After spending three months in Asia my fiancé and I were excited to visit Los Angeles with its balmy climate and hipster reputation. However we only had a stop over of 24 hours between flights to visit this huge and sprawling city so I did a lot of research on how to best spend our time. We wanted to visit the famous LA beaches and some tourist hotspots. We were also conscious that LA is an expensive city, so we set aside money we’d received for Christmas to fund it. Here’s how we experienced the city and what we spent.
Early morning - easing into it
LA is famous for its beach life, so after an early flight into the city we headed straight to Venice Beach. We found a great breakfast spot called Great White where we enjoyed a breakfast burrito and delicious blue smoothie bowl amongst the hipsters and started soaking up the sun on their curbside seating area.
Cost: $36.80 / £28. Very pricey, but we enjoyed the people watching as well as the food.
After breakfast we took the five minute walk to the old Venice Canals. The canals were built in the early 1900s and are perfect for a relaxing stroll in the crisp morning sunshine. We had a great time meandering around the canals and having a nosey at the beautiful houses that line them in this affluent and peaceful area. We particularly enjoyed walking over one bridge where visitors could write a wish on a piece of paper and tie it to the side. Reading the anonymous wishes of strangers was very uplifting.
Cost: Free. Put your money away!
Mid-morning - hit the beach
Next we went to the boardwalk where we found a very different scene. Venice beachfront is bustling and filled with street artists and vendors selling everything from sunglasses to wind chimes. We stopped to join the crowds a couple of times to watch performances from a group of dancers (very good!) and a magician (not so good - a bit slow). Next we swung by the beach front skatepark to see impressive tricks from the locals and then went to Muscle Beach, an open air gym located directly on the boardwalk and once home to legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sadly he wasn’t there.
Since we were at the beach, we had to spend some time on it. Venice Beach is blessed with a wide strip of white sand and is well manned by lifeguards - though it was too cold for us to swim in January. Top tip: it can be prone to fog in both the morning and evening so mid-morning is the best time to visit. We happily sunned ourselves for 45 minutes before getting peckish.
Cost: Free (again!!).
Time for late lunch
We took a stroll up trendy Abbott Kinney Road just off Venice Beach which is lined with small boutique shops and cafes. There were some food trucks along the street that looked like good value lunch options, but we were lured in by a big queue outside Kreation Organic Kafe & Juicery. The portions were large and the vibe was hipster (“Chlorophyll in your table water ma’am?”).
Cost: $56 / £42 Ouch. I would have much preferred half the amount of food and half the price tag since we couldn’t finish our food. Pro-tip: should have ordered one meal to share. Or gone to a food truck.
After lunch we hired Lyft scooters which are found on many of the street corners; they were a fun and good value mode of transport at 26 cents per minute plus $1. We enjoyed a leisurely ride up the coast to Santa Monica before dropping them off. At the pier we decided against riding the roller coaster but enjoyed a few arcade games with some spare change for some retro good fun. Be sure to stop in at the merry-go-round pavilion to see its beautiful old horses bobbing around - there’s even a wooden pig you can ride if you want to stand out!
Cost: $17.40 / £13.30 ($12.40 / £9.50 for two scooters and $5 / £3.80 for the arcade games).
Late afternoon - tourist favourites
While we were in LA we wanted to tick off a couple of tourist favourites so we headed over to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Despite the added expense we decided a taxi was our best bet to get there as public transport can be time consuming in this vast city. We hopped out at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to see the handprints of famous Hollywood stars in the concrete, before walking down Hollywood Boulevard to spot the classic pavement stars of famous actors. A small warning: don’t expect glamour here, it’s a tourist hotspot with lots of ticket touts, but if you’re a film fan it’s good fun. We also stopped to see the iconic Hollywood sign which you can see at the intersection with North Highland Avenue if you look up into the hills - you can’t come to LA without seeing that!
Cost: $35 / £26 for the Uber. View of the sign and walk of fame: free.
After realising our costs were spiralling we wanted a budget friendly option for dinner and found a place called Calle Tacos on Hollywood Boulevard which serves cheap and tasty Mexican food. We enjoyed veggie tacos with soft drinks which left us happy and satisfied.
Cost: $25 / £19.
Conscious of our early flight the next day we decided to head back to our digs (Samesun hostel) back in Venice Beach. We chose this as it’s close to the airport and though expensive for a hostel, it was one of the cheapest options we could find in LA. The facilities were good and logistically it felt quite easy.
Cost: $107 / £81 ($70 / £53 for 2 dorm beds and $37 / £28 for the Uber ride).
We had a great time on our flying visit to LA but it is an expensive city - indeed the Starling travel tool recently found it is the second most expensive to visit of cities surveyed. We spent £209 in total. Much of the budget went on taxis though with more time we could have navigated the city’s public transport system and saved a good chunk of money. All in all though, we were happy with our trip filled with sunshine, good food and the big Hollywood sign!