Today I’m publishing the third post in a new limited-run series all about great weekend getaway destinations around the country that I personally love. The project is done in partnership with Marriott International, continuing a relationship that I’ve had for a long time and deeply value. Even before I started my blog I was an enthusiastic guest of Marriott International properties, so it just makes sense. For the next couple of months I will be highlighting a number of different cities around the U.S. that I think are ideal places for a long weekend escape. Whether you live regionally and can drive there or simply hop on a plane for an easy flight, they all have one thing in common – they’re fun cities to explore. Today I’m excited to share why I decided to add Los Angeles, and specifically Hollywood, to that list.
Why Los Angeles – Hollywood
There are a number of factors with my determination on what cities to visit in my quest to share great weekend getaway destinations, including how easy they are to reach. Since LA is one of the world’s most important and visited cities, connections are available from just about any place on the planet. It’s also a city that I think is misunderstood, particularly in terms of tourism. One reason for this is the incredible size of the LA region, it sprawls across much of Southern California. That’s also why that for the purposes of this post, I decided to mostly, but not completely, focus on Hollywood. That’s the part of the city where most first time visitors want to go and, in spite of its kitsch at times, it really is worth the trip for the reasons I discovered on my own visit to the neighborhood.
Experiences in and around Hollywood
LA is frankly too immense to condense into a brief blog post; even highlighting just one neighborhood deserves a book. For the purposes of this mini-guide though I want to share those experiences that I either personally really enjoy or think make for a well-rounded trip to Hollywood.
Old Hollywood Tour
I didn’t have a lot of time in the city and so I joined a brief, 1-hour tour of Old Hollywood. It was actually a fantastic experience as the guide and I walked around downtown Hollywood, admiring the old classic buildings and learning all about the remarkable history of this unusual neighborhood.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
For 15 blocks, the sidewalks of Hollywood are dotted with more than 2,500 five-pointed stars, each honoring a different artist who has contributed to the entertainment industry. One of the city’s most popular attractions, more than 10 million people visit them every year, looking for their favorite celebrity or to recognize those who may not be as famous.
La Brea Tar Pits
I’m not sure why exactly, but I’ve always wanted to visit the tar pits and while they’re not in Hollywood itself, they are a very short Uber ride away. The bubbling tar pits have always been known, but it wasn’t until 1901 when it was first realized that fossilized prehistoric animal bones were preserved in the pools of asphalt. Today it’s a world-class facility with interactive exhibits and access to those famous pools in an expansive and relaxing urban park.
A favorite among locals for years, this is a great day hike if you’re yearning to leave the city behind and immerse yourself in nature. There are several different trails available, depending on your time and fitness level, and the views are legendary. Since it’s also in Hollywood, celebrity sightings are pretty common, so be sure to keep an eye out.
Another great spot to get a fantastic view of the Hollywood Sign, Griffith is also one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. There’s so much more to the observatory though than its views. A gorgeous building in its own right, the Greek influenced architecture belies an important scientific mission. Used in both WWII and to train the Apollo pilots, today it houses an extensive array of space and science-related displays.
Where to Stay
Los Angeles is one of the best cities if you’re looking for incredible hotels and hospitality. While there are many more that could be added to this list, here are a few everyone should know about.
I couldn’t have picked a better hotel for my first time visiting Hollywood. With an enviable position on Hollywood Boulevard, it was an easy walk to all of those touristy sites I most wanted to visit. Even better, it’s a W so I knew that my experience there would certainly be memorable. I started my experience at their rooftop pool, a decidedly funky space with incredible views. There are also plenty of options if you’re peckish or meeting friends for a drink, including the Delphine Eatery & Bar, The Living Room or outside at the vibrant Station Hollywood.
I’ve stayed in and around the L.A. LIVE complex many times and I always enjoy being in the city center. L.A. LIVE is an enormous entertainment complex in the South Park District of Downtown Los Angeles, California, adjacent to the Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center. There are several Marriott brands represented, including one I have come to really enjoy, the Residence Inn. I stayed with them on my Route 66 trip across the country, and l Iove the feeling of community in each hotel. With plenty of space in your room to unwind, it’s also a nice sanctuary after a busy day.
Originally created by Air France in the 1970s, Le Méridien has grown substantially since opening its first hotel in Paris and has changed hands a few times, now resting comfortably with Marriott International. Since I’ve stayed at a number of Le Méridien hotels around the world, I knew what to expect but, as always, the realities of amazing service are always wonderful to experience. Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica enjoys a terrific location in this idyllic seaside town, and it was also where I ended my trip on Route 66. It was the perfect place for a celebration and along with the hotel’s famous hospitality, they made my experience something I know that I’ll never forget.
What to Eat
One of the world’s most energetic and diverse communities, you can literally find anything you want to eat in L.A., but for my money here are a few that I particularly enjoy.
Downtown LA Food Tour
I was surprised to find this tour option, but since I always love a great food experience I knew it was something I couldn’t miss. Downtown LA doesn’t get the respect it deserves; probably due to the number of times it has had to reinvent itself over the decades. Today though it’s once again being revitalized, as I discovered on a fun food walk around the oft-neglected downtown core. Over the course of 3 hours, the guide took us not only to tasty restaurants and cafes, but also gorgeous spots hiding in plain sight. Whether it was old art deco theaters or vibrant murals painted on the sides of massive brick buildings, the tour did indeed open my eyes to how much fun downtown LA can be.
The Waffle Hollywood
To help me narrow down my brunch options, I asked some local friends for their advice, which is how I found this fun spot in Hollywood. An easy walk from the W Hollywood, The Waffle more than satiated my need for great breakfast food. Served in a “comforts of home” environment, there’s plenty of variety from those classics we all know and love to more edgy vegetarian options that add a new spark to the breakfast experience. No matter the time of day, definitely make sure to enjoy at least one meal here during your trip.
Another great local tip, this is a quirky old-fashioned space in West Hollywood that has very quickly been attracting more and more attention. With a decidedly vintage, 1930s feel, the design details inside this unassuming space are worth the visit alone. But when you add in very creative cocktails that are constantly changing and a delicious and eclectic menu, you have a winning combination.
Fun Day Trips
Southern California is home to any number of fun day trips, including a few I think everyone should try to add into their schedule.
Santa Monica and other beaches
The greater Los Angeles area is famous around the world for its incredible beaches, and there are any number to enjoy close by. I love Santa Monica because it’s where I ended my Route 66 drive, but it’s popular for many other reasons as well. With its famous pier as the centerpiece, the beaches and nearby restaurants are world-class. But there are also many other beaches to enjoy, some of which so small they don’t even have names. Get in your car, start exploring and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
For a variety of different reasons, I’ve found myself in Anaheim a couple of different times in the last year and I have definitely come to enjoy my time there. Anaheim has changed a lot in recent years, and you’ll find a community with lots to see and do, from the nearby Nixon Library to beer crawls among the region’s up and coming breweries. Most people though visit Anaheim with one goal in mind – Disneyland. Arguably the world’s most famous theme park, I think spending some time exploring the park is a must-do experience, no matter your age. Designed to appeal to just about everyone, the park is just as much fun today as it was the day it opened in 1955.
Santa Catalina Island
Part of California’s Channel Islands, this long-popular getaway will have you start wondering if you’re still in Southern California. While only about 4,000 people live on Catalina, more than a million visit every year to enjoy the small town of Avalon, the many watersports available or just to enjoy some peace and quiet. There’s also a lot of history to learn about on the island, so spend some time delving deeper into this quirky community.
I wasn’t an immediate Southern California convert, but it’s now one of my favorite parts of the country because it’s not what one expects. Sure, you can find all of the stereotypes in and around LA but, if you spend some time doing a little research, you’ll discover so much more. Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, has a lot to offer the casual visitor, making it another fantastic weekend getaway destination.