In mid-November I travelled to Los Angeles, California with my husband for nine days. While planning this trip, there was so much we wanted to see and do in the LA area that we decided a California road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles would not be possible in such a short time. Instead, I planned an action-packed (clarification: “action-packed”, for us) week in the LA and surrounding areas. Here’s my itinerary and some tips I picked up along the way.
Day 1: Arrival at LAX, rental car pick-up, hotel check-in
We arrived at LAX around noon on a Friday. After collecting our luggage we took the free shuttle to the Alamo where we picked up our rental car for the week. The drive from Alamo to our hotel was short, and we were able to check in at 2pm. That evening we drove around and did some shopping at my favourite US store, Target. Fun fact, we heard about bad traffic in LA, but not how aggressive the driving is. Coming from Toronto, we understand bad traffic, but even we weren’t prepared for the driving conditions.
- Tip: We booked our car through Expedia (for Alamo) and had a frustrating time with insurance because we purchased insurance not directly with Alamo. Future post on this coming!
Day 2: Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood Hills/Sign, Beverly Hills
On our second day we headed to the Santa Monica Pier and did the typical tourist things: walk along the beach, wander around the pier, eat corndogs from a stand on the beach, watch the street/pier performers and take million photos. We also made our way to the shopping area in Santa Monica and found a farmer’s market. Afterward, we went to see the Hollywood sign (and walked up a steep and scary path) to get to the Griffith Observatory.
- Tip: Don’t be losers like us and try to see the Hollywood sign lit up at night. They don’t actually light up the sign like they do in movies. You will look silly asking the security guard why the sign isn’t lit up, and they will scoff at your ignorance. Save yourself the embarrassment and go during the day.
Day 3: Warner Brothers Studio Tour, Hollywood Hills/Sign, Downtown Los Angeles
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour was one of the main highlights of our trip. I cannot say enough about this tour (and have already tried in my recent TripAdvisor review), both my husband and I had an excellent time and would highly recommend it. We went to Downtown Los Angeles for lunch and then we went back to take photos of the Hollywood sign during daylight hours.
- Tip: Do the Warner Bros. Studio Tour… seriously.
Day 4: Universal Studios Hollywood
After the amazing tour at the Warner Bros. Studio, we had to see the Universal tour. It was very entertaining, but I found that it went a little quick. You couldn’t get off the tram to look at anything (like at Warner Bros.) and some of the attractions we rushed by (like Jaws! The main thing I wanted to see). You also do get a little wet (not drenched) on this tour, so beware! My husband and I don’t really enjoy rides, so we spent our day going to the shows or at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was a fantastic experience. I wasn’t even a huge Harry Potter fan, but I certainly am now!
- Tip: Upon entering the park we were asked to fill out a survey (which I love to do) and in return we got free skip the line passes for the tour. If you get offered this, do it! It took no more than 5 minutes to complete and saved us at least an hour waiting in line.
Days 5 & 6: Disneyland & Disney California Adventure Park / Anaheim Ducks Game
I wrote an entire post on our experience at Disney and Disney California Adventure Park. In short, we had a great time at both parks, and I would definitely suggest going if you are a Disney fan. There is plenty to see and do if you are not a fan of rides (we aren’t, but still went on quite a few as long as it didn’t get us wet or go upside down) and lots of food options and shopping. If you make a trip to see the Anaheim Ducks play, it is only a 15 minute drive from the Disneyland resort area. We also timed the game with the day we went to the California Adventure Park, because it closed early so we only missed out on about an hour of Disney time. Tickets to see the Ducks were extremely cheap compared to the Toronto Maple Leafs… just sayin’.
- Tip: Getting into the park is the first of many lines you will encounter on your visit. The parking is very well organized, but it still takes quite some time to pay and park your car. Plan for extra time upon arrival.
Day 7: Hollywood Boulevard
When you’re in LA, how can you not make a visit to Hollywood Boulevard? My husband and I planned a full day here, but really could have made it a few hours. We went to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, shopped in some souvenir stores, and shared a banana split at the Disney Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop. I must say, the banana split (and almost getting recruited to the Church of Scientology – a story for another day) was the highlight of this attraction. It was nice to see, but now that I have, I can confidently say I never need to go back.
- Tip: Parking off of Hollywood Boulevard can be a little sketchy. We found a parking garage that was double and triple parking people, and you needed to leave your car keys. This felt a little weird for us, so we left and found a ground level lot with easy access and it was $10 cheaper.
Day 8: Venice Beach
Another stop on our trip that was kind of a lunch-bag-let-down was Venice Beach. There was some beautiful scenery and it was a lovely day, but compared to Santa Monica Pier beach-walk I wouldn’t make this a “to-do” on any upcoming trips. Walking through the canals at Venice Beach is worth while for a peaceful and lovely stroll.
- Tip: If you do go, head to the parking lot directly on the beach. We parked further away thinking it would be cheaper, but we actually paid $5 more and had to walk.
Day 9: Travel Home
Nothing exciting here… We returned our car to Alamo and took the shuttle to the airport.
Overall, our trip to LA was fantastic and have to say the top three highlights were the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland Park. There is enough to see and do in LA/Anaheim, and we will need to plan another trip to take a road trip on highway 1.