Thursday, October 9, 2014

The ULTIMATE Guide to Los Angeles (Things to do in LA)

LA is a city of dreamers and sycophants. You can become anyone you want here, nothing is too out of the ordinary.

Los angeles guide header

I know. Its been done a million times before. A blogger making yet another guide to LA. But LA is truly my favourite city in America. It was never in our original plan to visit LA - after Mexico City we were supposed to take a flight home with a connection in LA, but due to unforeseen circumstances we were in LA for a little over 72 hours. The last time I was in LA was at the end of 2011 and we spent a considerably greater amount of time here. So taking into mind my unexpected detour I wanted to write a guide showing everyone the reasons I love this city so much using the experiences from my last two times here.


LA is a big city. A big sprawled out urban metropolis. When we visited LA in 2011 we stayed in two different localities - firstly in Anaheim, then we moved to Santa Monica. We stayed in Anaheim first because... Disneyland, duh! If you plan to visit Disneyland during your stay in LA I highly recommend you book a hotel in the surrounding area so you are first in line when the park opens at 10am. But since Anaheim is so far away from anywhere else in LA there is no need to stay there after you have visited Disneyland. Some popular places to stay closer to the city centre include Beverly Hills, Downtown LA, etc. However, I highly recommend Santa Monica for a number of reasons. Santa Monica sits right on the beach and is home to a number of casual and trendy cafes, hotels and restaurants. The Santa Monica pier is also easily accessible and is also home to the famous Third Street Promenade so you can get any easy shopping out of the way. If you have not hired a car, a number of buses begin and run through Santa Monica so pretty much everything in LA is accessible from here.

santa monica pier on beach


The Getty Museum is the real gem of LA.  This museum stands atop the hills overlooking LA, giving you a panoramic view from city to sea. You access the museum at the bottom of the hill from a cable tram. This museum features two huge gardens which overlook the city. Both the gardens are immaculate and many people come here just to enjoy the view. The museum itself has an extensive collection all the way from ancient Greece to modern photography. Famous pieces can be spotted by Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin. Everything from paintings, portraits, tapestries, room restorations, benches, mosaics and photography can be found here. We spent 5 hours here. This is my favourite place in LA - it cannot be missed! Oh, and best part about the museum, its free!

getty museum garden
getty museum garden
getty museum buildings


LA is the home of Hollywood. You just can't miss it. Personally, the first time I visited Hollywood I was slightly underwhelmed. Is that all?? I thought when I chanced upon the Walk of Fame. But it really is more than that. Outside the Chinese Theatre you are greeted with more than 200 autographs, footprints and handprints of the Hollywood celebrities. The Dolby Theatre is the home of the Oscars. Yes, its a typical dirty street, miles away from the glam of Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hill, but this is where years of film history comes together and meets - this is where the magic happens.

hollywood hills
hollywood will smith handprints change the world


It's totally trashy. Yet, so much fun. A visit to Hollywood is incomplete without a tour of the homes of the rich and famous. During our visit to LA in 2011 we were approached by a vendor selling tours to the homes of Hollywood. Well who were we to say no. It was actually one of the most fun tours I did in America. Our guide was lively and entertaining, and we saw the side of Hollywood that you only see in tabloids and gossip mags. Although it was a few years ago I recall seeing the houses of Christina Aguilera, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and Zac Efron, plus plenty plenty more. We even got up close and personal with the Hollywood sign. So yes, its trashy, but its just one of those things that make the Hollywood experience complete. The photo below was something I saw when we revisited Hollywood 2 days ago, and totally fascinated me. A map to the movie star homes? I thought it was only something that existed in the realm of the Simpsons. Since we were short on time during this visit I declined to buy, but next time I am in LA I will totally buy this map and do a full blog post on the results!

hollywood homes tour map


I feel like its a bit superfluous to include these attractions because they are so popular world wide, however, for the sake of a complete guide here they are. Adult and child alike, these two attractions are a must do in LA. The one big distinction I will make between these parks is I feel like Universal Studios is an adult version of Disneyland - the rides are more mature-themed and intense - but both are great for families and singles alike.

universal studios sign


Home to the rich and famous, you never know who you might bump into at Rodeo Drive. Pristine streets, beautiful architecture, and oh so slightly intimidating, even though you don't plan to buy anything, its just fun to see where the mega wealthy come to play. It's not all bad though. You can grab a decent priced dinner in Rodeo Drive just for the complete tourist experience. We had a pleasant sit down dinner at 208 Rodeo Restaurant that was priced the same as any other medium priced restaurant in LA.

rodeo drive entrance
rodeo drive street


During our visit here in 2011 when we had more time we took a day drive down to Newport Beach in Orange County. I recommend taking a day trip down to Orange County because you can see a completely different face of California just outside of Los Angeles. Newport beach is free of the big commercial shopping centres, but it has plenty of little cafes and restaurants you can enjoy dinner at after walking down the beach and soaking up the atmosphere.

newport beach at sunset


LACMA was another museum I thoroughly enjoyed. It was not hard to miss - we spotted it as we were driving up Wilshire Boulevard and the first thing I saw was the famous Urban Light sculpture at the entrance. Unlike the Getty museum this museum is not free - tickets are $10 each, but considering you could potentially spend a whole day here I think the price is easily justified. The permanent collection is expansive, with pieces ranging from ancient to modern from all corners of the world - Indian, Egyptian, Iranian, French, American, Islander, Japanese, no culture or country is excluded. There were also many famous pieces here by Picasso, Andy Warhol, Matisse and Degas. I would estimate that this museum is twice the size of the Getty Museum.

lacma urban light sculpture


The Farmers Markets is a great place to grab a bite for lunch, do some people watching, and grab some snacks for later. There are all kinds of food selections in the open air eateries, and once you have had your lunch you can explore the other markets which offer local produce and food products to buy your own snacks for later or even some souvenirs. Good way to kill a few relaxing hours.

farmers market los angeles food


Need to do a spot of shopping? Being the urban metropolis it is, LA has you covered. If you stay in Santa Monica like I did the last two times, you have the trendy Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place right on your doorstep. These are two connected open air shopping centres that have a mix of casual and upscale stores for some relaxed retail therapy. On our way to the city centre we discovered another trendy open air shopping complex - Westfield Century City. Its not big, but has a relaxed, upscale atmosphere. If you are looking for some budget shopping I would recommend the Citadel Outlets which have outlet shops from upscale brands to smaller, more affordable labels - bargains galore!

westfield century city outdooor shopping mall

Image attribution:
"Just another one of those great California sunsets" by Benson Kua // CC BY-SA 2.0 * ; "Santa Monica Pier 1" by Tony Hisgett // CC BY 2.0 * ; "Universal Studios Logo" by Prayitno // CC BY 2.0 * ; "Newport Beach Abend" by Patrick Pelster // CC BY-SA 3.0 * ; "Farmers Market Los Angeles" by NewtonCourt // CC BY-SA 4.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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