LA: Must Sees & Maybe Passes

I figured since I did one for New York, I might as well do one for LA! I just came back from my second-ever visit to Los Angeles.  Colin, his mom and I were there at the end of March for a quick week of sight-seeing and relaxing on the beach.  Read on for the highlights and lowlights of our itinerary!

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Uber
PROS: Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that Uber is a popular ride-share program.  You also know that LA traffic and transit are notoriously horrible. Uber was absolutely our saving grace.  We got all around LA, from Anaheim to Venice Beach, via Uber.  We saved a ton of money and met some interesting drivers – from world travelling photographers and ex-racecar drivers to our very own LA tour guides.

CONS: We don’t have Uber in Vancouver.  The worst part of Uber is that we couldn’t bring it home with us.

VERDICT: Uber is definitely the way to go when visiting LA.  It’s cheaper than taxis (and sometimes cheaper than renting a car) and way more convenient than public transit.  I couldn’t be a bigger fan. Uber, please come to Vancouver!

The Farmer’s Market
PROS: The Farmer’s Market has been a staple in LA since it opened in 1934. I really loved this space – so many stalls with all different types of cuisine.  We sampled gumbo, pizza, gyros and bbq in our two visits and barely cracked the surface.  Plus, it’s a covered outdoor market so we actually got to eat next to a giant tree.

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CONS: It’s not your traditional Farmer’s Market – it’s more like a diverse sprawling foodcourt.  And I do wish we had done a bit more research to make sure we hit up the best stalls.

VERDICT: Definitely check it out! There is something at the Farmer’s Market for every taste bud.

The Grove
PROS: The Grove is the beautiful outdoor shopping centre right next door to the Farmer’s Market.  There are lots of shops and a gorgeous fountain right in the middle.  I love that LA weather is so pleasant and rain-free that an outdoor mall is actually a viable option.  An outdoor mall in Vancouver would be open for max 2 weeks a year.

CONS: While the Grove is beautiful, it’s also beautifully expensive.  We were pretty much priced out of all of the shops.  But we did enjoy lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, splurging on a Michael Kors purse for Colin’s mom and window shopping.

VERDICT: If you can afford it, definitely check out the Grove for some fun shopping.  And even if you can’t afford it, it’s still a fun place to visit.

Trader Joe’s
PROS: I know Trader Joe’s isn’t LA-specific but I could wax poetic about this US chain until the cows come home.  I love Trader Joe’s.  I love the fun snacks, chalkboard signs and funky re-usable bags.  But most of all, I love that they sell wine for $2.49!

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CONS: Again, the biggest con is that we don’t have this wonderful chain (with its wonderful liquor prices) in Vancouver.

VERDICT: Always go to Trader Joe’s. Always.

Going to a show taping
PROS: We went to a taping of The Late Late Show with James Corden (we were hoping to see Ellen but she wouldn’t give us tickets).  It was fun to be at a live taping and see how the production of a show comes together.  James Corden was hilarious and we really loved seeing his guests Sam Heughan (yum) and Luke Bryan (yummier). Plus, we were on TV!

CONS: There were so many lines! We arrived at 2:30 and stood in line (outside in the sun) until past four.  And then we were brought through security only to sit in another line.  We were taken upstairs to the studio where we, you guessed it, stood in line, until they finally took us to our seats.  Another con, musical guest Rita Wilson performed her song not once, not twice but three times.  There are certain songs I would love to see performed three times in a row – this was not one of them.  Also, we didn’t get any free swag 😦

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VERDICT: If you’re prepared to wait a while in lines, it can be a fun experience. It would probably be best if you’re really into the musical guest, just in case they have to perform 3+ times.

Universal Studios
PROS: We decided that instead of Disney, we would go to Universal Studios during our trip.  This was a great call since Disney is way busier and neither Colin or I particularly enjoy rides.  Universal was amazing! We went to a bunch of shows to see stunt people, special effects, animal actors, etc.  We went on the studio tour and got to see lots of movie sets, more special effects and even sat through some 4D rides.  But the best part was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We had checked online before our trip and saw that TWWoHP wasn’t opening until April 7th and we were leaving on April 5th. But when we arrived at Universal, we were told that it had been “soft open” for a few weeks! Actual tears came to my eyes. I was so excited! I literally skipped into the magical world and was just blown away by the whole place.

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Butterbeer!

Butterbeer!

CONS: I thought I would be listing long lines here but strangely enough our Saturday visit to Universal Studios was not too busy at all. So I guess I would say the cons of the day would be the food (overpriced and lacklustre, which is to be expected of fast food at an amusement park) and the one ride we went on: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. As I mentioned above, neither Colin or I are ride people.  We don’t do roller coasters, heights, and you would probably have a hard time even getting us on a merry-go-round.  However, we decided to be brave and try the Forbidden Journey.  There were a bunch of cool Harry Potter artifacts along the way, no lines and many ride-goers had assured us it would be nothing like a roller coaster.  They were right.  It was worse.  Needless to say, we did not enjoy ourselves.  I spent the entire ride muscles straining to hold on as tight as possible to my seat, eyes practically glued shut and silently willing myself not to cry.  We made it through, but I don’t think we’ll be risking it on any other rides again soon.

VERDICT: Universal was great! I would definitely recommend it. I think it’s better for an older crowd and there’s tons to see/do if you don’t love rides.  If you’re happy to skip meeting Mickey Mouse, this would be my recommendation.

Hollywood Tour
PROS: We took a tour on our second day in LA.  It picked us up in Anaheim and drove us around to Venice Beach,  The Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive, The Grove/Farmer’s Market, the Walk of Fame and then back to our hotel – all for $50! It was a great way to see a lot of LA in one day. I particularly liked our stroll along Rodeo Drive and seeing all of the stars on the Walk of Fame.

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CONS: The timing seemed a bit off.  We got off for an hour at the Santa Monica Pier – not during meal time or when the amusement park was even open – but only half an hour at the Walk of Fame.  We also wished our driver had pointed out some more sights to us during the drive.

VERDICT: I’m usually not a fan of tour buses but if you’re short on time and want to see the highlights of LA, this is a great way to do it.  It was nice to not have to worry about transportation or where we needed to go.

Anaheim Ducks game
PROS: So our initial reason for going to LA was actually to watch our Vancouver Canucks play the Anaheim Ducks.  Actually, this was Colin’s reason.  I can’t really condone going all the way to LA to watch a hockey game, but it was a fun experience.  And the Canucks won!

Go Canucks Go!

Go Canucks Go!

CONS: It’s kind of hard to cheer against the home team.  I missed being able to cheer along with the crowd.

VERDICT: If you happen to be in Anaheim during hockey season and you’re a fan, sure, take in a game!

LA Clippers game
PROS: Our next professional sporting game was in the famed Staples Center and we got to cheer with the home team.  I love basketball and haven’t been to a live NBA game in a long time so this was a real treat for me.  Plus, the tickets were fairly cheap and the Clippers won!

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CONS: We wanted to see the Lakers, of course.  Unfortunately, we got priced out of that game.  Sorry, Kobe 😦

VERDICT: I might be a bit biased here since basketball is my favourite sport and we don’t have a team to watch in Vancouver, but I would definitely recommend taking in a game and cheering on the home team!

Olvera Street
PROS: This street is tucked away behind a large church by LA’s Union Station.  It’s referred to as the Mexican Market because it’s home to stalls and stalls of Mexican food, clothing and other wares.  As someone who has never been to Mexico, this was a pretty cool area to explore.  We ended up buying some beautiful blankets (for only $10!) and snacked on churros while listening to a travelling mariachi band.

CONS: As authentic as the stalls looked, I resisted my urge to buy some of the traditional Mexican items.  I would prefer to buy them in Mexico! So, I guess this isn’t really a con, but more of an increasing desire to travel to Mexico!

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VERDICT: Again, as someone who hasn’t actually been to Mexico, I really loved this little market and think it’s a great LA stop.

Marina del Rey & Venice Canals
PROS: The canals themselves are actually pretty cute.  They’ve got nothing on the Amsterdam canals but there are lovely homes all along and a bunch of little bridges.  It’s a quaint little community and sort of hidden off the main streets.

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CONS: The marina, on the other hand, was a pretty big let down.  We walked for quite some time to get there and then were pretty disappointed when we realized we had made it.  Maybe we didn’t go to the right part?

VERDICT: See the canals.  Skip the marina.

Venice Beach
PROS: We spent the last three nights of our trip at a beachfront hotel on Venice Beach.  It was awesome! The beach itself is beautiful – not too busy, great waves and nice warm sand.  And then the boardwalk and Venice Beach culture is so eclectic.  I loved walking around and seeing all of the vendors, street performers and shops.  It was the best place to stay and so much fun to explore.

Colin & his mom getting their wave frolick on!

Colin & his mom getting their wave frolick on!

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CONS: While we didn’t run into any issues, I probably wouldn’t recommend any midnight strolls in the area.  The locals are definitely fun and seemingly harmless but even when we went out after 8 looking for a late dinner, we ran into more open tattoo parlors than pizza shops.

VERDICT: Absolutely check out Venice Beach – and sample the fish tacos by Muscle Beach! They are, as the sign says, the best in Venice Beach.

The Santa Monica Pier
PROS: The Santa Monica Pier is really fun.  As soon as you spot the iconic ferris wheel, you know it’s going to be a good time.  There are lots of people, vendors and amusement park rides and games for all.  And, best of all, off the end of the dock you can spot seals and (so I’m told) dolphins!

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CONS: The pier is well-known and therefore, flooded with tourists and overpriced vendors.  I wouldn’t suggest it for too much shopping or dining if you can avoid it.

VERDICT: Being the end of route 66, it’s iconic, so you might as well see it. But I would go mainly for the seals 🙂

In N Out
PROS: Well, at least we can say we checked off a California must? All of our Uber drivers told us we couldn’t leave LA without trying In N Out.

CONS: I wish we had left this one out. I’ve had In N Out twice before and was not impressed either of those times. I don’t know why I thought this time would be any different. To be honest, the food is nothing special (sorry, Californians!). And to make it worse, we decided to go lie in the sun afterwards to let the gross food really take its toll on our bodies.

Yuck.

Yuck.

VERDICT: Hard pass.

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Los Angeles was a great trip.  It was so nice to spend six days with Colin and his mom, to be in the constant presence of palm trees and to not have to worry about work or school or anything else.  We fit in a lot of fun stuff but also made time for relaxing on the beach and watching TV back at the hotel.

Since coming back to Vancouver in 2014 to finish my degree at UBC, I haven’t done a lot of big travelling.  It was  a change to be more settled and to not have future plans to move to so-and-so foreign country for 1-6 months.  But I have had so many other great life experiences and opportunities.  And I’ve really started to embrace the idea of local travel.  As much as I want to jump on an international plane every time I see a flight deal posted, with work, rent and two weddings this summer, I know it’s not realistic.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.  I still plan to see a lot of the world – there are so many countries I can’t wait to explore.  But in the meantime, there’s a lot of my own backyard to see.  The last time I went to LA, I was 12, so this was kind of like a first trip for me.  It was fun to play tourist and go on a little adventure, even if it was only a 2 hour plane ride away.  And we have other plans this summer to head down to Seattle, do our Calgary roadtrip and possibly even fit in a trip to Montreal when we’re back in Toronto.  So yeah, lots to see around here while I save up and countdown to the next big trip 🙂

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2 thoughts on “LA: Must Sees & Maybe Passes

  1. Pingback: A new adventure: Vietnam! | A teaspoon of adventure...

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