A curated playlist is essential for any road trip—but on this two-day journey, the music isn’t just in the background, it’s the main event.
California’s first drug and soda fountain opened in 1899 in the sunny city of Orange. While you can no longer fill your prescription for laudanum at Watson's Soda Fountain & Cafe, not much else has changed. The nostalgic decor (think: a marble bar adorned with carousel horses) has made the restaurant a popular filming location for period movies such as That Thing You Do. Keep it classic with a tuna melt and a chocolate malt, or if you want to double-down on the rock ‘n’ roll vibes, try the J Cash (chicken-fried steak and eggs) and add a shot of bourbon to your shake.
Southern California rock is more than the breezy Beach Boys and Sugar Ray. There’s an edgy underground, too—the region’s punk scene gave us Agent Orange, Social Distortion, X, and more. The go-to haunt for local punks, the V Room in Long Beach, leans heavily into this grittier style. Set your alarm—the bar opens daily at 6 a.m. and stays rowdy until closing time at 2 a.m. “Breakfast” is served all day. Try a Bloody Mary topped with Doritos and something called a “gas station meat stick” on top, or the Cinnamon Toast Crunch which mixes Fireball whiskey and butterscotch schnapps, served with a crushed graham cracker rim.
This world-class entertainment center is where the biggest names in entertainment come to play in more ways than one. The 19,000-seat Staples Center is the traditional host of the Grammy Awards ceremony, and it’s also the year-round home to Los Angeles’ sports teams, including the Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Sparks. Snag tickets to one of the more than 300 events the center hosts each year or simply check out the impressive exterior as you stroll through L.A. Live, a 950,000-square-foot campus that’s home to restaurants, event venues, and hotels. Grab a bite at one of L.A. Live’s big-name eateries like Katsuya or WP24 by Wolfgang Puck—or enjoy some of the venue’s award-winning concessions like the crispy fried chicken sandwich at LudoBird. Music fans will love the Grammy Museum across the street, which features exhibits like In the Studio, an interactive recording studio experience, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame Gallery, which includes samples of handwritten lyrics by Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, and others.
The 1.5-mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard that runs through West Hollywood is always ready for a raucously good time. Home to the city’s most iconic rock venues, the Sunset Strip is where the cool kids go to catch a show, party hard, and spend the night. Check the calendar at classic spots like The Roxy, The Viper Room, Whisky a Go-Go, and The Troubadour. Sip a cocktail or two from Pearl’s Rooftop or in one The Rainbow Room’s padded booths, which have been frequented by stars such as John Lennon and Billy Idol. Just a few blocks away, tuck in at the Sunset Marquis, a rocker favorite that takes its music so seriously it even has its own recording studio, Nightbird.
Made famous by The Doors’ “Love Street”— head to the Canyon Country Store to buy some elevated car snacks.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery serves as the final resting place for many famous names, including Johnny Ramone, Chris Cornell, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney. More than a place to pay your respects, the cemetery grounds, located in the heart of Hollywood, host a number of cultural events as well. From late spring through summer, guests can enjoy outdoor screenings of classic films projected onto the side of the mausoleum at the Fairbanks Lawn. The Masonic Lodge also hosts intimate concerts and storytelling events.
Located on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, the city of Claremont is home to a world-class record store. After opening its doors in 1974, Rhino Records has become a destination for music lovers on the hunt for rare or out-of-print vinyl. Spend a day sifting through albums or put yourself in the hands of one of the knowledgeable staff members. The general manager, Dennis Callaci, started working at the shop at age 18 and has been dedicated to Rhino for 30-plus years. The shop also sells a wide assortment of record players to find your perfect sound.
Amid the white-walled mansions of Palm Springs’ Movie Colony neighborhood, Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway is the 5,000-square-foot residence where The King and Priscilla enjoyed postnuptial bliss in 1967. Constructed in four concentric circles and without a single square room, this home was featured as “The House of Tomorrow” in a 1962 Look magazine centerfold and is still one of the more notable examples of Palm Springs’ mid-century modern character. Nab tickets to check out the 64-foot built-in banquette sofa, straight-out-of-The-Flintstones rock walls, and other era-defining elements.
In the high desert about 20 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park, Pioneertown looks like it has been around since the 1800s. But these rustic structures were originally built as a tourist attraction and film set in 1946. You can stay in western-style rooms decorated with Native American blankets, cactus, and rustic furnishings at the Pioneertown Motel. Or catch dinner and live music at Pappy & Harriet’s, where Sir Paul McCartney once played a show.
This hacienda-style inn, which dates back to 1949, sits just six miles from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Lovely purple wisteria drips down from the adobe overhangs extending out from each doorway at the Joshua Tree Inn, and the pool offers welcome relief from the desert heat. Guests staying in room number 8 may feel a creative presence. It’s where country-rock innovator Gram Parsons spent his last night. Guests leave notes and lyrics of their own in a bedside journal and a stone guitar sitting outside the door serves as a quiet shrine.