Location: Los Angeles, California
This post goes against every travel itinerary I make (see my latest, the San Francisco post). However, LA is like New York City: you’ve got to take in the cheesy sights that make the city what it is…but only once. After you knock all of that out of the way, LA becomes one of the most fun cities to visit. When we were in Newport for the week, my family decided the best thing to do would be a daytrip tour of the city. We knew it’d be corny, we knew it’d be Hollywood-centered, and we knew this was the best way to see it all while still enjoying it.
If you’re starting in Southern California, I definitely recommend Have Fun Tours who did our tour. Since he only takes 8 people at a time and we’re a family of 7, we literally had a private tour and had direct say in what we did and didn’t want to spend time seeing. LA is such a driving city that if you tried to do everything on your own, you’d waste a lot of time on sitting in traffic and parking, so a tour is your best bet.
To be a tourist in Hollywood/LA, don’t get overwhelmed! Here’s the top three things to do (that will take up a whole day):
Get on Set at Universal Studios
Lou Nese, our tour guide is BFFs with Mario Lopez and thought it would be fun for us to watch Extra get filmed. It was really cool! The filming takes place right outside of Universal Studios, so anyone can watch live for no cost. While we were there, the cast was interviewing one of the Black Panther actors. For all of us but especially my film-obsessed brother, this was an incredible opportunity. The first time I went to LA, we signed up in advance for Jay Leno’s taping. If you know your travel dates ahead of time, this type of free activity is always a fun thing to sign up for.
Hollywood Walk of Fame & Surrounding Area
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is (I’m sorry if I offend anyone) literally so dumb. You walk on your favorite – and least favorite – celebrities names, stopping to take pictures every once in a while. But, honestly, it’s fun to see if you’ve never seen it before. More exciting though is the theaters that line the Boulevard. When we were in LA, they were setting up the Dolby Theatre for the Academy Awards, so that was cool, but even without that there’s plenty to see. A tour guide is great in this area because they’ll tell you why each theater is famous, what they’re still used for, and even slip in some amazing architecture facts about the buildings themselves.
This neighborhood is also home to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (we did not go in, but totally took advantage of the cheesy outside photo-ops), and the part of sidewalk which is home to celebrity handprints and signatures. Again, fun for a few minutes. I thought it was great to see my favorite Christopher Walken’s slab of concrete, but it was more exciting to see Shirley Temple, Gene Kelly and other stars of generations past.
Griffith Observatory & Hollywood Sign
Can you go to Hollywood and not take a picture of the iconic Hollywood sign? If you go up to the Griffith Observatory – also free – you can not only see the Hollywood sign, but also the hills of Pasadena. I’m not kidding when I tell you they’re literally purple mountains majesty. It’s one of the (windiest) best views you’ll ever see. The Griffith Observatory is pretty great in itself, too. It’s a beautiful building where astronauts are still trained before they head up to space.
PS: We ate lunch at the Farmers Market, which is literally a giant outdoor food court. They’ve also got real restaurants in the area, so it’s definitely the place to stop to keep everyone in your party happy food-wise.
A few more notes:
The first time I was in LA, some of my favorite sights were in Beverly Hills. Not too long ago, LA created new laws where cars over a certain weight are fined if they enter the area to protect residents’ privacy. So, just know if you go on a tour, this will sadly be skipped. If you go in your own car or for a really long walk, the Hills are yours to explore.
I also love Venice Beach, which I’ll cover that more in my big SoCal post, but I’m mentioning it now because it fits in here, too.
Runyon Canyon is one of my favorite hikes in the country. This will not fit in your day of tourism but it’s something to definitely consider doing if you have more time.
So, what we can boil this down to is even for someone who hates doing “the tourist thing,” sometimes, skipping it is a missed opportunity. If you’re going to LA, I recommend going for a long weekend so you can do all of this one day, and then spend the rest of the time enjoying the rest of the city however you like.