As the leaves are turning brown, the temperatures begin winding down, and the sky is turning to gray, I'm dreaming about the sunnier days filled with sand, surf, mountains, and celebrities... my summer trip to Los Angeles, California.
I've been dreamin' of going to California since I was a little kid. This past summer my dream became a reality as my family and I boarded a 5:30 a.m. flight from Chicago to LA! From the beach to LA to TV tapings and a visit with the Mouse in nine days, I checked off nearly everything on my bucket list!
1. Santa Monica Beach, California
Staying in a hotel on the beach was so perfect. After those long days of sightseeing, the only thing I wanted to do was sit by the ocean. Santa Monica is an awesome spot for tourists with the famous Santa Monica Pier, award-winning restaurants, and a bike path along the beach that runs up the coast. The first afternoon of being there, we biked six miles total up to coast to Venice Beach. It was an easy and beautiful ride on the water. We stopped at the famous Venice Pier to take family pictures with the ocean and mountains as our backdrop.
2. Venice, California
Taking our bikes off trail and a block inland of Venice, we discovered the beautiful Venice Canals. The colorful homes, luscious flowers, and arched bridges make it feel as if you are in Italy. It is a must-see spot while visiting! FOOD STOP! "Venice Ale House" is the perfect restaurant on the beach for a burger or their garlic aioli crab cakes.
3. Hollywood, California
If you're into the "glitz and glam" of Hollywood that you see on TV, Hollywood is an awesome spot to explore the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater, and if you are lucky like my mom and me, catch a taping of Jimmy Kimmel! Our highlight of the day in Hollywood was the "Starline Celebrity Homes Tour" as we rode through the Hollywood Hills and saw the glamorous homes of stars including Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Pharrell, and Gwen Stefani.
4. Downtown Los Angeles
After taking the "Expo" train line from Santa Monica into the city, we hopped on a Starline Double Decker bus and explored Downtown. My favorite part of the day was the Angels Flight Railway which was made famous in "La La Land" with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Across the street, we enjoyed lunch at the Grand Central Market, another great stop for food. Around the corner, you can find The Last Bookstore, an old-fashioned bookstore famous for its Instagramable book arc and flying books upstairs. PRO TIP! If you head to the top floor of city hall, you can get a free visitors pass to see great views of LA. We could see Dodgers Stadium, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the LA Times from there.
5. Warner Brothers Studio, Burbank, California
All of your favorite TV shows and movies come to life during the Warner Brothers Studio Tour! I imagined myself talking to Rory as I sat on the steps of the Gazebo in the Stars Hollow town square from "Gilmore Girls." My family and I relaxed in the Central Perk coffee shop on the big velvet couch, each with a big coffee cup in hand. I saw cityscapes that were used in movies such as "Casablanca," "Batman," and "La La Land." "Ellen" wasn't taping, so we got to go into her studio, stand on her stage, and sit in the blue velvet audience chairs. And, if you are a fan of any TV shows that are filming, look up tickets far enough in advance to be a part of their studio audience! My mom and I were in the audience for the show "Mom", with Allison Janney and Anna Faris, and had a blast laughing with the cast as we watched TV magic move around from set to set. The laughing never stopped because as they changed sets, a comedian kept the audience entertained between tapings. If you are in California, put the Warner Brothers Studio at the top of your list!
For a Disney fan like myself, this trip wouldn't have been complete without a stop at the Happiest Place on Earth. Although smaller than Disney World, there is no shortage of fun and you will still have an overflowing list of rides and characters to meet. We had a blast in both parks as we tried rides such as the "Incredicoaster" only at California Adventure Park, but we also enjoyed rides such as "Soarin" and "Space Mountain" that they have in both California and Florida parks.
This trip was an awesome experience, so I would recommend putting California to the top of your "travel bucket list" like I did. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. Don't forget to visit these six places while you are there, it will make for a trip of a lifetime, I promise!