4 nights in Los Angeles was nowhere near long enough. Although it was my first time in LA, and my first time in America in general, coming to Santa Monica felt like coming home.
After almost 12 hours of travelling, we touched down at LAX at about 2pm. We jumped in a taxi and headed straight to our Air BnB. As soon as we arrived at the apartment, we threw down our bags, quickly freshened up and headed out to explore, not wanting to waste a single second.
Naturally, we headed straight for the oceanfront. Our Air BnB was in an amazing location, just 4 blocks from the beach. We could step outside our apartment and see the horizon. Major perk seeing as the apartment was less than £350 for 4 nights.
Los Angeles just oozes good vibes. It just seems to have perfected the balance between a healthy, active lifestyle with a chilled, laidback atmosphere. It exuded positivity. As we strolled along the boardwalk, people jogged, ran, skated and cycled by. I could seriously envision myself living that lifestyle. Sadly, running along Blackpool promenade in the wind, rain and cold just doesn’t appeal to me in the same way.
I was most giddy about visiting the original Muscle Beach. Unable to contain my excitement, I made sure it was the first place I visited. I stared in amazement as others would work out, climbing the ropes and tackling the gymnastics rings. Just past the gymnastics equipment people would be doing yoga or morning tai chi or acrobatics. The original Muscle Beach can be summed up as a giant jungle gym for fitness lovers (and anyone else for the matter!). It was without a doubt my favourite spot in Santa Monica. We also visited the new Muscle Beach in Venice Beach on our second day here. Standing in the spot where so many great athletes have stood before was inspiring, even if there was nothing going on whist we were there. If you’re a bit of fitness junkie like me, hopefully you’ll understand my excitement about visiting both the original and new Muscle Beach!
In the evening, we wandered around Downtown Santa Monica. Exhausted from our long travel day, we grabbed a greasy burger and strawberry lemonade from Johnny Rockets to fill our tummies before heading back to the apartment to crash out at 10pm.
On our second day in Santa Monica, we hired cruiser bicycles for a full day of exploring. We had a vague plan in mind and just hit the boardwalk, taking in the sights along the way. I couldn’t even guess how many miles we cycled that day but we pretty much flat out cycled from 8am til after 5pm.
It was early morning when we hit the Ocean Front Walk so I ignored the ‘cyclist dismount’ signs and cycled along the street anyway. This greatly pleased the homeless community camping out at the side of the boardwalk, cheering me on for ‘sticking it to the man’…turns out it’s illegal to cycle on the sidewalk. I could have used the adjacent cycle path, but that would mean missing out on the creative arts and street performances of Venice Beach Boardwalk. I’d totally recommend checking out the Boardwalk, it’s thriving with performers and is greatly entertaining and lively.
After seeing their amazing menu online, we decided to check out 26 beach for brunch. The french toast was amazingly tasty. I’ll admit the service could have been better but hey, I won’t hold it against them. When I next visit Los Angeles, I’ll be sure to spend some more time exploring Venice Beach. If I had more time I would have loved to have visited Abbot Kinney Blvd, it sounds like it was filled with amazing food places, stores and good vibes in general!
We also cycled around Marina Del Rey because I’d seen that you could do SUP there. I’m a huge fan of paddle boarding so thought it’d be a fun break from cycling. Sadly, despite searching for a good 90 minutes and constantly checking the maps on my phone I just could not for the life of me see anywhere to do paddle boarding. Next time, I think I’ll just stick to the beach!
I’m not a fan of night clubs or loud, busy bars so in the evening we had a quick online search for a bar with open-mic night or live music. We stumbled across The Victorian, which couldn’t have been more perfect. With it’s late 19th century decor and delicate fairy lights, the Victorian was an exquisitely beautiful bar. Down in the cellar laid the speakeasy Basement Tavern which has live music every night. It was such a lovely bar. We got chatting to a few of the locals who were all so friendly, including a couple of guys in a band called Tropical Nasty, who played a great little set. This was my kind of bar and reminded me of being back in the Northern Quarter in Manchester for a low key night of cocktails, good music and sweet people.
Another day, another early morning start. For our third day, we planned to check out Hollywood. After all, it would have been unspeakable for us to visit Los Angeles and not go to tinsel town. I would have loved to have made time for Beverly Hills or to hike up to the Hollywood sign, but we just couldn’t fit them in our trip. There’s always next time so I’m not too disheartened. It just gives me more reason to come back again!
Now, back to Hollywood. I’m just going to be blunt here. I didn’t like it. It’s as simple as that. I just did not like it. It was underwhelming and left me thinking ‘Is this it?’. I’m not really big on celebrity culture, so maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy it. I just found it so anti-climatic. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was just expecting more than the spend my day walking round staring at the ground as I battled past other tourists and walked past tacky gift stores.
Unimpressed with Hollywood, we didn’t stay for long. After a visit to Amoeba Records we decided to switch up our day and spend it walking along Melrose Avenue appreciating the wall art instead. It was an easy-going day filled with sunshine and laughter with my sister. We stopped at Blu Jam Cafe for pancakes. We had earlier stopped at a greasy diner where I ate the worst burger I’ve ever had in my life. I can’t even remember the name of the diner but yeah, it was gross. Because of the burger incident, I wasn’t that hungry when we got to Blu Jam. We shared a giant portion of blueberry pancakes and I kept refreshed with a matcha iced latte. The food did not disappoint. It was incredible. Brunch is 100% my favourite meal of the day and good brunch places is something that my home town seriously lacks.
Whilst on Melrose Ave., we noticed the Comedy Store and decided it’d be so much fun to go to a comedy club for the night. After another quick search online, I found the Townhouse in Venice Beach does a free comedy club night on Wednesdays, which seeing as it was Wednesday couldn’t have been more perfect! Whilst at the Victorian the previous night, one of the people we met had already mentioned the Townhouse to me, telling me all about it’s history as a former speakeasy – so cool! Asking locals for recommendations really does help out. It meant we got to frequent the hidden gems that the Los Angeles locals enjoyed. The comedy club was hilarious. It was an intimate gig filled with regulars. We were the only English-folk in there and it was honestly so refreshing to be at a local event and experience something off the beaten track. I was so scared that we’d get called out and heckled at but luckily we must have blended in well because we got to enjoy the show without being the butt of any anti-England/tourist jokes!
Our last full day in LA! My sister really wanted to go to Universal Studios, so the night before I booked tickets online. Universal Studios was pretty sweet. There were virtually no queues, which is a bonus! At the theme parks back home queue time for rides are alwaaays at least an hour long. Thankfully, the max time we had to wait at Universal Studios was 25 minutes. Obviously, I was most excited about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It was as magical as I expected. There were so many little kids wandering around in their wizarding robes too, it was super adorable. Whilst in Hogsmede, I picked up a chocolate frog and some Bertie Botts Beans!
After exploring Hogsmede, we checked out the rest of the Universal Studios. Although the place was pretty big, there wasn’t an awful lot to do. The Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Mummy rides were both really fun with nice, short queues! We went on the studio tour, which if you’re big on your movies, is pretty interesting. To wrap up our day at Universal Studios we watched a special effects show. The show was brilliant. I already knew how a lot of the special effects worked but it was still so entertaining to watch them perform and debunk some of the special effects in front of us on stage!
For our last night in Los Angeles, we wanted to make sure we were feeling refreshed for travelling to Las Vegas the next day. We got back to the apartment at about 530pm and both agreed a chilled night in was the perfect plan. Our chilled night in started with a mini earthquake tremor. It was around 2.9 on the richter scale and jolted the building. We both genuinely thought a car had gone into the side of the apartment block at first! Once we discovered it was an earthquake, I was so excited…my sister on the other hand was terrified. She ran straight to the fridge grabbed the vodka and wine then hid under the duvet whimpering. Naturally, I acted as any loving sister would and laughed.
Chilled night in meant laying in bed eating left over Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. Seriously, can we please start a petition to get one in the UK?!
Time to say bye-bye to Los Angeles. I had a total blast and got to do so many lovely things in the short time I was there. There’s so much more that I would have loved to do, which simply means I could go back again and have a totally different experience. However, it was time for the next-leg of our trip and to see what Las Vegas has to offer.