By Mo Dyson ’19
In honor of the first Fourth of July weekend that I’ve spent in Southern California, I decided to write about the amazing versatility of Pomona’s location. For the past five weeks working in the Office of Admissions, I’ve been giving daily campus tours to scads of campus visitors, and some of my favorite stories to share are about all of the types of outdoor activities easily available to students. Going into my eighth year as a SoCal resident, I’m well equipped to offer advice to folks who want to take advantage of the many opportunities available to explore outdoors.
Pomona College just happens to be located in the perfect spot to enjoy all that summer and winter have to offer. Each year, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) hosts low- or no-cost trips for students that fulfill the “47 Things” that every Pomona student should experience prior to graduation. From mid-November to early April, drive 90 minutes northeast and you’ll hit Big Bear, a mountain retreat boasting hiking, climbing, snowboarding and skiing. In the spring and summer months, Big Bear also has some pretty nice cabins available for rent, and splitting the cost among you and three friends (or five) makes glamping on the lake a good low-key vacation.
On the other hand, drive two hours southwest and you’ll be in San Diego, home of surfing, scuba diving, military history—Navy and Marine Corps bases abound here—and friendly San Diegans who’d love to give you a lesson in navigating the Pacific coast. While in the San Diego neighborhood of Ocean Beach over Independence Day, I spied these folks educating first-timers of all ages about the joys of surfing.
No matter where you’re staying in San Diego County, you’ll likely have a view of fireworks without having to deal with long lines of traffic snaking in/out of public park areas. Visiting sometime other than the 4th of July? Sea World actually has a nightly firework display, so you can catch that action whenever. The official holiday fireworks show over the bay is visible for quite a few miles in all directions, and a local radio station conveniently broadcasts an accompanying program of John Philip Sousa marches and other patriotic works.
Finally, I have some food recommendations that will not make you sad. They are, in fact, part of the quintessential SoCal experience. 10/10 would go back and visit these places for a meal and/or coffee, hands down.
- HODAD’S!! If you have not yet sampled the amazing goodness that is Hodad’s, you have not lived. The name refers to California surfing culture—often admired and imitated, even if said imitators/admirers do not actually surf. At all. Hodad’s does one thing really well, and that is the all-American hamburger. Ingredients meant to be cool and crisp (tomato, lettuce, onion, peppers) are just that, while those meant to be warm and/or gooey (burger and cheese) are deliciously warm and melty. Of course, the usual sides are present, but unlike its closely related competitor In-N-Out, Hodad’s serves beer in the bottle and on draft. For those like me who are of age, the draft beers are usually all local and supremely fresh.
- THE NEST. This little coffee joint is a local favorite. Ocean Beachers love it because it’s open and airy inside, the service is excellent, and the drinks and acai bowls are on point. Either come first thing in the morning for a drip coffee and a homemade pastry on your way to the beach, or stay awhile and enjoy the low-key atmosphere with your eyes on your laptop and the ocean breeze on your face.
- MIKE’S TACO CLUB. Fish tacos are not a thing outside of California. Don’t believe me? Try getting one in the meat-obsessed Midwest, or even on the seafood-friendly Atlantic coast, and watch the server’s face contort as they try to figure out how to give you something other than a Gorton’s fish stick in a tortilla. Seriously. Just get yourself down to Mike’s and it’ll all be okay, I promise! Cons: limited seating both inside and outside, and it can get really loud inside when ordering. Pros: delicious, amazing fish tacos and other assorted delights with a Latin American flair; proximity to sand and sun; and super friendly staff.