On January 23, I turned 22 in Los Angeles! Que up every lyric from Taylor’s Swift song by the same title because honestly, that’s all that’s pumping through my speakers in 2019. I don’t know about you, but I’M FEELIN 22!
I got to spend my birthday in one of my absolute favorite places – Southern California. What started as a joke to my mom suggesting we should go to Jon & Vinny’s to celebrate, turned into an actual trip with reservations to the BEST Italian restaurant on Fairfax.
We’ve never been to J&V before, but I follow at least 100 people on Instagram who LOVE it and rave about it. Everyone from Justin Bieber to all my favorite people at Hillsong. Last time we were in LA we tried to go, but it was booked solid. It became a joke of us NEEDING to finally try it and see what the hype was all about, and I figured, what better way for an Italian girl to spend her special day?
My mom and I left on a Saturday with plans to spend an entire week in LA. On Sunday, we did a church crawl. Most people in their 20s go bar hopping to celebrate their birthday, but we spent the day in the house getting our worship on! It was so fun to visit Mosaic Church in Hollywood, Zoe Church in Hollywood and Hillsong LA in downtown Los Angeles.
We heard Erwin Mcmanus, lead Pastor of Mosaic, and Chad Veach, lead Pastor of Zoe, preach. Both are individuals I respect and admire so much so it was incredible to be there on a Sunday when they were actually speaking. They brought the heat and dropped some serious truth bombs. My favorite church of the day was, of course, Hillsong LA.
Hillsong has such a special place in my heart. I love their music, heart for worship and creative teams. You really have to experience it for yourself in person to get the full picture, but when you step in the room, everyone is so friendly, warm and welcoming–it feels like home. I attended Hillsong NYC when I lived there so visiting their LA campus was incredible. It reminded me how much I love being in that atmosphere. I think 2019 will be the year I move out to Australia and study at their Hillsong College!
Here’s a brief glimpse of what it’s like.
On Sunday we also checked out the infamous Grove shopping center! It’s a great spot pulsing with style and energy in LA full of shopping, dining and entertainment. It’s also rumored to be a good place to spot celebrities. We checked out the shops and then went out for dinner.
We ate at Mercados near the Grove. It’s easily my new favorite Mexican restaurant in California. My mouth waters just thinking about it. We ordered off the appetizer menu and got tacos and nachos. Everything was SO fresh and delicious.
NBC’s The Voice
On Monday we went to a taping of The Voice! It was quite the ordeal. We arrived at 12:45 p.m. and were there until at least 7 p.m. It was wild, we were not expecting to be there that long. I’ve been to TV show tapings in NYC and the length was half of that. While it was a neat experience and fun to see Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend, it was waaay too long (fair warning to my broadcast/reality tv loving friends!!) The dynamics of Hollywood is crazy and TV can be so fabricated–everything was so scripted and we’re not even sure if the contestants were legit (don’t hate on me NBC, just stating facts). After spending a full day inside, we were more than excited to get outdoors and explore the beach Tuesday!
Venice Beach to Santa Monica
On Tuesday we drove to Venice Beach. We walked the pier and then rented bikes to travel the path that stretches to the Santa Monica pier and beyond. The weather was in the 70s and the sky was endless sun. I love the mix of the mountains and ocean! It was one of the prettiest bike rides I’ve ever been on. Definitely a highlight of the trip and one of my favorite adventures with my mom.
Wednesday was my special day. I turned 22 on the West Coast and officially started my “Taylor year.” We ventured out to Malibu and had brunch at the cutest cafe. We ate at Malibu Farms, which is located on the end of a pier. It was the most blissful morning surrounded by the ocean.
Everything was fresh, organic and local. It’s farm-to-table food that is so good! I had the fried egg sandwich, fresh fruit and orange juice. It was the perfect way to start the day.
After brunch in Malibu we drove back to the city to hike in Runyon Canyon and catch the sunset. It’s located in the Hollywood area and provides spectacular views of LA. I’m a major sucker for city skylines and pretty skies, so it was the best way to spend the evening.
After seeing the sunset at Runyon Canyon, we went to the Fairfax District. It’s full of retail and restaurants that draw a diverse and lively crowd. It’s also where Jon and Vinny’s is located–the Italian spot we had reservations for that evening.
Jon and Vinny’s
Jon and Vinny’s is a relaxed, modern diner for all-day, Italian-inspired fare, including pastas and hand-tossed pizzas. It’s an open kitchen and the food is made right in front of you. Everything is fresh and to die for! The aesthetics lean toward hip, trendy and upscale, but not uptight.
Typically you have to book a reservation for J&V three weeks in advance. Because it’s such a small restaurant, it’s hard to get a table at. It’s mega-popular, loved by many celebs and incredible.
The only time we could get in was 9:45 p.m. We were seated at the bar and right away ordered their avocado toast and mozzarella sticks. Each bite melted in our mouths and was heavenly.
Soon after, we ordered their LA Women pizza and Spicy Fusilli. As our night went on, it got better and better. This Italian girl was over the moon. My favorite dish was the vodka infused pasta.
It was definitely our foodie evening (calories don’t count on your birthday, right?). Good thing we worked out so much on this trip. After we devoured just about everything, we ordered dessert. We ordered Sal’s Cannoli and the Chocolate Budino, with caramel, olive oil and sea salt. Our server didn’t know it was my birthday, but after we ordered dessert he came back and asked us if we liked chocolate cake, then said he had a surprise and left.
He quickly returned with a slice of chocolate cake and proceeded to pour a glaze on it. Laughing, we told him it looked amazing and we didn’t know how we would have room for all the desserts but we were excited. My mom told him it was my birthday and he left and then came back with a candle and lighter. It was a sweet surprise and gesture that made my birthday even more special. You HAVE to have cake on your birthday!
Jon and Vinny’s 10/10 was worth the hype and flying to LA for. I’m still so impressed and craving their food. If you live in the LA area–definitely drive over to Fairfax and check it out! The thing I love most about it is that it’s not heavy Italian food, you don’t leave feeling absolutely stuffed (unless, of course, you try about everything on the menu).
On Thursday we went back to Runyon Canyon and spent the day hiking. It was in the upper 70s, sunny and gorgeous outside.
I love Runyon Canyon. It’s the perfect mix of nature and city views. It’s also quiet and a great way to escape the urban chaos if you need a break from it all.
There are so many different trails to explore. They range from beginner to intermediate to tough! We did one of their intermediate paths. It was steep, breathtaking and thrilling. Runyon Canyon is one stunning place to see a sunset! We enjoyed the views and seeing California from this vantage point. It was by far one of my favorite days in LA.
Exploring Santa Monica
Friday we spent our last full day in LA back at the beach. We walked the Santa Monica Pier and rode the ferris wheel. That’s been on my bucket list since 2009 when the Hannah Montana movie was filmed there. The views of the ocean were stunning.
We rented scooters and rode the trail down to Venice again. If you’re not aware of the Bird/Lime scooter trend–you need to be! It’s one of the best things to hit large cities. Especially after an active week of lifting and hiking! You just download the app on your phone and can reserve one. I loved cruising down trails.
We stayed at the beach from daylight to dusk to sunset and it was the best way to conclude our trip.
Turning 22 in LA was dreamlike. It doesn’t even seem real. It was definitely one of my favorite birthdays, ever. It was full of warm weather (compared to MN’s Polar Vertex!!), ocean days and city adventures. I loved going on a trip with my mom, we had a blast and enjoyed exploring the west coast together. I loved that she wanted to travel with me and was willing to go all the way to California to escape the winter cold. She’s one of my best friends and I know these memories will last a lifetime. Here’s to 22 and all the joy it will bring!