We’ve been in America for 5 weeks now and only have a few weeks until we’re back in the U.K.!!
We started the states on the West Coast and spent a week in both Los Angeles and San Fransisco and these were the top things that we did while we were there!
Los Angeles, California
Santa Monica/ Venice Beach
Getting the metro from L.A city to Santa Monica is fairly straight forward and it’s a ten minute walk to the pier. The pier is an all American fair, complete with a Ferris Wheel and a man who was feeding his pigeon friends.
When we visited the Pacific fog had rolled in but as we walked down the foreshore towards Venice Beach it cleared and left us with a beautiful view of the sea.
Venice itself is good fun, with the fitness fanatics at Muscle Beach, middle of the sidewalk dance-offs and numerous entertainers it’s hard to know where to look but once you get over the initial onslaught it’s a great place to spend the day. We had sandwiches at Zelda’s Corner Deli which we can definitely recommend!
We didn’t go to the Observatory at night as recommended but took the 50c shuttle from Vermont/Sunset metro on a busy Sunday afternoon. Griffith Obsv. has one of the best views of the Hollywood sign alongside sweeping views over the downtown LA, plus it’s free!
LACMA/ La Brea Tar Pits
Alright so LACMA isn’t free but it has amazing outdoor installation called Urban Light which is certainly worth visiting. Compiled of gas lamps from all over California the installation is really good to wonder around for while. It’s also just next door to the La Brea Tar Pits which were the literal sticky end for hundreds of ice age animals.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour
We were exceptionally lucky to be given a free walk-in pass to Warner Bros. studios and it was amazing. The studios are essentially enormous aircraft hangers filled with stages on the inside and dressed as neighbourhoods on the outside. As a visitor you aren’t allowed onto the stages we spent a while walking around the deserted streets which have featured in so many blockbusters. The museum was really fantastic and had lots of props from Harry Potter which kept us entertained for a long time. But the ultimate best bit was Stage 48 and the set of Central Perk – Friends heaven!
Home of the Walk Of Fame, Grumann’s Chinese Theatre and El Capitan we had a great time wondering around this tiny bit of Hollywood. I think I prefer Grumann’s Egyptian Theatre to the Chinese counterpart but I loved finding Tom Hank’s footprints on the floor – turns out I have the same size feet as Forrest Gump!
L.A is fairly easy to navigate using public transport, which as a relief because everyone warned us public transport in the US was dismal. The metro system has a weekly pass at $28 and covers most of the city, including most local bus links. Luckily for us we were staying at an Airbnb in North Hollywood, about a ten minute walk from Universal City station!
It’s true when they say that American portions are giant because they are, I mean does anyone really need a 40oz refillable soda? No, I don’t think so. But we did find some pretty good food in San Fran including the Clam Chowder which is served in sourdough bowls – yum yum yum!
Musée Mécanique or Fisherman’s Wharf Penny Arcade
This amazing, little and free museum has hundreds of quarter dollar arcade games which kept us entertained for while. This was my personal favourite – 25c to decide my perfect career, I couldn’t decide between Tyrant, Nudist or Love Pirate.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a very pretty, very touristy area of San Fransisco but that’s ok because hey! we’re tourists! I really only liked this area because of the naval ships and because it had a bit of vintage charm. A couple of hundred meters along the sidewalk from FM is Hyde Pier, another wharf equipped with tall ships and a very informative visitor centre.
Golden Gate Bridge
From Fisherman’s Wharf to the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge is a bit of a walk, but it follows the bay out towards the sea and is pretty enough to make the stroll very pleasant. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as pleasant when we decided to visit but the fog did break at some points allowing us to see the whole thing and it’s quite spectacular. In truth there are more impressive suspension bridges but I’m glad we visited on its reputation alone.
My absolute favourite thing in San Fransisco was our visit to Alcatraz. Occupied in 1853 as a the first US military fort on the West Coast, Alcatraz has had a pretty aggressive history. When we arrived we watched a theatre show about it’s past and then had free reign over where we wondered. The free audio guide around the prison cells detailed the 1962 escape made famous by Clint Eastwood and told us quite a bit about the island’s most infamous inhabitants like Al Capone. We booked the tour way in advance which was a smart move as when we arrived there were no available tours for two weeks – go us!
Overall we had a better experience of Los Angeles than San Fransisco. I’m not sure whether it was because SF was more expensive (transport costs were too high) or that we stayed in a rather rough area of Oakland (San Fran’s mainland neighbour) which made our commute a little more interesting or the wind on the bay that catches you off guard if you forget a jacket. We really want to come back to California but hopefully next time we come to San Franscisco we’ll stay in the city centre and bring a few more coats!