The Hollywood sign
Although we associate Los Angeles with beautiful beaches and palm trees, for many people L.A. equals Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard and Beverly Hills. Here, the big city and the beach life are combined.
No matter how much we love the beach and palm trees, we also wanted to see the Hollywood sign. Many of the paths that you have previously been able to walk up to the sign had been closed, so we went online to see where the best lookout was. Several websites recommended Lake Hollywood Park in order to see the sign as close as possible.
We followed the recommendations and drove with Ari to the lake, from where the view to the sign was amazing. There weren’t many people, so fortunately we didn’t have to fight to take pictures. The park in front of the sign was not very large and consisted mostly of everything from a lawn, so the purpose of our trip was to get close to the sign, which succeeded.
There are hiking trails that take you right up behind the sign, but we didn’t quite know where they started. If you are fresh and want a hike in the sun, then I think you should try to find the way to the top. However, we were completely satisfied with the view from Lake Hollywood Park, which is easy to get to by car.
When we were in L.A., we were fortunate to live with George’s friend Ari, who had a cool apartment near Venice Beach. Thus, it was obvious to visit the beach several times. From the apartment we walked towards the Venice Canals and crossed over one of the bridges, before we reached the road. From there we walked past the large, beautiful houses in the rich area, right down to the fine sand.
Venice Beach was lively and absolutely stunning. There were exciting stalls, shops and street food along the seafront, and various musicians and artists showed off their talents on the beach road. We met all kinds of people here – also many homeless people, unfortunately. They had put up tents and formed small camps with other homeless people, where they slept together and looked after each other. Despite the sad sight, there was life and happy days on the beach.
Hopeful musicians shared their demo CDs (mostly rappers) who hoped for a dime in return. Runners, skaters, dog walkers, musicians, surfers, athletes, dancers, photographers, tourists, locals – all kinds of people met up on the beach, each with their own purposes.
Clothing with print – a real LA souvenir
We went down to Venice Beach every day while we were in LA. The first day, we went into one of the many shops selling clothes with print. Here, we could choose a piece of clothing in the color and size we wanted. Then we decided on a print that was applied immediately while hanging around in the store. It wasn’t quite cheap, but if you want a different kind of souvenir, we think clothes with a personal Venice Beach design are pretty cool.
Besides spending the day at the beach, it was also here we had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful sunsets. Half an hour before the sunset, we went down to the beach with the camera ready. It was all worth it. The whole sky was filled with orange, pink and red colors, and we could slowly see the orange sun go down behind the horizon.
On the Venice Boardwalk we found Muscle Beach Gym, which was an outdoor weight lifting center. Back in the days, Arnold Schwarzernegger and other of the original bodybuilders used the facilities of the outdoor training area daily. Today, people can use it and work out if they have a membership, which isn’t too expensive.
Muscle Beach Juice Bar
Right in front of the gym, we found Muscle Beach Juice Bar. Here we could buy delicious smoothies with or without protein, as well as freshly squeezed juices. Their smoothies were fantastic and we can recommend their Morning Morrison with espresso, banana and dates, as well as the Pina Coolada with coconut, banana, pineapple and dates.
Morning runs and friendly people
As mentioned earlier, Venice Beach is a beach which attract many types of people. Many user the beach for exercise purposes, and we also went for runs along the beach.
Saturday morning, we started our day with a run around 8 AM, where many other exercisers were running, bike riding or taking their dogs for a walk. We saw several running clubs with 15-20 fresh people, all running together along the beach.
At some point we wanted to overtake the group of runners and when that happened, the people in the back of the group yelled towards the ones in the front: “runners on the left!” Everyone of them pulled aside immediately and left the left side of the trail empty for us to pass. We were very impressed by their structure and teamwork!
When passing other early birds, they all smiled and wished us a good morning. That happened with the runners and dog walkers. In general, people were very friendly everywhere we went in LA.
Along the beach and around the street, we often saw people running around on electric scooters. Enthusiastically, Ari told us that everyone could use them if you just installed a specific app.
There were several scooter apps, but we chose Lime as we had seen many of their scooters around. We downloaded the Lime app onto our phones, created a profile and entered our credit card information. Then it all came down to choosing your scooter which we could find parked anywhere. We scanned the QR code on the handle bar with our phones to unlock the scooter.
George and I decided to drive to the next beach, the Santa Monica Beach. We jumped on the scooters and began our trip. The rate was $ 1 to unlock and then $ 0.15 per minute. It wasn’t about miles, but about time.
You could run a maximum of 24 km / hour, and even though they were safe to drive, it was recommended to wear a helmet and we did not have any. However, it was an easy and quick way to get around when the distances were too large, and many others were also driving without a bike helmet.
Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica was very similar to Venice, mostly because the beaches are in line with each other. It was the same fine sand, palm trees and water, but there was still some difference. Venice was more colorful / funky and mostly lively during the day with stalls and people everywhere. Santa Monica was more upscale, and here it came alive in the evening.
On the beach, we saw the Santa Monica Pier and the theme park with the Ferris wheel that lit up in the evening. It is typically the richer part of LA who comes to Santa Monica in the evenings to have a fun night.
We were at Santa Monica beach during the day, where we walked along the water, took a swing in the huge swing set and observed the muscular young people who trained calisthenics on the beach.
Afterwards, we went up on the pier with the amusement park, where we walked around and looked at the many colorful attractions and beautiful surroundings.
The trip on the scooter from Marina Del Ray to Santa Monica was really beautiful with palm trees and exclusive houses along the way.
Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard
On Sunset Boulevard, you’ll find one of the best guitar shops: Guitar Center. According to George, this store in LA is the best in the states because their range of guitars is really big – and it’s also here, you can find many hand prints of well-known music artists.
George is a big fan of Slash (Guns N’ Roses), so he was quite happy when he found Slash’s hand prints in the floor in front of the store.
If you are a guitarist or just a music enthusiast, the Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard is worth a visit.
Hollywood walk of fame
Most of us know the stars on the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard. In the heart of Los Angeles, away from the coast and the hip beach environment, you’ll find the big city with the well-known areas like Beverly Hills and Hollywood.
Hollywood walk of fame is almost an inevitable tourist attraction, but it’s not as big and wild as you imagine. In fact, it’s just a bunch of stars on the sidewalk where you find street clowns dressing up as well-known actors and singers, so you can take pictures with them for money.
Most people we know who have seen the Hollywood walk of fame, have all had the same reaction (including ourselves). Everyone has said: “Is this it?” You should not expect too much, but of course it’s cool to have seen one of the major Hollywood attractions in real life.
The best sushi at Sugar Fish
We have both eaten plenty of sushi over the past few years, so we have a pretty good idea of how good sushi should taste. Ari recommended us a place called Sugar Fish, which was known for having phenomenal sushi. Since we were unable to reserve a table, we went to the restaurant and were put on the waiting list. It took no more than 15 minutes before we got a table for three. There are many Sugar Fish restaurants in LA, but we went to it in Beverly Hills.
The restaurant itself was decorated minimalistic with wooden tables and chairs and frugal decorations, and there was nothing to indicate that you could find some of the best sushi here.
It was not a place with fancy rolls, where you get avocado, mango, cucumber and spicy mayo, but instead it was fish, rice and seaweed paper. It was mostly a la carte with exclusive and simple choices, except three already set menus. The whole thing was really fresh!
The three of us all decided on a menu each – Ari and George got the Nozawa Trust Me menu with 13 different pieces of sushi, and I took a smaller menu called Trust Me with nine pieces.
First we got hot edamame beans with salt and lemon, after which our sushi came in a few pieces at a time. We didn’t get the whole menu out at once, which made the experience really good. We had time to talk to each other and focus on enjoying the food, and each time we were done with the course, we got the next portion. It kept the the level of freshness high, not having everything brought out at the same time to be left on the table.
After the edamame beans, we were all served three pieces of tuna sashimi in soy sauce with spring onions. The fish was soft as butter and melted on the tongue. The other servings were equally as good, but just the tuna sashimi alone was a dream. It was clearly the best sushi we had tasted.
Fancy farewell dinner at Tao
The day before departure, we went out to eat a farewell dinner. Just off Hollywood Boulevard was the fancy Asian restaurant Tao. The decor was very oriental with a huge many-armed Buddha statue at the end of the large dining area.
The place was huge with tables and chairs on several levels, and it resembled a nightclub with its reddish color and dim lighting that attracted a very stylish crowd. Men in suits, women in tight miniskirts, high heels and big jewelry.
We were led down the many steps to the lower level, where we got a round table in a booth. The menu was relatively large, consisting of dishes with different types of meat, vegetarian options, noodles, sushi, salads and cocktails, and almost all the prices were in the high end.
We decided to order several courses to share, so we could taste a bit of each other’s food. It ended up being tacos with tuna, edamame beans, Mongolian beef, chicken with orange flavor, rice with vegetables and a dish with fish. We also got delicious cocktails.
It was certainly flavorful food, but it was also an expensive place. People clearly paid more because the place was central in Hollywood and attracted a rich clientele. Five cocktails, three starters and three main courses ended up being $300.
Tao is an experience that’s totally worth it, as we did not find anywhere else like this. You should definitely visit the place to have a drink and enjoy the hip atmosphere.
LA is filled with experiences
Besides our recommendations and experiences in Los Angeles, there are of course many other things you can see and do. These include Universal Studios Hollywood, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Getty Center and more.
Los Angeles and California in general offer amazing experiences. If you are into the sun, beach, city and cool people, then you should definitely go to sunny California and especially Los Angeles!