Los Angeles. LA. LaLa Land. City of Angels. Whatever you may call it. LA is one of my favourite places. I love it so much that I’ve booked a flight to return next summer!
It was always a dream of mine to visit LA so I was SO excited to be able to go during our trip around the US. After longing to visit of years and having high expectations of the city, many people warned me that it was overrated (like many places that everyone raves about) and that it was actually their least favourite place in America.
So I lowered my expectations, after visiting so many amazing cities throughout the US, LA was no longer my number one place I was excited for.
Maybe it was who I travelled with, or maybe it was because I had lowered my expectations but I absolutely adored LA and now I call it one of my favourite places.
But why is it so great? (and why I have just booked flights to return in 2019?)
Here’s 8* ways to find out…
I promised myself that I would not get sucked up in all the magic that Disney promises to offer but nope. I did.
I found myself getting excited when Mickey, or Goofy, or Gaston walked past or when I heard the music to it’s a small world, transporting me back to my first visit to Disneyland Paris back in 2003. This was the first time I was able to see the evening firework display and once again I found myself totally mesmerised.
Disneyland Park is the original Disneyland, it opened on July 17, 1955 and is the only theme park designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney.
What’s better than being in California, at Disneyland, with your best friends!?
We visited in November so the park was beautifully decorated for Christmas. It was so weird hearing the Christmas music and watching the Christmas parade absolutely sweating in 30 degree heat…but it definitely got me into the festive spirit!
Disneyland is located in Anaheim, about a 40-60 minute drive from LA (traffic depending). We got an Uber from Hollywood Boulevard which cost $40-45 each way (cheaper and quicker than public transport). We left our hotel at 7am and left Disneyland about 9.30-10pm which meant we didn’t really get stuck in too much of the LA traffic. Disneyland prices change depending on the date you go, we visited the day before peak season began (due to Thanksgiving) so a ticket to one park was $99 which is the cheapest ticket you can get.
We went at a really great time, it wasn’t too busy so the longest we queued for a ride was 20 minutes and we managed to do everything we wanted to do within a few hours. Unfortunately we were a day too early to see Kourtney Kardashian and a day too late to see Katy Perry…but Spencer Pratt was there the same day as us. We actually managed to not spot a single celebrity throughout our whole time in LA!
2. Happy Hours…
LA isn’t as expensive as it may seem if you do your research. We had to be restrictive with what we spent as we were away for 9 weeks and fortunately there’s plenty of places to drink on a budget.
My favourite bar was Copa d’oro in Santa Monica (which is top of my list for when we return). Copa d’oro is a dimly lit, stylish, cocktail emporium which has an elegant and upmarket feel to it yet it’s very affordable. There’s a fantastic range of cocktails and I loved the Californian wines and sparkling wines on offer. They have happy hour every day until 8pm and all day on Monday with $5 off cocktails, $4 off wine and $2 off beer and food.
In the US happy hour doesn’t just apply to drinks but to food too, so do your research as there’s plenty of good deals in LA to grab a bite to eat for a reasonable price too.
3. The Griffith Observatory
Staying on Hollywood Boulevard we were just a 50 minute walk from The Griffith Observatory so we were able to walk (or in my eyes…’hike’) up there while taking in the views of downtown LA and the Hollywood sign on the Griffith Observatory Trail (but unfortunately we didn’t bump into any celebrities).
The Griffith Observatory is a popular tourist attraction because it offers a great view of the Hollywood Sign and inside is free to enter.
The perfect ‘hiking’ outfit…
4. Melrose Avenue
Melrose Avenue is an Instagram haven as well as being one of LA’s most famous streets for shopping, dining and entertainment. We stopped by for lunch at Urth Cafe then walked along to gaze in shop windows at things we couldn’t afford in stores such as DASH, Helmut Lang and of course the famous pink Paul Smith store. I didn’t realise I could fan girl over a wall until we went to THE pink wall.
Melrose Avenue is full of so many amazing backdrops making it ideal to get that shot for the gram. I googled a few Instagram backdrops before we went and some had actually been painted over since the photos had been published so the below may not even be around anymore! But here’s a selection of some of the vibrant walls we came across…
My Instagram dreams came true…I finally got to the Paul Smith wall!!
5. Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Santa Monica and Venice Beach are a MUST. They are probably my favourite areas in LA and we didn’t even explore half of it.
Venice Beach is a free spirited, creative and artistic beach town full of colourful mural walls, cannabis shops (well there’s a lot all over LA to be honest!) and home to the famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym. It’s a bright, vibrant and exciting place to visit. Go but don’t pay $10 for a terrible palm reading like I did (ha!)
We walked along the beach between Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
I’d wanted to visit Santa Monica pier since Hannah Montana performed there for Lily’s Sweet 16 in Hannah Montana The Movie. Sadly on the day we went Miley Cyrus or Emily Osment weren’t anywhere to be seen…but I did get to walk along the pier, see Pacific Park and explore downtown Santa Monica and enjoy dinner at one of my favourite American chains – Cheesecake Factory.
6. Go for brunch
Going for brunch in LA is essential. We went for a leisurely brunch at The Roof on Wilshire at Kimpton Hotel Wilshire (not to be confused with the Beverly Wilshire) where we enjoyed jugs of mimosas while looking over the Hollywood Hills. Brunch was reasonably priced from $9 a dish, so we indulged in eggs and hash browns and pancakes before taking an Uber to Santa Monica.
Another morning we visited the renowned Mel’s Drive-In which serves traditional American favourites, which I’m desperate to try more of when I go back, such as The French Dip, The Famous Melburger, and Homemade Texas chilli. I would also recommend a visit to Urth Cafe, a healthier suggestion than the diner and the queues out the door prove just how good it is! Apparently it is a great hotspot for celebs (we went to the Melrose branch) but sadly we didn’t see anyone.
For years I had dreamed of visiting Hollywood Boulevard and looking at the stars, but over the years people had labelled it tacky and overrated so I think I prepared myself for the worst…
But I loved Hollywood. Hollywood Boulevard isn’t very glamorous like I had imagined all those years, but there’s just something about the atmosphere, the flashing neon signs and movie theatres that make the area so exciting. There’s the crowds of tourists and the celebrity tours buses and of course, the Hollywood sign. It’s just a sign yet seeing it gave me that buzz and excitement which I’d waited years to experience.
8. The sunsets
The sunsets in LA, and in California in general, are just unreal and unbelievably beautiful. Just look at the stunning colours…
Above: Sunset at Venice beach
Above: Sunset on Melrose Avenue
Overall I just loved the whole vibe in LA. It wasn’t as tacky or as showy and fake as I had expected. I found it relaxing yet exciting and full of interesting people to meet and fun things to see and do. I can see why people love it so much. Not only is LA a cosmopolitan city and tourist haven, it is also surrounded by wonderful scenery, beautiful sunsets and a stunning coastline. There’s something for everyone.
My LA Tips…
How to get around
We weren’t driving so took Ubers everywhere. LA does have buses, metros and trains but as we were there for such a short amount of time we wanted to get around quickly. Plus we were told it was a lot safer, especially at night, for us to get an Uber.
How to get there
We travelled to LA from San Diego but Amtrak train. It was such a beautiful journey so I would highly recommend it. We went on the Pacific Surfliner, which was probably one of my favourite journeys throughout the whole trip. A lot of the journey is along the Californian coast which is just beautiful. You can see a video here.
The train takes you to Los Angeles Union Station in downtown LA.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Hollywood Downtowner Motel on Hollywood Boulevard. We were upgraded to a large spacious apartment which was perfect for up to 4 people. It was in a great location being just a short walk to Hollywood and the Walk of Fame as well as the Griffith Observatory.
*I was in LA for four full days including a day at Disneyland so of course there is plenty more to do in LA. We didn’t have time to go to all of the usual tourist spots so this blog post just gives a small snapshot of what to do while in the city.