Hiking our way to the Hollywood sign
We spent 4 nights in LA at the end of a 3 week road trip from Las Vegas to California. It’s a great place with everything you would expect of a large city plus it has the beach on one side and great hikes in the Hollywood hills further inland. It was different to how I had imagined it though - I had misconceptions that some of the more well known places would be really polished and slightly fancy, but actually, it’s just like any other city; busy, noisy, diverse and in some places a bit messy. Take the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for example - we are all used to seeing celebrities on the famous stars set into the pavement, but in reality, that pavement is lined with takeaways and convenience stores. It was a bit disappointing actually!
We stayed in an Airbnb in between Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. The location was great, but we had under-estimated just how big LA is, places that look close by on the map are actually much further than you think! Luckily we had our own car, but there were also buses available and we did walk to most places that we could.
Here’s my top 10 recommendations for what to do in LA:
Walk along Hollywood Boulevard
Yes, I know I’ve just said that the Walk of fame was a bit disappointing, but you have to see and experience the whole area. Aside from the walk of fame, other places to see are the Chinese Theatre where you’ll see more celebrity hand and footprints as well as the World of Illusions and Hollywood wax museum. If you fancy a break from the heat, visit the 1920’s El Capitan Theatre to watch live shows and Disney films. There’s also the Egyptian theatre, featuring indie and classic films.
Hollywood boulevard and the Chinese Theatre
See the Hollywood Sign
You can’t visit LA without getting your photo taken in front of the Hollywood sign! You can see the sign from many overlooks or hiking trails, depending on whether you are driving or walking.
If you’re driving, the best places to see the Hollywood sign are from the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Reservoir and Beechwood Canyon, but there are many streets with signs to direct you to more parking lots where you can get a view of the sign.
If you fancy a short walk, then the 3.5 mile loop around the Hollywood Reservoir is perfect. It is a flat route and offers views of the Hollywood sign almost the entire length.
We chose to hike to see the Hollywood sign, parking by the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park and walking up to Griffith Observatory. From here, we took the Charlie Turner trailhead at the far end of the observatory car park, and then continued onto the Mt Hollywood trail, heading left at the fork, round to Captain’s Roost and onto Dante’s View, which is a great place for a rest and a picnic. There are so many different trails you can take to see the Hollywood sign, depending on your level of fitness and how long you have.
The Griffith Observatory and reaching the Hollywood sign
Take a drive down Sunset Boulevard
Sunset Boulevard is a 22 mile stretch of road that connects Hollywood to Malibu. Some hot spots to stop along the way are: The Chateau Marmont hotel for cocktails and celebrity spotting, the Roxy Theatre for indie bands, or the Comedy Store. Stop at In-n-Out Burger for a takeaway burger or the Polo Lounge for something fancier and another slice of celebrity spotting.
Visit the Original LA Farmers Market and The Grove
The historic Farmers Market is now part of The Grove - an entertainment destination with a central outdoor plaza in the heart of downtown LA. The plaza houses many events such as concerts and is surrounded by restaurants and shops, it is a great place to spend the evening.
Watching live music at The Grove
Petersen Automotive Museum
This is one for the car enthusiasts. Rated the no.1 automotive museum in the world, the Petersen Museum houses over 350 vehicles in numerous exhibits, from super cars, to electric vehicles leading the way and Hollywood classics such as the batmobile and Delorean.
The Universal Studios theme park is right in downtown LA. Park highlights include the famous studio tour, the world of Harry Potter and Dreamworks immersive theatre. You can purchase a one or two day pass direct from the website.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
The Warner Bros studio covers a huge 110 acres of sets, studios and backstage areas, the famous 2 hour guided tour takes you through the back-lot areas and prop departments, visiting 10 iconic locations from famous movies.
Visit Santa Monica
Santa Monica is a city in its own right, but is surrounded on all inland sides by the city limits of LA. According to google maps, it is a short 20 minute drive from Sunset Boulevard in LA to Santa Monica pier, however the traffic is so dense that it took us twice as long.
Santa Monica is most well known for its expansive sandy beach and pier which has become a landmark in the city. Santa Monica pier sits in the centre of the beach and features an aquarium, amusement park and many restaurants. The original muscle beach sits just south of the pier. You can walk along the promenade or hire a bike and cycle the 22 mile South Bay bicycle trail from Santa Monica to Torrance County Beach, passing through Venice, Hermosa and Redondo. Away from the beach, Santa Monica has plenty of shopping opportunities to keep you occupied.
Santa Monica Pier
The boardwalk at Venice Beach is the second most visited place in Southern California and we can see why. The boardwalk stretches for over two miles, and is packed with street vendors, street artists and food vendors. There is just so much going on and so much to see as you walk along it, with basketball courts, tennis courts, Venice muscle beach gym, a large skate park and of course the gorgeous Venice Beach. It’s just a really fun place to visit and spend the day! Away from the main boardwalk, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the best place to shop, with a vibrant mix of restaurants, shops and galleries. You can also take a walk along the man-made Venice canals for a break away from the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk.
The busy Venice Beach boardwalk, and the much quieter Venice Canals
We were recommended to visit Redondo Beach by our wine tour guide in Santa Barbara and we were really glad that we did. It’s just half an hour drive from downtown LA and is a nice change of pace, with a really laid back beach vibe. It has some of the best shopping experiences in the South Bay area, with 5 km of independent boutiques, antique shops and restaurants with outdoor seating. Aside from the gorgeous beach and the shops, you can kayak, paddle board surf in the ocean. We loved how quaint this area was, everything was walk-able and had more of a community feel that you get from a smaller city.
All links on this website are my own recommendations or sites I found useful when planning and are not affiliated. I do not receive any commission from including these links within this blog.