7-10 days in LA and surrounding areas
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Sep 19, 2012 12:02 PM Last Post By: SusieGirl7
Sep 18, 2012 6:17 AM
7-10 days in LA and surrounding areasHello everyone!
My name is Seung, and I am both overwhelmed and excited about planning for my first ever lone trip - to the USA from mid October till the first week of December. As written in my profile, I'm a pretty small build Asian female living in Sydney, Australia. I took a gap year during Uni and wanted to travel on my own to some new and exciting places. My brother works and lives in Connecticut so it was the perfect opportunity for me to capitalise on a very friendly face (relief!) and free accommodation while on the East Coast.
I have already booked flight tickets to and from Sydney and LA. I plan to stay in LA for 7-10 days or even 2 weeks, (perhaps go to Seattle for a short 1-night-2-day trip??), then head to Stamford and set up base there for further travels to New York etc, returning to LA Airport straight back home.
I have been all over the lonely planet guide for California/LA! It was a lot to get through, and bookmarking the things and places to see.... a big task in itself. I tried to break it down to the places I wanted to go vs wriggle room for extras, and then trying to figure out which order, where to sleep, and for how long.
I'm quite interested in going to Farmers Markets and weaving in and out local streets, keeping it pretty low budget. People-watching by the beachside and chilling out sounds great too. Having said that, I am definitely going for the conventional tourist attractions as well. I plan to stay at Hostels and shop at Farmers markets and probably eat more street food than proper dining.
1. Downtown LA (El Pueblo, Griffith Observatory, MOCA, Getty Centre etc)
2. Hollywood (Walk of Fame, the Sign)
3. Burbank (Warner Bros Studio Tour)
4. Malibu (Getty Villa) & Santa Monica
5. A good affordable bus tour (hosted) at one of the National Parks
//6. Santa Barbara - if I can afford it?//
My initial outline was to stay the first couple of nights in West Hollywood (I heard this is more affordable than staying in heart of LA, but haven't figured out where) and tick off numbers 1 to 5, then stay one night at HI Hostel in Santa Monica where I can chill out a bit before jumping on the plane.
How many days would I need for that first few nights? Do you exprienced travel bugs have some advice on my rather sketchy plan, and perhaps the order or other suggestions for accommodation? Plus, would anyone recommend a nice National Park - to be honest, they all sound very nice..
Also, I know this is a difficult question to answer, but any unconventional advice for an Asian girl travelling alone? I am quite sensible usually, but like I said, never travelled alone before.
Thank you for your time and thoughts, in advance.
Edited by: shoo1400
Sep 18, 2012 6:24 AM
So you spend maybe 12 or so hours in transit to spend an overnight.
xSan Francisco is a much closer trip.
xSan Francisco xFerry Building on Saturday morning.
Are you renting a car for xLA? You should.
And keep it for the coast.
Sep 18, 2012 7:03 AM
2Getty Center is not in downtown LA, it is over on the westside, off Mulholland Drive. I would combine it with your Hollywtood sightseeing (which will take 2 hours max unless you do a star home tour).
Sep 18, 2012 7:12 AM
3W. Hollywood hotels are not unusually prostitution and drug hang-outs. I've had very bad luck with hotels down there during my dozens and dozens of travels there. If you are just looking for a place to stay, I think Culver City is easy, well situated, and relatively inexpensive with some good hotels as a base.
There are a lot of Asians in S. California. I wouldn't worry about that.
Getting in to LAX to Seattle, and into the air, and then out of the airport, will take six hours. A great day trip from LA is to go to Las Vegas, IMHO. It's a four-hour drive.
Also, you know that in the U.S., hostels aren't often as nice as in other parts of the world, I hope. Our gold-standard for cheap lodging is usually a motel.
Yosemite has a bus tour, but I don't know the details. In California, I love them all. I'd pick whatever's easiest to get to.
For the first few days of your itinerary, it depends on whether you have a car. It's extremely hard to get around LA without a car, although there are expensive taxis and some bus routes here and there. I'd say something like three days with a car. Also, why not Venice Beach? To me, it's so iconic.
Sep 18, 2012 7:35 AM
4Most people in California want to visit the National Parks and Las Vegas. You might want to consider joining a tour for this.
December is a cold month in California and the people watching at the beach will be very limited.
Seattle will also be cold and rainy. Not worth the expense if you are only going to be there for 2 days.
I would fly to San Francisco instead, for at least 4 nights. Lots to see and do.
Sep 18, 2012 10:47 AM
5Given your interests (farmer's markets; "weaving in and out of local streets"), I'd suggest you allocate more time to San Francisco (or even Seattle). LA is expansive and not very pedestrian friendly. San Francisco (or even Seattle) is much more compact, built at the human (rather than the car) scale, and has better public transit. Of course, LA is interesting and iconic...but if you stay on the west coast for two weeks, then splitting your time might be worthwhile. A couple of days in San Diego might also be good, especially if looking for nice beaches. It's easy to get to from LA. I guess you can start in LA and if you get tired of it, know that you can get quite a different experience a few hours north in San Francisco.
Sep 18, 2012 12:01 PM
Sep 18, 2012 12:33 PM
7Given your interests, I'd definitely NOT spend so much time in LA. At most, four nights - a couple in Hollywood and a couple in Santa Monica.
San Francisco sounds much more up your alley. You can take the bus or a tour to Yosemite from San Francisco - that would be my pick for what national park to visit, given the beauty and relative convenience.
You would probably also like Portland, Oregon - you can train or fly there from California, then it's a short train ride to Seattle. You can fly to Connecticut from there.
So... I'd so something like this:
Arrive LA, spend a few nights
Train to San Francisco if you want to stop in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo en route, otherwise fly. Both Santa Barbara and SLO have hostels (I've stayed in the SLO hostel and it's excellent).
Spend a few nights in San Francisco with a side trip to Yosemite. Ideally, take the bus independently so you can spend a night or two in the park. Lodging is expensive and fills up far ahead, so book soon if you want to do this. you can also take a tour with Green Tortoise or many others.
Fly to Portland for two or three nights - visit the excellent downtown farmers' market on Saturday
Train to Seattle for two or three nights
Fly to Connecticut
If that is too much, cut Portland and Seattle. They are nice but not their best that time of year, and the real attraction of the Northwest is outside the cities (for which you need a car).
Sep 18, 2012 4:02 PM
8I agree with the others that you have too much time in LA. Limit your stay to 4 days and then go to SF or up the coast or the parks or Seattle. I think Santa Barbara is lovely but I've not heard great things about that hostel. It's also a bit of a detour if you don't have a car or don't plan on taking the coastal route (something else which requires a car).
There is nothing wrong with the hostels in West Hollywood. However, walking down random streets in Hollywood is not always a great idea. Stay on the main roads.
Getting to the Getty Center via bus is a pain. The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus terminates a mile away and then it's an uphill traffic dodging trek (sidewalks are scarce). Coming back in the dark is not fun. There is an MTA bus from Westwood (near UCLA) or you can connect to it by taking the Sunset bus. However, freeway construction in that area is likely to go on forever, so connecting might be confusing. Not trying to discourage you, just saying it's not a quick trip. The Getty Villa is also far. If it's a must, go while you're in Santa Monica.
Griffith Park is not in Downtown, though I guess a map makes it look close. It's actually in Hollywood. I know there is a bus going up there but I don't know the details.
Burbank = a very long walk.
This is why I recommend LACMA over the Getty. Yes you pay admission but it's very easy to get to.
Sep 18, 2012 5:19 PM
Sep 19, 2012 4:56 AM
10Thank you all very very much for your sincere and helpful advice. I am lucky to have this opportunity! Following the majority of comments, I have cut out Seattle (I was doubtful it was worth it..) and now keen to add Las Vegas, Yosemite National Park, and San Francisco.
NB Is it possible to stay overnight at the LAX? Or is this completely naive of me and should I stay someplace near the hotel if needed?
Re: Going to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Burbank without a car
The direction on their website only lists driving instructions. I will not be renting a car - driving on the other side of the road is unsettling for me (I'm from Australia). I saw an old post on Google that I can take the Metro Rail Red Line from Union Station to Hollywood/Vine Station, then catch the #222 Metro Bus to Riverside Drive and a 2 block walk should get me there. Metro.net says it takes about 40 minutes, but I'm happy to factor in 20-30 minutes extra. It seems my only choice as I won't be driving. Does this sound fair enough?
My amended trip outline
LA & Santa Monica:
// 2-3 nights in Hollywood/LA,
(for Downtown LA & Hollywood sightseeing, Las Vegas, Warner Bros Studio Tour)
// 1 night in Santa Monica
In addition to that, I am now keen to take up your advice:
(departure city based on proximity)
1. Las Vegas from LA
2. Amtrak train ride from LA en route Santa Barbara (1 night), San Luis Obispo (1 night?), to arrive at San Francisco (around 4 nights).
3. Yosemite National Park from San Francisco
4. Quickest trip from San Francisco back to LA
1. If leaving from LA to Las Vegas, it would take 4 hours bus trip each way. Would it be worth staying one night there or come back to LA the same day? I'm aware I should try to get back to my hotel before it's too late..
2. The multi-city trip planner on amtrak.com is great! Thank you for recommending the 'SB/SLO hopping trip' as it sounds like a fantastic trip. Now, it seems that there is no direct train line from either SB or SLO to San Francisco by train, except by bus (or combined train and bus)? Is the bus ride comparable to the train ride, in terms of time and convenience? Looks like there is no other choice though.
Otherwise another option looks like the CAShuttleBus from LA to San Francisco which takes up to 7 hours. They can pick up from Santa Monica so this may work out well, but I guess I won't be stopping by SB or SLO.
3. I just want a 1-day guided bus tour to Yosemite (no overnight stay) as I am not the camping type. Has anyone done this before? Can you recommend an affordable and decent bus tour?
There also seems to be the option of taking a Greyhound bus, then a Via Bus to Yosemite entrance and touring by myself around Yosemite Valley using the Guide and free shuttle buses - although I'm less keen on this option. Don't trust myself! haha.
4. What would be the quickest, hassle-free, direct trip from San Francisco back to LA - say, in time for a flight. Amtrak train?
Thank you again - in advance, and I hope your goodwill brings good to you.
Edited by: shoo1400
Sep 19, 2012 5:34 AM
11Hmmm...I'm not sure why you're adding Las Vegas. You are aware that it's just giant hotels and casinos, each with different themes, that each try to outdo each other in bombast and crass? Okay, that's a cynical view. If you are interested in forgetting reality and being immersed in excess, as you would at a resort, then it might be worth a day + night. Having been to Vegas, I would only go to back to use it as a jumping off point for visiting the Grand Canyon or Zion and Bryce Canyons. If you are interested in cities with interesting urban cultures, then I would choose Seattle or Portland over Vegas. Also the trip between LA and Vegas is not that interesting, especially if you're just sitting on a bus. Sorry, I don't want to complicate things here...
Sep 19, 2012 5:41 AM
12Thank you for your reply, and I appreciate your view! I can see Las Vegas would be a great jumping off point for the Grand Canyon. I have come across tour packages that include both Las Vegas and Grand Canyon, but spending hundreds of dollars on this tour would not go with my budget.
I guess I just wanted to see what Las Vegas is really like - I understand I would look like a total noob tourist.. I am not quite familiar with the whole casino culture. I guess what you're trying to say is that it might not be in my interest in spending 8 hours in transit in one precious day in California.
Sep 19, 2012 5:44 AM
13+ 2. The multi-city trip planner on amtrak.com is great! Thank you for recommending the 'SB/SLO hopping trip' as it sounds like a fantastic trip. Now, it seems that there is no direct train line from either SB or SLO to San Francisco by train, except by bus (or combined train and bus)? Is the bus ride comparable to the train ride, in terms of time and convenience? Looks like there is no other choice though.
Otherwise another option looks like the CAShuttleBus from LA to San Francisco which takes up to 7 hours. They can pick up from Santa Monica so this may work out well, but I guess I won't be stopping by SB or SLO. +
Sorry, regarding this point, I think stopthebus might have meant the Coast Starlight trip? It seems to connect all the way up to Seattle and Portland - is this what you mean? If so, can you hop off and on again the next day eith the same ticket, without extra fees or payment?
Sep 19, 2012 5:46 AM
14Kepping a "pretty low budget" and "going to xLas Vegas" don't mix well.
Also, there are very few actual trains that run the route, only one per day in fact.
A one-day tour generally spends around 9-10 hours on the road and a maximum of 4 hours in the park.
See my xVegas comment above.
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