It’s nearing the end of January already- how on earth did that happen?! Anyway, today we are moving onto the next city of our American Honeymoon itinerary- Los Angeles! What better way to warm up a drizzly day than by curling up and admiring some snaps of the sunshine!
Thanks to growing up in the 90’s and Bran Van 3000’s ear worm, I’ve always had a burning desire to visit LA. In fact, at 26 I had a full on meltdown that I had yet to drink in LA. (Click the link if you are sat here scratching your head…) But I fear landing in a city you’ve hankered to visit, falls into the same category of meeting you idols. Sometimes it’s not a wise move. Sometimes it’s better to keep them on that pedestal, because you never know when they might topple off.
Do you get the feeling I wasn’t a fan? Read on….
How to get to Los Angeles
As we had previously spent a long weekend in Las Vegas,we found ourselves less than 300 miles from LA. You can easily fly between the two in around an hour, but by the time you’ve checked in, been through security and queued up in hope of a seat (This is United Airlines after all…) you may as well take the leisurely drive from city to city and absorb the US roads.
June from Travel Counsellors arranged our entire honeymoon, including our car hire. She also helped us see sense that a Ford Mustang Convertible probably wasn’t going to cut it with ALL of luggage for our two week trip. So, we collected our SUV from the MGM and headed off to our next destination with a Spotify playlist keeping my nerves at bay on our 4 hour road trip.
There is so much to see on your trip between these two iconic cities- and I really wish we’d had more time! During our planning I found California Through My Lens really helpful, but when the day came we were eager to get to LA before rush hour took hold. Think of that opening scene in La La Land…minus the show tune.
What to see on Interstate 15
Around 45 miles outside of Vegas we spied Buffalo Bills and Whiskey Pete’s in the Primm Valley and couldn’t help but leave the interstate for a peek. Like Fremont Street it’s the Las Vegas of old, and you could be mistaken to think it was a film set. Here we dropped by for our first McDonalds of the trip. Remember this is the holiday AFTER the pre-wedding diet guys!
Our next pit stop was planned for either Peggy Sue’s iconic diner or Barstow, but with time ticking on and gas left in the tank we continued on towards Victorville. Unfortunately we took a turn too soon and headed to the closest garage to fill up. (Never let your tank get too low- there are areas without gas stations for miles)
Enter our first frightening experience of LA. Having a ‘knife’ pulled on us when we refused to let a man travel with us. I say ‘knife’ but it was made of plastic, which we spotted after a terrifying second or two. I’m still pretty sure he hadn’t cottoned onto this fact however.
Tank filled, doors locked, we sped off back towards LA, passing the lovely looking Victorville on route. To say I was gasping to park up, hand back the keys and get a cocktail at this point was an understatement.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
Let’s be clear. LA is HUGE. Gigantic, colossal, enormous. I seriously had no clue when it came to the amount of miles The City of Los Angeles covers, or the fact it contained 88 cities.
Picking a hotel would of taken weeks if not months, so I’m glad we had June on hand to source one on our behalf!
Our home for 3 nights was The Garland in North Hollywood. Described as a ‘A retro chic boutique hotel’ The Garland was originally owned by Hollywood star Beverly Garland, and her husband Fillmore Crank. Now in the capable hands of their son James, the resort certainly feels like a Hollywood film set. Think 1970’s boho, cool apposed to vintage glamour however.
The location of The Garland is a little ‘set back’ and if we were to stay again I’m pretty sure we’d extend our rental car for the entirety of our stay here. Although, the hotel does offer a complimentary Trolley (Bus) service to Universal Studios and Universal city metro station which assists getting around.
A three night stay at The Garland in April would cost approximately £186 per room, per night.
What to see in Los Angeles
With so many neighbourhoods to explore, it’s important to research the ones that you most want to explore and factor in the distances between them. In all honestly we didn’t spend enough time before hand looking into this and we felt a little thrown when we arrived.
Initial thoughts of ‘popping down to Venice beach’ (a 40 minute cab ride or an hour and a half bus ride) or a ‘stroll to Beverly Hills’ (a mammoth 3 hour walk or a half hour car journey mainly stuck in traffic) were soon replaced with- how much can we realistically get done here in 48 hours?
Getting around in LA
The open top bus tour’s I usually avoid in favour of seeing a city on foot, seemed like a sensible choice. A two day ticket with City Sightseeing left us with little change of £100 for the pair of us, and the choice of 6 routes and 73 stops to enjoy. Be that as it may, with each route taking 1.5-2 hours and only running until 7pm, we didn’t get much time to spend in each destination. But it gave us a good insight into LA nevertheless.
Uber’s are very popular with tourists and locals alike, and we easily racked up a bill of over a hundred dollars during our time here. But with a local as our driver we gained a great insight into the real LA lifestyle and it definitely helped us to see that little bit more.
Walk of Fame
Is there anything more Hollywood than spying Chris Pratt getting his star on the Walk of Fame as soon as you arrive? The gold, glittering stars decorate the boulevard and keep your eyes firmly on the floor. Which obviously results in bashing into people and lots of ‘tutting’ when you just HAVE to stop for a moment to steal a snap with ‘Nicole Kidman’. But, apart from the famous stars, theatres and hand prints, there is other things to watch out for on Hollywood Boulevard.
Firstly, you’ll be bombarded with street artists eager for you to take their CD’s, DVD’s or listen to their stories. But beware. As soon as you touch their merchandise or engage in conversation, you are usually expected to cough up. If you fancy grabbing a snap with your favourite look-a-like however, make sure you’ve got some dollar bills. In my experience, they don’t hound you like the others.
Secondly, I wouldn’t head here later at night. Personally, I felt a real change in the place and it’s certainly not as safe after dark. Always make sure you stick to populated, well lit areas and keep your valuables secure.
But lastly on a positive note, climb the stairs up to the top floor of Highland Centre Mall and admire the view of the Hollywood sign in the distance. There is something magical about clapping eyes on those iconic letters.
Santa Monica Pier
Thanks to the little time we had in LA and our lack of car, we spent a mere hour or so down in Santa Monica. We did however spend that hour soaking in the atmosphere at the famous pier. It’s all about sun, sand and surf down there, and the brightly coloured fair ground is a feast for the eyes.
Had there been more time, we would of wandered down to Venice beach (around 45 minute walk or 15 minute bike ride) or grabbed a bite at pedestrianised Third Street Promenade.
But on a wise note- Don’t use the public toliets…. I feared for my life.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Our enthusiastic guide kept us thoroughly entertained with endless facts, stories and anecdotes. Apart from the iconic La La Land cafe set (which I could have happily stayed in all day) we caught sight of locations featured in Gilmore Girls, Mom and Pretty Little Liars. Unfortunately for us, we’ve never watched any of these shows, but the excitement of our fellow tourists still made it enjoyable!
Alongside the outdoor sets, we were taken into the indoor sound stage of The Big Bang Theory, but unfortunately any photos are prohibited!
Not only were we given the opportunity to see lots of sets up close, our tour included a trip to the props department, an exhibition featuring Harry Potter and DC comics costumes and the Stage 48 : Script to Screen experience. It’s certainly worth the bucks that’s for sure.
The perfect way to end your trip? A coffee in Central Perk of course!
Where to eat in Los Angeles
We imagined endless smoothie joints, swanky restaurants and golden plated bars. But that was far from the reality. Depending on where you stay, your mode of transport and time of week you visit. All will contribute to where you eat.
The area surrounding the Garland wasn’t buzzing with restaurants within safe walking distance, and without any recommendations it was hard to decipher where an UBER should take us to.
If you stumble across a restaurant you fancy during your planning stages- book it. During our trip there was no reservations available at the hotel restaurant, The Front Yard, so unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to dine at this gem.
We did however find some less swanky eateries to enjoy on our travels.
Johnny Rockets retro diner transports you back to the 1950’s with a table top jukebox, thick ice cream milkshakes and juicy burgers. My inner Pink Lady just loved it.
Off the beaten track
We’ll end will my favourite Los Angeles find, Griffith Observatory.
Discovered thanks to my love of La La Land, we took an UBER up to Mount Hollywood to catch the sunset. Yes, the traffic will be hell and the journey will take far longer than expected, but it’s worth it. Looking for an alternative to a cab? Try the DASH bus instead!
From the grounds surrounding the observatory, and from the outdoor viewing platforms, you’ll have the perfect panoramic view of this gigantic region. You’ll even get another killer shot of the Hollywood sign whilst your there!
Most importantly, don’t forget to step inside. The exhibition the observatory houses is awe-inspiring. And it’s free to enter! The only charge is for access to the planetarium, which is $7 for adults and $5 for children.
I just wish we’d allocated more time to our visit, because I really could of stayed for hours!
A true gem amongst the madness of Los Angeles.
What do you think? Is a trip to LA on the cards for you? I’d definitely agree that it’s worth a visit, but make sure you use your time wisely! There is SO much to see and do, a weekend escape is just not enough!
Next up… San Francisco!