This was a quick stopover trip on the way to skiing in Utah for Christmas 2013. but we managed to pack quite a lot in... highlights (in no particular order):
- Marina Del Ray - our base for our stay
- Venice Beach / Muscle Beach Gym - If only to pretend to be on Baywatch
- Santa Monica - hum this to yourself
- Outlet Shopping - allow for additional return luggage & buy an extra bag when there!
- The Chinese Theatre & famous hand/foot prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- The Griffith Observatory
- The Playboy Mansion - why not
- A Studio Tour
- The Sunset Strip
- Hollywood Hills and Mulholland Drive - highly recommended (after checking out the beachlife)
- The Pacific Coastal Highway - a petrolhead must
- The Petersen Automotive Museum - if it rains
- Watching surfers
LA is the most populous city in the state of California and the second-most populous in the United States, after New York City. Bear this in mind when using the Freeways!
Some pre-trip tips - http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/calamenu/a/mistake.htm
17th Dec 2013
The hotel sits besides a large marina close to Venice beach and Santa Monica on the coast. and has great views into part of the marina.
Our car for the stay as a Dodge Challenger. This car looked the part, but made me feel seasick, so we later traded it in for a Lincoln!
Boardwalk - Santa Monica Beach & Pier
As our first stop in LA, we walked the Santa Monica pier. For the skeptics - yes I guess the lights are a bit like Blackpool, but on steroids. The Ferris wheel is also solar powered, which impressed me. The people were happy and smiling, some looking decidedly stoned (rather than the pissed stag and hen parties of Lancashires fav). The female busker at the end of the pier had a great voice, and the fisherman on the staging behind her looked like they were actually catching something other than a cold.
Time to eat, so we headed to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co where we had the first of our American shakes (yum) to accompany our shrimp, whilst the waiter tested us on Forrest Gump trivia (oh dear).
18th Dec 2013
We toured along the Ventura highway (cue America) to the Camarillo Promenade for a spot of outlet retail therapy. Our first sight as we got out of the car was a mall cop sailing past on his segway, on patrol.
The entire complex is huge, but amongst the shops we found one of the few Spyder outlets anywhere, and a huge Sony store. To visit it all could have taken a good day, and you'd literally have to drive around to get from one part to another, so we concentrated on a few basics and headed back to the coast.
The return trip took in part of the Mulholland and Coldwater Road in Beverly Hills. The drive along the hills gave some great views down across LA; and the engineering feats of some of the houses perched on stilts on the steep hillside was very impressive.
We then drove down into LA to find the famous Graumans chinese theatre.
Graumans Chinese Theatre
The Hollywood Walk of Fame's Michael Jackson prints seemed to draw the most interest, right outside the front door.
Viewing point of the Hollywood sign from the mall next to the Chinese theatre and Hard Rock Cafe
Dinner was at Tony P's Bar & Grill Burger Joint in Marina Del Rey. Shrimp again, and an extensive selection of specialty beers were available, including imports from Germany and Belgium. I sampled a local American wheat beer that was rather good.
On our way out & across the car park, we went to investigate the sea lion noises, but couldn't see anything in the dark. There were obviously a large number of them in the marina somewhere though, and apparently they can be quite a problem, even sinking moored boats.
19th Dec 2013
We swapped the car for a Lincoln, the technology in this car was quite impressive...
On our way to our next destination, we passed the Oil Fields where I saw my first nodding donkey oil rigs. Apparently, LA sits on top of the third largest oil field in the country. Something I hadn't expected to see.
Petersen Automotive Museum
The Petersen Automotive Museum is allegedly one of the world's largest automotive museums, a nonprofit organisation specialising in automobile history and related educational programs. An additional ticket allows access to the basement collection. Located near the museum entrance is a Johnny Rockets that does great burgers and shakes, and sometimes offers deals on museum tickets.
The Sunset Strip is the name given to the mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard that passes through West Hollywood. It extends from West Hollywood's eastern border with Hollywood at Havenhurst Drive (A), past The Viper Room (B) and the Whisky a Go Go (C) to its western border with Beverly Hills at Sierra Drive.
I have to say this was all a bit disappointing - yes it had the history, but it all looked a bit old, small and shabby :(
After the strip, we decided to drive to the Playboy mansion to get a photo. Unfortunately, as we pulled up to the gate, we had to move to let Hugh Hefner in. Oops! Passed Bel Air East & West gates as we toured on through Topanga and Woodland Hills (with its own Westfield shopping centre).
We headed out for Mulholland Drive again - ranging further afield this time past ranches galore - past the King Gillette Ranch Trail in Calabasas, & the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, to the Mulholland Lookout (or one of them). Then down the N9 to Point Dume and popping out onto the Pacific Coast Highway past Cher's House (or did Beyonce buy it last year?) back through Malibu. See National Geographic for a Pacific Coast Road itinerary idea.
Stopped for a Starbucks in Malibu and people watched for a while
Passed the Dead End Beach in Malibu and stopped to admire the beachfront properties and fantastic beach.
We were offered medicinal herbs to help us "relax" twice within 50 yards of getting on the boardwalk.
Muscle Beach Venice Gym impressed on us how fitness aware the locals are
Dinner was shrimp again - Killer Shrimp Seafood Restaurant in Marina del Rey; accompanied by a Dark and Stormy cocktail - rum and ginger beer, yum
20th Dec 2013
A tour along the southern beaches...
On to El Porto Beach Surf Spot on Manhattan Beach, another popular surf spot where the beach just goes around the Chevron storage facility, but no one seemed to notice.
Time for a musical memory, this was constantly played on the radio
A proper tourist thing to do next - a studio tour. We picked Warner Bros. Studios General Entertainment in Burbank as it has the only remaining outdoor sets.
The tour included visiting the sets used for Chuck, True Blood, Central Perk - The "Friends" Set, The Mentalist and numerous films. Strange how now we can even spot the parking lot in things on TV.
Obligatory Chuck content:
The Griffith Observatory Planetarium
On our return trip we went via the Griffith observatory. The trip up to the observatory offers good views of the Hollywood sign, and a great place to see the sun set over Los Angeles. For the mre active, there are dozens of hiking trails through the parkland below.
The journey back to the hotel took in Koreantown, which really felt like we were on another continent. Then straight into the nightmare of congestion that plagues LA (avoid the 405 any afternoon!), and makes even the M25 look timid.
Dinner was a gourmet burger at the In-N-Out Burger in Marina Del Rey. A Californian institution, I'm not a great fan of burgers, but this really was the best burger I've ever had, and really puts McDs to shame. We watched the kitchen staff chip freshly peeled potatoes by hand as we waited for our burgers.
21st Dec 2013
A quick fix of shopping at Bloomingdale's Department Store in Santa Monica Place shopping mall. The parking lot outside the centre was a convenient place to park, and featured a fabulous florist that displayed cacti displays alongside the Christmas Poinsettias.
And back once again to Santa Monica Pier, and Venice Beach
Shutters on The Beach Hotel - fabulous location, the beach is the other side of the walkway.
Activities on the beach
Sanata Monica pier again, trikes for hire.
And at night time...
Trip up the coast to Malibu once again, for some farewell shrimp. First though, an unusual (to me at least) nativity display alongside the Pacific Highway.
And so to the Malibu Seafood Restaurant in Malibu serving terrific food from a little shop right next to the Pacific Highway.
Sipping a coke in Malibu, eating shrimp (again), and watching the cars go past on the Pacific Highway. Bye bye California!
Final coffee at Intelligentsia. WOW - that coffee was good, and the shop itself was pretty impressive too. We were lucky and didn't have to wait too long - as this place is very popular (now I know why).
Final farewell pictures from Marina del Rey
Things still on the To Do list....
Rodeo Drive shopping (when I've won the lottery maybe)
Santa Barberra for Whale Watching - see http://condorexpress.com/whale-watching/
http://www.melsdrive-in.com/hoursandlocations/hollywood.html for breakfast
The Getty Centres
There are numerous "star maps" that you can buy, or check online to tell you where all the celebrites live - but looking at fences and gates isn't my idea of fun & the maps are notoriously inaccurate anyway. The taping and filming guide above provides a better chance of star spotting if thats what you want.
And there's always Disney!