Our final destination along the Pacific Coast Highway was Los Angeles. We skipped the hotels and stayed with a friend who was near and dear to my heart as we grew up together. One of the joys of travel is meeting new people, but this long weekend was all about reconnecting. Politics, Careers, Travels, Family – we left no stone unturned. Getting the opportunity to meet her family for the first time and spend time catching up on life made this pit stop a very special treat.
Of course no visit to the city of angels is complete without checking out the sites (or trying to spot a Kardashian). I’ve always heard that LA had a bit of grit and lacked the glitz that is portrayed in film and on television. It’s not really a bad thing, but unless you’re in the world of celebrity you will likely not get that LA Experience. If you read the post about the non-fussy Napa Valley trip (Destinations // Napa Valley), then you know we aren’t fussed about that type of experience anyway. With lots to do and mega traffic to avoid, we came up with an itinerary that allowed us to see what the city had to offer and not sit in the bumper-to-bumper traffic Los Angeles is known for having.
Here is how we tackled LA in a day.
Getting the lay of the land is always a good idea. The Griffith Observatory is an astronomy facility located on the south side of Mount Hollywood and provides a great start. Views of the whole of downtown LA and the Hollywood sign are a plus. There is a parking lot at the top and a number of trails that can be hiked up if you are in the mood for a bit of exercise.
Strolling along Hollywood Boulevard you get the idea that it was once something special. It lacked the pizazz that I was expecting and was full of souvenir shops, tours being sold on every street corner and of course hordes of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to see the likes of the Walk of Fame, Graumans Chinese Theater and Capital Records in person BUT we didn’t stay for very long. TIP: Look for the massive parking deck next to the Loews Hotel. It’s the perfect place to leave the car as you stroll up and down the boulevard.
Driving along Sunset Boulevard with the top down is fun. We didn’t stop here during our day trip BUT we did come back this way for dinner. Driving along you will see the likes of the Standard Hotel, the Viper Room and Chateau Marmont. For dinner, we ate at the old rock star haunt Rainbow Bar & Grill. It’s where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio had their blind date in 1952. We didn’t have any celeb spottings but it is very common for the joint to be full of rock musicians (and their groupies) hanging out here.
Any shopping fans out there? Then this should be the next stop on your list. We parked the car, admired all the fancy designer flagship stores, had a bite to eat and indulged ourselves at Sprinkles. The famous Cupcake ATM was out of service BUT I was just fine with my ice cream sandwich.
We hopped back on Sunset Boulevard along Topanga State Park and took it all the way to the Pacific Palisades to avoid the traffic. This is a great opportunity to drive through proper residential areas and see some of the splendor that people live in. Once on the coast, we made our way to Santa Monica Pier. It’s come a long way since it was originally built in 1909 as a means to mask the disposal of sewage into the ocean. Now a classic Pier, you can enjoy your typical Pier fare as well as enjoy the rides in Pacific Park. You’ll also find the sign here indicating the Pier as the end of the world-famous Route 66.
A short drive from Santa Monica Beach will then get you over to Venice. There are no winding canals or gondolas here – just a palm tree lined beach, various sports courts and plenty of bodies on display. The famous outdoor and very on display gym – Muscle Beach – was the highlight. There weren’t too many people showing off working out, so I decided to show my prowess and give the rings a go. I know – total beefcake.
We drove back to town via Beverly Hills and spent some time on the winding roads of the residential areas. The whole thing reminded me of growing up – Beverly Hills 90210 and Troup Beverly Hills are my classics.
On our last full day in Los Angeles we also visited Universal Studios. I’m a big fan of amusement parks and Universal is one of the best. If you have the time to visit the parks I suggest you do so. Universal do a great job of making the parks very accessible and combine the right amount of technology and thrills into their attractions. The live studio lot tour was a nice highlight.
While I never got the Kardashian sighting I was hoping for, I enjoyed Los Angeles.