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Love Your City: Plan a Staycation

We’ve lived in Los Angeles for two years now and I’ve been homesick for Boston nearly every week.

If I’m stuck in traffic, I grumble about the efficiency of the metro in Boston, called the “T”. I’m annoyed with the heat and I pine for crisp autumn New England days.

I dislike living the suburbs and wish we were back in our eclectic neighborhood in Cambridge— I literally lived next door to a drug dealer and across the street from a neurosurgeon.

Learn to love your city: plan a staycation

I worry about my kids’ lack of diversity in the schools in our very white and Asian suburb. In contrast,  our Cantabridigan, “give peace a chance” school prided itself on not just racial diversity but socioeconomic diversity too. Plus, they had teachers of every walks of life, orientation, and religion.

All these reasons and more (let’s not even talk about my amazing friends in Boston) inspire a poignant homesickness in me that’s kept me from really letting myself love Los Angeles.

Which is why on my podcast, “Shalom in the City”, when my guest and I discussed our Noes and Yeses for 2017, I announced that I am saying “yes” to LA.

Learn to love your city: plan a staycation

Yes, to the traffic.

Yes, to the weather.

Yes, to the schools.

Yes, to the (gulp) suburbs.

Yes, to Los Angeles and all she has to offer.

We’re three months into the year and the only success I’ve had is the reduction in my grumbling. I have found my taco spot, but other than that, I still find myself wishing I were back in Boston.

To be clear, I don’t think there will come a time when I completely stop missing Boston.

Loving Boston and loving L.A. are not mutually exclusive, I simply don’t want my love for one to fan the flame of discontentment for the other.

Learn to love your city

I want to love this place we’re in.

Which is why I’m planning a staycation for our first week of Summer this year.

Staying close to home and becoming a tourist in your city is not a new idea, but during the financial crisis of  2007-2011 they had a resurgence.

I love how they work: you save money and stress by becoming a tourist in your own city. You plan day trips, eat at local restaurants, explore museums and enjoy nearby national parks.

Saying “yes” to L.A. necessitates a staycation. I need to be unhindered from our schedule and expectations as a pastoral family and just find what we love about this huge, diverse and exciting city.

Learn to love your city

Five ways to make the most of a staycation:

1. Hire a House cleaner and a Handy man for a day

With the money we’re saving from not having to buy five plane tickets, I’m plan on sprucing  up my home.

It’s in L.A. and we’ll spend the next seven days relaxing here. I want our home to be clean and those pesky repairs on our “honey do” list to be completed so that when I put my feet up with my rom-com summer read, I’m not distracted by all the things I should be doing on our staycation.

2. Let my family decide what’s important

There are five people in my home, all with different expectations and preferences for their vacation.

Just like I would when we go on vacation, I’m going to sit with my family over dinner and ask them two questions:

  1. What stresses you out about vacations?
  2. What is your favorite vacation memory?

When I tested these questions on our my daughter she said, “Packing because I always forget something” and “Listening to Hamilton on the long car drive to Northern California”.

From her answer, I learned that she values music, scenic drives, and togetherness. She’s not too thrilled about stuff.

Learn to love your city: plan a staycation

3. Invite the locals in

We have several friends who absolutely adore L.A.

One night of our staycation, we’re going to host them to come and share what they think are essential L.A. tourists spots. I’m asking them to bring their favorite dish from their favorite L.A. restaurant for a potluck.

Community is what makes any city a home, so it’s important for me to prioritize spending time with our friends during our staycation.

4. Shop local the whole week

In order to really love the city, I’m avoiding the big box stores.

If I need something, I’ll hit up the mom and pop down around the corner or wait for the farmer’s market. I feel a Sesame Street, “these are the people in my neighborhood” sing-along rising up within me but it’s true, a staycation is a fantastic opportunity to meet and support the…ah…people in your neighborhood.

Learn to love your city

5. Ask the educators

No staycation is complete without learning the history of your town.

There are so many options between the zoo, museum, and historical walks that, frankly I’m overwhelmed and an overwhelmed mama cannot sell an educational outing to kids who just wanna play video games on their summer vacation.

So, I’m enlisting the help of our kids’ teachers. I’m asking them what are their favorite field trip destinations.

My kid’s teachers know what the kids have learned that year or will be learning next year so she can direct to places that will reinforce or introduce those new ideas. They also know the cost effective tips that will make the most of the outing.

If any of this resonates with you, I’d love to hear how you’ve planned a staycation in your city.

If you’re local to L.A. let me know what you love about our fair city. I want to be “so L.A.” y’all I really do, so hopefully this staycation and reading Tsh’s upcoming book, At Home in the World will help me learn to love and call this new city, “home”.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Allyson

    This is exactly what I need to hear right now! I’m moving to LA in the summer (semi-reluctantly) with my job. I’m anxious that the traffic, the grind, the LA-ness will ware me down. The thing is, it might, but then there are the benefits. Mountains and beaches at your doorstep. An inspiring food scene. Go-getters who are enthusiastic about their LA life. Just have to choose to see it!

    • Osheta

      Oh Allyson! Look me up if you need to commiserate. I’m learning to love this city, but oh man does it take time!

  2. Mandi

    After a year of traveling around the world, we moved to a suburb of Dallas, and it feels VERY suburban. It’s been a very difficult adjustment, but one thing that has made it more palatable is planning little staycations all around the city and greater metro. As we come across interesting things to see or do anywhere nearby, we put in on our master list. And, every time we have a free weekend or even a free afternoon, we will try to do one or more things from the list. The things on our list range from restaurants to playgrounds to sporting events to “touristy” hotspots. Our staycations definitely give us a reason to be more invested in our local area and not spend so much time pining for a different place. I feel that no matter where you are, it’s a great idea to try to enjoy your area and to try to see the fun and interesting things and look past what might be considered the mundane things.

    • Osheta

      Oh that’s so awesome, Mandi. You’re right, ” No matter where you are, it’s a great idea to try to enjoy your area and to try to see the fun and interesting things and look past what might be considered the mundane things” I’ll try to do that!

    • katie

      we are transplanting to a Dallas suburb next summer. i am not looking forward to it coming from the east coast/seasons/close proximity to everyting (beach, mountains, dc, nyc). i’m glad to know you can find some joy in there. i worry about the boring suburbaness of it

  3. Laura Chalk

    I love this! I’ve lived in Richmond, VA for a few years and love it! But there is so many things yet to see and do here. This inspires me to create a little staycation for our family!

  4. Stephanie C

    I love your idea. Isn’t it amazing how an adventure can happen when our attitude changes? =)

  5. Linda Sand

    When we did a staycation with out then pre-teen daughter we did not make it all the way though our places to visit list. We did learn to vary activities. While the Minnesota History Museum is a fascinating place, trying to see all its exhibits in one day was not a good decision. So we bought a family membership to it and the Science Museum and spread our visits to them over time. With the bonus that the membership also included admission to other historical sights like Fort Snelling. And exchanges with other science museums when we traveled elsewhere. If you live close to National Parks and Monuments getting their pass is also a good idea. Pipestone National Monument was wonderful!

  6. Margaret

    Ha, I have the opposite feelings for LA! I grew up in Ventura County, just to the north of the LA area, and now live out in the desert in Arizona. I miss California SO BAD and would move back in a heartbeat (if not for the $/job situation). Some great things to do in LA: the Getty Museum has a great art collection and also unbeatable views of LA at night; the Getty’s 2nd location, out in Malibu, has fantastic Greek and Roman art, and unbeatable ocean views. Travel Town by Griffith Park is fun for the train-loving younger set. Just to the east of LAX, on Sepulveda Blvd, is an In ‘n Out Burger that’s right next to one of the main runways. Go, get your food to go, sit in the grassy park across from the restaurant, and watch planes come in. About every 2 minutes one arrives, and if you’re lucky, usually within about 30 minutes one or two is a HUGE 747 or A380. So amazing to see those giant planes so close overhead! The California Science Center has a space shuttle (so cool!) and the Natural History Museum, right across the street, has great dinosaur bones and a cool mineral/rare gem gallery. Some ideas to get you started… 🙂

  7. Heidi

    I’ve never been to LA, but I just saw LaLa Land, and it kinda made me fall in love with the city. Watching movies that use the city as a character helps enhance your perspective on it.

    • Victoria

      Your comment made me smile, because after living in LA for 6 years, I found Lala Land to be an overly romanticized, utterly redicolius portrayal of the city. But my husband, who loved living there so much, also loved the move 🙂

  8. Katie

    If you haven’t seen the movie City of Gold, it will get you inspired for your stay-cation! It’s about Jonathon Gold and the restaurants he reviews across the city. It’s an inspiring love letter to L.A. and American.

  9. Suzi

    I’m in the valley in LA and often find it hard to deal with the traffic and the heat of the summer. Id love to hear more about you decide to explore as I have a youngster and travel by plane is likely not on the agenda for this year. We love the natural history museum in the summer when it’s too hot for the zoo. Margaret had some nice ideas above.

  10. Rebecca

    I, too, am a recent transplant out of the LA area, so I find myself in the same position as Margaret, pining for the good of LA. What do I consider good? The weather (no frigid winter, minimal bugs), the ability to find lots of good outdoor space (hikes, parks, beach, interesting downtowns), lots of universities/colleges with conferences/speaking events on a wide range of topics, the LA county library system (you can request books from any of their 100+ libraries), the proximity to lots of cool day trips, the Summer in the Parks series that many cities host featuring bands or movie nights, the Hollywood Bowl (take a picnic to one of their fireworks shows… it’s one show where sitting up in the nose bleed seats gives you the best view)… give it some time and you’ll find plenty to do!

  11. Victoria

    I lived in LA for 6 years before moving “back east”. While I’m am so, so glad I moved, and kind of didn’t like living there, I always tell people that it’s easy to have a GREAT vacation in LA!
    If I ever go back to visit I’ll be sure to visit the 3rd street Promenade on a weekend to see the street performers, have breakfast at The Griddle Cafe in Hollywood, take a hike in Runyon, or Temescal Canyon, get Sprinkles cupcakes in BH, stop by my favorite secret beach spot in Playa Vista, eat at Lemonade at least twice, and try to catch an amazing performance at the Hollywood Bowl. Oh, and the Santa Monica farmers market on Thursdays for amazing produce and celebrity sightings. (I guess I found some things to like there, after all!!)
    Enjoy your staycation 🙂

  12. Melanie

    I don’t live in LA but I vist friends there often. One of my favorite recent trips included visiting the Noah’s Ark exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center. Neither my friend or I have kids but I think kids would enjoy it even more than we did. It’s a life size ark and there are many interactive parts to the exhibit.

  13. Michelle

    I think you kind of need to lean-in to living in LA a little, because honestly, it can be spread out, hot, inconvenient, etc. BUT! It’s also near mountains *and* beaches, is full of funky little neighborhoods, has some of the best, most diverse food in the world, and so on. So I’d say throw some Beach Boys on your spotify and check out the following:

    Explore the tidepools in Malibu (there’s a spot just south of Zuma near the Adamson house that is great). Maybe head up the coast a little after that to get some great seafood at the Reel Inn or Neptune’s Net or the nearby Malibu Farm at the end of Malibu Pier. Don’t forget to look up tide times.

    Santa Monica Pier. Fun for kids and adults. The games and rides are a blast for everyone, and there’s even a sweet little aquarium run by Heal the Bay in the bottom level near the beach. You can even park east of SM and take the Expo line all the way to the end–which is about 3 blocks from the pier. Plenty of good (if fried) seafood on the pier (and the iconic Hot Dog on a Stick just across the boardwalk!), or in DT Santa Monica you have your pick of pretty much every food.

    Not sure how adventurous your littles are food-wise, but we love to explore areas like Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Chinatown, Thaitown, Tehrangeles (Westwood), Little Saigon, Little India (Artesia) etc. So much good food and culture about in these neighborhoods!

    Huntington Gardens in Pasadena is a gem. The first time I went, I balked at the price (around $40/pp), but it’s totally worth it. We could spend all day here exploring the Japanese gardens, the Australian gardens, the Children’s gardens, etc. Truly lovely. Then hit up downtown Pasadena for an early dinner (we love Tender Greens) and some browsing at Vromans, a huge, beautiful independent bookstore with a charming children’s department.

    We live on the westside, and we love to head down to Marina Del Rey, get sandwiches at Mendocino Farms (can you tell we like to eat?) and then go to Burton Chase Park to fly kites, climb trees, and watch the boats and sea lions. Super fun, inexpensive afternoon.

    Kidspace! So fun for kids. But we have so many other great museums LACMA (you could even bring a picnic blanket if you coincide with their summer jazz nights on Fridays), the Autry, the NHM, the Observatory (my daughter came home from it saying she was going to be a scientist), the Broad, the MOCA… Do a little research and see if your kids would be into it, and then of course, find the best food nearby… 🙂

    Have you been the Aquarium of the Pacific yet? It’s SO well done. You can definitely spend most of a day there. And we’ve never done it, but there are whale watching tours that leave right outside the Aquarium. I believe they sell packages.

    Hiking is always a go-to for us too, and everything is so gorgeous this year b/c of the rain. I love Temescal (like one of the commenters above), but the LA Times travel section just did a story on local waterfalls–again, all nice and full b/c of the rain. Looks like lots of good hikes all around! Here’s one that a friend just told us about: Apparently people prospect for gold there!?

    The mountains east of LA–excellent hiking, camping, biking…

    Man, now I’m excited for the summer! Anyways, I hope you find things to love about LA. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. 🙂

  14. Eunice

    We lived in LA – so many amazing things to do. Yes to the kidspace museum in pasadena. Pretend city in Irvine. The LA zoo, Griffith observatory (do the planetarium show) and natural history museum are amazing. 3rd street promenade, Americana and the grove malls are some of the prettiest outdoor shopping in the country. They also have concerts for kids and other family friendly activities. The food is some of the best in the world. Koreatown has better food than Korea – not to mention all the different ethnic neighborhoods and their restaurants all over the city. BCD has the best soft tofu stew and they also have Korean BBQ there. Taco nazo is the best fish and shrimp tacos you’ll have in your life, ink by Michael voltaggio if you’re a top chef fan, and shake shack!! Din tai fung for the best soup dumplings, Portos Cuban bakery for the potato balls and guava rolls, and I could go on and on. LA has the best Peruvian food, too. Little India in artesia has the best Indian food. Culver City is also another cool little nirghborhood make sure to eat at Versailles Cuban kitchen while you’re there. A drive up the PCH to Malibu or down south to crystal cove/Newport beach. Not to mention proximity to San Diego, San Francisco, the Pacific Northwest and Vegas!! Ok I’ll stop there. But seriously la has so much to offer if you yelp everything 🙂

  15. Eunice

    And I forgot Disneyland!! They have deals for SoCal residents which are available at low peak times- the times you WANT to go because there are no crowds and cooler weather. There is a lot of diversity in LA, I’d argue more than Cambridge – and Boston has a reputation of being one of the most racist cities in the country, so there’s that.

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