Touring the City of Angels (Las Vegas & Los Angeles Recap, Part 3)

Nathan DeFiesta

Hi everyone, and welcome to the third (and final) part of my recap from Vegas and L.A.!

Today, I’m going to be telling you all about our time in Los Angeles. We only had 3 full days, but we definitely tried to make the most of it (with minimal napping!). So without further ado, let’s dive in:

Table of Contents

Our Accommodations

Since we stayed in on the night that we arrived, we (finally) woke up well-rested on our first morning in L.A.! Instead of a hotel, this time we were staying at an AirBnB in Santa Monica – this ended up being a good choice, due to its proximity to the beach. Before setting out on the day’s adventure, we stopped at a local health-food cafe called The Hive because I was craving a smoothie bowl (shocker). This time, however, Adrian actually tried my smoothie bowl (Original Green) – and liked it so much that he got one for himself! Score one for the health nuts.

Day 1: DTLA and Hollywood Boulevard

After breakfast, we decided on a game plan for the day. Since it was a Saturday, we decided to explore downtown L.A. first – figuring that the city would be bustling and exciting. HA. If there’s one thing to keep in mind when you visit L.A., it’s that Los Angeles spans a huge area – so the “city” actually consists of multiple areas with their own merit, activities, and way of life. In this case, downtown ended up being relatively quiet (considering it was a Saturday) and we just explored the music hall, and the art and financial districts. After this, we realized that there was just enough time to pop over to Hollywood Boulevard and explore the “tourist” part of town for a couple of hours before heading back to Santa Monica to get ready for dinner.

Hollywood Boulevard ended up being a pretty interesting spectacle, although it certainly wasn’t as crazy as they make it appear in the movies – at least, not while we were there. On our way back to the car, after walking down the boulevard and visiting a souvenir shop, an aspiring rapper did manage to get our (Adrian’s) attention – and managed to sell us (Adrian) a CD! I was highly skeptical at first, while Adrian was highly curious. But, I finally joined him in the curiosity when the rapper told Adrian to play track 8 for me. Spoiler alert: the track was titled “Cutie Pie”. We had a pretty good laugh about it on the drive back.

Nighttime Activities: WP24 and “Clubbing”

For dinner, we had a reservation at Wolfgang Puck’s WP24, on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton in downtown L.A. I was a huge fan of this place! Besides the spectacular views of the greater Los Angeles area, the food – modern Chinese cuisine – was fantastic. We had a delicious appetizer of shrimp and scallops rolled into what I can only liken to a steamed “egg roll” (forgive me for not recalling the proper name!) with a flavorful sauce; and I chose scallops atop congee for my main course. It was a lovely experience overall and I highly recommend having it on your list when you visit!

Our night ended with a venture to a nightclub (to remain unnamed) that was – supposedly – touted as very cool and “the place to be”…but that must have been a few years ago, because we felt like the oldest people in there (and keep in mind, we’re not that old)! Basically, it did not feel like we were in a swanky nightclub atmosphere one bit – and that was what we had been expecting. So, we made a swift exit and walked down Hollywood Boulevard trying to find a better option.

I know, I know. If you’re a L.A. native or simply familiar with the city, you’re probably thinking “What on earth were you doing on Hollywood Boulevard at night?”. Let’s just say, it wasn’t our best move – but luckily, nothing bad transpired! We finally stopped at the Roosevelt Hotel to have cocktails, giving up on finding anywhere else to go in the vicinity. The hotel, at least, had a very quiet and elegant atmosphere – much more fitting to how our evening began. Following this, it was time for bed, so we headed back to Santa Monica and called it a night. We wanted to get as early of a start as possible, because we were going to the Griffith Observatory the next day!

Day 2: Griffith Observatory

We started our second day with more smoothie bowls at The Hive – since it was a mere 5 minute drive away – and then left for Griffith Observatory. It was easy enough to get to the entrance of the park…but finding a parking spot that wasn’t abysmally far from the observatory itself took forever!

By the time we found a spot – after going up and down the huge, winding hill multiple times – we were ready to get out of the car and stretch our legs. I will admit, the views at the top did make the hassle worthwhile. Besides seeing the Hollywood sign (which, of course, we had to while in L.A.), we were treated to expansive views of the cityscape in daylight. Again, we were awestruck by how massive this metropolis truly is.

Following our stop at Griffith Observatory, we decided to drive around Beverly Hills and West Hollywood a bit – especially since we had come to realize that these were the areas we had really wanted to explore all along. Oops. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay in those areas for very long, as we had yet another dinner reservation – this time at Nobu Malibu – and needed to build in time to get back to Santa Monica, change, and then head up the Pacific Coast Highway. Driving up (and down) the PCH was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip. The ability to see the ocean for the majority of our drive up to Malibu just made the journey all the more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay in those areas for very long, as we had yet another dinner reservation – this time at Nobu Malibu – and needed to build in time to get back to Santa Monica, change, and then head up the Pacific Coast Highway. Driving up (and down) the PCH was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip. The ability to see the ocean for the majority of our drive up to Malibu just made the journey all the more enjoyable.

Nighttime Activities: Nobu and a “Second Dinner”

Our dinner at Nobu was delicious, just like WP24, but beware: if you are used to large portions, you’ll be in the wrong place. The focus for Nobu Malibu’s dishes are on small portions, big flavor! This time, my favorite dishes were the shrimp with lobster and spicy lemon sauce; and the Chilean sea bass with dry miso. So good!

The other special thing about this Nobu location is that it is the destination to catch a beautiful sunset in Malibu. Not only did we get to enjoy that sunset, but – since Nobu is beachfront – we also decided to walk on the beach after dinner. By this point, the sun had set, so the waves truly disappeared into the dark horizon. If you make it to Nobu Malibu, be sure to dip your toes in the sand after dinner – it makes the whole experience even better. After we were finished walking along the beach, Adrian realized that he was still hungry (men and their appetites!). So, on the drive back from Malibu, we stopped at an Italian restaurant called Tramonto, and basically had a second dinner. It seems a bit excessive, I know – but hey, we were on vacation!

When we arrived back in Santa Monica, we had the best intentions to go back out and explore the nightlife on Melrose Avenue…but fell asleep shortly after getting back from dinner. Oh well, we plan to come back to Los Angeles anyway – and this time, we’ll arrive on a Thursday!

Day 3: Returning the Car and a Day at the Beach

On our last full day in L.A., we had to return our rental car. S0, we planned to stay in Santa Monica that day and explore a bit. But first, we woke up early that morning to drive the PCH once last time before returning the rental car (and I actually didn’t get a smoothie bowl this time!). This wouldn’t have been a big deal, if traffic had behaved normally. But of course, that couldn’t be the case.

We had gone about 20 minutes north before realizing that there was major traffic on the way back down. Plus, when I went to check Waze to see if there was an alternate route, the app showed that it would take over an hour to get down to Thrifty! At first, I didn’t realize that Waze’s route would lead us up north and then back down to the airport, so I was certain that we were going to miss the rental return time. Needless to say, I was freaking out! Of course, I didn’t realize that we wouldn’t be penalized that much for being a little bit over the appointment time (but cut me some slack, it was my first time renting). Luckily, – and, as usual – Adrian stayed level-headed throughout the ordeal, and we decided to stay on the same route until traffic eased up. In the end, we actually made it to our appointment with a few minutes to spare.

Finally, we went back to Santa Monica for a long, warm, and lovely day at the beach to wind down. I was finally able to use my wine-travel backpack (which Adrian gave me last Christmas), and we relaxed on the beach with wine in hand and the sun on our faces. When our trip began, I was concerned that we weren’t making enough time in our itinerary to visit the beach properly. But, it ended up being the perfect way to spend our last day! For dinner, we found a cute Italian place called North Italia, nestled in a side-street in downtown Santa Monica. If you couldn’t tell, Adrian and I both have soft spots for Italian food! After dinner, we walked around Santa Monica a bit more and visited the Santa Monica Pier for a bit of exploring and some final souvenir shopping. After heading back to the apartment and packing up a bit, we decided to go to bed early. Our flight was around noon the next day, and we wanted to wake up early again for one last beach visit!

Day 4: One Last Dip in the Ocean before Departing

The morning of our departure, we left for the beach around 8am and spent about an hour there. As it turns out, this was a good move for us: with very few people around, the beach was incredibly peaceful and proved to be a great ending for our trip! After the beach, we wrapped up our visit with one last smoothie bowl, packed up, and then we were on our way home.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed our time in L.A. – as well as the entire trip, of course. I do wish that we had done a bit more research beforehand, to get an idea of what was worth seeing and what we could skip. But, sometimes that’s part of the experience!

Well, that’s it for the Las Vegas and Los Angeles recap! I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure, and check back next Thursday for the first part of my San Francisco recap. Until then, I’d love to know: what are YOUR favorite spots in L.A. that are must-see?

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