My German g/f and I (Aussie) are heading to Calafornia in June for about 10 days to attend a friends wedding. Having never been to the West Coast before we're trying to work out what we should be seeing and where we should spend our time. We'd like a relaxing break, whilst making sure we see some of the highlights.
Having done my own research, I am leaning towards staying in Santa Monica rather than Hollywood/Beverly Hills/Downtown LA. Does this sound sensible? Any suggestions for accomodation in Santa Monica that won't break the budget (don't wanna really pay more than $150pn). We'll have a hire car, so location shouldn't be a problem.
Looking forward to Vegas. Recommend any "must stay at" hotels? Should we do the chopper flight to the Grand Canyon? Boat trip too?
You can see our rough itinerary below. Any suggestions what to do on the final Sun-Tue would be grateful.
Thanks to you all for any suggestions!
Pick up hire car. Chill out in Santa Monica.
Accom in Santa Monica.
Arrive in LA, chillin Santa Monica, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach.
Accom in Santa Monica.
Day @ Disneyland!
Accom near Disneyland.
Drive to Vegas / Chill
Accom in Vegas.
Chopper flight to Grand Canyon. Brians stag party Wed night.
Accom in Vegas.
Recovery / Chill in Vegas
Accom in Vegas.
Drive to Ojai, Californa for wedding rehersal dinner etc.
Accom in Ojai *Booked*
Sat 26 : Day in Ojai and the Wedding of course!
Accom in Ojai *Booked*
Brunch/Recovery in Ojai! Where should we go/visit?!
Day @ Universal Studios?
Shopping in L.A.?
Flight at 8pm from LAX.
Santa Monica is a nice selection. The pier is historic. It’s has the first solar operated Ferris wheel. I have always enjoyed the general atmosphere of beach towns. It can be a bit crowded in the summer, but that’s ok. Everyone is pretty laid back anyway.
If you’re looking for some additional ideas you might want to try some more traveling up and down the coast. I don’t know how far you feel like traveling, but San Diego is a nice stop. You can drive or you can take Amtrak California down there too (it’s an inexpensive, relaxed way to travel: -snip-. One of my favorite things to do is rent a bike and cruise up and down the pier. I did a bike tour of Coronado Island once. It was amazing. You can sample some history and culture in Old Town San Diego too. If you really want to see more of California, come on up to Northern California. I don’t know if you really have the time or means, but there is plenty to do up north as well: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, or Lake Tahoe! I know: ride up to San Francisco and check out Fisherman’s Warf and then take a tour of Alcatraz! Now that would be a good time.
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
I like Manhattan Beach far more than Santa Monica, and I think you would too. I'd estimate it to be 10 to 12 miles south of SM (south of LAX) and much more laid back and nice. LA has this 17 mile long bike path that runs the length of the beach strip running from SM in the north past Venice, Marina del Rey, LAX, Manhattan B. to Redondo Beach. Be sure to cycle this strip - it's a blast and stop in Venice to see Muscle Beach and all the wierdos/crack heads that inhabit the area. Manhattan is just more relaxed than SM (too much concrete!), and Manhattan B. is home of beach volleyball in the USA.
[ Edit: Edited on 25-Feb-2010, at 11:20 by Daawgon ]
Well the wedding Ojai will be worth the trip itself! For vegas you will pay more to stay on the strip than just a block off. I would say to check a website like hotels.com or something like for some last minute deals that may make sense. I live in NJ and use that when I want to spend the night in NYC. So cheaper hotels there would be Luxor, New York New York (they have the only sportsbook in vegas, so if you want to watch some sports and through a few dollars down than this is your place). I have stayed in both these hotels and they are bit older but fine. MGM might have some good deals because that place is enormous. The helicopter I am sure would be cool and a great way to see the Grand Canyon. Since you will have a rental car, you can drive out to the Hoover dam and see that, then stop off at Lake Mead on your way back to Vegas for a quick swim!
Wow thank you so much for your many hints, tips, ideas and suggestions! Very much appreciated!
We're still narrowing down where we will stay (think we're certain it shall be in Santa Monica).
I have one more question, that being the subject of Transport!
A friend of mine has suggested we tackle LA using the public bus & train system. I'm leaning towards the same idea as I don't think we'll really need a car if we are commuting from Santa MOnica into town for the day and back, and then getting to Universal Studios for a day. I'll hire a car and drive out to Disney though, continuing to Las Vegas.
Thanks a million! Matt
I'm waiting for CalCruzer's response because this thread is right in his wheelhouse. My first impressions are you simply must see the Grand Canyon. We did the copter ride and it's pretty amazing. One thing of note: the Pacific ocean is very cold year round. But be prepared for that if you plan on going to the beach.
If I were you I'd bag the shopping and try to see as much as possible, but that's just me.. This is one of the best places in America to visit and with your limited schedule I'd try to see as much of it as possible. Disney, Universal etc are very cool but there is so much more.
First of all, let me say that while you think you can do LA without a rental car, it is just not possible unless you are planning to only see about two things. Distances in Los Angeles are huge. I think a lot of people don't realize that the city of Los Angeles alone is over 50 miles long and 15 miles wide. The metropolitan area is about 80 miles long and 40 miles wide. Also, plan to drive here between 10 AM and 2 PM or before 7 AM or after 7 PM. The rest of time the place is kind of one big parking lot.
To go from Santa Monica to Universal Studios can take you 45 minutes driving--or 3 hours by bus. By car is better.
Now, let's talk about better things. While you are in Ojai, you have a few choices--(1) just relax in town and chill--especially since you will have already been driving all over, or (2) head for Santa Barbara, or (3) head to Solvang and Los Olivos and the bakeries and wineries nearby (you can also see Santa Barbara on either the way there or the way back). Solvang is a town done up like a Scandanavian town with windmills, bakeries, smorgasborgs etc. It is much better in the spring or summer than in the winter, though. Best places in Santa Barbara are near the coast, along State Street (downtown) and out at the beautiful mission.
A different option is to go into LA to do your shopping on Sunday (or possibly on the first Saturday when you first get there). The fashion district (out near 9th street and Santee Street is busy on Saturday and Sunday--and much easier to get to then (since it is right near downtown) than it will be on a weekday. They have lots of good deals in this area, where things are much cheaper than any other places in LA.
The other place to shop is in Hollywood or at the Beverly Center on LA's westside or else in Santa Monica near 4th street. I wouldn't think about going into the Fashion district any weekday unless I was a crazy person.
Enjoy your trip.
P.S. Yes, I think the Grand Canyon is a "must see" as DaveinMD said--but it sounds like you just don't have the time to drive there considering your very tight schedule. For this reason, take the chopper as planned--and take your camera.
Along this line, considering taking the chopper leaving at a time that still gets you to the canyon when it is sunny, but arrives back to Vegas at nighttime. Then see if you can get the pilot to take the chopper over the many high-rise hotels of Vegas when you come back (at night). We told him we'd tip a bit more for this--and this was a fantastic finish to an already spectacular chopper ride.
[ Edit: . ]
Just a big thank you to you all on suggestions for our trip! We just got back from California and had such a wonderful time!
We stayed 3 nights in Santa Monica and visited Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, and did a fantastic food tour with Melting Pot Tours in downtown LA - check em out! Then spent a day at Disneyland, followed by a road trip to Vegas. Spent 3 nights in Vegas @ the Palazzo (amazing) and then a long drive via LA, up to Ojai for a wedding. Ojai is such a cute quaint town. The Ojai Country Club Inn was just bliss! Our final night was spent in Santa Barbara - can't recommend it more highly!
Anyways, I am about to post again about BC, Canada and get some ideas for our 3 week trip!
Take care, keep travelling and thanks again for your feedback!
Matt & Mel.