So I actually did Santa Monica when I first flew into the airport and then hit some landmarks in Los Angeles the next morning, but the main point here is that there are several highlights that can be accomplished in one day in LA.
After my best friend Winnie picked me up, we drove straight from LAX to Santa Monica (about a 40 minute drive) and instantly went to the famous pier. At the pier there were several restaurants (ranging from seafood, to pizza, to Mexican) a few shops, an arcade, a trapeze school, a small family amusement park at the end called Pacific Park with a carousel, and various artists and people performing their craft. For me, the highlight was hearing a street artist sing “Hotel California” while I was in California for the first time. After walking around the pier, we went to lie down and relax on the beach. We got some nice sun and warmth and despite being sick, I couldn’t resist my first swim in the Pacific Ocean. What amazed me is that after swimming for 5-10 minutes, I was far more tired than normal. The reason? The waves!! I know they’re supposed to be big and there’s a reason there are so many surfers on the West Coast, but I didn’t realize how much they take out of you for a simple swim. Nonetheless, I loved it! And I also realized that might be another reason why people on the West Coast are so much more fit: the spectacular ocean with its big waves working every muscle in your body.
After a swim, we walked along the beach, which in and of itself is a really pleasant walk and you get to see the entire pier in all its glory at the far end of the walk. Afterwards, we went the few blocks to the 3rd street promenade, featuring several boutiques, merchandise stores, restaurants, and a few department stores. There are also many fountains formed by garden sculptures which are worth stopping and taking a picture with because of the immaculate detail in the gardening done.
Restaurants/Cafes/Bars – A bar/restaurant called the parlor Hollywood was the highlight for me of the places we ate. They have fire pits that you can sit around and eat. I had the Mac and Cheese and it was amazing! The waitress forgot to add in the bacon I asked for and seemed to have trouble splitting a check, but the décor and the food were great. The first time I went there it was comedy night – but we couldn’t hear the comedian in the outside room. The second time I came back there they had Hip Hop Bingo (an awesome way to play Bingo while drinking, dancing, and winning great prizes). We also ran into Winston from the show New Girl, so at least I had a small celebrity sighting. Other places we ate in were all along Melrose Place and included Winchell’s Donuts (cheap, good place to get breakfast on-the-go), Lucifer’s Pizza (you can’t get slices here, you get small pies, and they taste incredible), Stir Crazy Coffee House (very slow service considering we just ordered sandwiches, but to their credit we agreed they were some of the best sandwiches we ever had), Fratelli’s (amazing everything for breakfast) and Buddha’s Belly in Santa Monica (where I had a delicious salmon salad for a completely reasonable price).
LA Landmarks – I stayed with Winnie at our friend Melissa’s house, which is located right off of Melrose Place. She lives with three roommates and they have a pretty large place (larger than what I expected and not even comparable to NYC apartments). Winnie and I woke up early and went straight to the Runyon Canyon Park. Keep in mind: set aside a decent amount of time, bring water, and the earlier you go the better because it gets significantly hotter and probably more crowded throughout the day. There are several trails that you can take, but I would be cautious bringing older people or those out of shape up there, because the inclines going up can get steep and the roads aren’t exactly paved so you want to be careful when you walk. It’ll be totally worth it if you do go: you’ll see the city of LA spread out right in front of you, the marvelous homes in the city, and most importantly- the Hollywood Sign (from very far, but still a great moment to experience)!
After doing the hike, we drove down to Hollywood Boulevard. We used Melissa’s parking lot by her job, but otherwise it’s probably a very difficult place to find parking. First and foremost, we did the Walk of Fame, which was significantly longer than I thought and there were many, many more stars than I imagined. I also didn’t realize stars weren’t limited to just Hollywood stars (e.g. there was a star for Thomas Edison). After the Walk of Fame, we approached The Dolby Theater from the outside. We walked past the fountains, looked up at the massive elephants, walked across the bridge and got a better view of the Hollywood Sign, and then walked to the Chinese Theater. First we walked into the lobby, where we saw photographs of several celebrities when they were at the Chinese Theater itself. Then we approached the part outside where you can see the imprints in the cement of various celebrities’ hands and feet. When I found that my hands fit right into Daniel Radcliffe’s hands, my day had been made.
I wish I had done so much more, but here are a few things for next time!
Next Time: Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens (located in Pasadena), J. Paul Getty Museum, Robertston Boulevard, WB Studio Tour and/or Paramount Pictures Tour, Dolby Theater tour ($17), Chinese Theater tour ($13.5)
Any must-sees in LA in your opinion?
Thanks Melissa for the wonderful stay!!