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LA Day 1

by Feb 12, 2018

I love LA.  It isn’t really the place I’d want to live full time but visiting is the best.  I’ve been to Los Angeles a few times now but this was the first time with the kids.  We flew in late on a Thursday, took a short free shuttle to the the rental car, tried to hit an In and Out Burger but the one by the airport had a packed drive-thru and the one by UCLA had no parking, so we went to bed a little hungry but I had some snacks left from the plane so it all worked out fine.

Friday morning, hubs and I got up on Chicago time and ran to the grocery store to grab breakfasts, water, and some snacks while the kids slept.  We weren’t planning to spend much time at our lodging so it was only a few essentials mostly for the car.  I’ve said this before, but California grocery stores charge for bags so either bring some from home or expect to buy them.  We then toured UCLA, visited the Getty Art Museum, wandered around Hollywood Blvd, and then finished the night with Griffith Observatory.  We needed to drive between each place but the drives were moderately on the way to each other so it all worked out pretty well.  All in, it was 11 miles of walking on day 1.  The weather is so nice that the miles go by really quickly and the day just flew by.  So here are my thoughts on DAY 1:

I think it is a universal dream to go to college at UCLA and since we have 2 HS kids, a few weeks ago I signed us all up to take the tour.  It is beyond gorgeous.  The campus and the buildings are beautiful.  The kids who led us were adorable and smart and funny.  You couldn’t help but walk around and remember your own college days and wonder what you would have become had you gone here.  Anyway.  Tour was good.  A little long for me, but I am from Chicago and don’t really linger.  I imagine it was 2 hours?  A lot of walking but not hard walking.  We paid $12 to park on the campus of UCLA (they took CC).  I bet if we did Spot Hero we could have found something cheaper.  It wouldn’t have worked to do street parking since it was more than 2 hours.

After the tour we went to In and Out Burger in the college town of Westwood.  It is really strange because UCLA is in LA, but feels like you are in a college town.  It takes over the whole area and feels like you wandered into this little bubble the holds a college and a town and dorms.  It is surprisingly cool.  Different than any other college I’ve visited.  In and Out Burger has no parking and the drive-thru is nuts.  I recommend just taking the short walk from UCLA.  It was crowded but we easily found seating.  We all ordered the typical burger, fries & shake.  Our vegetarian got a cheeseburger sans burger and liked her lunch.  It was cheap and easy and the perfect point to make the obligatory stop.  Even if you don’t tour the campus, it was a fun stop that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.

The Getty
The Getty is an art museum not far from UCLA (but not walking distance).  It is SO COOL.  This was my first time visiting.  You park in this underground structure for $15 (flat fee, didn’t matter how long).  It is one of those typical things were you bring your ticket and pay at a machine before you exit.  Once you get off the elevator, there is a line for a bag check.  They looking for explosives and drugs / alcohol.  I didn’t try to bring in a bottle of water but wish I did.  I got thirsty once inside and walked from drinking fountain to drinking fountain.  Besides the parking, there was no fee to enter the museum, which was nice. There is this epic tram ride up to the Getty museum which is on top of this huge hill that overlooks all of LA.  I’m not sure why the tram was so cool to us, but all four of us loved it.  I’ll include the high-speed video my husband took which makes it seem way more extreme than it was.

The art was good.  They have a few Monet’s and the Iris Van Gogh (my favorite), a few Rembrandts and Manet’s.  The manuscript room was a big hit for all of us.  Those ancient books are just so cool!  The building architecture is truly remarkable.  The inside to outside lines are blurred and the layout of the museum is easy to navigate and designed so you really don’t miss a lot.  They offer tours of art, architecture, or gardens.   We opted for self-guided.  After viewing the art, we looked out over the city and then laid on this perfect grass hill.  Some of us never wanted to leave (even one of my kids).  The Getty Villa is also something to see.  Tickets should be purchased in advance and we decided that our day was already too full and opted to skip it.  Since I loved the Getty Museum so much, next time I won’t miss the Villa.

Hollywood Blvd
The ONLY thing that my 14 year old NEEDED to do on this trip was “look to the right and see the Hollywood sign!” and then say, “This is all so crazy!  Everybody seems so famous!”  So to Hollywood Blvd we headed.  It was a ways from the Getty but on the way to Griffith so it all worked out easily.  You can see the sign from the road, but there is a much better view if you park under the Hollywood and Highland Mall (it was $15 or less if you got your parking pass validated with a mall purchase).  Street parking would be cheaper as long as you notice parking hours and not stay more than 2 hours.  Once in the mall, take the escalator to the top and there is this area that was clearly designed just for the perfect view.  It really is so anticlimactic that it is hard to laugh.

After that, it is fun to wander around the area, look at the stars on the ground, see the Dolby Theater (they do expensive tours that I’ve never done) and where the red carpet will be during the Oscars.  The whole area is so iconic that it really can’t be missed.  It gets a little seedy on the ends of the boulevard but it is really fine for most of it.  I wouldn’t plan the whole day.  We wandered around, had a happy hour beer with a light dinner, waited until the worst of traffic was over and headed over to the Griffith Observatory.  I will say, that on a different trip to LA, my husband and I bought tickets for one night of Paleyfest in the Dolby Theater.  We loved being where they do the awards ceremonies.  It was just cool to sit in that room that we see so often on TV.  It never hurts to see if something interesting is going on while you are there!

Griffith Observatory
Firstly, the GPS (here after referred to by his given name, “Nigel”), wanted us to turn left a little early (on Fern Dell) for the Griffith Observatory, best to follow the signs to Vermont Rd because it is easier.  Basically, you wind your way up this really nice hill to the very top.  On the way is a parking lot where you pay $4 and then take a bus to the top.  It seemed like you take the Dash bus (which is public trans) but at a discounted rate of .50 cents a person.  We skipped that and kept heading to the top.  There is a parking lot up right at the Observatory but it was full when we arrived.  It seems like people like to be there for sunset.  We were directed to head back down the hill (toward Fern, not Vermont) and there was metered parking that whole stretch.  A little tricky since it was $4 an hour (max 2 hours) and we had a 15 minute walk each way, but it actually worked out fine for us.

With the sun down, I was glad for my cardigan and leggings.  My son had no issues in shorts and a tank top.  Again, apart from the parking, the museum was free.  We wandered around the museum, which was cool and we showed up just in time for the Light of the Valkyries at the Horizon Theater.  It was a well spent $7 a person. There was a HUGE line to buy tickets from a person but a nearly empty machine down the hall.  The show was really good, although admittedly, both myself and one kid fell SOUND asleep.  Keep in mind I was up at 4am (because of my crazy internal clock set to Chicago) and I have a gift of being able to fall asleep literally anywhere.  After the movie we checked out the views of the city lights (and smog).  Super cool.  We all felt like it was a great idea.

Miscellaneous Planning Advice, Tips, Randomness, and Minutia:

  • Wear comfortable shoes, the walk is really spread out and it all goes by easily but still
  • I guess if 10 miles is too much for one day, skip UCLA?  or split up the days a little more?
  • We spent $47 on parking, $30 on burgers, and $50 on happy hour drinks & appetizers on Day 1
  • All of this would have been relatively easy to navigate with a wheelchair or stroller
  • Bring snacks & water in the car.  There isn’t a ton of fast food and this worked really well
  • Hollywood Blvd was the easiest place to sit down for food.  Not a lot on the road to Griffith
  • We all really liked this day.  It just flew by but we didn’t feel rushed anywhere
  • We tried really hard to avoid rush-hour traffic between locations
  • I bet Griffith is AMAZING at sunset.  Looks like there are guided tours and all sorts of coolness, but it also seemed crowded.  It seemed like people really started to leave once the blue hour ended.  They even reopened the upper lot.