Exploring Beaches, Live Music and More Off Campus

By Sarah Binau ’19

My three years at Pomona have given me the chance to enjoy the city, the coast, the desert, and the mountains in more ways than I could have imagined before coming here. Here is a summary of my favorites in the genres of beaches, improv, outdoor adventures and live music.

Let’s go to the beach, beach, let’s go get away!

Leo Carrillo State Park is the best place I’ve found to camp overnight near the beach. Located up in Malibu, it’s walking distance from a beautiful rocky beach (just cross Highway 1). The campsites are organized, simple, and make car camping easy. A little pricey, at $45/night, but if you bring a car of 5 people, it’s not too bad. Leo Carrillo is a favorite for OTL trips (On The Loose – the 5C’s outdoors club.

Another Malibu favorite is Zuma Beach. Widely known for its terrific surf, wide sands, great weather, and gorgeous cliffs, Zuma is a staple in LA county and in pop culture. Numerous singers mention the beach, and it has also been a filming location for various TV shows and movies. I went with two friends on a March weekend, and though the water was cold, the sun was at its Malibu best, and we spent the afternoon swimming and climbing the various overlooks, scrambling over rocks to smaller beaches. If you’re looking for the magical California coastline, this is a great example of it.

Moving south, Dockweiler Beach, near LAX, is my favorite spot for a beach fire-pit. This spring, a bunch of friends and I spent the day there, swimming, playing Spikeball, eating hotdogs, chips and salsa, and banana boats, and enjoying the sunset. The beach is quite large, and the fire-pits are plentiful, but get there early to make sure you stake one out, and remember to bring your own firewood. Or ask to share with someone else. Parking is under $10/day.

LA beaches are great, but Orange County (OC) beaches are usually closer to Pomona. Newport Beach is probably the closest, at an easy 1-hour drive. Famous for its good surfing and walkable/fishable pier, Newport has free parking if you can find it on the street. Also in the OC is Laguna Beach. If you’re looking for proximity to food and basketball and volleyball, Main Beach is your best bet. If you’re looking for something less touristy, check out Thousand Steps Beach nearby, and enjoy a pristine beach and a leg workout on the way up.

For the adventurous, Catalina Island waits off the coast, south of Long Beach. Only accessible by ferry, a trip to the island can be quite pricey (about $80 round trip), but the island offers unparalleled beauty. Fall of my first year at Pomona, I took an unforgettable trip to Two Harbors to visit a friend who lives and works on the island. She took me on a weekend trip with her co-workers to Ben Weston Beach, on the west side of the island. Secluded, and only accessible by footpath, the beach is a surfer’s dream. We climbed the adjacent hill for a lovely sunset, and even saw two wandering bison. Bison have lived on the island since the 1920s, when about a dozen were brought there for the filming of a movie. They stayed after the crew left and are now a tourist attraction.

Improv, anyone?

Although much of Los Angeles seems expensive, there is great comedy to be seen at a college-appropriate price. Upright Citizens Brigade offers shows every night of the week at both of their Hollywood locations (Franklin and Sunset). My favorites are ASSSSCAT and Harold’s night. They pack the theatres tight, so wear layers so you can shed them. I recommend getting there with plenty of time to spare (a good 30 minutes ahead of the show) to stake out a spot in line to ensure the best possible seat; it’s first come, first served.


The Great Outdoors

Mount Baldy, the highest point in Los Angeles County, is one of the peaks we’re talking about when we talk about “the mountains” close to school. Officially called Mount San Antonio, the mountain rises an impressive 10,064 feet. For those who want to summit, it’s best to start early in the morning, on a late spring/summer/early fall day, to avoid the snow that tops Baldy during the winter. In the summer and early fall, bring plenty of sunscreen and snacks and water, and, for the newer hikers, allot 4 hours up and 4 hours down, leaving from Manker Flats. Be sure to take a rest at the Ski Hut, halfway up. The hike is a tough one, but the views are well worth it. In the summer, there are monthly moonlight hikes on full-moon weekends with BBQ and a band playing at the Ski Hut.

Near Baldy, but not quite as high, is Potato Mountain. At 4.4 miles round-trip, the hike is doable in less than 2 hours, and total elevation gain is only 1,148 feet. Accessible year-round, I’ve done this hike at least 10 times. It offers some of the best sunset views you can catch near campus.

Two hours east of campus is the famous Joshua Tree National Park. Another staple of the Pomona experience, “J Tree,” as it is affectionately known by students, is a great place for camping, hiking, rock scrambling, and general desert enjoyment. With numerous trails, campsites, and attractions, J Tree is worth several visits.

Nearer to campus, Frank G Bonelli Park is a hidden gem. With walking/jogging paths, hiking trails, a reservoir, gorgeous mountain views, green picnic areas, and even playgrounds, the park is sure to be a hit with everyone. A friend and I like to pop over in the afternoon for a jog around the reservoir before sunset. Parking is $10/car, but sometimes there is no one working the parking booth, and we sneak in.

Live music

The first concert I went to in LA was during my first year of college at The Wiltern to see the band Dr. Dog. Located near Downtown, the historic theatre (built in 1931) is worth a visit all on its own. We had cheaper standing tickets, but the show was great all the same.

Fall of my sophomore year, a group of friends and I went to see the Head and the Heart at The Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. It was by far my favorite venue and my favorite show I’ve seen in LA. The theatre is outdoors, and any show there would be a wonderful way to spend a September evening. Tickets weren’t outrageous despite being a larger venue, and parking was manageable, although we did walk a bit.

Later that year, a friend and I went to see Oh Wonder at The Glass House in Pomona. An easy and cheap Uber ride away, the venue strikes a balance between cozy and open, with high ceilings but a smaller crowd size. The show was great, as was the energy.

My most recent LA music foray was to Moroccan Lounge, just south of Union Station, to see the Chilean singer Gepe. Parking was a breeze, just a meter outside the door. Tickets were outrageously cheap, at $12/person, and the venue was a cozy bar with a small backroom where Gepe and his band played for over 2 hours. This experience showed me how inexpensive great music can potentially be in Los Angeles.