I decided to take a break from my Iceland blog to bring you something that is close to my heart, must-see things to do in Los Angeles!
I lived in LA for a while a few years ago, and while I didn't actually get to explore it as much as I would have liked to (due to time constraints with the program I was taking), I still managed to get out and see as much as I could ;-)
Santa Monica is well worth the visit, the beach, the pier, the promenade, the entire area!
Venice Beach is a must see and it's totally worth checking out the Venice Beach Freakshow!
Santa Monica and Venice Beach are right next to each other, and the walk between the two is worth it and a great way to spend an afternoon or evening! (but not too late in the evening as it does get a bit sketchy at night heh)
Malibu is a gorgeous beach if you want to drive further up north and get away from some of the crowds. It's also a great place to people watch!
The Grove is a really nice open air shopping mall area - it's especially beautiful around Christmas when they have a giant decorated Christmas tree in the center! There's also a little trolley that goes through it, a dancing fountain, and a movie theater.
Rodeo Drive is fun to wander around and people watch (but don't expect to buy anything there except maybe a cupcake unless you have tens of thousands of dollars to drop on an outfit heh).
Point Dume Village in Malibu is another open air shopping area - it's not as big as the Grove but it's across the street from the beach!
Melrose Ave is a great place for window shopping! Used to be a great place to find cheap vintage however it has changed quite a bit over the years.
Beverly Center is a large indoor mall with over 100 stores. Lots of self-parking and valet parking available - rates here.
LACMA - a great art museum with frequently changing exhibitions. Cost ranges from free to $15 depending on your age, whether or not you are a student (with student ID), or if you are a LACMA member. While you're there you should walk over and check out the La Brea Tar Pits (although don't go out of your way to visit this, it's only worth the stop if you're already in the area).
Getty Museum - the grounds alone are worth the visit, the entire building is made of imported marble and the gardens are amazing! It's free to visit but parking is not heh.
Getty Villa - they've recreated an ancient Roman villa from Herculaneum, Italy. It's also free to visit, but you must have an advance ticket, and if you bring a car you have to pay for parking.
Griffith Observatory is a great place to go check out the stars and the sky! There's a planetarium, telescopes, a bunch of exhibits, the location is amazing, and best of all, it's free! Not open Mondays, and parking can be a pain. As of March 2017 you can avoid the hassle of parking by taking the bus to and from the Observatory.
SADLY THIS IS NOW CLOSED :'( Doughboys (WAS) a MUST if you like Red Velvet Cake. They have THE best Red Velvet Cake I have ever had! And the food is pretty good too - they do a mean breakfast/brunch!
TOT Restaurant in Little Tokyo has some great sushi and other eats and is very fairly priced.
Masa of Echo Park makes a wicked pizza!
Botega Louis is a great Italian restaurant downtown! Their food is absolutely amazing! They have some delicious desserts as well, including house-made macaroons!
Little Tokyo is fun to wander around - there's good shopping, and art, and a couple of Japanese Gardens to be found, plus there's some great eats in the area!
Hollywood is totally overrated (IMO) but those open-air tour buses that go through there can be fun and a decent way to get a feel for the city.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is neat, and they do movies there once a week (although I'm not sure if this is only a summer thing or if they offer it year round).
The coastal drive between LA and SF is gorgeous but is closed in at least two sections at the moment, due to a buckling bridge in one spot and a landslide in another, and won't be re-opened anytime in the near future.
I love Santa Barbara, it's a cute little coastal city a couple hours north of LA. It's a great place to wander around, there's a ton of cute shops, and there's even a dog-friendly beach!
There are a ton of great hiking spots in and around LA, ranging from easy beginner hikes to intense and difficulty ones.
Solstice Canyon is a good one located in the hills by Malibu, it takes a couple of hours round trip and there's a small waterfall partway through.
Griffith Park is a great place to go for a hike and it's fairly central, and there's lots of trails to check out.
Bridge to Nowhere is a good one but bring lots of water and snacks, it's about 10 miles and around 7 or so hours round trip. We totally got lost on the way out so bring a flashlight too just in case heh. Or pay more attention to your surroundings than we did lol, we lost the path at one point so followed the river down to near where the parking lot is, and managed to arrive back at our vehicle as darkness fell around us - we were lucky we didn't have to find somewhere safe to stay overnight!
There are AirBnB's to be found everywhere and they can be cheaper than a hotel - but book early if you want your choice pick of location or your top picks might be taken already. Couchsurfing is a great and free way to see the city and meet some locals! Booking is a great site for finding hotels and has some awesome search options!
Bringing or renting a car is pretty much a must, the entire city is one giant urban sprawl and it takes forever to get anywhere. Although a couple of times I've visited I've used a combination of the metro, Uber, the airport shuttle, and/or FlyAway (the bus to and from the airport) when I've visited *if* I was staying right next to a metro stop.