Los Angeles Sightseeing by Open Top Bus

Hollywood El Capitan Theatre

AKA, how to see LOADS of Los Angeles in a very short amount of time. I am totally sorry-not-sorry for how long this post is gonna be.

With only about 48 hours in the mega-tropolis that is Los Angeles, I’d decided I wanted to see as much of it as possible. The idea of an open-top, sightseeing bus might be sneered at by some within the community of seasoned travellers who praise ‘off the beaten track’ experience. BUT, when you have a LOT to take in in a small amount of time with no real knowledge of the city, it can be a fantastic way to get your bearings, see all the major ‘bucket list’ bits and generally get an overall feel for where you’re at. The ticket for a day’s hop-on, hop off service cost me $49 (equivalent to about £33 at the time of writing).

Arriving back in Santa Monica to grab my day ticket, the weather was definitely NOT what I’d pictured for Los Angeles. As soon as I’d got soaked through to the skin, the sun came out and I dried off – this was pretty much a repeated occurrence throughout the rest of my morning. Undeterred, after grabbing a huge and insanely tasty breakfast of Huevos Rancheros with a glass of Nutella milk at Cafe Crepe, I headed down to the bus pickup point and hopped aboard.

Despite the stormy skies and intermittent rainstorms, I was determined to sit on the top of the bus – even when it included putting a map down over the wet seat and tying my hood tightly round my rain-smeared face. And, despite the conditions, I LOVED my day seeing the sights of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles shop Los Angeles Brentwood Country Mart

Leaving Santa Monica, the bus drove past all kinds of lovely sights and I took about a million pictures of random houses and buildings. The commentary on the bus was actually really useful, as otherwise I’d have just been gawking at everything without a clue about some of the lesser-known sights – including one of Marilyn Monroe’s favourite hotels, her grave site and Bundy Drive, where Nicole Brown Simpson was stabbed to death in 1994. Grisly. (If you want to read more about American ‘murder houses’, I just quite enjoyed having a read of this article)

The route took us through Brentwood – where plenty of celebs can be found, slightly away from the more well-known district of Beverly Hills. I didn’t spot any famous faces, but it was definitely quite different from the town it shares a name with in Essex.

Beverly Hills tram trolley Beverly Hills Sign Beverly Hills Civic Centre

BEVERLY HILLS, THAT’S WHERE I WANT TO BEEE. Yep, I spent most of this part of the trip with Weezer playing on repeat in my head. I hopped off the bus here to do a bit of exploring…

Los Angeles Sugarfina Candy Shop in Beverley HillsLos Angeles Sugarfina Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

On my way to the infamous Rodeo Drive, I stumbled across a cute as heck little candy boutique, Sugarfina. Literally the prettiest shop I think I’ve ever set eyes on. So many pretty sweets lined the shelves, and although most of the boxes were pretty pricey, I treated myself to a little bag of blue dark chocolate covered marshmallows. Which were absolutely DELICIOUS.

Beverley Hills Street Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive designer shopping Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive Sign

Obviously, I took a wonder down Rodeo Drive. What really struck me is how CLEAN and SHINY everything was – palm trees, designer storefronts…I understandably didn’t end up buying anything, but…

Beverly Hills Bathroom Selfie

…I took a selfie in a Beverly Hills toilet because why not?

Los Angeles Melrose Avenue Band ShirtsLos Angeles Melrose Avenue Tattoo Shop Los Angeles Melrose Avenue Shopping

After having a snoop around Beverley Hills, I hopped aboard my second bus of the day towards HOLLYWOOD. We took a trip down Melrose Avenue, a shopping area that gave a stark contrast to Beverly Hills, with more unique boutiques and some fun street art.

Los Angeles Capitol Records BuildingHollywood Pantages Theatre

Arriving in Hollywood!

Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe Freddy KreugerHollywood Hard Rock Cafe

Lunch tiiiime. And what better place to eat at on the touristiest of days but the Hard Rock Cafe on Hollywood Boulevard. I mean, if I hadn’t gone in, Freddy K would have had something to say, right? (if he hadn’t been too busy having Whatsapp beef on his phone with Jason, anyway). Plus, as I walked in and headed to my table-for-one by the bar they were playing Fall Out Boy. Basically fate.

I actually really liked the vibe and decor, although it’s part of a worldwide chain (or maybe BECAUSE?), they definitely went all out with the rock and roll Hollywood vibe, with photos, signed instruments and all sorts of memorabilia.

Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe cocktailHollywood Hard Rock Cafe burger and fries

As I was in Hollywood, I threw the stigma of drinking alone at lunchtime to hell and ordered up a cocktail. I have…um…totally forgotten what the cocktail was. But doesn’t it look FABULOUS? I paid an extra $5 to get a souvenir glass, which I promptly left in an Uber (me, leave something in a taxi?!) and ended up replacing for $10 the next day. Worth it for such a snazzy piece of glassware though, right?

I went pretty simple with my menu choice – a good ol’ Legendary Burger, with a side of parmesan fries with aioli dip. I was actually surprised by the quality of the food at the Hard Rock – as it was legitimately rather good. A particular highlight were the fries – super crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, just like a good frenchie should be. And the dip was creamy and garlic-y, which worked really well with the generous parmesan.

Hollywood Walk of Fame James Franco Hollywood Walk of Fame Robin Williams

After lunch, I took a wander along the Walk of Fame, taking in some of the famous stars along the walk – including Robin Williams, where someone had poignantly laid flowers. EMOTIONS.

Hollywood Game of Thrones Premiere

Oh, and I casually walked through the setup for some kind of Game of Thrones mega-event going on. I don’t watch GoT (I know, I know) but as there are quite a lot of people who do (understatement), I thought I’d take this snap to make people jealous. Then got told off for it. Whoops.

Los Angeles amazing street art muralLos Angeles Johnnies Coffee Shop Restaurant

On my third bus trip of the day, I saw some pretty cool street art, as well as Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant. No longer a working cafe, but you might recognise it from the likes of Reservoir Dogs, American History X and The Big Lebowski. See also, uh, Sean Kingston’s ‘Beautiful Girls’ music video…

Los Angeles The Hayworth Wedding Photography

This is actually legitimately one of my favourite pictures I took during my travels. As we were driving past, I spotted this newlywed couple having their wedding photos taken. And what struck me was how happy they looked, even when the camera wasn’t pointing in their direction, without a care about who was or wasn’t looking, there were huge smiles on their faces. I almost feel like I was intruding on a private moment, but it was too sweet not to snap a photo of.

(If, by any miniscule ridiculous chance, the people in this photo stumble across my blog, please feel free to claim yourselves and enjoy the pic – hope you had a wonderful day!)

Los Angeles Urban Light SculptureLos Angeles Paramount Pictures StudioLos Angeles Westlake Theatre SignLos Angeles Wilshire Boulevard Temple

The route to Downtown took me past some pretty cool places, including Paramount Studios, where they film lots of things. I did crane my neck to star-spot, but alas, no luck.

Walt Disney Concert HallLos Angeles Union Station

Los Angeles Chinatown entranceLos Angeles Chinatown open bus tour Los Angeles Chinatown bus tour

After taking in the pretty majestic Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the final sights on my bus-bound day was Chinatown – I’d have actually loved to hop off and explore a little, but it was getting late, so I was satisfied just looking at all the sights.

By this point, I was pretty drained from a long day, so I found a nail salon, got my nails did, then jumped in an Uber back to the hotel. I was impressed at how cheap Uber is in the US – my half hour journey cost just $12 thanks to UberPool-ing with some boys from Kansas, who I had a nice little chat to before I pretty much fell asleep. And left my souvenir behind.

Los Angeles Cinco Restaurant

After having a big breakfast and big lunch, a nice, small salad was all I really needed for dinner, so I popped into Cinco restaurant, just round the corner from my hotel, and ordered their Ensalada de Cinco. When it came out I did a little bit of a shocked face, because this salad was legit BIGGER THAN MY HEAD. Yeah, still wasn’t used to those American portion sizes.

However, I’m actually pretty glad as it was really tasty. Grilled chicken, crispy romaine lettuce, black beans, sweetcorn, avocado, pico de gallo salsa and cheese in an amazing creamy jalapeno sauce. It was topped off by thin, crispy tortilla chips and I managed to finish the entire thing, it was THAT good. The restaurant’s only letdown was that it was pretty dark and very noisy, so not the best place to visit if you’re looking for quiet conversation. But as I was dining solo, it was actually kinda fine with me.

Previously in the America 2016 series – Santa Monica.

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  • Laura

    I loved reading this so much! I went to LA for the first time back in Feb so this brought back so many cute memories 🙂 xx

  • Olivia

    *your