Both times I’ve visited Los Angeles, the city has stolen my heart. Tons of food, things to do, and the amazing weather always makes for a good time! That’s why when I was invited to be a bridesmaid in a Houston wedding, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to also catch a flight to the City of Angels.
This was my second time visiting LA, so naturally I wanted to find some gems to visit other than the typical tourist spots from my first trip (think the Walk of Fame, Griffith’s Observatory, Rodeo Drive etc.).
This time around, we dived a bit deeper, and I was SO delighted with what we chose to do! I only wish we had more time to explore! In this post, you’ll find a recap of my trip – and hopefully some spots for your own adventure to LA. Are you ready?
Table of Contents
Day 1: Settling In
In the words of Miley Cyrus, “I jumped off the plane at LAX,” ready to conquer the city…
However, a big part of the first day is the actual travelling part so it was already around 6PM by the time Ja’Sjnn and I met up at the airport. His flight came in later than mine, so I grabbed some Starbucks, sat outside a bit, and helped an old lady call her Uber ride while I waited. After we met up, NOW it was time to conquer the city!
…Except it wasn’t. We still had to check into our room and get our rental car. These little tasks tend to vacuum up WAY more time than you’d expect! Regardless, it’s a vital part of making the most of your trip.
What We Drove
I always call Turo “the Airbnb of cars,” because it most definitely is. This was my first time using the service, and I was actually quite happy with what we rented. For $35.00 a day, we were able to cruise around in a 2018 Honda Civic owned by a LA local. Other services such as Hertz and Enterprise are also known for having good deals, but we ultimately settled on using this service – and we weren’t disappointed!
Where We Stayed
If you’ve read any of my travel posts, you know I swear by Airbnb! This one certainly exceeded my expectations. It’s a tiny home, located in La-Crescenta Montrose – which is about 30 minutes from downtown LA, depending on traffic. This is by far the best Airbnb I’ve ever stayed in! The hosts had a seamless check in process, where they give you a code for a lockbox containing the key. They even left us fresh blueberry muffins and orange juice! Would SO recommend.
What’s Left of Day 1
By the time we finished leaving the airport, getting the rental, and checking into our Airbnb, it was around 9:00PM. We still found time for some fun, though. To my surprise, Ja’Sjnn planned us a date to go Go-Karting at a local place called MB2 Raceway in Thousand Oaks.
Unfortunately, ya girl lost to him – but I didn’t do too poorly compared to the other racers! With a special Groupon deal they had going on, this activity costed $38.00 per person for three races. It was totally worth it to get the adrenaline rush of whooshing around corners and skrrrrting past other drivers!
Day 2: The Magic At the Mountain
Ja’Sjnn has some family in the area, so for breakfast they took us out to a charming Ventura restaurant called Egg Plantation. They offer 101 delicious omelettes: from Pastrami and Swiss to the Strawberry Preserves and Sour Cream (odd!).
Being a pizza lover, I got the #36 pizza omelette – minus the mushrooms and olives. It’s unconventional, but it was surprisingly tasty. Besides the omelette, the delicious english muffins and coffee were the icing on the cake! The prices are very reasonable, with the omelettes (along with a side of hash browns and a bread item) running between $12 – $16.
After a big breakfast, we headed to Six Flags Magic Mountain for some thrills.
There are a two different types of amusement park goers: the thrill-seekers, known for avidly riding roller-coasters while screaming & laughing their heads off, and those who demand to stay on the ground and end up holding the bags for the thrill-seekers. No offense to anyone, but it’s true!
Luckily, both Ja’Sjnn and I are thrill-seekers and rode TONS of roller coasters during our time there. Let me tell you. I know I’m not THAT old at 22 years old, but I could most definitely tell the difference between teenage Rissa and young adult Rissa because after about 9 or 10 coasters I tapped out. Want to get assaulted under the guise of fun? Ride the X-2 coaster, and hope not to die!
A side note, Six Flags Magic Mountain is a dream come true for DC fans. I absolutely LOVE the Flash and was sooooo excited to see Jitters Coffee and Central City Police Department buildings from the series!
After tapping out from the perils of being whipped around on the roller coasters, we stopped by the boardwalk area to play some carnival games and ride the carousel.
All in all, Magic Mountain is HUGE with some seriously exhilarating coasters! If that’s not your speed, I’d recommend heading to a different park for the day!
Although we could’ve saved some money by getting the military discount, the general admission ticket lines were insane. We ended up purchasing our tickets online, which was about $100.00. It was more than I anticipated spending, but it was well worth it in my humble opinion.
After we showered and freshened up, Ja’Sjnn’s lovely aunt had us over for pasta with lobster, shrimp, and scallops AND some yummy white zinfandel. Um, yes, I’m definitely feeling welcomed into the family if you wondered.
After that, we headed out to DTLA (that’s short for Downtown LA).
Drinks on the Town
Imagine sitting poolside as the night breeze caresses your skin, sipping on tasty cocktails and admiring a city skyline that could take your breath away. Sounds great, right? Well The Broken Shaker is the perfect place to make this fantasy a reality.
I found this lesser-known spot on Yelp, and we ventured to the sixth floor of the Freehand Hotel to find this gem nestled away at the top.
I was so happy to find that the drinks weren’t disrespectfully priced. I had the house punch of the night, something with vodka and raspberry, which costed $10.00. Ja’Sjnn had the tequila sour, which was $15.00. It might sound pricey, but as someone who frequently goes to bars in D.C., it’s not too far off from what you’d spend there!
Both of us were kind of tuckered out from our
abuse adventures at Magic Mountain, so we closed our tab and headed back to our Airbnb for the evening.
Day 3: Packing It In
Day three was by far my favorite, and was JAM PACKED with things. We visited several places in a matter of 13 hours.
The Garden of Eden
The Huntington Botanical Garden was ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! We didn’t even get to see it all! Complete with a Rose Garden, Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Library, European Art Exhibit, Tea Room, and more, this is the perfect destination for people who love culture and beautiful greenery.
When Ja’Sjnn first suggested the Huntington, I have to admit, I was a little confused. However, upon the first few steps into the garden, any doubt was quickly washed away by the beauty that captivated my spirit.
The gardens have several restaurants as well. Although we didn’t eat at any there, the dumpling house in the Japanese Garden smelled like a dream.
General admission to the Huntington is $25.00, however military members and students can enter for $21.00 with valid identification. Like I said, the garden was a thing of dreams! Speaking of dreams….
Wander around the Dream Space
Alexa, play A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes. The MOD Museum of Dream Space feels like a figment of your imagination. Inspired by the Infinity Mirrors exhibit by Yayoi Kusama (Art lovers, look her up!), this small art installation takes you far beyond this universe.
Altogether, the exhibit contains six rooms. It was semi-short, but as a Yayoi Kusama fan who loves art installations, this was on my must see list. With the Groupon deal, tickets are $28.00 per person. Luckily, my Groupon student discount allowed me to snag an additional $7.00 off for the both of us. As if our day wasn’t magical enough already, yet ANOTHER activity took my breath away.
On Top of The World
Would you dare to ride to the 74th floor of a skyscraper? If so, OUE Skyspace is an ah-ma-zing destination for you!
The observation deck at OUE Skyspace is nearly 1,000 feet over the city of Los Angeles. Stroll around the building for 360 degree views of the city, enjoy complimentary beer with your ticket purchase, and slide down their glass slide on the side of the building (yikes!).
The view was truly gorgeous, and with the lovely California sun, I felt nice and tranquil as I enjoyed the view!
Unfortunately, there’s no recording on the glass slide, but here’s a gif of my crash-landing for your enjoyment:
Skyspace also has a few small things for your to enjoy as you make your way up to the top. See the history of the development of the entertainment industry, some facts about LA, a mini-recording studio, a graffiti wall, and some locker room tributes to the city’s sports teams!
Unleash Your Inner Book Worm
The Last Bookstore is heaven on earth for any book worm or record-player owner! Two stories of book stacks filled to the brim is enough to capture your attention for hours! Wander among the towers, eyeing fictional novels, comic books, and any other genre you can imagine.
Above the bookstore, you’ll find the “Labyrinth At The Last Bookstore,” a winding art gallery by the Spring Arts Collective. There are also a few small shoppes owned by local artists, where they sell their own creations. I picked out two tiny buttons from a local woman who had handcrafted them herself.
As the sun quickly set, Ja’Sjnn and I set out for our last activity of the day.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica pier is certainly a must-see, as I went there during BOTH of my last trips to LA. Ride the ferris wheel and play carnival games at Pacific Park, or grab food at one of their many restaurants perched right on the Pacific Ocean.
Tons of street performers adorned the boardwalk – from a Mexican singing in a Donald Trump mask to caricature artists. Our time here was cut short due to my overwhelming craving for Korean Barbecue, but I can’t deny the romance and beauty that the pier has at night – even in a short visit.
I’m perfectly okay with admitting that I did NOT take an appropriate amount of photos at the Gen Korean BBQ House. Mostly because I was way too busy stuffing my face with the spicy baby octopus. Oddly enough, it was spectacular. Ja’Sjnn and I had a wonderful meal, stuffing our faces full of steak, pork belly, calamari, kimchi, rice, and whatever else we could order out the wazoo. For $21.99 per person, get unlimited meats and side dishes galore! This is probably the biggest meal we had in California, and it was our last outing before we departed the next day. 10 out of 10!
The next morning, we left our Airbnb, returned our rental car, and Ubered to LAX to return back to the good ol’ east coast.
LA, you have my heart forever! Ready to tackle the city?