Janet Lam-Graham

Los Angeles 🎨

The beginning and end stops of the West Coast USA road trip itinerary.

When you think of Los Angeles, it’s probably Hollywood, Venice beach, palm trees, sunshine and traffic jams that come to mind. LA is all of that and more. There’s a patchwork of ethnic neighbourhoods from Koreatown to Olvera Street. It’s a city bursting with art as graffiti and murals decorate corners of the city. There are also a range of museums and galleries from the spectacular Getty Center of art and architecture which overlooks the city to the quirky Museum of Death.

Where to stay

Days one to three
Orange Drive Hostel in Hollywood is a 12 room restored 1920s house, once a boarding home to film stars including Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. It’s located in a quiet residential street and of walking distance to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood walk of fame.

The hostel is also a five minute walk to Hollywood/Highland Station a stop on the red line LA metro. So it’s an ideal base for going to Universal Studios Hollywood, which is one stop away on the subway.  For the location it’s extremely affordable (under £100 a night on average). But don’t expect a luxurious experience, instead the hostel has a homely feel with private rooms and dorms, and shared and ensuite bathrooms. There’s a kitchen downstairs to help yourself to tea, coffee and free pancake mixture so you can make some pancakes or waffles for breakfast.

Returning to LA (Day twenty-six)
The end part of the West Coast USA road trip is a day and night in Los Angeles. Stay at the Sheraton Gateway LA Hotel. You can use the free hotel shuttle bus to get to the airport in time for your flight.

Day one

Do and see
There are Universal theme parks all round the world now. But the Hollywood one is the original. As well as many thrill rides at the park, it has the famous backlot studio tour. Allowing you to explore the working movie studio, film sets (e.g. Courthouse square of Back to the Future) and stage events (e.g. Jaws) whilst sitting in a multi-car tram.

If you’re organised you can experience the best parts of Universal Studios Hollywood in one day. The usual theme park visitor tactics apply:

  1. Try to go on a weekday to avoid bigger crowds at the weekend.
  2. Book your tickets online before you go to get any discounts.
  3. Get there early, preferably at opening time.
  4. Download the Universal Studios Hollywood app for maps, ride wait time and show alerts.
  5. Aim for the most popular rides first.
  6. Have an early or late lunch to avoid the queues at the eateries.

Eat and drink
Have a drink in the Duff beer garden of the Simpsons Springfield area of the Universal theme park. For lunch, go to the Three Broomsticks eatery of the Hogsmeade  Wizarding world of Harry Potter for canteen style British pub food. As you’d expect it’s set at relatively expensive theme park prices but the pies were quite decent quality.

You can get from the Orange Drive hostel to Universal studios using the LA metro. Walk to Hollywood/Highland station, buy your ticket in the form of a reusable TAP card, which you add value to using the vending machines at the station. Hop on to the red line train one stop to Universal city/Studio city. From there you can walk 14 minutes to the theme park. Or take a free multi-car tram, which you’ll see signs for when you get out the station.

Day two

Do and see
Make the most of your jet lag and go to Griffith observatory at sunrise. Then take take a hike to the Hollywood sign, use one of these trails. 

Get a taxi to downtown LA, exploring Grand Central Market, an iconic food hall with over 100 years of history. It contains 37 vendors selling prepared food, beer, coffee and groceries. Then go to The Broad, a contemporary art museum with free general admission. Returning back to the hostel using the Metro.

Eat and drink
Get coffee at G&B in Grand Central Market. For lunch or dinner go to Bottega Louie, an Italian restaurant, gourmet market, cafe and patisserie all rolled in to one. It gets top marks 💯 for the fancy decor, buzzy atmosphere and service. The food is nice, offering wood-fired pizzas, steak, small plates and pasta. But it’s nothing amazing, just a bit expensive for what you get. So if you’re on a budget consider going for a bite to eat in the cafe part of Bottega Louie. And later on getting a sandwich from Eggslut in Grand Central Market

Steak Frites at Bottega Louie

Day three

Do and see
Start your day with a 2-hour Paramount studio tour. It’s the longest running major studio in Hollywood producing blockbusters from the 1990s like Forest Gump and Titanic. You’ll get transported round a cart, going behind the scenes of a working studio, getting a look at the sets and props department.

After the tour finishes, wonder around the nearby Hollywood Forever Cemetery the final resting place for many film stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Aim to get back to Hollywood Boulevard in the afternoon, going down the Hollywood walk of fame.

Eat and drink
You can continue your Old Hollywood experience by going to Musso & Frank Grill for a late lunch/ early dinner. This restaurant been around since 1919 and serves Martinis, as well as the steakhouse classics. Then in the evening admire the forecourt entrance of (TCL) Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and watch a film in it’s IMAX auditorium.

When you return to LA (Day twenty six)

See and do
In the morning go to the Getty Center, once your there, get yourself on a 45-minute architecture tour for free. Then take a look at the European and American art collections in the museum and stroll around the gardens. Next, make your way to the Venice neighbourhood. Walk around the Venice Canal Historic District, then down to Venice beach. You can continue your walk or rent a bike on the Broadwalk (Venice Ocean Front Walk), people watching or looking at the street art and performers.

Eat and drink
See what all the fuss is about and go to In-N-Out Burger fast food joint. This chain is popular because it offers reasonably priced, better quality burgers with a fresher taste compared to it’s competitors. Try the animal style (burger of your choice, with a mustard cooked beef patty, extra spread, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and grilled onions) the most popular choice on the not so secret menu. Also the free yellow chillies are hotter than you’d think.