I’ve been to LA a few times now. The first visit, was way back in 2012. My friend and I were staying with her uncle in Los Gatos and we road tripped down highway 1, belting out “California here we comeeee, right back where we started from, Californiaaaa” at the top of our lungs (or it may have just been me singing, as she was concentrating on driving on the wrong side of the road so much.) I was planning on exactly what I was going to say to Seth Cohen when I met him, and what celebrities I was going to spot in Hollywood.
The reality was some what different. We booked the CHEAPEST motel we could find in LA, which looked like something we’ve only ever seen in a horror film. This resulted in us being so scared we shared one bed and tried to hide under the covers with the pillow over our heads when the phone randomly started ringing at 4am one morning…
My first bit of LA advice, do some research on the area and pick a nice hotel or apartment to stay in!!
Fast forward to 2018 we got the most amazing deal through staff travel at work to fly with Air New Zealand. Within ten minutes of it being announced myself, along with about 5 others in the office, had it booked and confirmed. All very exciting.
I am usually a BA or Virgin kind of girl. I mean I’m not against flying with any other airline at all, don’t get me wrong, I am just very much a sucker for collecting the points of one carrier to make sure I actually get to use them. However, Air NZ was well and truly up there with one of the best flights of my life.
We ended up upgrading our economy ticket at the airport to fly in Premium. I’m telling you, flying in the front of the plane really does turn you into a snob. We couldn’t face the thought of 11 hours in Economy and I am beyond happy that we decided to do this! From the moment we got on board we were both so impressed with the service, the cabin, the inflight entertainment, onboard WIFI, the food and the drink. No wonder the airline won the award for the best Premium Economy cabin, it really was well deserved.
I did spend a lot of time trying to decide where to stay this time round. We were in LA for 6 nights in total, so it was tricky to narrow down exactly what we wanted to see/do, knowing that we physically couldn’t fit in everything if we tried. So that being said we settled on four nights in Hollywood, and then two nights in Long Beach. Which worked out perfectly.
The first stop brought us to the Loews Hollywood (Address: 1755 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028, USA) a 5 star hotel, right in the heart of everything. Steps away from the famous walk of fame and Hollywood Boulevard. Views of the beautiful Hollywood Hills, and of course the famous sign itself.
We opted for a Hollywood Sign room, which was a great option for us. Boasting a huge King Size bed, amazing bathroom and huge floor to ceiling windows with (you guessed it) views of the Hollywood Sign. It was also beautiful waking up seriously jet lagged to watch the sunrise over LA.
The second stop took us to Long Beach, where we stayed in the Westin (Address: 333 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA) The location of this hotel was perfect, again, a short walk over to the convention centre or the outlet shops just across the road. This area was filled with bars and restaurants to spend the evening. Or we could walk a little further and we were right on the beach, with more food and drink options, boat trips, bike rentals and beach gym’s which LA seem to have an abundance of.
As you can see, we travelled in December. It was certainly weird being in shorts and t-shirt during the day, and then seeing Christmas Tree’s and Lights all lit up in the evening.
So as we only really had 5 full days to explore, we did make a list again before we flew. (Nicolle’s top tip, as you know.) There is SO much you can get from LA, but as it is so big, and pretty spread out I would make sure you do a little research before you travel to avoid spending all your time in taxi’s or UBER’s.
You can’t travel to the entertainment capital of the world and not go to any of the theme parks it has to offer. You’ve got Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm, both located in Anaheim which would take you about 40 minutes to drive, on a good day, from Hollywood. (I’ve done both of these before and would highly recommend, especially if you do have younger children).
This time round we did Universal Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain. I tell everyone who goes to America, if you are near one you HAVE to do Six Flags. They have the best, the biggest and the most exciting rides out of anywhere I have ever been. If you are a massive coaster head, and you only have time to do one theme park, make it a Six Flags. Universal is also a fun half day out. It really isn’t as big as the one in Florida, and is host to a lot of virtual reality rides. But along with the Studio Tour (also known as the Backlot Tour) and the optional shows, you could stretch it out to a full day. We got there for opening and we left probably around 2pm.
Buffalo Wild Wings
I’m just throwing it out there. Expect me to write about this wonderful creation of a place in every USA blog post. Apologies for any vegetarians’ or vegan’s reading this. You might want to skip on past to the next point. On this occasion, we were probably 35 steps away from the restaurant front doors. Very dangerous. And i’m not even embarrassed to say, we ate here every single day we were in Hollywood!!
You’ve all seen it in the movies, on TV programmes (playing GTA). It really is the most beautiful place in LA. We took an UBER to Santa Monica from Hollywood quite early, hitting a lot of traffic it took around 45 minutes to get here. But it really is worth the journey. Host to Santa Monica Pier, you can spend hours going on rides, eating funnel cakes, dipping dots and corn dogs. Play on the golden sand beach, or even test your gym skills on Muscle Beach.
There are plenty of options for getting around whilst in Santa Monica/Venice area. Segway, Scooters or Tandem Bikes. This time we opted for the regular one seated bike option. And used them to go up and down the beautiful beach to Venice and back. I did suggest we try and cycle to Malibu (whilst singing Miley Cyrus at the top of my lungs) but I didn’t quite realise it would take us a good couple of hours, and I certainly wasn’t at my peak fitness level that close to Christmas. There are loads of rental stations along the beach, so picking one up was really easy, and really inexpensive.
Like most other’s my age, 90210 is one of the zip codes etched into your brain right? I do often wonder what Annie or Silver are up too these days? (If you know, you know). Beverly Hills is a must see place in LA. From walking the streets looking at the ridiculously expensive homes ($39 million for a house… I’ll take two!) Spotting the famous Beverly Hills sign (which you’re not allowed any professional filming equipment around, we saw the police soon shut down a photo shoot going on). Celeb spotting in their favourite hang outs or visiting one of the many famous hotels (trying to get that IG shot at the pink Beverly Hills Hotel).
Shopping on Rodeo Drive is like a right of passage for anyone going to LA. The designer shops line both sides of the street, the super cars fill the roads and the people… well. Lets just say we overheard a conversation where one fairly young chap was “really pissed off” because he asked for a Bentley and only got a Maserati. Yeah, that happened. I feel like to fit in you need to wear your best dress and heels, keep those sunglasses planted on your face and pick one of ten credit cards to pay on in the stores. I loved it though, we didn’t stay long. I was too worried about the damage I could have done to my bank account!
Get yourself an Açaí bowl.
This was well worth the little hike first thing in the morning in Long Beach. One of my favourite things about going to California is how amazing the Açaí Bowls are. I know they don’t look like much and If you haven’t had one or heard of them before, they are like smoothie bowls, with fresh fruit and all sorts of toppings. But honestly, are the most tasty things ever. I sound so over dramatic explaining it. But if I could eat these every morning for breakfast I would be one happy human.
We took a boat trip whilst in Long Beach which was a 2 hour dolphin and whale spotting trip. It was out of season, “cold” for the locals, to us we were still happy basking in the winter sun. It was a super quiet day and we ended up having a 200 man boat pretty much to ourselves. It was amazing, we saw sea lions, thousands of dolphins. And right at the end, when we thought there were no whales in sight, we saw the most incredible ten meter Humpback feeding in the distance. (I have lots of videos saved in my LA highlights on Instagram if you want to check them out.) There is always something special about seeing marine life in the wild, when you think about the sheer size of the ocean. There are of course experts on board who follow their feeding pattern etc. But spotting them is pretty much sheer pot luck. So we were very lucky.
Finally fill your feed with palm trees…
You really can’t go all the way to LA without filling your camera roll and Instagram feed with ten thousand photos of palm trees. They really are the most aesthetically pleasing of all the trees in the Californian sun!