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la in a day

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What to do in LA: in a day, weekend, week or month

We had friends in town over the weekend (yes again!) and the whole family loved being out and about showing them “our LA”.

Like me when I first came to LA many people who holiday here are a little nonchalant about it.  LA is where most of us fly into as a gateway to US and with its theme parks and Hollywood it’s on the “must-however-reluctantly-do” bucket list.  As a tourist you come in, may or may not rent a car, do the tourist stuff then go again.  If you stay at Disneyland or Hollywood it’s hard to get a sense of what LA is really all about.  When I first came to LA we stayed in Westwood on Wilshire Boulevard.  It was central but without a car it was useless and definitely impossible to get a vibe read on LA.

I hopped on that plane, looked at my boyfriend at the time (who actually was Mr H!) and said in all seriousness, “Been there, done that, never coming back.”

Never say never.

On Sunday my friend’s 16-year-old daughter announces, “I love LA”.  Sure, what’s not to love?  We’re sitting in the uber trendy Urth Cafe (in the stifling heat might I add–only in LA are you complaining about a heat wave in mid September), had a great dinner the night before at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants, mixed it up with the groovy people in Venice and hung out with the trendy beach crowd in Malibu.

Oh, and at dinner we saw Joel Madden, Rebel Wilson, Emmy Rossini and Andrew Dice Clay.  All walked in and out separately.  We even witnessed a couple of back-door exits.  How very Hollywood.

The gorgeous Emmy Rossum

The gorgeous Emmy Rossum

 

It’s true of any city but especially in LA it’s pretty bloody cool to do it with someone who knows their way around.

Each time people come we (obviously) tailor their visit and do the things that interest them.  So, I got to thinking about the different agendas and thought I’d share them with you.

Here is LA in a day, a weekend, a week or a month.

LA in a Day

God no, don’t do it to yourself.  There is too much to do in LA to limit your time to a day but if you absolutely have to, here goes.

Shopping

Get in, check into your hotel then get the flock out and about.  If it’s shopping you’re after head to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, The Grove or Century City Mall–depending on where you’re staying.  They are all close to the action and you’ll use your time wisely.  Plus there are good eating options so you can stay safely in the one spot.

For more in shopping in LA check out my post on that very subject.

Bring your purchases home, freshen up and get ready for drinks and dinner.  Don’t waste your time at American chain restaurants, plan in advance (ie book before you get here) and dine at a nice LA restaurant.  If you’re after ideas check out my Pinterest board on LA Dining.  It needn’t be over-the-top expensive but it can be a good experience.

For drinks try Cecconi’s on Melrose.  It has a 4-7 menu where from 4:00 to 7:00 they serve nibbles that cost between $4 and $7 each; match it with drinks, take in the ambiance and you’ve got a great afternoon unwinding.

 

Sightseeing close to LAX

I’ve decided to update this post as I had a friend that I used to work with come into town wanting to know what to do with his 24 hours in LA.  The “brief” was he wanted to stay close to LAX and be able to walk around.

There are very few areas where you can walk around LA and even when you can walk you don’t.  It’s also hard when you’re lugging luggage around to get around town.  Anyway, here are two approaches as to what to do in LA in a day.

Venice/Santa Monica

Whatever you do don’t make the mistake my mate made and stay on the Boardwalk at Venice and get in late at night.  And expect to feel safe.  Venice is as grungy as it is groovy and as scary as it is a place to be seen.  You want to stay in neighbouring Santa Monica and explore Venice by day.

Start with brunch in either Santa Monica or Venice.  I’d opt for brunch at Gjelina on Abbot-Kinney in Venice.  It’s great people watching, has good food and most importantly (for Australians) good coffee.

 

Now it’s time to walk off that yummy food and check out Venice.  I’d do a spot of shopping in Abbot-Kinney then head over to check out the canals.  It’s not Venice Venice but it’s serene and not something you’d expect to see in LA.

Great. Done. Tick.  Now for what Venice is renowned for: the Boardwalk and Muscle Beach.  You’ve got to do it.  My daughter hates it and my son is used to it.  There’s a lot happening, it smells of weed but it is interesting.  Epitomising LA, it’s like a show put on for the benefit of the tourists.  Except these people are entertaining you for the sport it.

There’s always something crazy that happens.  One time we were there we saw a woman chase her (I guess) sometime boyfriend all the way down the boardwalk hitting him one minute and yelling at him the next.  She would chase him a few metres down the boardwalk, hit him then yell at him to leave her alone.  The repeat it.  She even went to the policemen begging them to get him to leave her alone all the while yelling so everyone around her could hear her.  In this case I had to feel sorry for the guy who really was trying to stay away from her. Ahhh Venice …

Walk towards Santa Monica and watch the boardwalk change.  Here you can soak in the pier, take some pics, see the end of Route 66 and grab a churro (if you haven’t already).

If you’ve got a bit of shopping to do, head inland and check out Third Street Promenade.

After all that walking and shopping you’re probably ready for a drink or a bite to eat.  There are lots of places to eat in Santa Monica, ever-changing and too many to mention here.  That’s where my Pinterest board comes in handy.  Check it out.

When I’ve got friends here I like to go to Shutters–on the boardwalk and always open to take you.   If it’s dinner you’re after I love Chinois on Main Street.  You’ll need to book and don’t forget they eat early in LA so if you’re going at 5:30 or 6:00 thinking you’re beating the rush think again–that is rush time.

Santa Monica Beach. The gorgeous Shutters. #santamonica #la #itstartedinla

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

If you’re like my friend, and you’ve got a 10:00(ish) flight then it’s time to scoot back, pick up your bags and head to the airport.  There’s so much more to do but after that you should have a better feel for LA and, unlike me when I first came to visit, will actually like it.

WeHo/Beverly Hills

If West Hollywood is more your thing I highly recommend it–there are heaps of cool hotels, bars, restaurants and uber cool shopping.

Start your day with brunch at Urth Caffe.  Like I said before, it’s a good place to people watch and, if you’re lucky, spot a celeb or two.  For more people watching, window shopping and real shopping keep heading down Melrose and watch it change landscape and vibe as you travel down–from upmarket to designer funk to grunge.

If you’re a Kardashian fan stop in at Dash at 8420 Melrose Ave. And for uber cool and a little taste of LA stop in at Fred Segal at 8100 Melrose Ave (be sure to look out for the paparazzi stalking the carpark).  There are lots of boutiques inside and be sure to check out Ron Robinson–just love it.

If you’re into shopping, head into Hollywood and pre-book yourself a tour of the Paramount lot.  I love the Paramount lot.  It’s one of the oldest in Hollywood and also one of the few major studios actually in Hollywood.  Personal tours run all day.

 

I’ve already suggested drinks at Cecconi’s and I reckon it’s a must do.  By now it might be time to head back to the hotel, grab your bags and hot-foot it to the airport.

If you want to create your own itinerary you should check out my Pinterest board: 24 Hours in LA for more inspiration.

LA in a weekend

It really depends where your priorities lie.  My advice to you is to mix it up as much as you can: a spot of shopping, out at a funky restaurant, a stroll in West Hollywood and take in a Studio tour.

If you’ve got a car cruise down Rodeo Drive–mainly to check out the Bugatti Veyron.  I prefer Beverly Drive (parallel) or Robertson and Melrose (but that’s also to avoid the tourists!).  Also be sure to cruise Mulholland.

If you have kids (frankly even if you don’t) and you’re only here for the weekend I’d go to Universal Studios.  It has the backlot tour plus rides and is a lot of fun.  If you go when the park opens you can be out of there mid afternoon and still have time to do other stuff.  We’ve got an annual pass, have been so many times we’ve run out of fingers and toes to count but still love it.

Here was our most recent three-day weekend with our friends:

  • Century City Mall
  • Beverly Hills cruise around
  • Drinks at home & dinner at our “local” in Beverly Glen, its position means you could see locals like Gene Simmons, Jon Voight, Mark Wahlberg, Eddie Murphy, Harry Hamlin & Lisa Rimma or Paris Hilton going about their normal lives
  • Gjelina at Venice for brunch
  • Malibu
  • West Hollywood for dinner
  • Boys to Universal Studios
  • Girls to Melrose and Hollywood to get our shop on
  • Bel Air & Beverly Hills cruise around ogling the houses.

Bearing in mind they’d done LA before so it was great not to “have” to do all the tourist stuff.  We’d also never done the boys one way girls the other thing but it meant each of us got to do something we enjoyed and made for the whole LA experience.

LA in a week

That’s more like it: you can hang out, take it down to a cruise speed instead of full throttle.

Check out my must-do things in LA, that’ll give you a great variety of things to see and do.  Here’s seven things for seven days.

  1. Shop.  LA is shopping.  It’s pretty hard to come to LA and resist shopping.  So don’t.  And because you’re here for a week you can head out to the outlets or one of the Malls where you can knock yourself out with the choices available to you.
  2. Tour Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills.  Snoop/ gork/spy/have a sticky/check it out–say it how you like but if there’s one thing that many of my guests have in common (especially the girlies) and that’s checking out all the houses.  There are some beauties.  And if you really want a good snoop buy one of the Star Maps sold around the place.  There’s a fat chance you’ll see anyone but it’s fun to see where they live/lived.  Disclaimer: it’s pretty hard to see inside any if not all of the houses.
  3. Do something cultural.  There are actually plenty of cultural activities here in LA.  One of the favourite places is to head is to the Getty.  We’ve also got a great museums and galleries.  We’re not all just about beaches and shopping you know.
  4. Head down to Orange County.  Try Newport Beach, Laguna or Huntington Beach.  If you’re staying at Disneyland it’s not far to venture out for a while for a change of scenery.  If you’re heading to Newport Beach be sure to grab an ice-cream from B Candy.  Try the chocolate-covered potato chips and caramel ice-cream.  Heaven.
  5. Brave Disneyland.  It depends on what sort of person you are but the first time we went we were dreading it but embraced it for all it is and had fun.  You can do it in one day but to make it more enjoyable–rather than a race around the world so to speak–take two or even three days.
  6. Spend a day in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.  And I don’t just mean the boardwalks and pier.  Venture up Main Street Santa Monica or the Third Street Promenade.  Better still head up to the Montana Avenue area.
    Venice Beach is a great spot.  For far too long we thought of Venice as the boardwalk and muscle beach.  Head to Abbot-Kinney and grab brunch, have a shop and soak in the atmosphere.
  7. Head downtown.  And I don’t just mean to the Staples Centre to see the Kings or Clippers/Lakers.  In recent times LA has worked hard to lift the image of Downtown.  There are great walking tours, groovy bars and cool things to do–none of which I have done.  So, having told you to head downtown I’m going to too.

These are on top of the other suggestions so don’t forget Universal Studios or a Studio Tour–Paramount runs great tours in small groups.

When you’re eating out for a week you’re going to want some healthy options.  Sushi in LA is great (once you know where to go) so take advantage of it.  Also check out Lemonade and Urth Cafe for great food and healthy options.  Four Seasons Beverly Hills also has healthy options at its Cabana Restaurant and Culina Restaurant.

If you’re looking for fast food you know California is renowned for In-N-Out Burger.  Ask for the Carb-free version if you’re like many other LA-ers and watching your weight.  Frankly if I’m going to have a burger splurge I like it the traditional way ;-).  When you’re here for a week you’ve got time to try it.

LA in a month

OK, now we’re talking.  I’m guessing if you’re spending a month in LA you’re here as a backpacker or maybe you’re here to sus out whether you can make the move to Hollywood and get discovered.  Either way you’re going to want to hang out.

My top five places to hang out:

  1. Venice Beach–anywhere on Abbot-Kinney
  2. Malibu–because you can
  3. Santa Monica–anywhere
  4. Joan’s on Third or a well-situated Starbucks–you never know who’s going in and out or having a coffee.
  5. West Hollywood (WeHo)–because you can.

One of my favourite sights is hunky spunky boys jogging along Sunset in WeHo (in the stifling heat) with no tops on.  Think they’re looking for someone to discover them.  In the meantime it’s a great perve.

When my friends were here for a few weeks (just short of a month) here was our bucket list.  We got most of them done.

  • Hollywood
  • Walk of Fame
  • Malibu
  • Venice
  • Santa Monica boardwalk & pier
  • Robertson
  • Dash (on melrose)
  • Vintage shops & markets
  • West Hollywood
  • Topanga Mall
  • La Brea Tar Pits
  • Griffith Observatory
  • The Getty

We never spend much time in Hollywood or the Walk of Fame.  Some people are really into it but it’s hot and crowded and hassly.  Get in, get some pics and get out again–there’s much more to LA than that!

Hope that helps.  We’ve managed to turnaround all of our LA doubters into LA lovers.  I hope you will love LA too by the time you leave.  There’s really not much to hate after all!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Let me know how you go, what you enjoyed and could have given a miss.  Would love to hear from you.

updated September 12, 2015 @ 5:00 LA time with more to do in LA in one day

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