I remember taking one of my very first trips to L.A. when I was about 7 years old. I begged my mom to take me on one of those tours that whiz past celebrity homes and stop briefly for window shopping on Rodeo. Luckily for 7 year old me, she obliged. I literally had stars pouring out of my eyes and knew one day I wanted to be a part of this dreamy city.
(Yes, I know I misused the term “literally”. I like it that way.)
Flash forward to 15 years later, I ended up living in Brentwood, a pristine neighborhood nestled in between Bel Air and Santa Monica. Life in L.A. surpassed all of my childhood expectations in what it has to offer! Hanging around celebs became the norm, some became my friends. I still look back to the 7 year old, starstruck me thinking she would be so proud!
L.A. is magical, and I credit that oh-so-touristy tour for sparking the initial flame. Because of that, I decided to share my own whimsical self-guided, star-studded tour that can be done in one day.
Even when I do have a car in L.A., I prefer to utilize Uber or Lyft. That way, I don’t have to deal with finding parking… or worse… paying for parking. With that being said, I’ll keep the checklist in a logical order by location so that you are not Uber-ing back and forth town (not so fun!). You can cut out parts of the checklist if you are short on time, or do it in reverse order!
Look for Austin (aka the Fly N Lion) and check out street art at Venice Beach. Who is Austin, you ask? He is an adorable Pomeranian and one of the many street performers found in eccentric Venice Beach. This dog catches some mad air and even skateboards with his owner! Last time I saw Austin, he was sporting a stylish mohawk. Can’t find Austin? There are plenty of other street performers that will keep you entertained! Entertainers range from spinning break dancers and unconventional piano players… to some acts that might leave you scratching your head.
Also check out the legal graffiti on the beach done by some very talented artists. (They obtain permits from the city to do this.) The skate park directly across from the graffiti wall often hosts talented performers that are worth checking out. Gym fanatics will enjoy both the outdoor Muscle Beach gym, as well as the nearby Gold’s Gym coined “The Mecca” of bodybuilding.
Rent beach cruisers and ride north to the Santa Monica pier. There are several places along Venice Beach where you can rent bikes. Pedal north for about a 15-20 minute bike ride to the Santa Monica pier. (If you aren’t a bike rider, you can also walk the distance in about 30-40 minutes. It’s about 1 mile.) For blondes like me, the Pacific ocean should be on your left hand side when traveling north! (LOL.)
While in Santa Monica, you can ride on the giant Ferris wheel at the end of the pier, or check out shops on the 3rd Street Promenade (aka Santa Monica Promenade). You can’t miss the pier, and just ask anyone to point you in the direction of the Promenade – it’s really easy to access from the beach. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from on the Promenade, or you can head back to Venice for a slice of pizza!
Cruise Sunset Blvd. Basically, everything cool in L.A. rests on the Sunset Strip. You really can’t lose by cruising “The Strip”. You can start from where the 405 meets Sunset Blvd. and head east to get glimpses of the infamous, pink Beverly Hills Hotel and entrance to Bel Air. Both make great photo ops!
Check out a few celebrity manors. If you turn down Charing Cross Road from Sunset Blvd., you will find yourself in the Holmby Hills where you can drive past some famed homes including Hugh Hefner’s iconic residence at 10236 Charing Cross Rd. The home that Michael Jackson died in is at 100 N. Carolwood Dr., also in Holmby Hills. If you want to see even more star residences, you are bound to find a guy wearing an umbrella hat on his head selling star maps in the area. I used to take that route to work every day, and there he was – rain or shine! Be prepared, you will see massive gates in front of the homes. (This is the same if you take a Hollywood tour bus.)
Soak in the luxury of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Take Sunset over to Two Rodeo Drive for luxury shopping in picturesque, European style buildings. (Yes, window shopping is just fine!) For a special treat, grab a Sprinkles Cupcake out of the Cupcake ATM machine (red velvet is my favorite!).
Visit The Original Farmer’s Market at the Grove. The Original Farmer’s Market is a favorite of locals and tourists since 1934. There are tons of choices of food from different vendors here, so you’ll be sure to find something that hits your taste buds! It’s a historic market, so even if you are full from your pizza and cupcake, it is still fun to look around. The Farmer’s Market sits adjacent to The Grove, a huge outdoor shopping center. (Yes, there is plenty of shopping in L.A.!)
Do some actual shopping on Melrose in West Hollywood. Melrose has trendy, yet more affordable shops than Rodeo Drive. 7275 Melrose Ave. will take you right to the heart of the street offering blocks of shopping. The Beverly Center is another shopping destination that is worth visiting if retail therapy is your thing. If you are not a shopaholic, skip this whole step and go on to the next.
Get a taste of Rock ‘n Roll history by visiting The Rainbow Bar & Grill, Whisky A-Go-Go, and The Roxy. The Rainbow is a bar & grill (adjacent to The Roxy) which is filled floor to ceiling with rock & roll memorabilia and a place where many famous musicians have sat. I have no shame in walking around the restaurant looking at all of the one-of-a-kind artifacts. You might even rub elbows with a rocker while you are there! Both the Whisky and Roxy are nearby, and where most iconic bands got their start – The Doors, Led Zepplin, and current artists alike. Check and see who’s playing and maybe snag some tickets for an evening show!
Head over to the cross-streets of Hollywood and Highland. Here you will find Grauman’s Chinese Theater, home to the hand and footprints of stars past and present. Hollywood & Highland is the heart of the Avenue of the Stars, also called the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This is also the location of the El Capitan theater, where Jimmy Kimmel is filmed. (Get Jimmy Kimmel tickets here.)
Hotel Tip: Check in to my favorite hotel in L.A., The Hollywood Roosevelt, which also holds a lot of Tinseltown history. And, it’s supposedly haunted by some famous ghosts!
(Click HERE for free activities to check out in Hollywood.)