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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

We LOVE L.A.! – U.S. Explorer

U.S Explorer at Universal

Welcome Back U.S Explorer Families!

It has been an incredible five days in Los Angeles – one of the most anticipated stops on the trip! It’s crazy to think that we have headed into the single-digit countdown of the summer. It feels like just yesterday we were traveling up to Ithaca!

On our way to Los Angeles, we stopped off in Orange County for lunch. In addition to food, Greg, Aidan, Matt Z and many others came back with matching bandanas and watermelon socks! After this quick stop, we continued on to UCLA, where we checked into our luxurious dorm rooms. We then headed over to one of Los Angeles’ biggest tourist attractions – Hollywood Highland! This famous area of LA is the home to the historic Mann’s Chinese Theater, as well as Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. This theater is well known for its premiers of blockbuster movies along with the celebrity handprints in front of the theater. The streets surrounding this area are known for having the walk of fame, where stars are engraved with famous celebrities’ names, honoring their accomplishments in the field. Our first stop on the strip was Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. It was unreal to see so many lifelike wax figures of our famous celebrities! We all watched a video on how the Justin Bieber wax figure was made and it was crazy to see it in real life. Julia G got to hop on a bike behind E.T., Taylor loved snapping pics with Iron Man, and Matt Z held up his fists next to Rocky! Later that evening, trip members had the opportunity to walk around, eat dinner, andexplore Hollywood. Many trip members took advantage of the beautiful photo-op in front of the large “Hollywood” sign on the mountains. After a day of exploring LA, everyone was certain that these five days would definitely exceed expectations.

Our second day in beautiful Los Angeles began with a buffet breakfast in the dining facilities at UCLA. After eating delicious waffles, French toast, and scrambled eggs, we made our way to one of the nicest parts of LA, Rodeo Drive. This street is known for being the home to numerous luxurious clothing stores, and during everyone’s free time, trip members were on the lookout for celebrities. Many of the boys were thrilled looking at all of the expensive sport cars on the street. After some time walking around Rodeo Drive, we headed to another Los Angeles hotspot – Venice Beach! Trip members saw the peculiar culture on the boardwalk as they were given free time to explore the hundreds of stands, as well as the unique street art created by local artists. Everyone was also amazed while observing Muscle Beach Gym, where bodybuilders would lift heavy weights while the public watched on. Jeremy especially enjoyed the famous “freak show” and the two-headed turtles. From Venice Beach, we headed back to campus to check out the UCLA bookstore. Ben, Valerie, and Julia S all stocked up on Bruins apparel. We then headed to the dorms to get ready for a great night that was in store for us. We went to the historic LA Improv Comedy Club where many famous comedians such as Adam Sandler and Chris Rock had their starts. We saw six different comedians that were all offering different hilarious comedic presentations. Many Trip 9 members including Zak and David T were called on for part of the acts. We ended off the night with a special treat for all trip 9 members. We stopped at the ice cream hot spot Diddy Riese to create our own ice cream sandwiches from an assortment of homemade ice cream and freshly baked cookies! To top it all off, we all met New York Knicks star Tyson Chandler there! It was such an unbelievable day in LA and we were all ready to head back to UCLA to get some rest before another fantastic day in LA.

Our third day in Los Angeles began with the opportunity to explore the elaborate facilities that UCLA had to offer. Sydney D, Julia S, Jacob, and many other trip members decided to spend their morning getting their sweat on at the gym. Matt A had the time of his life walking around Pauley Pavillion, the home court of the UCLA Men’s basketball team. He even made it onto the wood! After spending the morning around the gorgeous campus, we then headed to the anticipated Universal Studios! We began our time at Universal by taking the back lot studio tour! David F and the guys all loved seeing the different cars from The Fast and the Furious movies. The girls were all thrilled to see the different houses that Desperate Housewives was filmed in! Taylor was also excited when we saw the exact waterfall scene of Big Fat Liar. The rides at Universal were also a huge hit. Trip members had a blast riding the Simpsons, Jurassic Park, and Mummy rides. Jacob found out a secret password that got him straight to the front of the line for the brand new Transformers ride! After spending the day in Universal, we then headed to a delicious dinner at Hard Rock Café. We all had a blast eating while observing all of the various rock & roll memorabilia. We then spent the night walking around the pedestrian area of Citywalk. Greg, Aidan, Matt Z and some other boys were called up on stage and danced in front of the Citywalk crowd! It was an incredible day and we were all excited for the next day ahead!

Our next day in Los Angeles began with a visit to the thought provoking and emotionally charged Simon Wiesenthal’s Museum of Tolerance. The tour opened everyone’s eyes to the injustice surrounding stereotyping against races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and genders. We were all heavy with emotion throughout the tour and at the end of the tour, the museum’s manager Matt, inspired us with his own story of personal struggles and the difficulty of living in a world filled with prejudice. We all left the museum with a new perspective towards this matter. When we got back to the bus, Disney tunes were blaring as we were on the road to the magical world of Disneyland! Singalongs to Hakuna Matata and Circle of Life got everyone on the edges of their seats! Everyone had an incredible time riding all of the various rides throughout the park – from going underwater on the Finding Nemo ride or mastering the thrilling Splash Mountain ride. Rebecca, Lily, Taylor, and many girls got Minnie Mouse ears to wear throughout the park! At the end of the day, we all gathered together for a night of fireworks above the Disney castle. It was a fantastic day for all as we headed back to UCLA to get some rest for our last day in LA.

For our fifth and final day in Los Angeles, we headed to the LA Regional Food Bank to give back to the struggling communities within Los Angeles. We were given the task of sorting through massive bins of oranges. We sorted the good oranges from the inedible oranges and filled boxes to send out. We all had so much fun singing along to tunes while helping out the food bank. After some community service, we all headed over to the Farmer’s Market to explore the unique vendors and eat at the fresh food stands they had to offer.  Afterwards, we all spent the night in Santa Monica. In the beginning, everyone had a thrill as we all rode the famous Santa Monica Ferris Wheel together. Afterwards, we all walked around Third Street and ate dinner at the various food options available.

It has been an unbelievable five days in Los Angeles as we are off to our final campsite – beautiful Lake Tahoe, California!

U.S Explorer at Universal

Until next time,

Lauren, Larissa, Phil, Jessica, Ryan