To Live and Die in LA: top things to do (and eat)

Los Angeles (laws·an·juh·leez) – translating to ‘The Angels’ in Spanish

New York might be the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, but Los Angeles is the place where you’ll see them come to fruition. My travel buddy and I booked this trip last minute – like, two weeks before we flew out – which means we had to work extra hard to stay on a budget and still live the high life. Here’s how we did…

FOOD

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Salt Air, Venice: Oysters, Hawaiian prawns, black cod, charred octopus… if you want a rich, smoky, delightful taste of the sea in an intimate candlelit setting, this is it.

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Sugarfish, various locations: Officially an iconic LA eatery, we feasted on beautiful lobster rolls, blue crab, unagi (solely for the Friends reference, but turns out it’s actually delicious.)

Bubba Gump, various locations: A California-born staple for seafood, Bubba Gump might not have the most sophisticated menu – but with shrimp of every variety, an extensive drinks list that come with light up glasses and a fun décor, it’s a must do.

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iHop, various locations: My American friends sneered when I said I liked iHop – again, maybe not the ‘coolest’ restaurant in town, but it was really fun, absolutely delicious and well priced. Plus, kids are guaranteed to love it.

The Butcher’s Daughter, Venice: A plant-based restaurant and an Instagram enthusiast’s playground, this ‘vegetable slaughterhouse’ offers wholesome guilt-free bites in an airy plant-adorned space.

The Halal Guys, various locations: The choice is simple – meat sandwiches or platters. It is essentially a glorified kebab house, but was damn tasty. I went for the platter, which included rice, a mix of chicken and beef gyro meat, bread and salad. As far as Halal offerings go, the Halal Guys won’t let you down.

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Clutch Restaurant, Venice: This was my favourite place – lobster tails, shrimp and grits to die for, jalapeno and cheddar biscuits that melted in my mouth, ceviche… I really would kill for it right now. Go, go and go again.

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Salt and Straw, various locations: The ultimate ice cream haven. Expect queues out of the door, and remember it will be worth it. I tried honey lavender flavour, which was like nothing I’d ever had before. Oh and I tried gooey chocolate brownie. And did I mention it all came in a waffle cone? Excuse me, let me just wipe the drool of my chin.

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WHAT TO DO

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Universal Studios: I’m not really into theme parks, but this was incredible. Venture into an actual replica of the Hogwarts castle for a Harry Potter ride, visit Krustyland and be sure to do their amazing studio tour where you’ll watch stunts happen live and visit iconic sets, such as where Psycho was filmed!

Griffith Observatory: Views. Views for days. Coined as Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos, everything you’d want to know about astronomy is here.

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Griffith Park: You’ll find the hiking trail to the Hollywood sign, which will take you about 90 minutes each way. There is also a zoo and botanical garden here.

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Abbot Kinney Boulevard: Named the coolest neighbourhood in America, this is the place for quirky shopping and eateries.

Getty Museum: The Getty houses work by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and I really don’t know that much about art but come on.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame: Ya gotta do it! We parked in the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, which is free for the first two hours and gives you quick access.

California Science Center: Free entry, pay for parking, see some cool planet stuffs.

Things I didn’t do, but I hear you should: Disneyland (Anaheim), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Natural History Museum, shopping and celeb hunting at Rodeo Drive and Beverley Hills.

BEACHES

We hit three beaches in our time in LA – Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice.

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Venice is stunning and full of character – a double whammy, the beach serves as a personal sunbathing paradise and a place to people watch, surf, skateboard, and shop.

Santa Monica should be seen for its pier, where you can take a picture with the iconic Route 66 sign (the route ends there!) and check out the rides. The least picturesque of the three, but the most kid-friendly.

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Malibu was quiet, peaceful and romantic. Go for a dreamy afternoon with your partner (or alone – team #SingleLadies here) and soak in some sun as you lay on the white sands.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotels were crazy expensive by the time we were looking to book – you’re likely to find an awesome Airbnb for the price of an average hotel. We stayed in two Airbnb apartments – one Downtown with our own balcony surrounded by palm trees, a rooftop pool, large living room, breakfast bar and separate bedroom, for £100 a night.

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Our second home was far more humble, but it was a 10 minute walk from Venice beach and had an even more humbling price of £57 a night, so we were okay with that.

CAR HIRE

The first time I went to LA I didn’t have a car, and I survived just fine. That being said, you’re better off with one – it gives you more flexibility, more freedom, and you’ll be able to see more. We got a decent ride for £150 for the entire week with Alamo, booking via NetFlights.

And that’s it, folks! I cut so much from this post as it would have been ridiculously long – so if you have any questions, or any tips for me next time I go (oh yes, I will be back) drop ’em in the comments!

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