My friend Jennifer is taking her newly minted teenager to Los Angeles this summer. Since I lived there for several years she asked me for some sightseeing suggestions. I thought I might as well share them with you too! So here it is, my best advice on what to do in a quick trip out west.
Day 1: Entertainment
1. Get a behind the scenes look at where shows like Gilmore Girls and Friends were filmed by taking a Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Burbank. If you have a favorite show that’s currently on air, you might even be able to get tickets in advance to a live taping. Other studios do this too, so you’re not limited to things that film at the WB. If you want to stay in the area for lunch or shopping, head over to San Fernando Blvd., where you can park and meander around Burbank’s “downtown.” To get there, set your GPS to Ikea, find a parking place and start walkin’!
2. Drive over the hill to Hollywood Blvd. Check out the stars on the walk of fame, take pictures in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (or take a tour if you’re not toured out). You can even visit the Dolby Theatre around the corner, where the Oscar’s happen.
3. Walk around, soak up the scenery. People watch.
4. If you are someone or know someone who is someone or happen to be a magician – spend the evening at the Magic Castle, an exclusive membership only establishment. I never went there because unfortunately, I’m not someone. But I’ve heard it’s amazing.
5. If you have energy (and daylight) left, take a drive over to Beverly Hills and Bel Air and cruise around the residential streets off of Sunset Blvd, checking out the multi-million dollar homes. You can head south and have dinner at The Stinking Rose on La Cienega Blvd (pronounced la see EHN’ eh guh). This restaurant is a dream come true for garlic lovers and you can get in even without magic skills. No vampires allowed, however.
Day 2: Beach
No trip to the west coast is complete without going to the beach. Notice I didn’t say swimming at the beach. Not sure if that is anything I could ever recommend in LA. But going to the Santa Monica pier was one of my favorite lazy Saturday activities when I lived there. You can drive straight to the pier and park in their huge parking lot for like $5 all day. From there, you can:
- Walk down the pier, ride a ride, play a game, buy a coffee or some ice cream. Look out over the ocean!
- Head north, walking along the beach. Stick your toes in the water if you dare. Maybe lay out a towel and catch some sun while people watching.
- Head the other way from the pier and walk along the boardwalk to Venice beach. Check out the body builders working out on the permanent equipment installed along the walk. Shop in the shops. Peruse the trinkets laid out by the vendors on the sidewalk. Get your fortune read.
- If you want to explore more, you can rent a bike – there’s a good place right at the beginning of the boardwalk, close to the pier. Tell them Theresa sent you. Just kidding don’t do that. 🙂
If you’re not totally beat after doing all this you can head into downtown Santa Monica and check out the shops on and around Santa Monica Blvd. Visit Barney’s Beanery on 3rd Street for a refreshing beverage or a bite to eat. If you walk to downtown from the pier you’ll need to take the overhead pedestrian walkway to cross the Pacific Coast Highway (aka “The PCH”). You can drive there too but finding parking isn’t as easy as at the pier. It’s doable though, with a little patience. You can look for street parking or a public garage.
Day 3: Chinatown
I don’t know if this is considered super touristy or very “LA” but for someone coming from anywhere that’s not San Francisco or NYC (where there are bigger, better, Chinatowns), it’s a pretty cool slice of a different culture, right in the middle of America. Plug in Chinatown Central Plaza at 943 N. Broadway to your GPS and find parking anywhere near there. Walk around, people watch, haggle for trinkets or clothing (bring cash!), try out an authentic Asian restaurant. You really need to go inside the pedestrian mall and vicinity – the “touristy Chinatown” part is small – otherwise the area can feel vaguely deserted and very American except for some Asian signage on office buildings. TimeOut Los Angeles has a walking tour you can follow. Chinatown won’t take all day so you can combo it with any of my other suggestions, below:
- Hollywood Sign. You have to see this, duh! Check out this site for details about the sign and where and how to see it best.
- Universal CityWalk in Universal City; this could be a whole day but easily a half day in my opinion.
- Griffith Observatory: for checking out those other “stars” – the ones in the sky.
- The Getty Center; you’ll need at least half a day here.
- Rodeo Drive (pronounced ro DAY oh, for the one person who didn’t already know that): if you want to star-hunt or you haven’t gotten enough of feeling fancy (or feeling very un-fancy, perhaps) stroll along this stretch of super posh shops and keep your eyes peeled for celebrities.
Los Angeles is pretty spread out so definitely consult a map while planning your day or you could be spending the majority of it stuck in your car, battling traffic. Also, try not to miss your exit. With feeder roads basically non-existent, you could easily lose 20 minutes just trying to find the entrance ramp to get back on the highway.
A Note About DISNEYLAND:
If you have an extra whole day, DO come here. It’s in Anaheim, so about an hour away from LA and you’ll have to get up really early in the morning, but you know you’ll be too excited to sleep the night before anyway.