I moved to the LA area for a job, and when I got here I went straight to the most touristy things you can do. I drove across country, and my last leg was from Phoenix to West Hollywood, where I stayed an evening in an AirBnb. I got in on a Friday, so naturally one of the busiest times to be in the area. The check-in time wasn’t until after 6pm, but I got to the place around noon.
So I found street parking (which was difficult, but as I’ve learned since living here, is very valuable), and ordered a Lyft to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I didn’t really have a plan when I went. I asked my driver what she liked to do in LA, and her answer was Manhattan Beach. It’s southwest of LA, and she said it’s less crowded and cleaner than most other LA beaches. Then she dropped me off at the corner of two streets that did not include the signs of Hollywood Blvd. So, I whipped out my phone gps and found my way there, and luckily it was only a block away. You’ll come to find in the area that ride services do not like to drop people off directly on those streets because they get stuck there (unless they can quickly pick up a new rider) and are super congested.
What I’ve also come to find after the visit is that you should do your research before hand if you’re looking for a specific star. This page can help you with that. Just scroll down and enter a star’s name in the box. When I went, I was just looking at the ground the entire time hoping someone I liked enough to stop and take a picture, would fall in my path. There were so many people there, it was even hard to walk and look down. And at the same time, there are the typical store/event hustlers who are trying to get your attention to come inside their shop or ride on their See The Stars tour bus. So be prepared if you really want that special photo of a star on the ground.
I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. There is a McDonald’s on Hollywood Blvd., and I attempted to go there, but it was a mad house. I did run into a power ranger in line for food, which was my first encounter with the typical stereotype of the area. Instead I kept walking and saw the Dolby Theater (you can get a picture of the whole thing from across the street better than standing directly in front of it), the TCL Chinese Theater, and where they have the Jimmy Kimmel Show. They’re all relatively close.
There is also a Starbucks right there too, with a big open area in front of it where you can find Bumble Bee from Transformers, Spiderman, and various other costumed people posing for photo ops. Some of them do charge/expect tips, so know that prior to posing. That’s when I saw the Madame Tussauds Hollywood building. Not to be confused with the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum or the Hollywood Wax Museum, as they are different. I did not go in the other two, but I can speak for the one I went to, which was so much fun!
Again, since I hadn’t planned anything, I walked in off the street and had to pay full price of $30.95. Now having done my research, do the Saver Admission price of $24.99 by ordering in advance online if you’re only going for the day. If you can wait until after 6pm, that price goes down to $19.99. That’s cheaper than going to see a movie with popcorn and a drink. So to me, that’s fairly inexpensive for the experience you get inside. The other thing I would recommend if you live in the area and plan on going back, get the annual pass online for only $30.00. One of the nice perks is if you bring a friend who is visiting from out of town who wants the full cliche Hollywood experience, your pass gets them 30% of their ticket. The other ticket options include a wax hand. It’s nothing special, and I wouldn’t waste my money on it. Plus you have to wait in a long line. You can see more ticket information here.
So what did I see inside? Well first, they have a relatively clean restroom (for Hollywood Blvd.) right after you walk in the entrance, so that was a perk. Then you go onto an elevator that takes you up to the third floor. When the doors open, you’re instantly in the world of celebrities, but as one yourself because there’s a wax mannequin of a paparazzi standing directly in front of you as you walk out. There is blaring music that makes you feel like you’re in a club, and as you turn left, you notice there are “celebrities” posing for you to take fun photos with. As you continue through the building, you see stars ranging from Bruce Willis to John Wayne to Beyonce to Iron Man. Some of the set-ups include props for you to try on as well. Since I was by myself, I took a lot of selfies including the celebrity in the background. Get creative with your poses, and don’t be embarrassed because everybody’s there for the same reason.
As the tour ends, you literally walk into the gift shop, which empties out into the big open area I talked about before. However, it wasn’t empty like before. There were tons of tourists lining the edge, and in the center were about 30 teenage dancers doing a performance with music over some sound system. I found an empty seat at a Starbucks table outside and watched since I could barely move anyway. While I was watching, Superman came out of the Starbucks and sat next to me. When the show was over, it was announced that the dance troupe was from Australia. I leaned over to Superman and asked him what his favorite thing to do in LA is, trying to get an idea of what I should see or do. He said, “Make people happy.” Not really the answer I was looking for, but okay Clark.
I got a Lyft back to the AirBnb to check in, and changed clothes because while it was hot during my daytime explorations, it got colder as the evening went on. Mind you, this occurred in April as well, so if you did this in July or August, you wouldn’t need to change. That Lyft driver didn’t speak much English, so he couldn’t answer my ‘what do you like to do in LA’ question.
Then I got another Lyft to the Griffith Observatory. I highly recommend getting a ride there versus driving yourself, unless you go early in the day. This is because when you get there, you’re at the bottom of the mountain, and to get to the observatory at the top of the mountain, you take long winding roads. Keep in mind, I went on a Friday around 6:00pm, so prime traffic/tourist time. Cars were jam packed all the way leading up there. Parking was very scarce, and if you could find it, you had quite the hike to get to building. Some people got impatient and parked and then had to hike about 1-3 miles uphill to get there. It took an hour to get from the bottom to the top in my ride. He answered my LA question by saying he likes to travel around the state a lot. We didn’t really talk much besides that, but instead listened to music. I occasionally thought about hoping out and just walking, but what was the point when the cars were going only one way and we had to drive up there anyway. Might as well sit in AC and enjoy the view.
When I finally got there, it was beautiful. Even just the building itself is iconic. It was sunset and you could briefly see the Hollywood sign to your right. Once night hit, you couldn’t see it anymore for pictures. I thought they lit it up, but it didn’t seem like it. So take the pictures while the sun’s still out. There’s also a random bust of James Dean up there. On the lawn, there were telescopes set up by the scientist people standing right next to them, and they would give you facts about what you were looking at. They each picked something different to look at, so you could pop around to different ones and see different things. Just don’t touch them because they’re set.
Go inside before adventuring around the outside of the building. I only recommend this because you can buy a ticket for the Samuel Oschin Planetarium’s next showing. While you’re waiting in line, look up at the ceiling. It’s pretty spectacular (the picture doesn’t do it justice). When I arrived to the counter, I got a ticket for the last viewing of the evening at 8:45pm (keep in mind the whole place closes at 10:00pm). It’s $7 for adults, but they have other rates for kids, students, and seniors. Be sure to get in line early because the seats fill up fast. When I took my seat, I was next to a family who have been in LA for 40 years, and this was their first time at the Griffith Observatory. They commended me for moving on my own and doing this on my first day.
I didn’t realize until later research, there are different show options. The one I saw was called “Centered in the Universe,” and it was really great. It described how the stars have impacted human life and the universe. The entire thing is narrated as well by a man in the room with you, not via a recording. The others can be found on their website here. I highly recommend seeing any show because the projection is well worth it.
Some readers may relate the Observatory to playing GTA5, while others may relate it to various movies its been featured in like the most recent, La La Land. I asked the information desk lady how they can film there if it’s always so crowded. She told me they had the place shut down on a Tuesday in the daytime. So if you’re looking to come on a slow day, Tuesday’s are your best bet according to the source.
Also at the information desk, you’ll find the schedule for the Tesla Coil. If you’re planning ahead on what to see at what times, click here for all programing. Know that the Tesla Coil doesn’t have much standing room around it to see it, so again, try to go a little early to see it. Before heading outside, I found my way to the gift shop. It has some pretty fun star/galaxy stuff to nerd out over. I did end up getting a baseball T that says “I Need My Space” under the Nasa logo. It was average price for a touristy shirt.
Next was exploring the outside of the building. You can take narrow paths to the top where you’ll find the Zeiss Refracting Telescope. There was a huge line for that, so I didn’t wait. Instead I just took in the expansive views of LA at night. Definitely a site worth seeing. When I had seen everything I could, I tried to hail a Lyft. Know that there is terrible cell phone reception up there (maybe it’s just AT&T). I literally had to stand in a certain spot to make sure I could have even LTE or 4G to be able to connect to my app.
Once my ride arrived, I headed to my last well-known destination for the day, Pinks Hot Dogs. I got there around 10pm, and the line was relatively short. I believe I only waited about 10 minutes. When you get up to order, it’s a line like Chipotle. You can order from the menu or simply say what you want on your dog. As you go through they ask about sides and drinks. If you want to be prepared, click here for the menu because it can be a little overwhelming with options in person. I got a dog with sauerkraut, onions, and mustard with a side of chili cheese fries. As you can see in the picture, you may want to ask for light on the chili because they smother it.
After all of that, I got my final Lyft back to my AirBnb around 11:00pm. I asked that driver the same question as the others, what do you like to do around LA? He said museums. He is a fan of the La Brea Tar Pits one and LACMA is right next door. So he solidified my plans for day #2 in my new hometown.