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While the provinces of eastern Canada were being hit with the most vicious ice storm they’d experienced in years, a few of us were lucky enough to avoid the bad weather and headed south.

In exchange for the cost of a flight, we fortunate few traded snow for sunshine, fallen trees for sandy beaches, and electricity black-outs for tropical bliss. Although the winter holidays have ended, it isn’t too early to begin planning your next escape from winter. In anticipation of the February Reading Week, here is a list of the reasons why Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles should be among your top must-see destinations in 2014.

Among the best reasons to visit Los Angeles is for its amazing beaches. Located just five short miles south of Los Angeles, Hermosa Beach made the perfect home away from home during my week-long stay. The beach sits at the center of Los Angeles County’s South Bay coastline.

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In addition to the surfers and swimmers who regularly inhabit the ocean, we often saw dolphins riding playfully through the waves. Pelicans and large fish were also common sights.

Volleyball nets dot the landscape, and those looking to be active can jog, rollerblade, or bike along the paved strip running parallel to the water. Fishing is also permitted off of the pier. Hermosa Beach itself is a sandy paradise with temperatures ranging from highs of 77F (25C) in the summer, to 67F (19C) during the winter, making it an ideal winter destination for Canadians.

hermosa4However, there is a lot more to do in Los Angeles besides simply tanning on the beach! Perhaps one of the most iconic day trips to make in Los Angeles is a pilgrimage to the Hollywood sign. This American cultural landmark was originally erected in 1923, and is an incredible 350 feet long. It overlooks the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. Below, one may find the names of stars and celebrities immortalized forever in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

For film enthusiasts, searching for a favourite actor or musician is a real treat, but the city streets were surprisingly hectic to navigate through. Luckily, Starbucks cafés were popular and could be found at nearly every main intersection, providing an opportunity for the feet of tired tourists to rest.

Yet even more impressive than the Hollywood sign was Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Filled with unbelievably realistic recreations of famous figures, Madame Tussauds is well worth the comparatively steep cost of admission.

The journey through the wax museum begins with a self-guided tour, weaving among the guests of an A-list party. Here, celebrities such as Rihanna, Beyoncé, Johnny Depp, Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Julia Roberts stand positioned, ready to take photos with you.

Further on, cast members from the golden age of cinema are introduced, including, but not limited to, Hollywood legends Charlie Chaplin and Johnny Grant. Film stars from classic westerns, crime, sports, and action classics have also been recreated with a shockingly lifelike appearance. Guests are invited to bring cameras and to take as many photos as they please, making Madame Tussauds Wax Museum a much easier alternative to celebrity-hunting on the city streets!

Of course, no trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Disneyland. In Anaheim, roughly an hour-long drive from Hermosa Beach, Disneyland offered a fun-filled day where we (at the ages 20 and 24) truly felt a sense of childlike wonder again. The park contains all the major attractions of a large theme park while still remaining small enough to cover by foot in a day.

Lineup waits averaged 45 minutes, but the rides did not disappoint. At the top of our lists were adrenaline-pumping Splash Mountain and the aquatic coral reef beauty of Tomorrowland’s Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. In order to truly experience all that the park has to offer, it is advised that future travellers wake up early in the morning and buy tickets as soon as the gates open.

Overall, visiting Los Angeles was the trip of a lifetime. Even though the winter semester has just begun and the February Reading Week seems far off, it’s never too early to start planning that next special travel adventure!

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