Our first trip to L.A. amazed and surprised us. We weren’t expecting the genuine hospitality, crazy beautiful ocean + mountain views or incredible experiences we shared – and, truthfully, we didn’t expect to fangirl as much as we did.
The real reason we were in SoCal was to see Joshua Tree National Park. We sprinkled in a date at Disneyland, too, but we couldn’t spend five days in California without visiting the home of Hollywood or some of the world’s most famous beaches.
So we got in our rental car and braced ourselves for the famous L.A. traffic. To our surprise, traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as we had heard, parking was affordable and spots were plentiful. PHEW!
While we’re on the subject of driving, here are just a couple quick tips if you’re planning to drive during your visit to Los Angeles:
- The highway’s carpool lane is clutch. As long as there are two or more passengers in the car, you can use the leftmost lane to breeze past traffic and get to your destination in a cinch.
- There aren’t exit numbers on most California highways, so if you’re using Google Maps and it tells you to take a particular exit, pay close attention to the street name.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff: What to see, do, eat and drink in L.A. Here are our recommendations for top spots to check out.
The Office: Fangirl at the set of your favorite TV show.
Our minds were going a mile an hour when we took the slow train from Philly, hit a speed bump on the highway and ran away from our responsibilities. After all, The Office is a place where dreams come true! Inside jokes: We’d love to be a part of one someday.
The Office has become a soothing reminder of home for us – it’s always on in the background, much like football games in the fall. As we go about our evenings, we laugh at Michael Scott’s nonsense and mouth the words to every scene, so it was a no-brainer that our trip to L.A. had to include a visit to the set.
If you’re not a fan of The Office (do such people exist?), you can check out any number of famous TV sets in L.A. or go on one of the many studio tours. We promise you’ll fangirl more than you’d expect!
Hollywood Hills: Practice low-light photography.
The ascent up the narrow, winding roads on Mt. Lee is almost as exhilarating as the view itself. When you reach the lookout, you’ll stand in awe of the stunning views – both of the Hollywood Sign and the twinkling city beneath you.
Since the Hollywood Sign isn’t lit at night, this is the perfect opportunity to hone your night photography skills. Grab your camera and tripod, and work your magic! Our photo above is a 25-second-long exposure.
Le Mervetty: Satisfy your sweet tooth with macarons better than those from Paris.
While walking back to our rental car in Beverly Hills, we happened to pass this French pastry shop and just had to pop in. Ever since our honeymoon in Paris, we’ve become somewhat obsessed with macarons, buying them any chance we get.
We told the owner how we adored the macarons in Paris, and she assured us that hers are better. Sure enough, she was right. The delicate crunch and delightful filling topped even the best macarons we had in France. This is a must-visit for macaron snobs and foodies!
Walk of Fame: Cross this off your bucket list (and fangirl some more).
Omg, Shrek! Hey, Steve Carell’s is over here! Check it out! It’s Martin Scorsese’s!
– Actual comments we made on the Walk of Fame.
As you walk along this famous 15-block stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, you’ll be surprised by how many times you stop and point at a star, shouting the name of your favorite musician, actor, director, producer or fictional character.
Yes, there are lots of tourists here, but it’s totally worth it. You can’t visit Los Angeles and not pay homage to the stars who have made the entertainment industry – and Hollywood – what it is today.
“Urban Light” at LACMA: Pretend you’re in a movie.
It doesn’t take much imagination to pretend like you’re in a movie when you visit the “Urban Light” installation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
That’s because you may have already seen the artwork on the big screen; it makes an appearance in “No Strings Attached,” “Valentine’s Day” and a few other movies. Adding to the art’s ambiance, these 202 restored street lamps once lit SoCal streets in the 1920s and ’30s.
Go ahead, pretend like you’re in a movie. We won’t judge you!
El Matador State Beach: Enjoy Malibu’s best kept secret.
El Matador State Beach is Malibu’s best kept secret. The overlook’s gorgeous coastal views and the beach’s towering rock formations make for some of the most Instagram-worthy photos.
The best part? Only a handful of people joined us at the beach (the parking lot only holds 20 cars), and among those people were swimsuit models, a music video film crew and a small wedding party. We’re still waiting to see if we appear in *ahem, photobomb* any of their photos or videos.
Alfred Coffee & Kitchen: Meet the pioneers of the ‘but first, coffee’ tagline.
When you Google, “What to do in Los Angeles,” a trip to Alfred Coffee & Kitchen doesn’t appear in any of the search results. In fact, if you walk past the nondescript coffee shop across from Beverly Gardens Park on North Beverly Drive, you likely wouldn’t even be drawn to come inside.
But we’re here to remind you: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Alfred Coffee & Kitchen is actually the creator and trademark originator of the famous “but first, coffee” tagline. The inside of the coffee shop is far more ’grammable than you’d expect – and the coffee is 👌🏻.
Huntington Beach: Discover the draw of California beaches.
Welcome to Surf City, USA, where 10 miles of uninterrupted beaches offer surfers and beach bums alike plenty of space to enjoy the coastline.
It’s no surprise that Huntington Beach has earned a number of awards, including No. 1 beach in California by USA Today, and has been called America’s Best Beach by Time Magazine and “the ultimate day out for beach lovers” by The Telegraph.
The breathtaking views, plentiful amenities, flat sand and 1,850-foot-long pier are just some of the reasons this beach has earned so many accolades. See for yourself!
Snowopolis: Treat yo’self to dessert heaven.
Before our trip, we started following any and all L.A. Instagram accounts so we could absorb as much inspiration for our trip as possible. One of the accounts we followed was Snowopolis, which bills itself as a “handcrafted dessert lounge”. We took one look at its feed and immediately added Snowopolis to our L.A. bucket list.
It truly is a dessert lounge. From tableside S’mores to specialty shave ice and milkshake creations, there’s something for everyone’s sweet tooth at Snowopolis. Plus, the fun and electric atmosphere will make you feel like you’re at an exclusive club while you’re enduring the 20-minute wait for your handcrafted heaven.
I ordered the unicorn milkshake, which had vanilla ice cream blended with Skittles, making each sip a sweet but fruity surprise. As garnish, the drink had cotton candy on top, icing and cotton candy bites painted along the rim of the cup and a sprinkle cone for the unicorn horn. Mike ordered a build-your-own cookie with vanilla ice cream, Oreos and peanut butter. Both were as delicious as they sound.
Disclaimer: We visited the Snowopolis in Anaheim, but there are locations in Montebello and Long Beach.