Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach

After one of my LA Lyft drivers told me her favorite thing to do on a day off was go to Manhattan Beach, I thought I should check it out. I also decided to check out all the major Beach Cities piers while I was at it since they’re not too far from each other.

There is a bike/running path that is 22 miles long and passes from the Redondo Beach Pier and extends through Hermosa and Manhattan Beach. While it continues all the way up to the Pacific Palisades, it too has a nickname from locals, The Strand. It’s technically not a boardwalk because it’s not made of wood, but outsiders sometimes refer to it as such.

When asking people which of the three beaches is their favorite, the response was practically unanimous that Manhattan Beach has the best sand. Now I’m from Charleston, South Carolina, which is also considered a beach town. At no point has anybody asked me when wondering which beach to go to in that area, “Well, which one has the best sand?” That really isn’t a factor in making that decision.

So naturally I needed to find out what the heck everybody was talking about. I started with Manhattan because it was the most northern of the three. I entered Manhattan Beach Pier in my GPS and it took me on Manhattan Beach Blvd, which leads you directly too the pier. Knowing that parking near the ocean is hard to come by, when I passed an area with parking signs, I followed them. There are two garages I’ve used. One is outdoor, multi-level, and painted green. The other is across the street from that one, and is underneath buildings. Both are run by meters, which you will take your credit card or change. The meters typically only go up to two hours at a time though, so you do have to go back to the meter to feed it if you are sticking around longer than that amount of time.

Then I headed down Manhattan Beach Blvd., which is lined with coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques. It’s also definitely a hill down to the pier. There is parking right off the pier, however every time I’ve been, it’s been full. The pier has teal railings with coral benches scattered throughout. At the end is a cafe with standing room only. On the other side of it is the Roundhouse Aquarium, but I honestly wouldn’t consider it a typical aquarium. It’s more like a room with some tanks of water and people to answer questions. I haven’t officially gone in it, but I have seen inside of it, it’s that small. They also don’t charge, but rather accept donations (They mention $2 an individual and $5 for a family). There is a shark sculpture that sits outside of the door that looks perfect for a photo opportunity, but they have signage letting you know not to climb on top of it. I’m always tempted.

I’ve gone to each pier by myself first, and then when guests come into town, I try to take them to the piers as well because they’re usually landlocked or want a nice way to see the ocean without getting in the water (so far I haven’t had summer guests who wanted to take a dip, but “winter” guests who are surprised when they touch the water and it’s freezing). I mention this because I also let them know there is a weird comparison that goes on in the area where people think the sand at Manhattan is the best. My visiting friend Natalie best described it through mashed potatoes. She said Manhattan is when you get nicely whipped, smooth mashed potatoes. We’ll come back to her analogy at each of the other beaches.

IMG_0415So after walking the pier and touching the sand, I went under the pier, which has a really simple structure. Many people take pictures underneath or beside it. Then it was time to head back to the car because I only put an hour on the meter. This is where you realize you parked uphill. It was easy going down on the way to the pier, and then it’s like you’ve never worked out a day in your life on the way back up.

Travel a few minutes down the road, and you’re in Hermosa. This has been described to me as the “young people beach.” At first I didn’t understand that description, but now I know it’s because of the night life. Manhattan is on the richer side, and is boutique-y. Hermosa is not as fancy, but it has a cool vibe to it. It’s definitely a hangout for 20-30-year-olds. The main area is blocked off from cars and has string lights going back and forth between the buildings. It’s lined with restaurants that feature bars, and every night of the week there are people enjoying the patio of each one.

Again, I walked on the pier and again I tested the sand. This pier had more benches than Manhattan, which is nice because each time I’ve gone, I’ve been able to hang out on a bench and take in the scenery (whether that be the landscape or everyone’s favorite crowd hobby, people watching). One time I saw a lady with a backpack walk up to the water, pull out a salad, and stand in ankle deep in the water eating her lunch for about 30 minutes. Then she put it away and left. That’s a dream lunch break. On the end of this pier is just a giant open area. At all hours of the day there are people fishing there. On the sides of the pier are what seem like dozens of beach volleyball courts.IMG_0414

The interesting part of the sand at this beach is they made giant dunes right next to the pier and pretty close to the water. Kids boogie board down it instead of in the water. At one point the sand was so high, you could climb over the pier railing and onto the top of the mound. It’s stretches from the pier to the first lifeguard stand on each side, and I have no idea why it’s there. Anyway, back to Natalie’s analogy. She described Hermosa sand as the mashed potatoes where the skin is left on when beating them in the mixer. It’s slightly textured, even though the potatoes are finely whipped.

Some fun facts about Hermosa before we move on to Redondo. When you go under this pier, the height isn’t nearly as tall above you as Manhattan. The pier is where a scene from LA LA Land was filmed (Ryan Gosling whistles his theme song after catching a guy’s hat in the wind and dancing with his wife). One of the building in the plaza area before the pier is also in the movie. However you have to go around back to find the neon sign for the Lighthouse Cafe.

For Redondo, lets start with the fun facts. It is the pier that was in the tv show “The O.C.” There are four major locations used in the filming: the pier cafe (Redondo Coffee and Bait Shop), Sandy Cohen’s beach office, the Bait Shop (which on the show was a music venue), and the pier itself where Ryan rides his bike and Seth skateboards. It also has two churro shops. I’ve only been to one, which was very highly praised, and I agree. Oddly both are called Pier Bakery, but the one I went to is off of Fisherman’s Wharf. There’s a really interesting, old arcade called the Redondo Beach Fun Factory. The games are all old, and the prizes are odd. You can cash in your tickets for bottled water, mystery boxes, and the highest ticketed prize is a meat slicer. Yes, a real one.

IMG_0170The pier itself smells like fish everywhere you go. It’s definitely the grungiest of the three locations. The water below isn’t as clear, and the people on the pier are what Natalie described as “her kind of people.” She liked that she could wear sweatpants, a hoodie, a backpack, and have her hair tied up and not feel judged. It’s the longest pier of the three, and it’s in a triangular shape. People were also fishing at certain spots of the walkway. Again there were benches scattered throughout. The main attraction compared to the others is the fact that there are shops and restaurants all along the pier. Families can spend all day fishing on the pier and grab food in the midst of it, for pretty cheap means of entertainment.

Finally the sand test. It was described a lumpy mashed potatoes. After all the accounts, I agree with Natalie and really appreciate her analogy whenever I have to explain the difference to other visitors or friends who aren’t from the Beach Cities.

Personally, I find myself gravitating toward Hermosa because there is a Starbucks, pizza shop, gelato shop, and ice cream shop all within walking distance that doesn’t involve a hill. Reading that back, it makes me sound fat, but hey, I like simple things and am a creature of habit. There’s a parking garage behind Starbucks that’s relatively cheap. Sometimes after work, I’ll grab a Peach Green Tea Lemonade, walk about a block and grab a giant $2.50 slice from Paisanos (I prefer the Hawaiian or BBQ Chicken), and have dinner on the pier for $7 or less. Before I head back to my car, sometimes I stop at either Paciugo for their mint chocolate chip gelato or Paradis for their vegan hazelnut ice cream. There’s also a guy who rides a bicycle that he completely decked out with lights  and a sound system. What more could you ask for in a beach city?

The Hollywood sign and Beachwood Cafe

When I first got to the LA area, I wasn’t focused on seeing the Hollywood sign, but I knew I would eventually see it. There are many places in the city where it can be spotted, depending on how close of a view you’d like. When I went to the Griffith Observatory on my first day in town, I saw it briefly during sunset, and then you can’t see it after the sun goes down.

My second glimpse was from the LACMA elevator, which happens to be pretty far away. You can tell it’s the sign, but it’s not super clear. I also discovered brief moments on the 110 North where you can spot it between making sure you’re not going to hit someone in traffic. Then I thought I had discovered THE place to see it.

I was an athlete when I was a child, and my sport allowed me to meet a lot of people. One of my childhood acquaintances lives in West Hollywood and she invited me over to catch up and meet her friends. After an evening out, I crashed on her couch. The next morning, I decided since I was already in the area that I would make it my mission to find the sign up close.

There really was no plan or direction other than using my GPS. However I remembered seeing a YouTube video about how the residents who live near the sign actually got the GPS maps to redirect people to different places because they hate the traffic in their neighborhood. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m sorry, but if you choose to live near a famous landmark, and yes that is a choice you made by buying/renting a place there, you should expect tourism to become part of your daily surroundings.

Anyway, I gave up on the GPS and actually used my actual vision to find the sign. It did require driving up and down a few streets, but I found myself on N. Beachwood Dr. As you continue to drive uphill, you can clearly see you’re getting closer. I decided I was hungry, and found the Beachwood Cafe on a quaint corner in the middle of a neighborhood.

It’s like something you see in a CW teen show about a small town. Once you enter the bright blue door, you’ll find a few tables, a linoleum floor of yellow and blue triangle pattern that stand out among orange and green, oddly patterned wall paper. There are giant wooden support beams that also run along the stark white ceiling. The cash register is at the end of a white marble countertop where you can dine or purchase baked goods or merchandise. Above it all two signs read: Good Food, Good Mood. I agree completely.

I was able to choose my own table, and I opted for the middle of the room so I could get the full ambiance. The first thing the waitress did was bring a menu and water, which came in a a glass bottle with a screw-on lid. It was a cute touch and helped the server from having to come by to refill my glass all the time. I did end up ordering another beverage, the fresh grapefruit juice. It arrived in a stainless steel cup with the cafe’s logo, name, and location printed on it. I liked it so much, I bought one.

I will let you know, that had I known it isn’t like a Yeti in the fact that it does sweat with cold liquids in it, I would not have bought it. But now it has become a staple of my breakfast at home since it is the perfect size for juice. However, I have to use a coaster every time.

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For my meal I ordered the Nichols Scramble, which was scrambled eggs, bacon, cheddar, spinach, and onion. It also comes with a side of homestyle potatoes. It was $13, but the price was justified when I only managed to finish half of it. When there’s enough food to take home and get another meal out of it, that’s always a solid deal to me.

Later as I was paying, I noticed the Market area by the door. It’s above the coffee bar and where they sell merchandise, like t-shirts, bags, and more. Past that was another room of tables in case you couldn’t find seating in the main dining area. Upon leaving, I scoped out the Hollywood sign and thought that if I actually went back down the road, I might have a better view because I was starting to have obstructed views due to houses.

So I put the leftovers in my car and walked back a few blocks down N Beachwood Dr. I did find some sidewalk graffiti which was pretty innocent, but also a nice view of the sign. After about 10-15 minutes of walking and looking, I decided to head back to my car and really start my day.

Then it hit me. Or rather my wallet. Literally in the time it took me to put my leftovers in my car and walk 10 minutes down the road, I got a parking ticket. Apparently I parked where a sign said I couldn’t be between certain hours in a residential neighborhood, and I missed the mark by 10 minutes. So within having lived in the area for less than two weeks, I managed to acquire a legitimate LA parking ticket at the cost of $68. I kept it as a reminder and keepsake.

At that point I was over it and didn’t need to find a closer view of the Hollywood sign. But at least I managed to find a cafe where I will be taking guests prior to visiting the sign.

That was all my first experience seeing the sign close, and eating at that cafe. However, I’ve gone back a few times to find the best ways possible to view the sign closer to take a better photo (if you read my “About” section of my blog, I’m catching up to previous adventures so some of my posts may seem oddly timed or have combined experiences).

I went back and found the legitimate gate entrance from the YouTube video, which puts you right underneath the sign for great photos. I didn’t actually find it alone, but rather my friend Greg, who was visiting, showed me. I’ve used this method twice since then, when other friends came into town. So in case you do decide to go on your own, this is also how I would go about seeing the Hollywood sign with the best view.

Park somewhere free relatively close to N. Beachwood Dr. or actually on it (but somewhere you won’t get a ticket like me). Then get a Lyft because near the actual entrance to the sign, there is nowhere to park. And even if you could find a place to park, you’d be worried about how narrow the roads are near the sign.

You’re trying to get to the corner or Rockcliff Dr. and Derhonda Dr. I’ll leave it up to you to look up or pin places near that intersection on your own GPS/map because I don’t want to give out random strangers’ home addresses. Once you arrive, you’ll notice there is a security person standing near a closed street. You can walk past him/her and go up the hill toward the sign. On your way, you’ll pass a guy who sells $1 bottled water out of his home, which is pretty smart because it can get warm up there.

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You’ll come up to a white, closed gate. Look for the teal colored door. It is closed, but it’s unlocked during most daytime hours. When you go through it, follow the path to the right. You don’t have to climb the rocks to get up the hill, but rather follow the paved path. You’ll come to a dirt landing, and you can’t miss the sign because it’s right in front of you.

When you’re there, you’ll notice there is a dirt path to the right of the sign that looks really steep (you can’t see it in the picture). It will take you to the back of the Hollywood sign for a different perspective. I am not sure yet if there are other ways to get to the back of the sign, but I assume so because that path looks like people have slid down it before. I did not try to take it because I was in sandals and because I honestly have no desire. Maybe on another adventure.

There’s also an update you on the Beachwood Cafe. It’s still just as great. I got an avocado BLT with fries, and for dessert, a lemon bar in a jar. They were both picture worthy as you can see below. My friend Emily joined me that time, and she ordered the veggie burger, which also was a large portion and looked delicious. And with that, I’ll end this entry on something that brings joy to almost everyone, food.

 

La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA

Before I moved to LA, my dad told me I had to go to the La Brea Tar Pits. It’s one of those times where you say, “Yeah, okay Dad,” but in your head you’re thinking it seems kind of prehistoric and nerdy. Then my last Lyft driver from the day before said the museums are among his favorite thing to do in the LA area. I know typically a daughter should trust her dad’s judgment, but I needed a hip, local resident to confirm his suggestion.

I got to the grounds early because I had to be out of my AirBnb. However, instead of driving there and paying parking, I left my car at the AirBnb and got a Lyft. I figured the cost of one there and back was cheaper than on-sight or nearby parking. Because I was early, I went to the Starbucks across the street until it opened at 9:30am. As I headed back to the museum, I stopped by the area on their map called “Lake Pit.” It is what it sounds like, a lake where tar is still coming up from underneath. It smells exactly like when new roads are being paved. The edges of the lake are lined with tar that has bubbled up to the surface and spread out. You can still witness the bubbling tar. It is gated off, so if you have small children or curious teens, you don’t have to worry about them running up and trying to touch it.

There was practically no line to purchase tickets right at opening, so I highly suggest being there at that time.  When I was leaving the Tar Pits, which was only around 11:30am, there was a line of at least 30 people waiting to enter. Due to the size of the lobby, the line extends outside. You don’t have to worry about rain because this is LA, but if it’s a warm day, you may want to bring something to drink or shade yourself with.

A regular ticket, no perks included, is only $12. If you want to see Titans of the Ice Age 3D, which I highly suggest because it basically summarizes the entire museum for you in a nice 25 minute video, it’s an additional $5.  You can also add the Ice Age Encounters 15 minute show for also only $5 more. If you also want all three, it’s $22. Again, pretty affordable.

When I got up to the counter to pay, the girl at the checkout convinced me to get the annual membership for $59. Now, that may sound crazy instead of just $22, but you get so many added features to becoming a member. The main feature that sold me was the fact that you are also getting a membership to two other museums as well, the Natural History Museum and the William S. Hart Museum. If you visit each one just one time and see the extra features included, you get your monies worth. I also bought it in case my friends want to go when they visit me.

After you pay inside the George C. Page Museum, if you get the 3D movie ticket, they give you a time to be in line for the showing. Since I had a few minutes before the show, I decided to walk around the exhibits. It’s kind of up to you the route you want to take. I suggest getting a map because the grounds are pretty large. There is an indoor section, which comprises most of the museum. Then there is a massive outdoor area, that includes many little places to stop, observe, and learn. You could technically wander the grounds without having to pay, but the museum is pretty neat experience to have at least once.

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Giant sloth

First I went to see the mammoth exhibit. It’s weird to think in the middle of sprawling LA, there were once mammoths roaming around. They had some fun hands on activities, like how hard it is to move in tar. How can you tell if you’re not actually in it? There are giant metal plungers in a display case that you can try to pull up out of the tar they’re sitting in. Kids and adults were both into testing it out, and it was more difficult than I had anticipated.

As I was only about 1/3 through the museum portion, I realized it was time for me to head to the 3D movie Titans of the Ice Age. It seemed like it only had about 25 seats total, but it was a very good showing. It explained why the museum and active dig sites are here today, and what we have learned about the past through the excavations. I thought it really helped bring the whole experience together.

After that, I explored more of the museum. I decided to go through the gift shop because it was right there as you exit the theater. It has some fun stuff, and as a member I get a discount. However, I didn’t buy anything. From there, I went through the atrium, which was beautiful. I’d only been in LA for a day and a half at this point, but you recognize the lack of lush foliage in the city, and here you get a small taste of it. It’s also nice because it’s quiet. School groups cannot go through. Kids can with their parents, but not large groups of children.

In the exhibit areas there are people standing by who help explain things in more detail or answer questions. One woman showed me some baskets that were lined with the tar inside. They were made by the inhabitants to carry water, so the tar was used as an essential tool. There were dire wolf skulls on display. Don’t know what a dire wolf is? They have plenty of exhibits to explain their lifestyles based on what they’ve found of their remains from the tar pits. They’re still being found there to this day.

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Dire wolf skulls

In fact, that’s the incredible part. The La Brea Tar Pits aren’t just an attraction, they are also a working excavation site. Inside the museum there is a laboratory where you can watch people literally in the process of handling found fossils and other findings. Outside, there is a section called Project 23 where you can also watch archeologists perform in the newest active dig site. It’s one of the few places in the country, and by being connected to the museum with constant visitors, is able to continue to research the history of the area.

As you continue to walk the premises, you can see the oldest active dig site Pit 91. Pit 3, 4, 7, 9, 61, and 67 all are slightly fenced off (not as much as the Lake Pit). When I went, they looked kind of dried up, but you could see the remnants of where the tar had bubbled up. At one point in the museum, I overheard a worker talking to a little girl saying there was a section in between the entrance to the museum and the Lake Pit that had caution tape up. That’s because it was a new recent place of tar activity reaching the surface. I later passed by it, and you could definitely see the ground raised up as if it were a mini volcano ready to expose new tar. However, when you watch the speed of tar, you realize it’d be the opposite of an eruption when it does decide to surface.

Speaking of watching the speed of tar, the best place I witnessed that was in the Observation Pit. It’s a little round building with a Tar Pits worker standing at the entrance, I’m assuming to make sure you had the wrist band on to enter. Otherwise, I think you can’t see that without having paid for a ticket. It’s a random structure, but when you get down the stairs, you can finally see the tar on it’s own and bubbling. It’s not very riveting, but besides the animals and fossils, it’s kind of the point of the La Brea Tar Pits.

From there, I rounded the corner to discover LACMA. I honestly did not know that is what I was walking towards. That day I just planned to go to the La Brea Tar Pits. Then you can clearly see a building in the distance that looks nice and has a lot of people surrounding it. So I went to see what it was, and it happened to be LACMA. Being one day new to LA, I didn’t even really know what exhibits were inside, I just knew it was a famous place because I had seen the outdoor light exhibit on social media.

Again I went to buy a ticket and was convinced to buy a membership. And again, I don’t know if it was because I was still so new to LA that I was enticed by bringing guests here, but I think it was worth it. A general admission price is $15 for one adult. To see the Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera exhibit was an extra $25. So $40 in one visit, where as I paid $60 to have free admission to many extras. They just had the Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage exhibit going on, and again it’s $25 for non-members. So between those two experiences, I’ve already paid off my membership without even taking visiting friends to the museum.

 

I didn’t know this would happen at the time, but each month I get sent a newsletter/calendar that has all of the events by date and time. For most of them, I’m able to go to them for free as a member. So you can definitely get more than your monies worth out of this membership. They feature films, concerts, and smaller exhibits. If you are really into art, the membership is no doubt the way to go.

As you are buying tickets, there is a restaurant on the left. I didn’t eat at it, but it had many patrons. Instead I later at at the LACMA Cafe. I got a Portabello Mushroom burger with sweet potato fries. No, I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, but I was very surprised at just how tasty this meal was. It wasn’t terribly priced, and was extremely filling. The portion size was worth the price. There were a variety of items on the menu, and because it’s LA, they included health conscious options, but you could definitely get a bacon burger if you wanted. It also wasn’t just limited to burgers. I will be going there again during my next visit to try something different.

Okay, so back to the actual purpose of LACMA, art. I started by going up an escalator behind the ticket area into the BCAM building (Broad Contemporary Art Museum). Then I climbed some stairs to go to the third floor so I could just make my way down each floor. Before you enter the building, look around. You can see the Hollywood sign, which was my first time seeing it since I arrived.

When you enter the building, there’s a giant elevator in front of you, but then you can go right or left into the exhibits. There was a pretty cool toy car piece in this building. There’s a schedule on the wall that lets you know when it will be running because it isn’t always on. Basically a couple hundred toy cars go through many different paths/roads all on the same structure. Check it out from all angles: upstairs, downstairs, front, and all sides. There is so much going on that your eyes can just wander for 10-15 minutes. There’s also some cool light work on the way.

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Car structure
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Light installation

I’ll be honest, I was a little overwhelmed by the size of LACMA and the amount of pieces and exhibits that it all kind of meshed together. I’m glad I have a membership and can go back and experience it again and again. I did go in the Resnick Pavilion, Ahmanson Building, Hammer Building, Art of the Americas, and ate at the Leo S. Bing Center. I didn’t make it into the Pavilion for Japanese Art. The gift shop is okay. Nothing really stood out to me there.

I should also tell you how I view art, because everybody is different. My mom is an artist. Her medium of choice is oil on canvas. Art class and my mom taught me a lot about what to look at or for. I read every placard beside each piece to understand who made it, when they made it, and what they used to make it. That’s important because it’s what is so impressive. Things look so simple, but some of them were made in the 1800s or even 1200s. Sometimes I hear people say, “I could do that,” and to those people I would say go do it then. It’ll be a lot harder when you actually sit down and try to replicate it. And at the time when the artist made that piece, it was innovative and never done before, which is why it’s now in a museum.

Sometimes there will be explanations too about the background of the art. If it’s a painting or drawing, I like to look at it up close and from the side to see the texture and thickness. I’ll look at how it’s framed or stretched. I’ll look at how many layers are there and try to find the base color. I’ll look from afar to try to get the bigger picture. I try to put myself in the artist’s shoes and feel what they felt while making it. I’ll try to appreciate it for it’s intention. I’ll try to relate it to something in my life.

Art is really beautiful because it’s an independent interpretation. I appreciate and am lucky to live near a city that really appreciates every form of expression. I’m glad I stumbled upon LACMA after La Brea Tar Pits. And check out what the outdoor light exhibit looks like at night.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Griffith Observatory, and Pinks Hot Dogs

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.

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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.

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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.

Australian DancersAs 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.

IMG_9640Go 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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

IMG_9639Once 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.