“Here’s to the ones who dream”La La Land
One summer, I was lucky to be on a project for work in the lovely California. I had the opportunity to stay the weekend to explore LA rather than going home, so naturally I did! I highly recommend taking advantage of any work trips and extending a few days if you can!
Exploring LA will require a rental car to get around town. Personally living in Houston, I have experienced my fair share of traffic, but LA takes the cake on this one so remember to take the LA traffic into account as several of the following activities are located across the metro area. Then comes parking your car once you finally arrived.. which is also pretty limited. I was able to find various street parking spots that were free of charge when visiting nearly half the locations on the list, which saved me a decent amount of money I didn’t have to waste on silly parking (LA is proud of their parking). While LA’s transportation can be tricky, don’t let that stop you from getting out and exploring this happenin’ city!
Now let’s get into things to do for an incredible weekend in Los Angeles:
1. The Grove & Original Farmer’s Market
The Grove is a young and hip outdoor shopping center, fancy shops, great fine dining, outdoor movies, a dancing water fountain and great people watching can be found here!
2. Urban Lights
I immediately think of the movie Friends with Benefits where Ashton Kutcher takes his lady on a “date” and the Urban Lights is on the itinerary. This art installation consists of 16 different lamps totaling to 202 lamps all from the 1920s and 1930s that once lit the SoCal area. Pretty neat huh? Make sure to check out this free insta worthy spot!
3. The Annenberg Space for Photography
I stumbled upon this is a smaller and underrated museum in LA since it was within walking distance to my hotel in Beverly Hills and included photography! I explored the The Annenberg Space for Photography which features historic photos defining American history from the Library of Congress. In addition to the short video they had describing the timeline and purpose of the Library of Congress, they had an interactive area where you could conduct interviews, tell your story and truly be a part of American history. I highly recommend this hidden gem because it is very interesting to see how photography has impacted how we view America and gets you thinking even while you may think you’re on vacation mode.
Look at all these adorable cameras!!
4. Grand Central Market
If you want to make your tummy very happy, head to downtown L.A. to experience the neon-lit food heaven! With so many options to pick from including the famous Egg Slut, Italian, Mediterranean, local market to get fresh meat and produce, endless tempting desserts, American, Asian, you name it they probably have the type of food you are craving! I had a difficult time deciding between so many smells and cravings, but I finally decided to eat at a place called Sticky Rice. I got this flavorful shrimp and fried rice that came with the right portion of vegetables to balance the dish. I finished the entire thing minus a few rice grains and took a minute to enjoy the incredible people-watching scene. For parking, there is plenty surrounding the area plus street parking is also an option!
5. Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Gardens
The 120 acre gardens features a library for scholars and art galleries a well, this stop has something for everyone especially if you have a green thumb. You’ll probably recognize this location if you’ve seen the Wedding Planner via this spot:
I happened upon a free walking tour when I showed up, which I recommend you arriving early so you get a decent parking spot. I arrived around 10am when they open and there were already so many people already there! I went on this very informative walking tour through several different “zones” from desert to tropical to a Japanese garden, they have it all! Enjoy exploring this jungle of plants and art for as long or as short as you may like, but I would recommend at least 2-3 hours to roam.
YUM! I was been craving Mediterranean food a lot on this trip and yelp steered me in the right direction to the adorable Sotta. It was conveniently located near Warner Brothers Tour, which was a pick part in why I picked this place. I ordered the vegetarian plate which came with more than enough food (definitely split this if you aren’t traveling solo) and it was so yummy! From the tomato soup to the perfectly grilled veggies, it was a nice light ish option to have while out and about. Plus, the vibe of the restaurant was chill with an elegant touch and the service was great, everyone was so kind!
7. Warner Bros Studio Tour
I’m sure you just imagined the classic WB logo that appears before many of your favorite movies or TV shows, didn’t you? Well there’s a reason you did which is a great reason you should go on a tour at Warner Brothers! I went on the Studio Tour, which covers everything from sound rooms, the Batman cars, Friends, Harry Potter, the props room, great insight into countless movies and shows. I personally really enjoyed this tour thanks to my hilarious guide with an insane amount of WB knowledge. I visited on the weekend because I have a full time job, which also means that most production is not running on the weekend aka less famous actors and actresses running around the back lot. I enjoyed the weekend tour because you are able to see more of the back lot since most of the areas are not in use. But sadly, that means Ellen was not there and I didn’t get to go to her show (one day though!).
The tour ends with a practice tapping of friends and the option to take a picture at the iconic, Central Perk coffee shop from friends. This tour was a 3+ hour tour and very worth the money in my opinion (about $60 per person). Make sure you book ahead of time to get the time that works best with your schedule! For parking, don’t pay $12 for parking! Just park literally right across the street from where you turn in to the parking garage and you just saved yourself $12 to use on food or other activities!
8. Griffith Observatory
Probably one of my favorite spots on this trip and a must-see when you go to Los Angeles, California. You get a great view of the entire metro area, the Hollywood sign, the sunset (which is amazing by the way), you can hike, see Venus through a big fancy telescope, learn about astronomy and soak all of LA in! Parking can be a little tricky, but ride it all the way to the top of the mountain and pray someone is leaving when you get there (if not just take a few laps to avoid parallel parking on the mountainside) for $3-4/hour. I recommend grabbing dinner to go and enjoy them on the lawn out front at the Observatory. Sit and relax after a long day and enjoy your food and the amazing LA people watching. Then take a hike or some photos, simply explore the observatory doing whatever interests you most! After wandering around the area, go find a good spot to witness an unforgettable sunset and watch the city light up by nightfall!
9. Local – Sweat by Kelsey Wells Bootcamp
You’ve probably heard of the app, Sweat by Kayla, with easy-to-follow workouts at the gym or at home. Well, Kayla is one of three women who have workouts on the app, another being Kelsey Wells (who yes I follow on Instagram) and saw she was having a FREE boot camp workout sesh the same weekend I was planning on visiting LA! So naturally, I signed up and went to get my sweat on! This was actually one of her first live boot camps and she kicked my rear, then kindly met everyone after the workout AND gave everyone free goodies (thank you again!).
10. Beverly Hills (Kreation & Rodeo Drive)
I stayed in the Beverly Hills area and had some time to kill before meeting some of my family that Sunday afternoon, so I explored the famous Beverly Hills area for a bit. My main goal was to find food because everyone loves food! I was inspired by the LA fit folks and honestly wanted something healthy because eating out all the time makes my tummy not so happy. Kreation is a smoothie and juice shop in the heart of Beverly Hills! I got this Purple Passion per recommendation with a paper straw and enjoyed it outside, where they had samples of their juices… which lead me to then buy a juice to go. A very LA thing happened while I was drinking my smoothie next to some girls with Barney’s bags and a bandage over one of the girl’s noses, very fitting I’d say. Once I finished my yum smoothie, I walked over to the famous Rodeo Drive to remind myself of all the expensive things I’ll probably never buy and for great for people watching! p.s. there is free parking at some garages in the area for a few hours!
11. Venice (Beach & Canals)
I met up with some of my family who lives out in the LA area at the famous Venice Canals, where my cousin’s daughter was having her bridging ceremony to graduate from a brownie to a girl scout! It was so cute to see a busy day in their life where we then journeyed over to Venice Beach for a potluck picnic! This day was wild at the beach just as the parking nightmare was also a mad house (I parked over half a mile away where I then carried part of a watermelon to contribute to the picnic). Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and it was so great to catch up with my family that I don’t get to see that often. We then headed back to their house to chill out, relax, play games and continue to catch up.
12. Manhattan Beach
I actually stopped by Manhattan Beach on my way to LA from the OC (Orange County) area because I love being by the water and honestly just being outdoors. Manhattan Beach is famous for its love of Sand Volleyball, so you’ll find endless courts up and down the beach. If volleyball isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do, you can always enjoy a walk on the beach or do two of my favorite things, people watch and take some photos like I did:
Bonus – 13. Laguna Beach
Here are a few shots from the brief time I spent at the famous Laguna Beach (s/o to The Hills). I convinced my work team we should go to this beach after work one day a few weeks earlier, where we barely made it for sunset and then a mountain kinda got in the way… oops. Nonetheless, it was a nice beach and so refreshing after a long day at work!
A few items still on the Bucket List for the LA area:
- Visiting the end of route 66 in Santa Monica
- Check out more hikes
- Enjoy more ramen and noodles
- And the list continues to grow
The Los Angeles area is HUGE, it’s hoppin’, it is filled with traffic as well as many activities to do and places to see! I highly recommend a weekend trip or even a little longer to explore the area! I so happy that my work allowed me to stay the weekend to see family and have some solo experiences in the LA area. I hope this inspires you to take that weekend trip, come out to Cali, go solo, and live your life to the fullest in whatever way you please.