Things to Do in L.A.: Is the City of Angels Worth It?
Kelly Meehan Brown
Hello once more, my loyal readers, and if you’re new, welcome. There’s no going back. No one leaves.
This past week, I visited the great City of Angels, Los Angeles. I need to stop vacationing, I know. It has actually gotten to the point where I want to just stay in my room in New York City. But let’s see how long that lasts.
Not only am I physically and emotionally exhausted from vacations (a nice problem to have, I know), but my bank account hasn’t stopped yelling at me this whole week. I could save so much money if I just stopped jet-setting around the United States. I sound like a complete douchebag, I know.
The good news is, I have finally managed to put money towards an emergency fund! I currently have $1,000 in my savings. Not too shabby, eh? Only took me 10 months (lol).
Although after this vacation, I may end up having to dip into it. I’d rather live on bread and water to avoid that — it’s so aesthetically pleasing to see that money sitting there, waiting for me in times of need. That’s the real motivation. But I digress.
Things to Do in L.A.
There are a few obvious boxes that one must tick off the list when visiting Los Angeles. The Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, to name a few. What do all of these things have in common? They’re free!
The hike to the Hollywood sign is a bit of a doozy, ranging from one to four hours, so we took the lazier way with the short 0.8 miles to the Griffith Observatory. While it was sadly closed when we got there, the views from the observatory grounds alone are worth it.
If you’re feeling even too lazy for that, there are many spots around Hollywood Boulevard that provide a decent view of the sign, such as the Hollywood & Highland Center.
Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre
Speaking of Hollywood Boulevard, you’re going to want to go there to get your celebrity fix of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I did my due diligence like any non-American citizen and honored my president.
The grounds of the Chinese Theatre are awesome. That’s where the concrete impressions of hands and feet of the stars exist, and you can go measure yours against the cast of Friends, that of Twilight, or even Will Smith (whose feet are huge, by the way).
It’s definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re a big film fan, but we didn’t pay the money to venture inside the theater. It’s about $20 for a tour ticket, but the vague descriptions of the tour didn’t entice us to pay it. To me, the inside isn’t a must-see.
Universal Studios (along with Disney) is one of the obvious draws of L.A. With Hogwarts and Hogsmeade there to welcome you home, it’s fun for the whole family. However, if you’ve been to the Orlando, Florida version, this one’s a letdown. No Diagon Alley, which means no Escape From Gringotts ride. And even aside from the Harry Potter aspects, the park is just smaller overall. Still a good day out, but if you’ve been to the other one, you can’t help but feel disappointed.
Then there’s the ticket price: Starting at $109, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher whether you should go. We went midweek in October and didn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for any ride, so it didn’t feel like a total waste, but I’m not sure I’d return for the price. Save your money and go to the beach for the day instead. Santa Monica Pier is beautiful.
I will say that the studio tour you can take in the park was awesome. Real movie and TV sets, as well as interactive elements, made the hour-long tour the highlight of the park.
Did You Know? Beverly Hills Edition
To be as stereotypical as tourists can be, we also went on a Beverly Hills bus tour of celebrity homes. The price on the flyer said that it was $55 per person, but one look at our faces told the salesman we would be paying no such thing, so he dropped it down to $40. Makes me wonder if they put a higher price on the flyer so you can feel like you’re getting a discount.
We saw ridiculous amounts of wealth everywhere. Madonna’s house had 15 bedrooms and 15 parking spots so that she could comfortably welcome 15 guests. The house where Michael Jackson died was just about visible through huge gates, and Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber live across the street from one another. Who knew?
Out of all the homes we saw, the cheapest one was $6 million. I can’t comprehend that wealth.
The homes aren’t overly large in the first place, as Beverly Hills is only 5.7 square miles. Alas, no sprawling abodes.
Not only are the houses over the top and swanky, but the physical makeup of the city is mindblowing. Trees that line either side of the street must be the same species of tree. No mismatched handbags or trees in Beverly Hills. On top of this, fire hydrants must, by law, be painted platinum. These guys have more money than sense. It’s all about the aesthetic.
Public Transport Is a Disaster
L.A.’s transport system is confusing and time-consuming to use. Not knowing anything about it before we chose a hotel in East Hollywood, we were left stumped.
This led to three of us spending upwards of about $150 on cabs for the six days we were there. Why, God, why?
This was partly due to laziness and partly because we wanted to make the most out of the time we had there, and not to spend an hour and a half on a train or bus when we could get a ride in 15 minutes. Yep, that’s how wildly different the travel times were a lot of the time.
When you actually research the public transport system in L.A., it looks like this:
So I guess it’s unfair to say that it doesn’t exist at all. But when you’re there for a short time and have a lot to pack into your trip, this system just didn’t make sense to us without thorough research done beforehand.
Plus, cabs are pretty cheap for the most part, especially when you’re splitting it with other people. If you’re more prepared than we were, you could save yourself serious money on transportation. No regrets, though — I do love being chauffeured around.
TodayTix Trauma (or, Expensive Things to Do in L.A.)
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t spend a stupid amount of money on stupid things that I don’t need. The whole reason I went to L.A. in the first place was to see Beth, one of my best friends from the U.K. We were meeting in L.A. to see Team Starkid’s latest show, The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals.
Now, I didn’t have to go see this show three times over the space of one weekend, but of course I did. Because it’s a wonderful, hilarious work of art that everyone needs to see multiple times. The show runs at the Matrix Theatre in Hollywood through November 4, 2018.
With one set of tickets pre-booked, I went on to buy another four tickets (one for me and Beth over two days) at rush price: $18 a pop.
Doesn’t seem too bad until you add on the TodayTix service charge, and for both days, that number rose to a total of $92. Then if you add on the $39 for the other wonderful show we saw, Everything That Never Happened, that brings my L.A. show total to $131. Wow.
Naturally, we found $20 tickets for that latter show on TodayTix the day after we paid full price. Make sure to check out all your options, kids! Sites like TodayTix, SeatGeek, and Groupon could save you a hell of a lot of money.
Final Thoughts on L.A.
Bottom line: I just don’t like Los Angeles. I don’t drive, and it’s definitely the kind of city where you need your own vehicle. The traffic is a nightmare, and the city is so spread out that I never truly got a sense of what it was like.
We visited Emmy award winner Darren Criss’ bar, Tramp Stamp Granny’s, in Hollywood and were treated to an impromptu (to us) drag and burlesque performance. On top of that, we saw several performances from previous Broadway stars, and their vocal talent blew us away. It made us feel real mediocre — and especially ugly, too. L.A. is full of ridiculously beautiful people. Hence the name La La Land, I guess.
It was that and the $16 cocktails that made us leave after an hour. L.A. is not for the weak or the budget-conscious. Tread carefully. With plenty of cash. And maybe a Groupon or two.