Los Angeles Insider Guide
Finally made it to LA! I had never been to the West Coast before, and what better way to start than the City of Stars itself? I love going to new places I’ve never been to before, and during this trip to the States, I made it a point to see at least two, three places I haven’t seen before.
I’ve been staying at my best friend’s place in Las Vegas. From there, the Antelope Canyon and LA are at a stone’s throw away. You can read all about the Antelope Canyon here, and for everything LA, keep scrolling!
In the four days that we were there, we’ve been to all the LA staples, and all the recommended must-see places such as the Walk of Fame, the Chinese and Dolby Theatres, the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Long Beach… As well as eating at cool and iconic places along the way. And, as a bonus, we were inadvertently at the Spiderman: Homecoming premiere!
Note: Now that I’ve finally written this post (if you’re following me on Instagram, you know I’ve recently gained the ability to walk again ?), I decided to deviate a bit from my usual insider guides format. And I think that for this Los Angeles Insider Guide, formatting the post after our daily itinerary will make it easier to digest.
We stayed at Loews Hollywood Hotel, which is this huge tower in the middle of Hollywood. Staying there was an amazing idea. Not only in terms of location (it’s on Hollywood Blvd., basically LA’s Time Square) but also in terms of price, comfort, and food. The room is big and they also have a rooftop pool, spa, huge parking lot and free wi-fi. And if you don’t have a car, Uber, Lyft, and taxis are easy to take from this location.
Downstairs there’s a shopping mall with plenty of restaurants to eat at. Through the mall, you can also reach the Walk of Fame, the Dolby and TCL Theatres.
HOLLYWOOD & LA STAPLES | DAY 1
We left Las Vegas at about 7 am and arrived at our first landmark, Griffith Observatory, at around 12 pm. The plan was to knock off the Observatory and the Hollywood Sign before we reach the hotel since they were both on the way.
Parking was hard to find, we had to park about 1 mile away and then hike back up on foot. But the effort was well worth it! The Observatory offers stunning views of both LA and the Hollywood Sign. It’s totally free to visit, outside and inside. You can cool off inside after you’re done circling it and taking in the views. Among the different exhibits, you can also see a show in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater.
After we were done looking around and after we took 1000 photos (those views though!), we moved on to our next destination: the Hollywood Sign. There are different ways to reach the sign up close, but unfortunately, they all involve a few miles of hiking. So, we chose the next best thing, which turned out to be much better than actually seeing it up close, was to see it from Lake Hollywood Park.
The road trip from the Observatory to the park was gorgeous as well. It’s a twisty, winding road through some of the most beautiful homes the area has to offer. The road got a bit claustrophobic at times and made us wonder if we’re driving into a dead end. But in the end, it did take us to our destination.
We made our way back down and towards the hotel, checked in, and headed to Dave & Buster’s for a bite to eat. Dave & Buster’s is an American restaurant with a full-on video arcade inside. We had ribs with mashed potatoes and spinach, and buffalo wings with Caesar salad (can’t get more American than that!).
Walk of Fame & TCL Chinese Theatre
We decided to have our after-lunch stroll on the Walk of Fame and check out all the stars of the celebrities we admired. All the time I was thinking that I couldn’t believe I made it here! And I realized how blessed I am.
We also checked out the TCL Chinese Theatre and all the hands and feet imprints on the ground. And, as it was the case with the Walk of Fame, of course, we couldn’t resist taking a ton of photos.
Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
After the walk and the theater, we realized we still have some time to spend for the day. So we ordered an Uber and made our way towards Rodeo Drive. Rodeo Drive is an upscale two-mile shopping street in Beverly Hills. It has high-end stores and boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. After we were done strolling and browsing, we grabbed a coffee at Nespresso.
We took an Uber back to the hotel, and after realizing how exhausted we were, we ordered dinner from the California Pizza Kitchen downstairs. Their pizzas are delicious and I can also attest for their Dakota smashed pea & barley soup.❤️
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS & SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING | DAY 2
Universal Studios Hollywood
The second day was spent at Universal Studios Hollywood. We just couldn’t resist becoming children again and going on all the rides, eating themed food, and feeling the magic! And I had my first ever Dippin’ Dots ice cream!
Although Universal Studios Hollywood is the miniature version of the one in Orlando, and it has more 3 and 4D rides than actual roller coasters, it did not stop us from having tons of fun. It still took us until 4 pm to go on all the rides, and that’s with front of the line passes!
We arrived pretty early at the park (8:30 am), so it was pretty empty at Harry Potter’s The Three Broomsticks. We had a truly hearty British breakfast and we were ready to go!
We were famished after arriving at the hotel and decided to create our own ramen at Jinya Ramen Express. Another new experience and the portions are huge!
Spiderman: Homecoming Premiere
I couldn’t have made it even if I had planned it! The Ramen place we had lunch at was on the same side of the hotel as the Walk of Stars and the TCL Chinese Theatre, the third-floor. After seeing the red carpet and the Spiderman posters otherwise not visible from the first-floor, we finally realized what was going on and what the previous-day preparations were about.
And so we spent about two hours watching celebrities, and learning how premiers work. Who would’ve thought?
Barton G. is this incredibly creative American restaurant in LA. They serve your food in these out of this world plate designs that… not sure how to describe them, but you can see in the photos below! The Lobster Mac’n’Cheese in the mouse trap was one of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had, and the Studio 54 pasta dish that came with an actual singing disco ball, was to die for!
SANTA MONICA & VENICE BEACH | DAY 3
We had a power breakfast that day at Milk & Honey before heading out to the beach. Can’t get any healthier in the mornings that with an açai bowl. Although I can never seem to finish one, these fruit bowls are really growing on me and I’m trying to learn how to make them at home.
Santa Monica & Venice Beach
Santa Monica and Venice Beach are recommended must-see locations while around LA. We made our way down to the Santa Monica Pier in the morning and then rode a bike to Venice Beach.
We (unintentionally) parked about a mile away from the pier which gave us a chance to walk along the beach and see the blend of houses that decorate the seafront. The pier is a lovely melting pot of souvenir shops, fast foods, restaurants and amusement park rides. It even has an aquarium. After we were done walking and souvenir shopping, we got on our bikes and traveled the 2 miles to our new destination.
Venice Beach has a gorgeous beach surrounded by dreamy tall palm trees you imagine when you think California. We cooled down with freshly squeezed fruit juice to get ready for another 2 miles of biking back to Santa Monica. Venice Beach is one of those destinations that turn out to be very different than what you imagined. It’s full of cheap stores and we couldn’t find one decent restaurant to eat at on the boardwalk. Ironic, but maybe because of too many tourists?
After biking we had a late lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on the pier. The name will feel very familiar to you if you’ve watched the movie Forrest Gump. We were so starving, and we ordered so much food that we didn’t even need dinner that day.
They cook shrimp in every way you can think of. Along with crab, lobster, mussels and many different types of fish. If you can’t decide which one to have, I recommend the Steamed Shellfish. You get all of them (except fish) steamed in a wine broth.
LONG BEACH & PALOS VERDES | DAY 4
After all the seafood we had been having, we were really dying for something more “traditional.” So we grabbed some Chick-fil-A along for our ride to Long Beach.
On our last day, we said goodbye to Hollywood and made our way towards Long Beach, with a few stops along the Pacific Coast Highway. By far the best stops with the most amazing cliffs on the LA to Long Beach route can be found in Palos Verdes. Along with the most amazing houses you’ll find in California.
Once in Long Beach, we went to lunch at Roe Seafood. If you happen to be in Long Beach, definitely hit up this place. We had sushi for appetizers, then the hugest swordfish sandwich and the creamiest bass.
For afternoon snacks we went to our friend Sarah’s awesome ice cream shop, POP (Pacific Organic Pops). She makes the most delicious, organic, real fruit, made from scratch pops you’ll ever have. The Raspberry Lemonade pop is incredible!
We didn’t spend a lot of time in Long Beach (we left back to Vegas the next day), but the time we did spend there convinced us of its beauty and diversity. If you can’t do both, I definitely recommend going to Long Beach instead of Venice Beach.
For dinner, we went to Javier’s Restaurant, which is technically in Newport Beach. If you have a car, you won’t have any problem reaching it, plus it’s an opportunity to see the areas around Long Beach – Seal Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach…
Javier’s is an upscale Mexican restaurant with a fantastic ambiance, great decor, and very nice views of the ocean. I had the Trio de Enchiladas Del Mar, where you get one shrimp, one lobster, and one crab enchilada. I love seafood.
SEVEN MAGIC MOUNTAINS | BONUS
Seven Magic Mountains is a public work of art by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. It’s located outside of Las Vegas, off the I-15N highway towards LA and will only be there until May 2018.
I actually found out about it by mistake while Instagramming new places to see in Vegas, and decided to check it out on our way to LA. It’s beautiful to see up close, and the vibrant colors offer a stark contrast with the desert landscape of the Mojave Desert.
LA is a HUGE city with plenty of personality. It was not what I expected. It just did not match with what I was envisioning. Places that I expected to be amazing turned out to be hyped up, and places that I was not expected to be impressed by impressed me most.
Either way, I had a blast and look forward to visiting the northern part of Cali next!
- In the mornings and evenings it can get pretty chilly, so make sure you’ve got a sweater stacked away in your luggage as well.
- If you go to Universal Studios, get the front of the line tickets! Cannot tell you how useful and time-saving they were!
- Do not drive in LA from 5 to 7 pm. Driving is generally very time consuming in LA, but during rush hour there’s standstill traffic. We left Santa Monica to go to the hotel at 5 pm, and it took us 2h to travel 24 miles.
- Check travel sites such as booking.com, hotels.com, and others, and keep an eye on good hotel deals. We got a really good deal for a hotel in a great location that would otherwise have cost us $1,000+! This advice is clearly not limited to this trip.
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