How to Get the LA Vibe
If you have booked your flights to the famous LAX Airport, then there is only one destination you could be heading to, the city of dreams – Los Angeles. This sprawling urban wonderland is most famous for its film and entertainment industry, making it a magnetic hub for actors and actresses trying to make their mark in Hollywood.
Amongst the usual tourist traps, there are many hidden gems where you can get a feel for the true LA vibe and what makes it so appealing to the locals who live there. With the warm climate, the beaches are a natural destination to head to or you may find yourself immersed in one of the most unique bookshops I have ever been too.
Here are my top places to visit in LA.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Venice Beach, Santa Monica is a unique spot which is all kinds of retro, chic and chilled out – making it the perfect place to catch some sun rays. Here, you will find plenty of skateboarders, surfers, yoga lovers and families enjoying the golden sands, magnificent waves and of course the famous pier. The Santa Monica Pier stretches out across the ocean and perched on the end is its iconic Ferris wheel, roller coasters, candy floss and amusement arcade.
There are plenty of restaurants to indulge in some nostalgic memories such as hot dogs, corn dogs and plenty of delicious burgers. Shoppers will be able to find a large range of quirky vintage stores and high-end boutiques to get their retail fix. Also, don’t miss the street performers with their incredible dancing, singing and magic skills.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
You can’t visit Los Angeles without heading to the largest art museum in the western part of the United States. LACMA hold’s almost 13,000 pieces of art, ranging from modern pieces to antiques. It is quite a large complex with several separate buildings and the creative La Brea Tar Pits in the grounds. However, the most famous piece that draws many locals and tourists alike are the street lights exhibition.
These silver coloured street lights are clumped together in rows just outside of the main building and are a great aesthetic photo opportunity. The best part is that you don’t have to pay to see them and take photos if you are driving here be sure to park on the road as the meters are way cheaper than actually parking at the museum.
Universal Studios Hollywood
OK, so I know I said this article would get you away from the more touristy places in LA, but, Universal Studios Hollywood really cannot be missed. Known primarily for its awe-inspiring rides based on blockbuster movies such as The Walking Dead, The Simpsons, Transformers and Jurassic World. There are attractions here for everyone to enjoy and have a truly great day out.
One of my favourite sections here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter set, which will blow your mind even if you don’t know the difference between a muggle and a butterbeer. This incredible replica of Hogwarts and Hogsmead is filled with magical wonders such as Olivander’s Wand Shop, The Hog’s Head and Honeydukes Sweet Shop. The crème de la crème however, is the Hogwarts ride which will whisk you off of your feet.
One of the more famous beaches in LA, and rightly so. Its reputation precedes itself and is a ‘must-see’ destination to at least experience its quirky culture and environment. This long stretch of golden sand beach is home to the Venice Beach Boardwalk where it’s great to people-watch and explore the eclectic shops which line the beachfront. Filled with walkers, cyclists, skateboarders, rollerblades and performance artists, you can feel the energetic energy that flows here.
The Skate park, also just off the beach, is frequented by some of the area's best skateboarders including some famous ones such as Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk. Nearby are many creative art installations and do take a look at the appropriately named Muscle Beach, where people pump iron in the hot California sun.
The Last Bookshop
This iconic LA bookshop is housed in an abandoned bank, which is both symbolic and chic. If you are a full-on bibliophile or you just like to read the occasional yearly book, then this place is definitely for you. The marble pillars and mile-high ceiling remain from the old bank, but in place of patrons and guarded stacks of cash, bookshelves line the walls and artful displays of books are abound. The bookstore specializes in reasonably priced used books and takes great pride in offering a selection of well-kept vintage books as well.
Almost as if to make a point about beauty in disarray, the bookshelves are placed every which way throughout the store, and sculptures have been custom-built from overstocked or damaged copies. There are even hidden nooks, like the old bank vault itself, where horror books are hidden away for the public’s safety. My favourite part of the store is the book window, where a variety of books have been stacked to form a circular window.
Beverly Hills Hotel
One of the most iconic hotels in Beverly Hill the Hotel offers the glamorous ambience of Hollywood's Golden Age. This beautiful Five-Star, Five Diamond property is set on 12 lush acres of beautifully landscaped property, which has been a celebrity hot spot since its opening in 1912. The fabled hotel continues to welcome celebrities, royalty and leaders from around the world with luxurious accommodations, exemplary service and unrivalled beauty.
Frequented by generations of film industry icons from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor it is a great place to visit and see if you can spot anyone famous. While you are at, this is your best chance to get a cheeky photo out front of the building under the famous sign. Be quick though, because if you’re not staying at the hotel they will quickly move you on.
The Hollywood Sign
Since it was dedicated in 1923, the Hollywood Sign has become a Los Angeles icon and synonymous with the city. Having appeared in plenty of movies over the years it has become a huge attraction when visiting Los Angeles. While many tourists flock directly to the sign itself creating a horde of people crammed into one place I would highly suggest heading to this location instead.
Tucked away down a fairly peaceful residential road lined with beautiful palm trees and million-dollar houses is the perfect spot for you to get a photo with the iconic sign in the background. If you line it up perfectly – the centre of the street, low down, palms running down either side of the road with the Hollywood sign in the background, you will have a great capture.
The Griffith Observatory is posted on the south face of Mount Hollywood, the highest peak in the park, and the sight of the city rippling in the sun or twinkling at night from Observatory’s terraces are the stuff of dreams. There are too many movies and TV shows to list that have made the most of this location, but James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955) is the one that put the observatory’s in the world’s spotlight.
The 25-metre, copper-clad central dome houses, the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, which screens Centred in the Universe, a hi-res trip through time, via discoveries by Ptolemy and Galileo, and space, through the Milky Way, and landing back on the Griffith Observatory’s front lawn. You can also peer through telescopes and explore more than 60 space-oriented exhibits.
Be sure to check out my website Take The Leap Travel for more information and travel advice as well as my Instagram @explorewithlee and @taketheleaptravel.
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