California Dreaming in Los Angeles

Southern California, oh how I love thee! Sunshine, beaches, sunshine…..beaches, and so much more! Located about a 2 hour drive from my all time favorite city, San Diego and only a short drive to fabulous beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway, Los Angeles is in a great location with a very agreeable climate. It is also the birthplace of the internet, the entertainment capital of the world and home to the L.A. Dodgers ! Ready to pack your bags and plan your trip to Los Angeles? Keep reading to get some good tips before you go!

What to Do

I could seriously go on and on about all of the things to do in Los Angeles….lucky for you, I have narrowed it down to some of my favorites….

Take a studio tour! We took the Warner Brothers Studio Tour which I found to be the perfect balance between walking and riding around in an open air tram. We got to see some really cool sets, learned a lot of background info and had some great photo ops on the Friends couch and Sheldon’s couch from The Big Bang Theory. You are free to take photos throughout the tour which is not the case for some of the other studio tours. Tickets were around 60.00 and the tour lasted about 3 hours. Although we didn’t do the Paramount tour, the word on the street is that the Paramount and Warner Bros. are the best ones to take!

Spend an afternoon at Santa Monica Pier. This is one of my sons all time favorite things to do in L.A. It’s a little shady, kind of sketchy, yet tons of fun!!! Pacific Park is the amusement park located right on the pier. There’s a roller coaster that goes above the park, a ferris wheel with outstanding views of the ocean and a variety of other vomit inducing rides to choose from. You can also rent bikes for about $8.00 an hour along the beach path and ride the path through Venice Beach and beyond. I should mention that Venice Beach has quite an interesting collection of characters who appear to have set up tents on and around the beach and moved in! We witnessed one girl performing for a couch full of mannequins ( they were a stiff crowd) and a full grown man playing peek-a-boo with himself under a decrepit blanket. My advice to my son; “pedal faster!” But overall, we always have a blast in Santa Monica!

Take one of the tours offered by Dearly Departed. I have a morbid side. I love to listen to scary, horrifying, creepy tales and legends! Then I wake up in the middle of the night terrified! So I saw this tour featured on one of the late great Anthony Bourdain’s shows; The Layover and I knew that I had to do it! Unfortunately, the tour I wanted (Helter Skelter) was not available the week we were there. Fear not, The Tragical History Tour was available! You may not believe this, but it was one of the strangest tours I have ever been on and I enjoyed every minute of it! For over 3 hours we drove around the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area. What are some of the things we saw? We drove the winding roads that Charles Manson took to commit the unspeakable murders of Sharon Tate and her house guests back in 1969. We stopped at the pay phone (my son asked, “What’s a pay phone?”) where 911 was called to report the overdose of River Phoenix. We drove past the Playboy mansion where they tried to recruit me. I told them I already have a job. And even stopped at the cemetery where Marilyn Monroe is buried. Great way to spend a few hours doing something weird and different. Book in advance to get the tour you want…they offer quite a few.

Take a drive to the Hollywood sign. You can go onto Google maps to get directions to the famous sign. After taking a series of winding roads up into the mountains, you will reach the giant letters that spell out “Hollywood”…. or at least get close to them. Find a parking spot and hike as far as you would like to. Excellent photo opportunities.

Head over to Griffith Observatory. This is another good place to get awesome views of the Hollywood sign. There’s a really cool pendulum to check out while you are there and some nice hiking trails throughout the park. It is extremely crowded at the observatory, but buses are provided to bring you up if you park near the entrance. Admission to the buildings and grounds is FREE!

Look for stars names on the Walk of Fame. I looked for hours, and did not see my name on any of the stars! What the hell? Even so, we had a lot of fun people watching, looking at names and popping in and out of tacky, touristy gift shops.

Go down the Sky Slide in downtown L.A. It’s an outdoor glass slide 1,000 feet above L.A. that’s attached to the exterior of the tallest building in L.A. And I thought the Dearly Departed Tour was scary. I may have suffered a small heart attack on this slide. “It’s so much fun.” my son declared …I describe it as yet another one of those terrifying yet exhilarating activities that we have come across during our travels together. A ride on the slide can be purchased along with access to the observation decks . Tickets were $ 32.00 (including the slide) and views from the observation deck at sunset were unbeatable.

Take a drive along the PCH and stop at any one of the beaches along the way. We stopped in the morning at El Matador State Beach. This is a fantastic little beach with small caves and arches to explore. Be careful on the steps going down…I took the “express route” …. lost my balance and slid full speed down several flights. That was fun. We also stopped at Zuma Beach and were super lucky to see a whole pod of dolphins playing in the waves a few feet from us!!! Although both beaches are free, there is a parking fee unless you can grab parking along the highway which gets pretty full.

Where to Stay

I can never seem to find a great location to stay in LA. We have stayed several times on Century Blvd. near the airport. Los Angeles is so spread out that it’s difficult to decide where to stay. This location might not be exciting, but it’s safe, has a lot of name brand hotel choices, and provides quick and easy access to the airport. This summer we chose the Hotel Indigo in downtown L.A. instead of staying on Century. The hotel was great and I absolutely loved the roofdeck pool…but I can’t really recommend this location. It is definitely a sketchy part of L.A. and I didnt feel safe walking around at night. You can also stay a night on the Queen Mary! This was a super cool thing to do. The ship offers all kinds of tours (including spooky ghost hunts) and has a restaurant and bar as well.

Places We Liked to Eat

North Italia. This is a chain, but we love it! There’s one located a few blocks in from the beach at Santa Monica.

Speaking of Santa Monica, we had a terrific experience at Big Dean’s Ocean Front Cafe located right off the beach by the carousel. Excellent beach snacks and lunch options. Totally affordable and great service. They are located right next to one of the bike rental shacks.

Mels Diner. I know….touristy! Yes, but still worth the visit. Their malts are oh so good!

After taking the Warner Bros. Studio tour, we went to an amazing little italian place called Novo Cafe for dinner. The best gnocchi I’ve had in a long time. Reasonable prices and outside seating available.

In and Out Burger. How could you not stop here for a burger and cheesy fries ???

Final Thoughts and Tips

Los Angeles is a great place to visit anytime of year. There are so many other things to see and do within the city, or a short drive away. However, I have seen quite an increase in their homeless population over the years and hope that they get control over the situation out there. That being said, we have never had a problem while visiting . I’m pretty sure that no matter how many visits I make, I will never see my name on a Hollywood star. I’m ok with that….Fame has never been a goal of mine, besides, I am already a legend in my own mind! Roman Polanski once said , “Los Angeles is the most beautiful city in the world, as long as it’s seen at night and from a distance”. I can say the same thing about some of the dates I’ve had over the years.

The end.

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