of California, Los Angeles


Bruin born, Bruin bred, Bruins til’ the day we’re dead!

UCLA is located in the heart of beautiful Westwood and the campus is divided into North and South, where the North Campus is home to social science and business majors and the South is home to STEM majors. Royce Hall is an iconic image of UCLA and a true symbol of intellectual and artistic excellence. Opposite to Royce Hall is the main Powell Library where many students spend their nights during midterms and finals time.

In the realm of sports, the UCLA Bruins have won 113 NCAA team championships, more than any other university in the nation. Every November, a Beat ’SC Bonfire and Rally is organized to cheer our Bruins on to victory against the Trojans. Let’s wish the Bruins good luck at the Rose Bowl on Nov 19th!

As we count down to 2019, it will be the 100th anniversary of UCLA’s founding. What would be better than revisiting the campus and celebrating the joy and pride with other fellow Bruins?

2. Beverly Hills & West Hollywood


Yes, this is about Beverly Hills but no, nothing about shopping.

After a 15-minute drive from Westwood, you will reach Beverly Hills where palm trees line the streets with big houses on the side. Beverly Hills is perhaps the most lavish city in the States and is home to many Hollywood celebrities and politicians: you know where to go if you want to catch a glimpse of stars! From the famous Rodeo Drive to the dining treasures in West Hollywood (WeHo), its idyllic outdoor vibe exhibits the authentic California style and culture.

From top left to bottom right:

  • Beverly Gardens Park is where the classic Beverly Hills sign is located. Its timeless font and classic gold finish attract many people to take pictures year-round.
  • Petrossian is the best caviar restaurant in town. The blinis with caviar, trout roe, salmon roe, and pike roe is a must-order item. Come here for a special occasion and celebrate with good food!
  • Urth Caffe sells healthy and delicious food that anyone would want a bite of. Matcha latte is their best-selling item and you can even order latte art of your own choice. See what Nicole got as a faithful Bruin.
  • Blu Jam Cafe is the go-to place if you are looking for a savory brunch spot. Their Norwegian Benedict, crunchy French toast, and healthy juices are on point.
  • Switching to a more oriental flavor, Kang Ho Dong is the hottest Korean barbecue place that all beef lovers (for example, Keith) will hit up. Their marinated short rib is incredibly juicy.

3. The Hollywood Sign


I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan.

A trip to L.A. is incomplete without taking pictures with The Hollywood Sign. If you wish to get closer to the Sign, the best way to do it is to start from Griffith Park and hike along the Mount Hollywood Trail. You will end up at the summit of Mount Lee that is right behind and above the Sign. Nicole has done this route before and it took roughly 4 hours. Trust us, it’s worth the trek and sweat to embrace a panoramic view of L.A.. You won’t regret it!

For those who prefer taking the convenience of automobiles, you can drive to 3000 Canyon Lake Drive and get the best view of the Sign from the dog park underneath. Detailed route and alternatives can be found here. You’re welcome! Whether you decide to hike or drive, you will be amazed by this surreal experience and love the city a little more.

4. Griffith Observatory


The best thing about memories is making them.

As you enter the main building of the Griffth Observatory, the massive Foucault pendulum inside will immediately grab your attention. It swings slowly from one end to another, resembling the Earth’s rotation to the visitors. The Tesla coil is another iconic exhibit that demonstrates the transmission of electricity. We wish we can explain more about the principles behind it but will leave it to you to find out 😛

Admission to the observatory and parking is always free (yay!), so you can imagine the number of people visiting everyday. Parking is extremely tough so you might need to park downhill (still free) and walk up a bit. A warm reminder: if you do go at night (highly recommended), please bring a jacket with you as it gets really chilly atop. Other than that, enjoy the incredible view!

5. Venice 


Not the one in Italy but it’s equally charming.

When people think of L.A., the beach and sunshine are probably the first things on their minds. If so, then Venice is not to be missed. Venice Beach is one of the greatest surf spots in the world and runs parallel to its world famous boardwalk. The boardwalk upstages the beauty of the majestic Pacific Ocean and is comprised of many specialty shops that sell handcrafts.

A leisurely stroll down the boardwalk will lead you to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the quaintest region in the city. You can easily rent a bike from the kiosks and explore the district (restaurants and street arts) at your own pace. Vibrant, playful, artsy – Venice is really one of a kind. We highly recommend both tourists and local to spare a day and check out this hidden gem!

6. 626 Area  


The best Asian food heaven. Ever.

626 is the area code of the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) where most Chinese and Taiwanese-Americans reside. Whenever we have a hankering for something Chinese or start feeling homesick, 626 is the best place to visit because it has a wide selection of Hong Kong style cafes, dessert places, and boba tea shops. And 99 Ranch Market of course.

From top left to bottom right:

  • Half & Half is the most popular boba tea shop in L.A.. Nicole is obsessed with their lychee yogurt drink and would often add honey boba on top. It is perfectly chewy. 
  • Love to Go is a small and quiet coffee shop that specializes in making cute 3D latte art. The drink usually comes with a free marshmallow. Come here if you are a fan of fancy artwork!
  • Cafe Maji is another cafe with great ambience and has more extensive menu options for a reasonable price. Everything including its latte foam art and waffle is so adorable and mouth-watering. Absolute perfect spot for a girls brunch!
  • Boiling Point offers delicious individual hotpot with various flavors for only $12 USD. They do not take reservations and the wait usually takes an hour but it’s totally worth it. Assorted seafood is always the pick, what about you?

Ann Arbor

1. University of Michigan

angell hall

Angell Hall: One of the oldest and most famous buildings on the UM campus.

As one of the best (or simply the best) college towns in America, no visit to Ann Arbor would be complete (or even possible) without visiting the UM campus. Divided into the North (Engineering, Architecture, Music), Central (Arts, Sciences, Business, Law, Education, Dentistry), and South (Athletics) campuses, UM spans over 20,000 acres and is a vibrant microcosm unto itself.

For first time visitors, start from the historic Michigan Union and head down South University Avenue. You’ll see the President’s House on your left and the gorgeous Law School on your right. Next, cross the street from the Law School and transport yourself from the past to the present as you enter the Ross School of Business. In addition to its well-regarded academic programs, the “B-School” has won awards for its modern and environmental design.

And before we run out of space here, make sure you see the iconic Angell Hall (Central Campus), Burton Tower (Central), and Lurie Tower (North).

2. The Big House

michigan stadium

The Michigan Wolverines have the biggest stadium, the most wins in college football, and the highest winning percentage. Go Blue!

Although it’s still a part of the UM campus, Michigan Stadium deserves to be its own item in this list. The Big House (as its affectionately called) is the second largest non-racing stadium in the world. As the largest stadium in America, it boasts an official capacity of 107,601 and has hosted association football games, hockey games, and (in Keith’s opinion) the craziest college football game ever.

Even if you don’t get to witness the Michigan Wolverines stream out of the tunnel to touch the famous “Go Blue” banner every football Saturday (1:25), do yourself a favor and visit one of the greatest sporting venues anywhere. Heck, some people even decided to get married here.

3. Huron River Canoeing

huron river

Gentle drop ahead! Will the two people behind us make it? They did!

If you like the great outdoors, then Ann Arbor certainly does not lack for attractions. The number one thing to do is canoeing in the Huron River. At 210 km, the Huron runs between the North and Central campuses, offering a scenic backdrop for a nice afternoon of canoeing with friends. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner. The river is quite calm and only features a few spots with faster currents and minuscule plunges – the perfect balance of easy and exciting!

4. Food, Glorious Food

ann arbor food

From delicious Sushi and Korean fried chicken to salmon with apple sauce and the best Asian fried noodles, what’s not to like?

Feel like some food after an afternoon of canoeing? You’re in luck, because Ann Arbor has an endless supply of great restaurants and bars. Here are seven categories, one for each day of the week! (And before you complain: Yes, this is only the cream of the crop)

  • Western: The Chop House is the place for a hearty steak and a personal fav for Keith. If you’re hungry for seafood instead, try Pacific Rim or Black Pearl. But on Main Street, you really can’t go wrong.
  • American Diners: Angelo’s. The Special Breakfast. You’re welcome.
  • Sandwiches: Zingerman’s is a city landmark and a fixture on TV whenever ESPN visits Ann Arbor for football Saturdays. Get the #2 Zingerman’s Reuben.
  • Japanese: Sadako has good lunch specials, but Totoro wins for their incredible Chicken Yaki Soba. Funny enough, a lot of the pop songs played in these places are actually K-pop songs.
  • Korean: Kang’s is good all around, and converted Keith from a Kimchi skeptic to a Kimchi fan. Rich J.C. is also up there. Seoul Street makes fried chicken awesome and trips to North Campus worth it.
  • Thai: Not for people looking for authentic Thai food, but No Thai! is probably one of the greatest entrepreneurial endeavors by Michigan students. Get the Pad Thai or Drunken Fried Rice.
  • Bars: Ashley’s, Charley’s and The Blue Lep all have their charms, but Dominick’s is perfect for chilling with friends, close to the B-School, and gave the world Constant Buzz.

5. Kerrytown

kerrytown and farmers market

The lovely Kerrytown and Farmers Market. Come check it out!

Kerrytown was part of the original village of Ann Arbor. Nowadays, the historic buildings have been converted into a pretty collection of markets and shops, offering some serene small-town charm.

Whether you’re grabbing a bite at The Lunch Room or checking out the Farmers Market, Kerrytown is sure to offer something for everyone, young and old alike. We encourage you to take a stroll – and a lot of photos!

6. Michigan Theater, State Theater, and Hill Auditorium

michigan theater and state theater

Michigan Theater, State Theater, Burton Tower, and the delicious Chiplotle!

Maybe you’re more into the performing arts. If so, catch a show or movie at Michigan Theater or State Theater. The two are quite nearby and are known for affordable showings in addition to some indie offerings. If opera or orchestra is more to your liking, the Hill Auditorium will surely impress with its perfect acoustics. It’s also where the B-School commencement takes place!

Summing Up

A photo by Thomas Lefebvre. unsplash.com/photos/V63oM8OPJSo

Thank you for reading and joining us on a back-in-time journey to L.A. and A.A. Of course, the list above is not exhaustive but does cover the essential attractions you should visit for your inaugural trip to these two cities. The list can go on and on, and we are happy to be your trip planner and make your visit a memorable one. Without charge! If you are planning a trip and wish to understand more about the local eats and landmarks that have not been already mentioned here, feel free to drop us a note at aloha.abf2@gmail.com.

Entering October, we will be reading about mindfulness, an important element to happiness that involves calming, paying attention, and acceptance. Come back next week to read Keith’s thoughts about how practicing mindfulness improves both mental and physical well-being. Speak soon!


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