The last stop our of our US tour was Los Angeles. I have to admit, I wasn't that excited to visit LA as much as I was with San Francisco or Las Vegas. The perception of LA prior to visiting was that it was a crime filled, polluted and traffic filled city. Thankfully, my fears didn't materialise and LA was a far more pleasant than I expected.
LA itself is a massive, sprawling metropolis that basically necessitates renting a car and driving around LA, for the most part, was an enjoyable experience.
Intercontinental Los Angeles
2151 Avenue of the Stars
After coming from the spectacle and grandeur of the San Francisco and Las Vegas hotels; the rather pedestrian look and feel of the Los Angeles Intercontinental was a bit of a let down. That being said, where it mattered, the hotel was perfectly serviceable - the rooms were clean, spacious and quiet. Decor was nice if rather characterless. We would have preferred something to make the hotel a bit more distinctive and memorable, but this is a superfluous gripe. Service was good (The concierge were on point with all their recommendations) although parking, at over $30 a day, can really burn a hole through your wallet if you stay for an extended period of time. The hotel is located a little ways from everything so you’ll need car to get around.
Universal Studios Hollywood (VIP Experience)
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Much can be said about Universal Studios but I'm going to focus on one of their theme park packages instead. The VIP experience at Universal Studios Hollywood was one of the best theme park purchases we have ever made. Some of the many benefits are: A light breakfast and an absolutely astounding buffet lunch, a private tour guide, exclusive back-lot access, the best seats at every show and, most importantly, priority access to every ride (even ahead of the Front-of-the-Line tickets, which invariably has its own long queue). There is literally no wait for any ride, ever. So our time in the park was spent experiencing rather waiting. This meant we could actually slow down and start to enjoy the park for all it's worth, rather than having to strategically plan our queuing.
It's a little on the pricey side at $359 per ticket but for us, it was absolutely worth it. We had never been pampered at a theme park like this, and it's something you should definitely try out too.
DisneyLand Adventure Park
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim
Everybody knows Disneyland and it's one of the key parks in California. We had been looking forward to go to Disneyland on its diamond anniversary for a long while but unfortunately, it seemed everyone else had the same idea and despite arriving early in the park, Disneyland itself was at full capacity and couldn't let anyone further in. That meant we had to spend our time in the Adventure Park instead. Whilst not the classic Disneyland, we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as it still contained all that Disney magic.
If you're a fan of film in the slightest, Hollywood Boulevard is practically Mecca to you - it's the place for movie celebrities and fans to congregate over the latest film and premieres. However, what's displayed on film and on TV is shockingly different than what's actually there. Like most places on this trip, it was rather anticlimactic once we were there. Apart from an over crowded stretch of sidewalk in-front Man's Chinese Theater, there's not actually much to see and do here (The food selection is pretty dire too). This tourist spot is entirely avoidable and unnecessary to your itinerary.
Hard Rock Cafe
Average meal at an average chain. However, it seemed to be the only half-decent thing on Hollywood Boulevard that was within walking distance, so it's got that going for it at least.
The Grove / Farmer's Market
6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles
This was a beautiful find. We had no idea this place existed until we were recommended it by the concierge of the hotel and we are glad we checked it out, The Grove / Farmer’s Market is an oasis of serenity hidden inside the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. The food’s great, the market shops are unique and there’s an abundance of greenery and open space all sandwiched between pedestrianised streets. Go check it out.
Santa Monica and Venice are both are the same (both being beach side towns) but the differences are extremely stark. Santa Monica is squeaky clean, upmarket and ordered; whereas Venice is the exact opposite (although that’s not necessarily bad). It’s more raw, unabashed and gritty that gives it a nice contrast to Santa Monica.
There’s quite a bit to do at Santa Monica; walk along the beach, watch the street performers dazzle you both on the streets and on the beach, shopping in all the high end chains, enjoying the rides at Santa Monica Pier/Pacific Park and sampling the local food at the many restaurants that are littered amongst the pedestrianised streets. It’s a delightful way to whittle away a few hours before walking down to Venice Beach.
Tip: If you want a stress free parking experience, park at Santa Monica Public Library.
525 Broadway, Santa Monica
This burger joint has quite a following and it’s easy to see why. Although the burger patties were a little too 'wet' for me, the burgers tasted great and the sweet potato fries were nice (as well the accompanying dips!) Unfortunately when we visited, the store was undergoing refurbishment so the setting wasn’t exactly great but I believe that's finished now and the restaurant looks great.
Located a short but pleasant walk away on the beach from Santa Monica, Venice beach is home to the some of the more eclectic personalities of Los Angeles. From people exercising at muscle beach to a freak show circus to a boulevard of a variety of little Knick knack shops selling everything and anything, there’s plenty to see and do. The area certainly has a slight edge to it, so be on your guard but we never felt unsafe. However, amongst the palm trees, the sunset is rather wonderful from there rather than Santa Monica.
Downtown Santa Monica, 1360 3rd Street Promenade
It’s mind boggling how a restaurant could mess up lasagna and a simple rigatoni pasta dish, but they somehow managed to do it. The place is absolutely horrible. The dishes lacked flavour and the service was infuriating. The perfect example of a tourist trap. Don’t go.
Tsujita Artisan Noodle
2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
I’m a bit of a Tsukemen nut and the fantastic concierge at the hotel managed to hook us up with a restaurant that served it, and boy, that recommendation was good. Everything was served exactly how good Tsukemen should be served – noodles were springy and light, the sauce was rich and flavourful, and the chasu was deliciously thick and juicy. An absolutely wonderful meal. Reading up on the restaurant afterwards show that it’s developed quite a following and there can be quite long lines, so go either early or quite late (like we did…and we still had to wait). However, the wait is most certainly worth it for this place.
Our ride in LA...