Recently I spent about 6 weeks in Los Angeles and attempted to see everything there was to see. I was able to hit just about everything on my LA bucket list, except hiking right up underneath the Hollywood Sign. The city isn’t too congested if you go at the right time (aka: try to stay away from the summer tourist times) but it is very spread out and there is SO much to see. That being said, it was nice that we had our own transportation- even if parking was not easy most days. If you do not have your own mode of transportation the bus system is pretty reliable and there are Ubers everywhere.
You can’t go to the city of Angeles and not visit Hollywood Boulevard. The second you step onto the street you will find that you are standing on top of the stars on the walk of fame, and it goes on for miles. See if you can find your favorites while checking out all the tourist shops. Or, if you are short on time, grab a map and head straight to the stars you are looking for.
Toward the end of the strip is Hollywood and Highland. You can find lots of shopping and entertainment around this area. Here is where you will find the TCL Chinese Theater where you can see the hand prints of the famous men and women of show business pressed into the concrete. Besides all your favorite clothing stores there is Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, The Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, The Dolby Theater and a more. If you are not looking to spend any money, just walk around and check it all out. (Also, stop by Ghirardelli and get a free chocolate sample.)
There are many different places to eat on the boulevard, depending what you are in the mood for. So just take a look around. In the mood for something sweet? Head to Cre8 Crepes. They are extremely satisfying. If it’s a good Burger or Wings you are after you should try out Wings Place. It’s my favorite place to get a burger and they are open late. You could also check out some classics, like Mel’s or Hollywood Burger. No matter what you are in the mood for, you will be able to find something.
The Farmers Market
Every Sunday you can find a few different farmers markets scattered around the city. The one that you should make time for is the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. It’s on Ivar Avenue and spreads out like a cross down four streets. They have cooked meats, pressed juice, raw veggies, baked bread, jars of spices and much more that all comes from farms and small businesses around LA. There are lots of free samples to try and everything is so good you will most likely end up spending a lot. Be sure to have cash handy since most stands don’t take card- but if you need an ATM ask the help desk and they can point you to the one at the market.
Sunset Boulevard is only one street away from Hollywood Blvd. The street goes on for miles, so I would suggest driving down it instead of walking, or it will take up a good amount of your time. The start of the street is very ‘high end’, with lots of expensive shops and restaurants. If you keep driving you will eventually pass more shops and eateries that won’t break your budget. I didn’t spend too much time on Sunset, mainly because I am not a shopper, but it’s great for a walk or just to say you’ve strolled down the Sunset Strip. Just remember that “The Strip” is only the mile and a half the stretches between Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
If you are an avid reader, art lover, or just like cool things in general, stop by The Last Book Store. The store is filled with books, old and new. What you are really looking for though is on the second floor. So head to the back and up the stairs to enter into a wonderful maze of art work and books. Venture under the book tunnel, get lost between twisting stacks and check out the art walk.
If you are a true foodie, head over to the Grand Central Market. The market is open from 8:00am to 10:00pm every day. It is filled with rows of permanent venders selling premade meals, coffee, pressed juices, meats, fish, candy, produces and much more. Some venders even have tables or bar stools you can sit down at an order in. It is super packed but worth the push through.
Don’t forget to make a quick stop into the Bradbury building. Just know that it is a lot smaller than it looks and you can only see the first floor and second floor landing.
If you are looking to grab some food, or even if you are not, you should check out Clifton’s Cafeteria. When you walk in you will get an idea of just how weird the place really is. It is basically a forest inside a building. There are fake animals, plants and trees scattered about. The dim lighting and atmosphere make you feel like you are anywhere else but in the middle of a busy city. The food is just how it is described, cafeteria style. Grab a tray and fill it up with some amazing looking foods then head to a table and enjoy the scenery around you. Before you leave head to the second floor bar to see the giant redwood sitting in the center of the room with a fireplace inside.
There are also tons of murals and paintings all around the downtown area. Take a walk down the alleys and streets of downtown and see what you can find! You can take and art walk, or fly solo.
All around LA you can find different paintings of the famous wings if you look hard enough. The ones we found were painted on a wall outside of a supermarket. The Wings were originally done by artist Colette Miller who wanted to remind everyone that we are earth’s angels.
County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is perfect for art lovers…or so I have been told. I’m not really an art museum person and I only wanted to go to see the rain room. Unfortunately the rain room was not open when we stopped by so I decided not to buy a ticket.
I did however head to the street lamp installment just outside the ticket booth. Here you will find several rows of street lamps that are lit up at night. It is flooded with people but it is still fun to wonder around. I also was surprised to stumble upon a free jazz concert right next to the street lamps. Apparently they have one once a week or so and everyone is welcome. They sell food and drinks and it is nice to sit back and listen to some great jazz covers while keeping warm underneath the space heaters.
The La Brea Tar Pits
The La Brea Tar Pits are connected with the George C. Page Museum which is right next to the LA County Museum of Art. These tar pits are each surrounded by chain link fences to stop people and animals from wandering in or touching them. Don’t even try to weave your hand through to feel what it is like, or you may end up like the thousands of year old animals who got stuck there with no way out.
The pits are completely natural and have been around for thousands of years. You can pay to take a tour of them, or just stroll around for free and check them out like I did. Each pit has an informational sign you can read to get a bit more insight on how they were made and their affect on everything around them.
A Piece of the Berlin Wall
Just outside the museum, across the street from the lamp post installment, is the biggest piece of the Berlin Wall that is outside of Germany. The four pieces on the right are original paintings from when the Berlin Wall was put up. The other murals, along with the entire back of the wall, were painted by different artists hired by the museum. This was done to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin wall.
If I had the money, Beverley Hills would be on the top of my list of places to live in the US. The houses are absolutely beautiful and it is worth it just to drive around the streets of the town. While there, take a drive down the famous Rhode Drive. If you are wondering what Rhode is, it’s basically a very long, well-groomed street with expensive shops on either side. Many of the shops in Beverley Hills are expensive, but it’s nice to just window-shop if you are not a big spender.
While there are places to shop and eat all throughout Beverly Hills, one of my must stops in the area was the Cupcake ATM! On Santa Monica Blvd, Sprinkles Cupcakes has a Cupcake ATM right outside their shop. It’s a bit pricey for a cupcake, but it was worth it just for the experience. So, swipe your card, pick your cupcake and it dispenses it for you!
If you want to see the city from above, take a long drive down Mulholland. It’s a long road that brings you to the top of the highest hills in LA. Along the route there are many different points to pull off and check out the view from above. Sunset is a beautiful time to go, but it may take a few hours to drive the entire route, so it’s up to you to decide the time. I would not suggest driving the road at night, there are way too many dangerous twists and turns, and ups and downs. If you do not have your own vehicle, many of the bus tours will take you to the first stop on Mulholland Drive.
The Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory is a spectacular way to see the city from above. The best time to go would be at night. Here you can get the most amazing view of the night sky with the naked eye, or check it out via telescope. Parking and admission is free but if you want to participate in a program or see a show it does cost money.Bring your student ID for a discount.
Serious tip: The later in the day you go, the less likely you will be able to find a parking spot at the top or along the road ways. It fills up fast. I would strongly suggest taking an Uber to the top or getting dropped off there somehow. They are closed Mondays and open from 12:00pm- 10:00pm Tuesday – Friday and 10:00am – 10:00pm Saturday and Sunday.
The Hollywood Sign
There are several different hikes you can take to get to the Hollywood Sign. For an easy hike, check out the Hollyridge Trail (3.4 miles). If you are looking for a longer, but moderate hike, go to the Canyon Drive Trail (6.5 miles). Lastly, if you are looking for a harder hike try Cahuenga Peak Hike. I have not hiked any of these trail but from what I am told these would be the ones to pick from.
Unfortunately I did not get to one of the hikes that takes you up close and personal. However, you can still see the sign from the Griffith Observatory. You can also hike to the sign from the Observatory if you take the Mt Hollywood Trail just behind the parking lot. If you just wish to drive up to the Observatory and see the sign from afar, be sure to go on a Monday, it’s the only day the observatory is closed so there is lots of parking at the top and not a lot of people.
If you are up for an adventure and a small hike, check out the Old Los Angeles Abandoned Zoo! The zoo was originally constructed in 1912 but was closed in 1966 and relocated to where the new zoo is because the enclosures for the animals were no longer appropriate. However, a hand full of animal enclosures and cages were left behind for anyone to explore. It is completely free to walk in but make sure you get there before the sun sets! It’s also a great place for a picnic and there are a few parks to play in if you are with the kids.
Other Hiking Trips
If you are a hiker there are a few spots in the city that are right for you. There are lots of short hikes you can take, just don’t expect anything too difficult or challenging.
If it is a waterfall you are after check out Eaton Canyon. The hike is not too hard. You will find lots of dogs and families with children along the paths. The waterfall is nothing like Niagara Falls, but it’s a pretty sight. Before or after your hike be sure to stop into the Eaton Canyon Nature Center that is right alongside the parking lot. There is lots of information about the park and all the animals that live around there. (There are also bathrooms you can use.)
Another up-hill hike with a nice city view is at Will Rogers State Park. There are a couple of different paths to take and each will bring you to a nice view of the city. There is a fee to enter and park at the park but it isn’t crazy expensive. They also do free tours at Will Rogers’ house that is on the property.
If you are a bar hopper, you need to head to the streets around Hollywood Blvd! Most importantly, you need to check out at least one speakeasy. Keep in mind, like everything in Los Angles, drinks are not cheap!
The coolest place to go is a Speakeasy. Head to No Vacancy first. Get there early- they open at 8:00pm and you will want to beat the rush in order to avoid the line and check the place out before everyone crowds it. I won’t spoil the surprise, but once the security guard checks your ID, head upstairs to room 1902 and… well, you will just have to see from there. But once inside you will not be disappointed! Peak inside the “telephone booth” under the stairs that is actually a photo booth! You can also call ahead to reserve a table if you are planning to stay long. Just make sure you check their website for proper attire- it is very old fashion so you will not be let in if you have bright colors or jeans on.
Right around the corner from No Vacancy is another speak easy called Dirty Laundry. There is not normally a line, so look for a man standing outside an open gate that’s connected to a long black fence along the street. If you walk through the gate it will lead you down the stairs to the bar. It is a small underground space and is nice if you are just looking to order a drink and chill out for a bit. I do not recommend chancing any of the old fashion drinks on the menu, some taste a bit like dish soap. Stick to your classics here.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s is a must if you are into the 70’s or 80’s vibe. The line is also long here- remember you are in LA so you should expect that. Once you pass the bouncer you are brought to a garage style room where a giant fridge door is opened for you that leads to a stair case. Once you ascend it will feel like you were transported back a few decades. If you are up for a bit of dancing and classic rock music this is the place for you. You could probably spend the whole night here, I basically did.
There are tons of crazy bars in LA so make sure you stop into as many as possible. While the speakeasies I mentioned do not have a cover charge many bars and clubs do so be sure to bring cash if you are not sure where you will end up.
Moonlight Roller Rink
If the bar scene is not for you there are lots of others things you can check out at night!
Try roller skating at Moonlight Roller Rink. Fair warning though, most people you will see there seem to have been skating since the moment they were born. You will see skaters skating backwards, spinning pirouettes and doing back-flips. OK, maybe not actual back flips, but close enough. That being said, don’t be too intimidated. I hadn’t skated since 8th grade and had to re-learn. While me and a few friends were clutching walls and falling down, the more experienced skaters were good about skating around us and didn’t seem to mind at all.
Its about $9 to get in and $5 to rent skates. These prices do vary depending on the events being held. You also have to be 18 and over to enter unless it is family night. They have food and drinks for sale and a few arcade games you can play. If you don’t want to leave your belongings in the car there are lockers you can rent for a dollar. The parking lot is very small, but there is a big lot that belongs to either home depot or lows that you can park in for free that’s right across the street.
It is also a fun place to spot celebrities. Out of the two times my group went we spotted John C. Reilly, the actor from Step Brothers, and Drake Bell from Drake and Josh. (The rink is actually in Glendale, CA but it’s not too far from LA).
My last day in LA was spent at Universal Studios Hollywood. If you have been to universal in Orlando, the rides and park are set up with the same general idea. It is also perfect for the entire family, as long as you don’t mind spending the $100 to get in.
The biggest different from the one in Orlando is the layout of park itself. It is smaller and due to the hills in California, has upper and lower levels. In the upper lot you will find The Simpson’s town of Springfield, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Studio Tour, The Walking Dead attraction, Despicable Me, a bit of France and New York and several other attractions and rides. In the lower lot you will find The Mummy, Jurassic Park and Transformers.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, get to the park early and head straight to Hogs Mead. The line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is crazy long if you want to ride with friends or family so be the first one there.
If you are not up for waiting in line and rather not splurge on the fast pass, just get in line for single riders. While not every ride has a single rider’s line most will and they are a lot shorter than the normal lines. The only real difference is you wait less and don’t ride with your friends for the 60 seconds it takes to ride.
It is easy to hit all the rides in a day, but if you have to choose I would suggest checking out the studio tour. It is the one thing you cannot find in Orlando and there is no extra cost. You board a tram and are taken around the back lots of Hollywood to see a sneak peak of the different sets that have been used in several different films. If you are lucky, you may even see a movie being filmed!
No matter how much time you spend in the City of Angeles, you can always find something to do. Good luck on your trip and be sure to write out a bucket list before you go, so you do not miss out on anything!