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Exploring sunny Southern California is always a good idea, but combining work and vacation for a "workcation" is even better. That's what my family and I did recently, and it was a blast. We spent five days in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach, while I also had the opportunity to conduct a couple of leadership workshops for clients. The result? We enjoyed some amazing food, saw some incredible sights, and created unforgettable memories, all while I got some work done. Here's a recap of our workcation and some tips for anyone who wants to plan their own.

Day 1: Arrival in Los Angeles

We arrive at Long Beach Airport on Southwest Airlines and pick up our 7-seater BMW SUV from Turo. After grabbing some bottled water and snacks at Ralph's, we take a scenic drive around the Queen Mary and the Port of Long Beach, admiring the ocean views.

We then head up the coast to Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier, where the kids are excited to ride the Ferris wheel and play some arcade games. We also stop by Malibu for a quick photo op in front of the iconic Malibu Pier.

As a native Angeleno, it's fun to show the kids around the places where I grew up and share some of my favorite spots with them. We stop at a highly rated coffee shop called Black Rabbit Rose on our way to the hotel. It's a cool spot with a speakeasy vibe and features performances by magicians and other entertainers.

After checking into the Loews Hollywood, we freshen up and head out to explore Hollywood Boulevard and the Chinese Theatre. The kids love seeing the handprints of their favorite celebrities and taking photos in front of the Hollywood sign.

For dinner, we head to Saddle Ranch Chop House, a Western-themed restaurant and bar with a fun atmosphere. We sit outside and enjoy the warm California evening while feasting on giant plates of nachos, ribs, and burgers. The kids are thrilled to see TikTok star Tayler Holder and his friends at the next table, and they even strike up a conversation with them. Tayler tells the kids that their mom is famous for "Not the HR Lady," which makes me laugh.

It's been a long day, and we head back to the hotel tired but happy, excited for what the rest of our Los Angeles adventure has in store.

Day 2 - Leadership Workshops, Beverly Hills & a Rooftop Pool

We started the day off right with a delicious breakfast at The Guild, a trendy coffee shop in West Hollywood that was LGBTQ-owned. They had great coffee, and we tried their avocado toast and breakfast burrito, which were both amazing.

After breakfast, I headed to my workshop in Beverly Hills, which was for a healthcare client. The session focused on developing leadership skills for managers and supervisors, with a specific emphasis on communication, problem-solving, and team-building. It was a productive session, and I was glad to be able to help the participants improve their skills and become more effective leaders.

Meanwhile, Justin took the kids to the Loews rooftop pool, where they rented a cabana and enjoyed the sunny California weather. The pool was beautiful and had a great view of the Hollywood Hills, and Justin said the kids had a blast playing in the water.

After my workshop and a quick lunch with the CEO at The Ivy, I headed back to the family and we decided to explore some more of the city. We went to the Melrose Trading Post, a popular outdoor market in West Hollywood that features unique vendors selling everything from vintage clothes to handmade jewelry. The kids loved browsing through all the stalls, and we ended up finding some cool souvenirs to take home.

For dinner, we went to Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood that was one of my favorites. The food was amazing - we tried their tacos, enchiladas, and guacamole, which were all fantastic. As we ate, we talked about the day's experiences and what we learned from them. One of the key takeaways for me was the importance of effective communication in leadership, which was something we discussed in my workshop earlier in the day.

After dinner, we went back to the Loews, where Justin and I enjoyed a late-night drink at the hotel bar while the kids slept. It was nice to have some alone time together and reflect on the day's events. We talked about our favorite moments and the things we learned, and I felt grateful to be able to experience it all with my family by my side.

Day 3: Six Flags and Huntington Beach, CA

We started the day off with a delicious breakfast at The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker. The kids were thrilled to get their signature painted lattes, and I enjoyed a trio of mimosas. We ordered a variety of dishes, including benedicts, avocado toast, and more, and everything was delicious.

After breakfast, we headed to Six Flags Magic Mountain. We have passes and a flash pass, so we were able to skip the lines and get straight to the rollercoasters. The kids were excited and we told them it was like Wally World from National Lampoon's Vacation, which they loved since we enjoy watching movies as a family. We rode all of the biggest and scariest rollercoasters, and we had a great time.

On the way to our next hotel, the Hyatt Huntington Beach, we stopped at The Tulsa Rib Company, a family favorite that I've been going to for over 30 years. The food was delicious as always, and it was a nice break from the excitement of the amusement park.

We arrived at the hotel around 7pm and checked into our oceanfront suite. We were all tired from the long day, so we decided to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant, The Watertable, which is a steakhouse. Vinny, my son who wants to be a chef, and I shared the Tomahawk, which was perfectly cooked and seasoned.

We were preparing for the second set of workshops in Newport Beach, so after putting the kids to bed, Justin and I relaxed on the patio of our oceanfront suite, with a bottle of wine that we brought from Spicewood Vineyards. We listened to the waves crashing against the shore and the distant sound of street races from nearby Main Street. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Day 4: Workshops, The Beach, Fire Pits, and Waterslides

Today was another busy day with my workshop on anti-racism for the gaming company's top leadership. The workshop was titled "Building Inclusive Gaming Communities" and focused on practical ways to create a more inclusive culture within the company and the broader gaming industry.

For the workshop, I wore a chic and professional outfit designed by Orange County-based designer, Rachel Zoe. She's a well-known celebrity stylist who's dressed many famous faces, but she's also made a name for herself in the fashion industry with her eponymous line. My outfit consisted of a tailored blazer, wide-leg pants, and a silk blouse. I accessorized with jewelry from Kendra Scott, a brand known for its bold and colorful designs, which was founded in Austin, Texas.

While I was working, Justin and the kids enjoyed the beach and the pool at the hotel. Justin took the kids to check out some local surfers at Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA. They were amazed by the surfers' skills and even got to take some surfing lessons themselves. Justin shared with them the history of surfing in the area, dating back to the 1920s when Duke Kahanamoku introduced the sport to the mainland.

After my workshop, we all met up for some family time. We enjoyed the Hyatt's Fire Pit Concierge, where they provided us with all the ingredients to make s'mores. It was a fun and unique experience that we all loved.

For dinner, we decided to support a local business and picked up some delicious Mexican food from Miguel's Jr., a popular fast-casual chain that started in the Inland Empire but now has a drive-thru location in Newport Beach/Costa Mesa. We picked up taquitos and burritos for the family to enjoy while watching the Disneyland fireworks from a secret spot that I know of. It was such a magical moment, especially since Disneyland was my first job.

Afterward, Justin and I took a romantic walk on the beach and then picked up some desserts from local bakery, Cream Pan. They're known for their Japanese-style pastries, including their famous strawberry croissants.

We brought the desserts back to the hotel room to enjoy with the family. Justin even surprised me with a bottle of wine from a nearby winery, Lido Wines. We ended the night by relaxing in the hotel's hot tub, enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean. It was the perfect end to a fun-filled day with my family, after doing meaningful work earlier in the day.

Day 5: Newport Beach, A Duffy Boat and Heading Home

Today was our last day in Southern California, and we wanted to make the most of our family time before our flight. We started the day with a walk along Main Street in Huntington Beach and stopped at a local coffee shop called Common Room Roasters. It's a hip and trendy spot that roasts their own coffee, and the atmosphere is perfect for a laid-back morning with the family.

At 11am, we headed to Wahoo's Fish Taco to pick up our order. Wahoo's is a local Orange County chain that's famous for its fresh and flavorful fish tacos. The owner, Wing Lam, and his family are good friends of ours, and we love supporting their business. Most recently, Wing founded California Love Drop with Antis Roofing and Wendy Ellis of 95.5 KLOS to help families affected by the pandemic. He even mentioned my work with Not the HR Lady on an episode of The Heidi and Frank Show, which is nationally syndicated. We ordered blackened fish tacos, white beans, white rice, and a few other goodies from their menu.

After picking up our food, we headed to the Newport Harbor to rent a Duffy boat for some lunch and fun with the kids. We enjoyed our delicious Wahoo's meal while cruising around the harbor and taking in the beautiful views. The kids loved the experience, and it was the perfect way to spend our last day in Orange County.

After returning the boat, we took the car ferry over to Balboa Island to explore a bit before heading to the airport. We stopped by Sugar 'n Spice Frozen Bananas, the original frozen banana place on Balboa. The shop has been around since 1945 and is famous for its delicious frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and covered in various toppings. It was a fun and tasty treat that we all enjoyed.

From Balboa, we took PCH to Long Beach Airport for our flight home. It was bittersweet leaving Southern California, but we made some unforgettable memories during our workcation. I'm so glad I had the chance to bring the kids along!

Tips for a Successful Workcation:

  1. Plan ahead and set clear expectations for work and vacation time.

  2. Choose a comfortable and convenient location that offers both work and leisure opportunities.

  3. Bring the necessary equipment and tools to stay productive, such as a laptop, chargers, and a reliable internet connection.

  4. Create a schedule that balances work and leisure time, and stick to it as much as possible.

  5. Prioritize self-care and mental health, and make time for relaxation and stress relief.

  6. Stay connected with colleagues and clients, and communicate regularly to ensure that work is on track.

  7. Try to disconnect from work during leisure time, and fully engage in activities with family and friends.

  8. Make the most of the opportunity to explore a new destination and create unforgettable memories with loved ones.

Tips to Being a Better Leader:

  1. Build strong relationships with your team members and foster a culture of trust and respect.

  2. Lead by example and set clear expectations for performance and behavior.

  3. Communicate effectively and frequently with team members, providing feedback and coaching to help them grow and develop.

  4. Create a shared vision and mission for the team, and align individual goals and objectives with the overall strategy.

  5. Encourage creativity and innovation, and provide opportunities for team members to contribute their ideas and perspectives.

  6. Build resilience and agility in your team, and help them adapt to change and overcome obstacles.

  7. Invest in your team's development and provide opportunities for learning and growth.

  8. Foster a positive work environment and recognize and reward team members for their contributions and achievements.

Links to the businesses mentioned:

Day 1:

  • Long Beach Airport:

  • Turo car rental:

  • Ralph's grocery store:

  • Venice Beach:

  • Santa Monica Pier:

  • Malibu Pier:

  • Black Rabbit Rose:

  • Loews Hollywood Hotel:

Day 2:

  • The Guild:

  • Beverly Hills:

  • The Ivy:

  • Melrose Trading Post:

  • Gracias Madre:

  • Orange County-based designer, Rachel Zoe:

  • Kendra Scott jewelry:

  • Loews Hollywood Hotel:

Day 3:

  • The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker:

  • Six Flags Magic Mountain:

  • Tulsa Rib Company:

  • Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach:

Day 4:

  • Main Street in Huntington Beach:

  • Cream Pan:

  • Miguel's Jr.:

  • Lido Wines:

  • Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach:

Day 5:

  • Common Room Roasters:

  • Wahoo's Fish Taco:

  • California Love Drop:

  • Antis Roofing:

  • 95.5 KLOS:

  • Sugar 'n Spice Frozen Bananas:

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