After making a somewhat spontaneous decision to extend my road-trip to Calgary and Banff to include a five day trip to Los Angeles, California I found myself basking in sunlight and surrounded by streets lined with palm trees and with good company.
After a 13 hour Greyhound ride from Banff to Vancouver and a flight direct to LAX airport, it was finally time to catch the airport shuttle to the hotel. During the stint in LA, Cole (my travel companion) and I stayed at the Best Western Plus Suites on Century Boulevard in Inglewood. When researching hotels, motels and other forms of accommodation, you really are spoiled for choice. After a few long hours of research and browsing numerous websites, I decided on this hotel. 24/7 airport transfers, continental buffet breakfast, free wi-fi, a fitness room, pool and spa are all complimentary amenities. The staff are friendly, approachable and welcoming- a perfect way to be introduced to the USA in my opinion!
The rooms are spacious, bottles of water and coffee pods are provided daily. Across the street there is a 7-Eleven and several food chain restaurants (I highly recommend El Pollo Loco) so it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find food.
During our visit, Cole and I decided to explore LA car-free. Several people who had visited LA before recommended hiring a car but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually get away with using public transport. The Metro line and Blue Buses provide direct routes to many popular areas and allowed Cole and I to explore a new part of Los Angeles each day. Regardless of how long you are on the bus for, the base fare is US $1.75. You can purchase day passes (US $7 plus the initial card cost of US $8) or weekly passes if you want to hop on and off. If you have any questions, the bus drivers are incredibly patient and approachable, one dropped Cole and I off at our correct stop and another told us which stop to hop off at and where to go/what bus number we needed to wait for next. It’s the little things when you’re traveling that make your day that much easier. Just keep in mind that you’ll need the correct fare for each bus ride as the drivers do not carry tokens or cash on board. There is also an app for smartphone and android users called GoLA which provides up to date information on bus routes, travel times ect. It may have taken longer to reach places of interest and there were some long waits for buses (I think the longest we had to wait was approx. 40 minutes at night) but it gives you a chance to see what’s around (think of it as your customized sight-seeing tour) and encourages the notion of sonder. Cole definitely deserves praise for getting us both to and from our accommodation safe and sound with his navigational skills and ability to work out the bus system- every time!
Fast forward to our first day, Cole and I decided to go take a long walk along the beach in Santa Monica. We caught the Metro 212 to Wilshire St and jumped on the 720 to get closer to the coast (took approx.1.5 hours from Inglewood accounting for getting slightly lost!) Clear blue skies, warm sand in between your toes, and pristine water to dip your feet in are just three of the charming aspects of the Santa Monica coastline. If you dare to look back, you’ll see a street filled with cyclists, pedestrians and of course, a colourful array of beach houses.
After leaving footprints in the sand and basking in the sun, we ventured up the coast to the iconic Santa Monica Pier. The Pier personifies happiness and boasts a carnival vibe with its’ wide wooden boardwalk, colourful buildings, shopping cart stores, Pacific Park, games arcade, food stalls and entertainers. When you journey out onto the pier, it’s like stepping back in time, to a place where amusement parks provide endless hours of fun and where the simple things like standing to the side of the boardwalk to listen to the waves crashing against the shore, watching fishing enthusiasts cast out or partaking in some people-watching.
And then there’s the ever iconic Ferris Wheel. You can purchase a ticket from Pacific Park for US $8 or they have other ticket options available if you want to go on more than one ride. I managed to convince Cole to go on the wheel with me and once we got to the top, I learned he’s not a fan of heights but he still managed to enjoy the view. At the top, you can get a birds’ eye view of the park, look out towards the coast line, see the end of the pier or gaze out towards the beach houses. Even if it’s the only ride you go on (as was the case for Cole and I), I’d highly recommend it.
We left the pier and walked up to Santa Monica Place. If shopping is your chosen form of cardio, you’ll find yourself in happiness. The shopping precinct boasts a variety of well-known retailers (Nordstrom, Hot Topic, Victoria’s Secret- to name a few) and leads out to more streets filled with shops and enticing window displays (for those who just like to window shop). The food court offers complimentary wi-fi and is located on the top level of S.M.P if you want a break from the hustle and bustle.
Day two saw another bus ride to Wilshire Ave. Cole and I decided to walk up the boulevard to see what was along the way. After walking a few blocks down, we got to our first attraction of the day, the Peterson Motor Museum. When I was younger, my dad used to let me accompany him to car shows and motor museums so when Cole said he wanted to check out the museum, I had no issues. Now, for only US $15 (or US $35 you can purchase a ticket to the museum as well as having a 1.5-hour tour of the vault which holds 100+ vehicles not on display but be warned, photography is not permitted) you can find yourself in the adult equivalent of Disneyland. There are three floors filled with jaw dropping and fan girl behaviour worthy automobiles and motorbikes.
There were several times when Cole and I would look at each other and just have the same look, equivalent to that of a kid who received all the gifts they wanted for Christmas that year- yes, it will leave you speechless if you have a passion for automobiles. Each floor has a theme, facts regarding the vehicle, quotes and pieces of automotive trivia. Cole and I struggled to single out a favourite vehicle in the museum but the 2017 Ford GT on the second floor and Steve McQueen’s green Jaguar definitely caught my attention. If you’re traveling with children, you can guide them to the second floor where there’s a large kids’ activity area which will provide them with entertainment so you can explore at your own pace.
Still in awe of the beautiful collection of vehicles on display, Cole and I strolled further up Wilshire Ave. (after having a quick glance in the Maclaren showroom). After a 5km stroll, we found ourselves standing on Rodeo Drive. Stretching a few blocks long and down both sides of the street, the strip is definitely a shoppers’ definition of heaven. Personally, I am not interested in day trips to shopping complexes or spending a day glancing at store windows but the store windows and layouts are enticing, they definitely pull you in and make you want to spend some money (or at least add items to a wish list). Even if you don’t make a purchase, the store attendants are welcoming and will strike up a conversation with you. In a few of the shops I must admit, I felt under-dressed in just my jeans and plain tee but you aren’t left feeling like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. With that being said, it would be big mistake (huge) not to take the chance to take a stroll down Rodeo Drive. It’s not overly touristy and there are some great photo opportunities.
On our third day, we decided it was time to venture out to Hollywood. What’s your dream? Ours was to see the Hollywood Sign close up but we may have admitted defeat after an hour or so round trip of trying to find a good vantage point to take a photo. We found a hill and zoomed in on the sign instead- on the upside, we both know we got to see It with our own eyes so it’s not all bad.
Fortunately, Cole and I were on the same page when it came to ‘how tourist can you go’. Hollywood Boulevard is filled with large crowds and is densely populated for a small place. If you can handle the crowds, there is a days’ worth of entertainment, dining and tourist attractions available all along one boulevard but if you prefer quieter areas, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed. Along the way, there a number of tour bus companies with stands trying to attract your attention and sell you the perfect 2-hour bus tour at the same low rate of US $29 (per adult). We almost were convinced to go on a tour but the salesman followed us down the street when we said we’d think about It and offered us the lowest price of the day US $20 for each of us. So, if you want to go on a tour, get your game face strong and you’ll be able to save yourself some money.
We ended up buying tickets to the Hollywood Wax Museum. The ticket for the museum costs US $20 or you can purchase a 3 for 1 admission for US $29 (for an adult ticket) which includes: Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium and the Guinness World Records Museum.
The Wax Museum has props which you can throw on and strike a pose, it may seem a little cheesy but it makes for a good photo. It’s not every-day you can get to stand next to famous wax models and pull a funny face/look like them! After our stroll through the museum, we continued the walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame before escaping the tourist filled boulevard.
After three long days of exploring and a bit of tourist overload yesterday, Cole and I had a somewhat lazy day. We jumped on a bus to the lower part of Hollywood to look at O.V.O and along the way, we stumbled on a few vintage shops (Mister Freedom) and another which hosts a $1 sale every Sunday. Once we both got our retail therapy out of the way, we caught a bus to Downtown LA and hopped off in Chinatown.
Once we had our fast food fix at Burger King (I had a sundae on Sunday- just so I could make that pun), we walked back towards Dodgers’ Stadium. There are several vantage points if you’re walking in to the arena to get a photo of the buildings or of the stadium. If you’re driving in, the cost of parking varies from US $20-$50 depending on the size of your vehicle. The Metro Line also has a line specifically catered to getting spectators to and from the arena so that could be a cheaper alternative.
If you have the chance to watch a game, I’d highly recommend it. We may have gone in during opening week for the 2016 season but the atmosphere was great and the crowd was making waves/loud in a good way. There are food stalls located around the stadium and many merchandise stands. The cost of tickets is relatively low depending on where you choose to sit but the price of food, alcohol and drinks are quite expensive so if you want to save some money, bring your own. Just as an example, a bottle of water is US $6.50. They do have healthy options such as salads and platters if you want an alternative to the ice-cream, nachos, hot dogs ect.
All in all, my first visit to the United States (or state side as I refer to it) has been an incredible one. The locals are warm and welcoming and Los Angeles has a lot to offer regardless of your age, your tourist type or price range. If you don’t mind waiting around at places, you can save money or you can hire a car, book tours or use taxis. The possibilities are endless, you won’t find yourself feeling bored and you can tailor the experience to your own travel style.