If you’re planning your first visit to Los Angeles, California, you must be super-excited about taking your first step into Hollywood, getting your first In N’ Out Burger, taking your new profile picture in Santa Monica Beach, instagramming your encounter with a celebrity and theme-park hopping.
To help you plan your trip a little better, here’s what you need to know about Los Angeles:
1. Disneyland California Is Not In Los Angeles.
Well you are correct about flying into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) if you’re coming from out of town – so don’t change your flight just yet.
Disneyland is located in the heart of Anaheim, Orange County, 35 miles / 56.4 kms from LAX and Central LA which is about a 45-minute to a 1-hour drive (with no traffic, I repeat, with no traffic).
If you’re planning to visit Disneyland and also wanting to explore Los Angeles, it is probably best to stay in the Los Angeles area instead of staying in Anaheim, because other than Disneyland there’s not really much going on in Anaheim (for real). Plan a day trip to Anaheim from Los Angeles instead. Unless you want to try experience staying in Disneyland Resort (you know, for the kids).
2. Exciting Studio Tours other than Universal Studios
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood (photo: Mercury News)
While we’re on the subject of Theme Parks, Universal Studios Hollywood (located in Burbank – only 15 mins from Central LA) has one of the best Studio Tours inside their theme park – you can’t experience this in any other Universal Studios other than the one in Hollywood (not even Singapore or Orlando) – because these are the actual Studios where they film a gazillion movies and TV shows – I can tell you it is HUGE (Trump style).
And of course one of their main attractions right now is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that just recently opened.
Central Perk from the set of FRIENDS, part of the Warner Brothers Studio Tour
If you’re not a big fan of theme parks (like me – surprise!) but a fan of films/tv shows or just want to experience the magic of filmmaking, there are other Studio Tours in LA that are equally exciting (and much cheaper than getting a ticket to Universal Studios).
The best one I’ve experienced is the Warner Brothers Studio Tour (children under 8 years old are not allowed) where they take you to actual film and TV sets that will look very very familiar to you. You might also bump into your favorite celebrity who are currently filming on set.
3. Downtown LA Is Not What You Think
Downtown Los Angeles (photo: Reddit)
In a lot of major cities in the US and the world, downtown is usually where all the action happens not just for businesses but also for tourists (food & shopping).
But for LA it’s a slightly different case, Downtown LA (DTLA) is certainly one of the busiest CBDs (Central Business District) I’ve ever been in but it is probably more suitable for business travelers.
Even though DTLA certainly has its’ own charms with its’ vibrant restaurants and other attractions – The Broad Museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Arts District, OUE Skyspace (opening this Summer) – but if you’re in LA for a holiday (or as Americans call it – vacation), staying in Downtown LA is probably not the best choice because it won’t be as attractive for tourists as it is for business travelers – best bet you’ll be much better off staying in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood or Santa Monica neighborhoods.
4. Santa Monica Beach Secret Spots
Santa Monica Pier (photo: Myriad Expressions)
If it’s your first time in LA yes you have to at least visit Santa Monica Pier once (which should be enough), but expect big crowds and a lot of hecticness.
If you got this ticked and want to relax by the beach, do not settle for the beaches around the pier…. it’s gross and crazily packed.
Instead head a little further South towards Perri’s Cafe on Barnard Way (put down Barnard Way, Santa Monica on your GPS / Google Map) where it is less crowded, much cleaner, you can hang around the locals and you can also rent bikes to ride along the beach, all the way to Venice Beach.
5. There are Absolutely Great Coffees in LA
Alfred Coffee In The Alley. 8509 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood (photo credit: westhollywooddesigndistrict.com)
My first two visits as a tourist in LA I discovered that there were no such thing as good coffee in this town. The main coffee they serve in almost every restaurant is an Americano (black coffee or we call it Long Black in Australia) and lattes are not exactly as common as it is in Down Under. And yet after being an LA resident, it turns out I was completely wrong because I just didn’t know where to find them.Now let’s hope you won’t make the same mistake I did – Top 5 Coffee Spots in LA.
6. Alfresco Dining is Hip
Left to Right: Zinque, Sycamore Kitchen, Gracias Madre, Alcove Cafe & Bakery
Just in case you haven’t heard, LA currently has the best weather in United States – the sun is out (almost) everyday, the temperature is perfect (almost) everyday with an average temperature of 65 to 85 Fahrenheit or 18 to 29 Celsius daily.
When it rains it is considered an anomaly. Restaurants & Cafes with alfresco dining are generally packed (with all the beautiful struggling actors and other entertainers who have made it) especially during the brunch weekend.Places with alfresco dining worth checking out:
- Alcove Cafe & Bakery, 1929 Hillhurst Ave Los Angeles
- Gracias Madre, 8905 Melrose Ave West Hollywood
- Estrella, 8800 Sunset Blvd West Hollywood
- Zinque, 8684 Melrose Ave West Hollywood
- Terrine, 8265 Beverly Blvd Los Angeles
- Sycamore Kitchen, 143 S La Brea Ave Los Angeles
- AOC, 8700 W 3rd St Los Angeles
7. Angelenos Act Normal Around Celebrities
Kendall Jenner outside of Alfred Coffee, West Hollywood
Remember that Hollywood celebrities are just regular people (without their make-up and Bentleys), they also need to eat, shop for groceries and take their dogs to the vet. And no, they often do not look as glamorous as you see them on TV – you’d be very surprised how some celebs may look worse than you without make-up, although I have seen many who are just natural beauties in-person (life can be unfair sometimes).
It’s very common to bump into these “people” when you’re out getting coffee or at a car wash and even though people do check them out – most of the times people don’t even realize who they are only to think ‘that dude/ chick looks familiar’ (unless it’s one of the Kardashians, big chance paparazzi would be swarming around them already).
Angelenos are also quite subtle and hold a high pride because they never walk up to them and ask for a selfie – UNLESS you’re a tourist. So if you are a tourist, I’d say go for it – it’s not like you’re in LA everyday.
All in all Los Angeles will be totally worth the visit!!