Travelled in: October 2016
The famous La La Land, known for being the entertainment capital of the world, being the home of almost the entire population of A-list celebrities as well as its beautiful beaches and year round sunny climate. It was a no brainer/must go to whilst in America!
I obviously had quite high expectations of LA having built up a perception of it via films, the media and of course, travel blogs. There were things I loved about LA and things I didn’t love or maybe just wasn’t expecting… For example, the films never mention anything about the large amount of homeless people which live in LA. In 2016 it was reported that there were 43,000 people living on the streets in LA county. Compared to London, where the homeless count comes in at about 8,000, this number is crazy high and a really sad thing to witness in a city which revolves around the rich and famous.
Another misconception about LA is assuming you will spot a celebrity on every corner. Let me burst your bubble now as this is really not the case. LA is a huge place and nobody walks anywhere so the chances of casually bumping into a celeb on the street is pretty slim.
I had a great time exploring this city and think we covered quite a lot of the key places in our 4 day trip here. I understand the attraction of living there with the constant great weather, beautiful beaches, bustling city and some AMAZING food.
Arriving in LA…
This past October my sister and I decided to do a mini trip around some key places in the US we have been wanting to visit for a while. We started in New York for a few days before flying over to Las Vegas for 2 nights. In Vegas we hired a car and drove to LA to experience the american dream.
Staying in LA…
We booked an Airbnb for our stay in LA and chose the district of Santa Monica as our base. We wanted to be by the beach as we had been told it was a bit nicer than staying in the city and this was a great recommendation. Being by the beach made my trip… Santa Monica was the perfect location, we could walk to Santa Monica pier, Venice beach and Marina del Rey, but be in the city in 20 minutes as we were located right next to the freeway exit.
Travelling in LA…
The only way to get around LA really is to drive, so you will need to hire a car if you plan a trip here… There is some public transport, but it is not that reliable or well connected. There is also UBER, but depending on how far you plan on going it could get quite expensive, especially if it gets stuck in LA traffic… LA traffic is notoriously bad, luckily we were never really driving in peak times so we managed to escape anything too crazy. Parking is also quite difficult in LA, so do some research on where to park before you head to where you want to go or you could be driving around for hours trying to find a parking spot. There is street parking on most roads, but if you are staying all day it can get pretty expensive as fees start from about $2 per hr.
Eating in LA…
We had some great meals in LA, in particular breakfast food. We found some lovely little restaurants particularly in Santa Monica that served good food at really reasonable prices. Some places we really liked were:
The Independence, Santa Monica – This place does the most amazing brunch I have ever eaten and that is a bold statement as I love brunch! I had the most amazing pulled pork eggs benedict. I’m a big fan of eggs benedict, but have never had it with pulled pork before and it really was a taste sensation… I have been craving it ever since.
Urth Cafe, Main St, Santa Monica – A fantastic recommendation from our Airbnb host and another great brunch place is Urth cafe. It’s a chain so there is a few of them around, but it’s great especially if you want something a little bit healthier as they have a huge menu of amazing healthy breakfast and lunches, smoothies and coffees.
Op Cafe, Santa Monica – I found this place purely by googling where to get the best pancakes in LA and this was one of the places that came up that was nearby. It’s located a short drive away from the main center of Santa Monica, but this place is well known with locals and there was a bit of a queue for us to get in. It was worth it as their strawberry pancakes with chocolate and banana were incredible!
Cafe Roma, Beverly Hills – We just stumbled across this place when we were looking for lunch after having a wander down Rodeo Drive (window shopping of course). It definitely felt like it would be the kind of place to spot a celebrity, but we purely chose it because we were craving a salad after a few days of eating greasy american food. They did a great Caesar Salad which was fairly inexpensive considering where we were!
1212, Santa Monica – We went here for our final dinner in LA and it was really nice food and even better cocktails. We had the seafood risotto and I tried their special electric daisy cocktails which has a fruit in that numbs your mouth for a few seconds, a must try if you go here.
Chao Krung, Beverly Grove – This was a nice little thai restaurant we came across after a shopping trip to The Grove. Very reasonably priced and right opposite the CBS studios and Grove shopping center so probably a good spot for celebrity spotting.
Shopping in LA…
There are some great places to shop in LA depending on what you are looking for. If you want luxury the obvious place would be Rodeo Drive. The Grove is a nice place for a day out shopping as there’s all sorts of luxury and high street brands alongside dining and entertainment options. For beachy vibes head to downtown Santa Monica and then Abbot Kinney for some super trendy boutiques. For gimmicky tourist souvenirs check out Venice boulevard shops.
4 Days and 3 Nights in LA: My Itinerary…
Rodeo Drive & Beverly Hills – A must do when in LA is to go window shopping in Beverly Hills’ famous Rodeo Drive. Although Rodeo Drive is full of luxury and designer stores, the surrounding streets actually have some really nice affordable stores, so if you like shopping it’s worth having a wander. It’s also worth having a drive round the hills to check out some of the incredible houses… see if you can spot any celebrity ones. There are specific tours which will take you around the celebrity houses, we chose not to do this as it was a bit gimmicky.
CBS for The Late Late Show with James Corden – So before we flew out to the US, my sister had applied for tickets to go and be in the audience of James Corden’s Late Late Show. Tickets for the audience are free and if you apply early enough you have a good chance to get them. This is probably the best way to guarantee you will see some celebrities if that’s what you are after on your trip to La La Land as he always has a great line up of guests. We got to see the recording with Taylor Lautner, Zach Galifinakis and Stevie Nicks. There’s a lot of waiting around and it takes up around 3-4 hours of your day, but it is a fun experience and you can then say you have been in a Hollywood TV studios which is pretty cool.
The Grove Shopping Center – This place is a shopping lover’s dream world, there’s some amazing shops and a farmer’s market here in a beautiful setting. There is even a fountain that gives the Bellagio in Vegas a run for its money with a daily evening fountain show. If you drive here and park in The Grove’s car park make sure you get your parking ticket stamped by one of the stores to get you discount on your parking charges.
Hollywood Hills – One of the most iconic symbols of LA is the Hollywood sign. The area surrounding the hills is ideal for hikers and there’s a few view points to get a good glimpse of the sign.
Griffith Observatory – This was one of my favourite places in LA, it’s such a great view from up here and a really interesting place to explore. You can also see the Hollywood sign from here if you don’t have time to go to both viewing points. Parking here is horrendous though so it’s better to park at the bottom of the hill and walk up if you can.
West Hollywood – I was not a big fan of West Hollywood, this is where the Hollywood stars are, but to be honest I found the area quite grotty and run down. This is the most touristy place we visited and we had aspirations of spotting a celeb, but don’t hold your breath if this is what you are here for as unless there’s a new star being laid I doubt this is where any celeb would be hanging out…
Downtown LA – This is LA’s financial district and old town and it was all a bit weird. We only visited briefly, but we actually found our experience here was quite random. There’s some really cool and trendy places in the area especially restaurants and bars. We found a particularly cool spot in the District Market which is a really cool space with numerous restaurants and stalls. There is a darker side to downtown LA as this area has the highest population of homeless people in LA. Homeless people are noticeably present all over the city, but in downtown LA more so than anywhere and it was really quite intimidating.
Little Tokyo – Located near downtown LA we were craving some Japanese food so took a brief trip to Little Tokyo for a bit of Ton-Katsu and a mooch around the Japanese shops. It was nice to see some of the products I recognized from my trip to Japan in the Summer.
Venice Beach – We did the walk down to Venice Beach from our Airbnb in Santa Monica along the famous boulevard that is full of cyclists and roller bladers. Venice boulevard is full of character and quirky shops, people and restaurants; it’s definitely a unique place you have to visit.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard – Probably one of the trendiest places you could visit in LA, there are so many cool places to eat and super fashionable boutiques to shop. Also check out the graffiti and it’s compulsory that you get a lemonade from one of the many lemonade outlets.
Marina Del Rey – If you walk a bit further on from Abbot Kinney you will get to Marina Del Rey. There’s not a whole lot down there, but it’s a nice atmosphere, some lovely boats to lust over and a couple of restaurants on the beachfront.
Venice Canals – Located just behind Venice beach is the Venice Canals, developed by Abbot Kinney over 100 years ago with visions of bringing a mini Venice to America. It is a great place to take a walk and get away from the hustle and bustle of the Venice and Abbot Kinney boulevard.
Muscle Beach – There’s 2 muscle beaches, one on Venice beach and one on Santa Monica beach. We were at the Santa Monica one at sunset so we sat and watched all of the fitness fanatics limbering up on the outdoor fitness equipment for a while which was quite fun. It’s a great place for people watching and we sat on the swings to watch the sunset behind the pier.
Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica pier is a pretty iconic LA landmark, it’s buzzing with people all day, but we went there at sunset, just as it was getting dark and it really came to life. The atmosphere is great and it has everything a pier should; food, rides and shops!
Santa Monica Beach – The beach at Santa Monica is so nice, we didn’t go in the water as it wasn’t really warm enough, but the beach is great for a chilled day of sunbathing and people watching as the cyclists and skaters go by.
Downtown Santa Monica – We spent our last day shopping in downtown Santa Monica, this is probably the best place to come for affordable brands and sportswear as there were trainer stores everywhere!
Palisades Park – Located up on the hill above Santa Monica beach is where you can find Palisades Park. It is a great place to get a good view of the coast line right round to Malibu and look out to the ocean from above. The views are lovely and it is a nice place to have a run/walk or just chill out.