West Coast Tour

Day 1

I arrived at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona. From there I with some of the other exchange students headed to our first hotel of the trip where we met the rest of the exchange students headed on our trip. There was 50 of us from 19 different countries. First night was just getting to know each other and hearing all the rules of the trip. We spent time at the pool since it was over 40 degrees Celsius.

Day 2 | Phoenix & Sedona

After eating breakfast at the hotel we packed our gear to our tour bus and headed to a museum in Phoenix which unfortunately was closed that day. From there we took a trip to a famous rock which we climbed to. The scenery was very different to anything I had seen before. Southern Arizona is filled with loads of cactuses that are ten meters tall. The ground is very dry and there are big reddish rocks everywhere. You could also see the mountains in the distance.

After Phoenix we started to head towards Grand Canyon. On our way we stopped at Sedona, a beautiful desert town. It was surrounded with big red sandstone formations which I have always dreamt of seeing. We explored Sedona, visiting gift shops and enjoying the scenery. There were snakes and lizards we got to hold and I had my Britney Spears moment with one. In the evening we arrived at our hotel near Grand Canyon.

Day 3 | Grand Canyon

On day three we took our bus to Grand Canyon. Seeing Grand Canyon has always been a huge dream of mine. It was weird seeing it in real life. The size of the canyon was hard to grasp. It went on for miles. The sky made the faraway stone look blue which surprised me. At our lunch break we encountered a squirrel who tried to steal our food. I wouldn’t have minded it stealing my food since the overpriced tortilla wrap I bought from a canteen tasted awful. We took a Grand Canyon bus to another viewpoint and walked some way back until we took another bus back to our original location. We ate some pizza at a dining hall which also was not worth complimenting. Grand Canyon is a beautiful spot but the food was the worst of the trip. On our way back to our hotel another goal of mine got completed when we saw elk on the side of the road. I hope I get to return one day and go to the bottom of the canyon to really realize its size.

Day 4 | Headed to Las Vegas

We headed towards Las Vegas which was about four hour drive from Grand Canyon. On our way we stopped at a route 66 themed gift shop on route 66. It was one of the most American looking places I have been to. Closer to Las Vegas we saw Hoover Dam which truly was massive. In Las Vegas we checked into our hotel and then headed to an outlet mall. All of us were looking for something nice to wear because that night we were going to have limousine tour around Las Vegas. I tried Raising Cane’s at the outlet mall and it was one of the best fast food places I have been to. Of course you could not tour United States without eating at as many as possible fast food chains. But that night we did go to a restaurant all in our nice clothes awaiting the night’s adventure. Before the limo ride we got to experience a light show at the old Las Vegas strip.

Then we saw our limos. My group got the pink one. In the limo we listened and sang songs. We stopped briefly at the fountains of Bellagio to see the fountain show. From there we journeyed to the iconic Las Vegas sign which ended our night perfectly.

Day 5 | Las Vegas

The second day in Vegas we got to explore the main Las Vegas strip and all its casinos and hotels. Obviously we were not allowed to gamble since we were all under the age of 21. We tried to see as many casinos as possible. I saw the Eiffel tower, the pyramid, the statue of liberty and much more. It is crazy how much money is in Las Vegas. It was one of my favorite stops on the trip because of the vast difference to anything I had experienced before. We also went up the Strat which has roller coasters right on top of it at 350 meters. I went on one that tilted right towards the ground and stopped just as you thought it wouldn’t. In the evening we dined at Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas.

After dinner some of us who had wanted to book a Cirque du Soleil show went to see it while most of us got to experience the strip at night time. We went to the casinos and hotels we didn’t have time to see in the day time since Las Vegas strip is huge and impossible to tour in one day. One of my favorites was the Venetian which had canals inside it with gondolas traveling through the hotel. We also got to see some of Caesars Palace which is probably the most well-known hotel in Las Vegas.

Day 6 | Universal Studios

We took another 4 hour drive towards sunny California. Day 6 was all about Universal Studios. We started our day in Universal Studios with my favorite activity from that day which was a tour around Universal Studios. We got to see different sets made for movies and huge sound stages. We heard backstories behind movies which really interested me since I have always been very into film making. After the tour we got to try few rides which included a Hogwarts ride and a Jurassic park ride. The lines were long.

Day 7 | Hollywood & Santa Monica Beach

Day 7 was a beach day. At first we drove to Hollywood to see the Walk of fame. I saw many places which I recognized from media like the Chinese theater. We visited Madame Tussauds wax museum. I don’t know if wax figures are made for my enjoyment but it was still pretty fun to see. The rest of the day and evening we spent at Santa Monica Beach where we got to swim in the ocean and enjoy the sandy bay. We had dinner at a Bubba Gump which was fun since I just watched Forrest Gump again on my exchange with my third host dad. I bought the red cap as a souvenir to my dad. At night we saw a guy climb up on top of the Santa Monica Beach sign. That day was a true California experience.

Day 8 | Disneyland

Disneyland is a place I have heard so much about for years. When we arrived we heard that we could get fast passes with a group so me and my friends got them. It saved the day because we got onto so many more rides. It felt a little illegal to walk past people waiting in long lines (also felt amazing). The rides at Disney are crazy. Not crazy thrilling as I kind of hoped but crazy detailed. I felt a little too old to be there because I knew I would have enjoyed it more if I was younger. But my day was made when I got to go on the famous Star Wars ride with all the stormtroopers. I can’t imagine all the money spent on it. One other ride I was positively surprised by was a Guardians of the Galaxy themed thrill ride. It was a tall tower ride that suddenly dropped from the top. It was really weird to me was that it had no seatbelts or railings to hold and we got to bring all our bags on it. But it made it more fun to be honest. At the end we were supposed to see the fireworks but because of fire risk in the area it got cancelled. Disneyland was very different from what I had imagined but great nonetheless.

Day 9 | Beverly Hills & Hollywood sign

We went to see Beverly Hills which was just as rich looking in person. I am not quite wealthy enough to shop at Rodeo drive so we just walked around seeing the place. The streets there were beautiful and well-kept and even the public bathroom was surprisingly clean. The last thing we did in the Los Angeles area was going to Griffith Observatory where we could see the iconic Hollywood sign. The view of Los Angeles was beautiful. I don’t live in a big city so cityscapes fascinate me.

The end of the day was spent in the bus. We headed to North towards Yosemite. From Los Angeles it is a 6 hour drive. We stopped at a couple gas stations and a place to eat on our way. I loved looking at the changing nature from the bus windows.

Day 10 | Yosemite

This was a day which I had been looking forward to. I love mountains. Ever since doing a paper on United States in my geography lesson in 9th grade I have been really interested in the national parks in the country. Some that catched my eye were Grand Canyon, Zion national park, Yellowstone and Yosemite. We traveled from a more flat terrain to the mountainous area of Yosemite. Yosemite was one of the most breathtaking places I have been to. The huge cliffs and water falls were something I can never forget. A fun memory from that day was when me and my friends went exploring around the national park and almost got stuck around a river.

In the evening we went to a restaurant with the most amazing churros I have eaten. We also had to wait for some of the others since they got stuck in the hotel elevator and the firemen had to be called.

Day 11 | San Francisco

We ended our trip in San Francisco. The weather was cloudy and foggy. We visited the Palace of Fine Arts which I had seen pictures of before on Pinterest without realizing the building is in San Francisco. The day and the evening we spent at the pier where we got to explore the stores. I also saw sealions laying on the docks.

Day 12 | San Francisco and Chinatown

We took a tram tour around the city as it is the only city in United States that has trams. I hanged off from the side of the tram wondering if it was really safe but at least I got to see all the city views well. We took our bus on top of the hills looking over San Francisco but it was so foggy we could not see anything. We visited Haight-Ashbury which was a very hippie themed area of the city. There was a tie dye shop and various second hand stores. We saw the iconic San Francisco houses that appear in many tv productions. We also went to a look out point where we saw the Golden gate bridge. In the evening we went to Chinatown where we first explored and then had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the biggest Chinatown outside of Asia.

Day 13 | Last day

The last day we took a ferry to Alcatraz. We got a headphone set that told us backstories about different cells and areas inside the prison. The look of Alcatraz reminded me of an old prison (no longer in use) I have visited in Finland. I had dressed in warm clothes that day since the last activity we did in San Francisco was walking the lenght of the Golden Gate bridge. It was cold and windy. Somehow we survived the almost three kilometer walk over the sea. The walk was worth it for the view we were offered at the other side of the bridge. We saw the bridge and San Francisco behind it. The fog added to the mood although I wished I would have seen San Francisco in the sunlight. San Francisco was my least favorite spot of the trip. I think the weather impacted my opinion. It was also sad seeing so many homeless people on the streets. Some streets were filled with tents. The city looked like its best days were behind it but hopefully it has more to offer in the future.

The trip ended in a farewell party held in our hotel. We listened to music, danced, exchanged pins, ate and signed flags. At the end, a great trip had come to an end and the next day we would all be returning back. Some back to their countries and others to their host families. Me and the friends I had made on the trip sneaked into one hotel room to spend the last minutes of the trip together. Overall I had one of the best trips of my life. All of the places I visited offered new experiences. The trip had its crazy sides like 4 people visiting the hospital and people getting stuck in the elevator. But nothing serious happened and everyone was well in the end. I wish that one day I can come back and see it all again.


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