Before heading to LA, I received a hell of a lot of mixed reviews from friends and family who had previously been, so I wasn't quite sure exactly what to expect. It's no secret that there's an awful lot of inequality, superficiality, poverty and diversity in LA, but with this, also comes a beautiful eclectic mix of people, that infamous laid-back atmosphere that nobody can quite explain, mile after mile of beautiful, clean beaches and of course, a constant cloudless, blue sky.
When the word LA is mentioned, of course Hollywood automatically springs into mind, but the thing that surprised me about LA the most, was the sheer size of it. It's absolutely bloomin' massive! The first thing I have to get out there, is that exploring LA would be absolutely impossible without hiring a car. Yes, traffic is an absolute nightmare and yes we did spend way longer than desired on the freeways, BUT, without a car none of the below visits could have been possible. LA is certainly not famous for its public transport and although they do have a 'metro' system and various buses, they're not quite on par with the likes of London's TFL for example. (In other words, don't even bother with the metro or buses, your safest bet is to uber it, or to hire a car). Never ever underestimate the size of Los Angeles city!
So, I'll stop waffling now and let's commence the list...I'm sure this list won't exactly come as a surprise, as it's no secret that LA is home to some of the world's most iconic tourist attractions...Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach etc. but I just wanted to produce my own honest list of what I consider to be worth the hype and absolute must do's when visiting LA...
1. VENICE BEACH
Without a doubt, my favourite part of LA. We were lucky enough to stay steps away from the beachfront and the pier soon became our fave spot to watch the sunrise on those jet lagged 5am mornings. I bought way too many souvenirs on the Boardwalk, ogled at all the hot skateboarders in the skatepark, flexed my non-existent muscles at Muscle Beach and just revelled in the buzzing atmosphere. Everyone here is super casual, super friendly and it was without a doubt my favourite beach.
2. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
The Studio Tour is an absolute must and definitely one to tick off the bucket list. Get there as soon as it opens and head straight for the tours, as those queues soon accumulate.
3. BREAKFAST AT THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL
Perhaps a little extravagant for travelling students, but we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast at The Beverly Hills Hotel and it certainly did not disappoint. This is something which is definitely not recommended enough and I highly recommend it to everybody. It's not even that expensive for the experience you receive, and the food is divine. I ate the best pancakes of the whole trip here and dining in such an iconic place is worth every dollar. Take a stroll around the hotel's grounds and pool, and take a peep at the iconic bungalows where the likes of Marilyn Monroe used to stay.
4. HOLLYWOOD & WALK OF FAME
To be totally honest, I was quite disappointed with the Walk of Fame. For something so famous and iconic, I thought it was a massive anti-climax. It is essentially just a normal street (with not the nicest views) and is so rammed with tourists that you can't actually look at the stars, as there's masses of people walking over them. We factored in a day to do Hollywood and the Walk of Fame and in all honestly it could be done in an hour. It did however make it on my list, as I figured you can't go to LA without seeing it, but I wouldn't get too excited.
5. SHOPPING ON RODEO DRIVE & MELROSE AVENUE
Take a stroll down Rodeo Drive and pretend you're in Pretty Woman for the day...trust me you'll love it! The shops are absolutely out of this world. And please, if you do anything on Melrose Avenue, go visit the Vivienne Westwood store...it's fabulous!An absolute must see. Drive up to the highest possible point of the hill, park and then walk the rest. Trust me, it's worth the panting!
6. TAKE A DRIVE TO THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN
7. TRY AN IN 'N' OUT BURGER
Honestly the best burger you will ever eat...EVER.
8. VISIT SANTA MONICA AT NIGHT
Definitely my favourite place to go at night. Try a corn dog on the pier, watch the sun set over the sea, go for dinner on the beach front, or make the most of happy hour along the Promenade. Whatever you do, you don't wanna miss out on an evening in buzzing Santa Monica.
Sadly, we only discovered this street right at the end of our trip, but my god is it good for shopping. To everything from Victoria's Secret, to Nike, to Brandy Melville and gorgeous Cali boutiques, this is most definitely where you can wave bye bye to all those dollars of yours. I know I certainly did. *enter with caution*
The majority of our favourite places we saw on our LA road trip were stumbled upon by accident. The beauty of having a rental car, is that you can just drive anywhere with no time limit, and no limitations. Whether you take that wrong turning that your satnav led you down, or you end up on a massive detour trying to find an In 'n' Out burger (trust me this happened to us tons of times..those burgers are addictive), chances are you will stumble upon something which you probably never would have gone out of your way to see. Incredible mansions in Bel Air, or Barbie condos in Santa Monica, you will see it all. So put that map down, follow the coastline and drive to your hearts conent.
10. DRIVE & GET LOST