California Part IV: Los Angeles

We spent the final leg of our trip in the Los Angeles area, after arriving in Santa Monica on Wednesday afternoon. We were a bit travel weary after the long drive down the coast so we decided to stay put in the same hotel for the remainder of our trip – as opposed to moving around LA – and booked 3 nights at the Hotel Hollywood. To make the most of what time we had left, we chose to avoid the horrific LA traffic as much as possible and broke our visit to LA up into a few parts in some general areas: Santa Monica/Venice Beach, Hollywood and a slight detour to the Anaheim area to visit Disneyland.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach

Arriving in Santa Monica on Wednesday afternoon, we spent the rest of the day Wednesday exploring the Santa Monica pier and Venice Beach. As I’ve mentioned before, we are big into walking when we travel and enjoy traveling by foot as much as possible. So, after strolling the streets of Santa Monica, we walked the 3 miles into Venice Beach, stopping for a quick lunch at the infamous Komodo to sample the one and only Phorrito. I’ve actually never had Pho (blasephemy, I know, as an experienced traveler and food lover), so I didn’t really have anything to compare this interesting fusion of Mexican and Vietnamese cuisine to, but overall found it to be pretty delicious (but I’m not quite sure worth the hype)…

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Arriving in Venice Beach we walked the boardwalk, which I found to be be way more entertaining than the Santa Monica boardwalk, as it was bustling with fun beach shops, restaurants, and street performers and artists. We shopped and people watched and stopped for cocktails (and an iced tea for me) before taking the beach path back to the Santa Monica pier. We capped off the evening with a late night dinner at ????, before collapsing at our hotel in Hollywood – it was probably the longest day of the trip, considering it began before sunrise in Lucia but we saw A LOT.

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Venice Beach
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Santa Monica

Disneyland

No rest for the weary, as the very next morning we woke early to head to Disneyland. We debated back and forth about squeezing this into our trip, but ultimately decided to go and I’m super glad we did as it was an awesome day. Paul is a HUGE Walt Disney fan – not necessarily a Disney parks fan – but a big admirer of the man himself. He’s read multiple biographies and is pretty much a textbook of knowledge of all things Walt Disney, so he was really pushing to see the place where it all began. Me? My family are huge Disney fans as well, and I’ve visited Disney World Florida probably close to 20 times since childhood, so I agreed it would be fun to see the original park. Plus my brother Nick, the biggest fan of us all, needed a firsthand account and so we went! We still had our rental car at this point and drove about an hour from our hotel to Disneyland – my first impression? WAY smaller than Disney Florida (obviously, but still, I’m so used to the other parks, this came as a bit of a surprise). Overall though, I actually liked the smaller park, as it made our day way more manageable. We went on an off peak day (the Thursday one week before Thanksgiving) and the crowds were small, allowing us to get on quite a few rides quickly in the morning. In fact, we really never waited more than a half hour for any ride throughout the day – it helped that we avoided the biggest attractions (like Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain railroad, etc) since I couldn’t ride them anyway. But between our limited ride selection and the smaller/less crowded park, we were able to see almost everything in one day. This allowed for less planning as well, as we frequently just criss-crossed the park to new rides, as opposed to staying in one general area – the Disney app came in super handy, allowing us to check ride wait times virtually and plan accordingly. Paul was impressed and appreciated the history of the place, and it was a fun and unique experience for me to see a different side of Disney!

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Hollywood

We spent most of Friday and Saturday exploring the Hollywood and neighboring areas of LA. Friday morning began with an early walk to grab breakfast at the famous Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. On our way, at the notable intersection of Hollywood and Vine, we actually passed directly next to Morgan Freeman filming on the side of the street! Needless to say we were excited about this super celebrity sighting – the set up was pretty low key, just him and a small camera crew, and we could have easily stopped to talk or take pictures with him, as there weren’t even any other bystanders crowding around them – but we felt the need to respect his privacy and work and continue on our way without any interruptions. After an amazing, but incredibly filling experience with chicken and waffles, we spent the rest of the afternoon touring through Hollywood and visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theater, the Hollywood museum and finished with a tour through Paramount Studios.

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Hollywood museum – original set from Silence of the Lambs
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Hollywood museum – Original ruby slippers
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Morgan Freeman Sighting at Hollywood & Vine!

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TCL Chinese Theater
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Paramount Studios Tour

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Paramount Studios Prop Rooom

To continue honoring Walt Disney, Paul picked dinner at a restaurant called the Tam O’Shanter, famously a favorite spot of the man himself when he owned the Disney studios in Burbank. One of LA’s oldest restaurants, the Tam O’ Shanter ended up being one of our most enjoyable dining experiences of the entire trip – the food was fantastic, the atmosphere rustic and reminiscent of an authentic Scottish pub. After dinner we headed to the Griffith Park Observatory for sunset and night photos.

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Not the best photo, but legend has it Walt Disney drew inspiration from this restaurant when he created the seven dwarfs cottage in Snow White
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Walt Disney’s regular table at the Tam O’ Shanter
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Griffith Observatory

Saturday ended our trip with a late flight home from Los Angeles International Airport, but not until we squeezed in every last bit of sightseeing! We allowed for a late start (FINALLY) and left our hotel late morning, headed to a final meal at Phillipe’s the Original for their famous french dip sandwich. Another LA favorite, this simple but delicious sandwich was a perfect final meal, and afterwards we headed to Angel’s Point for a view of Dodger Stadium.

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And with a quick detour for one last Ghiradelli ice cream (because this prego couldn’t resist) we finished our whirlwhind trip through the great state of California. All in all it was a fantastic trip, we saw SO MUCH and made great memories – it was exhausting at times, and we were always on the go, but we made the most of our time, had the freedom to go and see anything we wanted and found unexpected hidden gems along the way. California, you are a beautiful state, and after now 2 trips I’ve still only barely scratched the surface – we will return some day!

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