Planning Your Vacation in Los Angeles and Hollywood and Southern California
The much-anticipated and welcome Summer Season is upon us. Are you planning a vacation to Los Angeles with your friends or family? Our great city can be overwhelming due to its size and the fact that there is so much to do. Heck, I’ve lived in LA for more than 12 years, and I still have a long list of parks, museums, restaurants and more that I want to explore. I’ve put together a few of LA’s must-sees, and you can pick and choose depending on the interests of your group. If you only have one day in LA, choose a hotel near the attraction you most want to see. If you will be in LA for several days, renting a car (with GPS) will let you cover more ground for less money . Remember, LA is spread out over 400 square miles, as opposed to San Francisco which covers 49 square miles. While taxi cabs are plentiful in most touristy areas (Santa Monica, Hollywood, Beverly Hills) it could easily cost you $100 or more to get from one side of the city to the other, and back again. Below please find, in no particular order, some ideas for helping you have the most TOURific vacation possible:
Theme Parks: You and your family probably have your favorite, and you certainly have some wonderful choices between Disneyland, California Adventure, Knotts Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, and Legoland. Let me not leave out Universal Studios Universal City which is a combination theme park and studio tour (see next topic).
Studio Tours: We are, after all, the entertainment capital of the world. If you want to get a close-up, behind the scenes look into where your favorite TV shows and movies are made, schedule a tour at one these popular studios: Warner Bros in Burbank, Sony Studios in Culver City or Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Sony offers an entirely walking tour, where the other two offer transportation via golf cart or tram.
Hollywood: In all its glory, Hollywood has something for everyone. From the Walk of Fame to the TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Sign to The Capital Records Building, you will be enchanted with the history, music, movies and more. Not to mention the charm of both historic and newly popular restaurants, as well as the exciting nightlife along the Sunset Strip. There’s also a visit to Griffith Park’s Observatory for a beautiful view of the city. Admission to the grounds and Observatory is free. You can put together a self-tour or join our top-rated Hollywood Sites & Bites Tour for 4 hours of fun and food.
Malibu: While the scenic drive down PCH may well be the highlight in itself, once you arrive you’ll not be disappointed with a stroll along the Malibu Pier as well as a peek at the Malibu Country Mart for shopping, dining and people-watching.
Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach & Redondo Beach: These beach cities are all perfect for a truly relaxing vacation. If you have your sights set on beach volleyball, sun-bathing and enjoying the sand and surf, look no further than these clean, beautiful beaches south of LAX. One of my favorite brunch spots is in Manhattan Beach, as well as an authentic gelateria in Hermosa and a new Italian Ice place in Redondo.
Santa Monica & Venice: These adjacent beach cities can be combined for a unique visit, whether you want to walk the strand or have a fun afternoon on a Pedal or Not Bike Tour. From all the characters along the Venice Beach Boardwalk to the bodybuilders at Muscle Beach, Venice is still a crowd-pleaser. The more sophisticated Santa Monica offers the Pier and Third Street Promenade as well as the new-ish Santa Monica Place shopping mall. Not to be missed is having a cocktail at The Lobster, which sits on Ocean Avenue at the entrance to the Pier. Grab a seat at the outdoor bar and sip a Tide Pool martini while watching the sun set.
Long Beach Queen Mary: If you happen to find yourself in Long Beach on a Sunday, you can park once and enjoy two activities on the Queen Mary: champagne brunch followed by a stroll through the Princess Diana exhibit. If you aren’t there on a Sunday, you can still have a meal on the famed ocean liner before or after your tour of the Royal display.
The Farmer’s Market and The Grove: Established in 1934, The Original Farmer’s Market at Third & Fairfax is full of wonderful dining options. Everyone in your party can order a different ethnic cuisine and then dine together at the quaint picnic tables scattered through the middle of the market. Favorites are Pampas Brazilian BBQ and Moishe’s Mediterranean for falafel and hummus (FYI, cash only). Then ride the trolley (or walk off some of your dinner) the short distance to the adjacent shopping spot The Grove, to see a movie, watch the dancing water fountain, shop or dine a little more. Don’t be surprised if you see Mario Lopez and Maria Menounos there as EXTRA is filmed live from The Grove Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm.
Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive: Popular for window shopping, admiring fancy cars and stylish shoppers, Rodeo Drive is easy to explore on foot. If Pretty Woman is one of your favorite movies, you’ll find two of the movie’s landmarks within walking distance of each other. Or you could take our popular Celebrity Insider Tour which highlights both of these movie locations and more! While there are many good restaurants and eateries in the area, you don’t want to miss a visit to Sprinkles, which has a cupcake shop and ice-cream parlor side by side on Little Santa Monica Boulevard. And if you get there after-hours you can still fix that sweet-tooth with a cupcake from the Sprinkles ATM machine!
San Diego: This is a whole different animal with its own wonderful sights and attractions. While I’m keeping my suggested activities to the Los Angeles area, if your LA vacation also includes San Diego, be sure to stop and admire the Hotel del Coronado.
Happy Planning, Safe Travels and Wishing you a TOURific Summer!