LA is a study of contrasts, it blew my mind to see how diverse and interesting it was and completely contrary to common perceptions. Also, Los Angeles is freakin' huge. Like, enormous. I'm one of those people who loves hopping off a plane and wandering around the streets to orient myself and to get a proper taste of the local culture. I also love catching public transport or walking/riding a bike around if that's an option.
It doesn't quite work like that in LA, but there are other perks.
Your new best friend will be Uber and Uber like you have never seen it before (...for us Aussies anyway!) Uber in the States has a "carpool" option that is around half the price of an UberX (one all to yourself.) Basically it means that you may share your Uber with someone else, which is cool for meeting new people and those on a budget. For those who are in a hurry or like the privacy of their own Uber, go with the UberX.
Also, everything you've heard about the bad traffic in LA isn't even close to the truth, its worse.
If you can avoid travelling in peak times, do. The distance between Downtown LA and West Hollywood is about 9 miles (14kms) and Downtown LA to Santa Monica is 15 miles (24kms), but if you travel at the wrong time, those trips can take you in excess of an hour. Plan ahead where you can, it can add some extra time into your trip.
There is so much to do in LA but I've left out the full day activities like Universal Studios, Disneyland and a lot of other fun stuff. This list is only a taste of LA but you will be left wanting more. So here's my must do things in 48 hours in the City of Angels.
Brunch and sun in Venice Beach
Let's be real, a trip to Los Angeles would not be complete without brunching at a super trendy Californian cafe. The Butcher’s Daughter definitely ticks that box, it is a super adorable cafe in the middle of Abbot Kinney, which nods to the cruisy, coastal vibe in the area. The acai bowl with the housemade buckwheat and coconut granola was our pick of choice, along with a Mexican cacao elixir because it was a bit chilly, otherwise there are loads of fresh juices and smoothies on offer as well for those warmer mornings.
From there, stroll down (or grab an Uber) to Venice Beach where you get to see all the craziness and gorgeous views that so encapsulates LA. Walk to the corner of Pacific and Windward Avenues and grab a cheesy snap of the Venice Sign. Or just have a laugh at everyone sprinting out into the middle of the intersection when the lights are on red, just to get a snap. (Guilty!) There are loads of amazing eats around this area too. We opted for a smoothie bowl from a beachfront vendor... delicious!
Check out the art scene, the tourist shops, watch the muscle men work out or just people watch in the sunshine. I definitely recommend hiring a bike and riding up along the beach, it's about $7USD per hour to hire a bike and its your cheapest and easiest way of getting around. And did I mention that it also has a basket on the front where you can put your purchases from the quirky shops along the way? Winning! You can cruise the 3 miles (5km) down to Santa Monica pier and have a look at the famous Santa Monica Pier and all its rides too while you're there.
Catch the sunset atop the ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica is the end of Route 66 and a gorgeous little seaside suburb to boot. A few streets back from the water is a 3 block shopping street that is closed to cars which you can wander along, look through the shops or grab a bite to eat. (We hit up Johnny Rocket's for a vegan burger, onion rings and a coke - because it's America and we had to try some form of takeaway!) But the real attraction is the famous Santa Monica Pier, down by the water. It has amusement park rides, traditional fair type food and gorgeous views over the beach. Its fun to see by day or by night but sunsets are gorgeous to watch from there.
Get Mexican food from Gracias Madre
With it's close proximity to Mexico (it's only 2 hours drive to Tijuana) it is no wonder that LA has some of the best Mexican food going round. Most places have a few good Mexican options on their menu, but for a place that will blow your mind, hit up Gracias Madre in West Hollywood. Super cute vibes that make you feel if you are on an episode of The Hills and delicious vegan Mexican fare that will leave you drooling. Be warned - the Americans are very liberal with their alcohol pouring, so a cheeky cocktail or two at lunch could leave your stumbling out of there!
Tick off the Hollywood sign, Walk of Fame and West Hollywood.
All these are in relatively close proximity to each other, in LA relative terms. The Walk of Fame is indeed dotted with stars on the pavement, tourist shops a-plenty and a few things to gawk at, like the famous Roosevelt Hotel and you can see where the Emmy's are held each year. Yes, it is completely cheesy, touristy and pretty dirty, it can be knocked over in less than half an hour, but it's still worth seeing.
The Hollywood Sign is visible for miles around Hollywood, so you don't have to make the hike up there if you don't have time. Otherwise head to Griffith Park Observatory which has free admission and telescopes if you want a close up look. Check the Observatory for opening hours though as they are closed on Mondays and some Tuesdays. Double points if you catch a sunset at the Observatory.
Pretend you're in Pretty Woman as you stroll down Rodeo Drive
Granted, you may not have the cash to splurge at some of these places, but you have to see Rodeo Drive to believe it. You feel as if you are straight out of a movie and you may even spot a celeb (one of our friends snapped JLo shopping when we were there!)
Catch a game
If you time it just right, you may be able to sneak in a game of baseball or NBA, depending on the time of year. Visit the iconic Dodger Stadium and have a beer or try and grab tickets to see the Lakers or Clippers at the Staples Centre.
I know, I know, we've barely scratched the surface, but I guarantee all these activities make for an awesome taste of LA. Feel like you want more? You're not alone. Guess we'll just have to book another trip back, amirite?