Well, after attempting to check in to the wrong W Hotel, it was time to explore this great (big) city. Los Angeles isn’t just big, it’s vast. I’m talking like, if you don’t rent a car, you’ll be spending more on taxis than your flight in to LA. Unfortunately I thought my trusty Uber app would be all I need to get me around, and whilst it was excellent (with far more vehicle options that I’ve ever seen before) after doing the math, I literally could have flown to Hawaii if I hadn’t taken cabs.
Los Angeles has many many districts and suburbs, however I gravitated to four main areas; West Hollywood (well, most of Hollywood is pretty awesome), Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Downtown LA.
From the name you’d be easily mistaken to think that this is where all the glitz and glamour lies. You wouldn’t be wrong. The Hollywood Hills are littered with huge homes and mansions, but Hollywood is more trendy than anything else. You’ll find the coolest bars, the most interesting little venues and of course a lot of movie related tourism.
Universal Studios is a must see if you are movie buff and whilst there are always lines for the rides at these sort of parks, Universal have done a great job of ensuring your time is occupied as well as providing some incredible themed areas that (if you are travelling with kids) will keep the whole family happy.
Personally my favourite attractions were the Transformers ride which mixes rollercoasters with 3D technology for an experience like no other, and of course the Studio Lot Tour. If you really love movies, seeing pieces of memorabilia in real life is mind blowing.
Further into the Hollywood Hills, you’ll find the amazing Sunset Ranch. Note, you must pre-book this, it gets really busy. When you arrive you’ll realise why. Small groups of 8 or 9 are taken out by a guide to ride through the Hollywood Hills on horseback. The experience is like no other, and the views are simply epic. They even walk you behind the Hollywood sign for some truly amazing visuals.
Sunset Strip is the obligatory tourist trap of LA’s movieland. Strip clubs, shops selling Hollywood hats and the expected shops on every city’s main strip are here. Visiting a new city, it’s almost a rite of passage that you need to walk down this road at night time just for the experience.
The Comedy Club is one of LA’s (if not the world’s) most well known Comedy venues. Owned by Pauly Shores family, not a night goes by that someone from comedy royalty doesn’t perform standup there. If bars are your thing, you are just a stone’s throw away from the Chateau Marmont, one of Los Angeles must see bars of opulence where you’ll rub shoulders with Hollywood’s elite over a vodka martini, If that’s your thing.
Beverly Hills, is further West and sits next to Bel Air and Westwood. I highly recommend the star tours bus ride. Yes, you are going to one of those people. But it’s fun, and a great way to get a sneak peek of some of the most extravagant homes you will ever see. Many of them, like the Playboy Mansion, or Michael Jackson’s old estates are gated off, but some are far more easily viewed and will blow your mind. Of course, you must check out Rodeo Drive just for the sheer indulgence.
We stayed at the W Hotel in Beverly Hills, located opposite the UCLA campus, a huge 60,000 student University where Mercedes Benz and Porsches are readily seen being driven by the students. It’s crazy.
Los Angeles has a stack of beaches, from the famous Huntington Beach, to Venice Beach and Santa Monica. By far my favourite part of LA was Santa Monica. It has a beautiful heir of times gone by. A lot of the buildings are still very retro with a ’60s twist, and walking the Santa Monica Pier is a lovely way to spend an hour or two on a sunny afternoon.
I recommend hiring a bike and riding the bike track between Santa Monica, and Venice Beach. Venice is a beautifully bohemian part of LA, so very different from the hustle of Hollywood or the glamour of Beverly Hills.
Get there around 5pm to watch the skaters at the skatepark against the best sunsets you will ever see. The IVY on the Shore is also located on Santa Monica, worth checking out after a tough bike ride.
I didn’t get to spend enough time downtown, it’s a complex mix of bars and business. Tall offices and trade areas can make downtown a little hit and miss unless you know exactly where you are going. Check out the Pattern Bar, it has the best vibe, plays music from vinyl some times, and offers a sumptuous mix of healthy snacks and meals. Oh and the cocktails are just the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
Los Angeles can’t be done in a week or two, honestly, it can’t be done in a month but alas, your bank balance will beg to differ. Saying that, it’s an experience like no other.