The LA & Palm Springs Travel Diaries
Ohh Lala land, you are often given such a hard time by people but I truly love you.
Seriously though, I hear time and time again people saying how LA is overrated, but I personally think the city is full of magic.. if you look in the right places.
Also, happy new year!
This is still SUCH a pinch me moment, but late last year I was blessed to win ‘Best New Zealand Travel Blogger’ at the Miss FQ Influencer Awards and was given two return flights to LA with American Airlines. I still can’t even believe I just typed out that sentence!!!! Liam and I couldn’t contain our excitement to head to LA, so we decided to book the trip over NYE and created a jam packed itinerary so that we could have a bit of a road trip, do some shopping, attend a music festival, see Palm Springs and also fit in Disneyland (another blog post to come!).
We had by far the most comfortable economy flight with American Airlines ever, I even slept 8 hours on the flight home! I was especially impressed with the entertainment on offer and finally got to watch Crazy Rich Asians which of course I absolutely looooved. The food was fantastic too, and I completely ate and finished every meal which considering I rarely eat plane food was pretty impressive. We loved flying with American Airlines, it made the whole journey to the states even more exciting!
Three Days in Los Angeles
Where We Stayed
We opted to stay in Beverly Hills because it was the most central spot surrounded by all of the places we wanted to go (Venice/Santa Monica/Hollywood/UniversalStudios/Melrose Ave). The Sofitel is a super luxe option and absolutely lovely to stay in, it’s across the road from Beverly Centre Mall and a couple of minutes away from Melrose & Fairfax ave! There are also SO many great restaurants and cafes nearby. The traffic in LA can be crazy so it’s always best to stay as central as possible to the places you want to visit, unless you only plan on staying in one particular area.
Where We Went
Very, VERY expensive but a beautiful breakfast/lunch location. The hotel is gorgeous so it’s cool to get a glimpse of it by going for brunch! Also the coffee is terrible, order a juice!
Very touristy, but a classic LA spot nonetheless. Liam had never been so I had to show him what the pier was like at sunset (SO beautiful and soooo much fun). The shopping is also great there, it has literally EVERY store in downtown Santa Monica which is handy to fit in a little bit of shopping! We had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory up on the rooftop which was lovely!
Venice Beach + Abbott Kinney Boulevard
It was my first time visiting Abbott Kinney Boulevard and now I can confidently say it is probably my favourite street in LA! It reminds me of Ponsonby Road in a way where it has all of the coolest cafes & restaurants, the one off boutiquey style shops and the ultimate cool vibe everywhere you go with awesome street art! We went to The Butcher’s Daughter for breakfast which definitely has the BEST coffee in LA (good even at NZ standards) however it’s incredibly expensive so be prepared to pay around $80 NZD for two meals and two coffees. We also went to Salt & Straw which is a DELISH ice cream store!
Other restaurants I was recommended on Abbott Kinney:
Also Venice Beach is a fun place to go for a stroll! It can be a little bit dodgy so be careful with your belongings, but watching the skateboarders and checking out the Venice sign is super fun! I wouldn’t spend more than half an hour in this area, so just stop by before or after your time on Abbott Kinney Boulevard.
Melrose Ave + Sunday Markets
A wee shop on Melrose Ave is a MUST DO, it’s home to some of my favourite LA stores including Glossier, Reformation, & Wasteland. Make sure you head there on a Sunday so you can go to the Melrose Trading Post market at Fairfax high school, you can pick up some amazing vintage Levi’s and some super unique jewellery! It’s basically all second hand gooooodness.
Other restaurants I was recommended in the Melrose Ave area:
Definitely a must do while you’re staying in central LA! My top tip is to arrive before the park opens and try and get as many rides done in the first couple hours of the morning as possible. After lunch the ride line times just get absolutely ridiculous. Make sure you do the big Harry Potter Ride ‘The Forbidden Journey’ first thing in the morning as soon as you’re let into the park, it’s the best ride in the whole park and after 10 AM has a two and a half hour wait time for the entire day! RUN! Also don’t bother with The Simpsons ride, it’s lame and not worth waiting for. Everything else is good!! If you have the budget, purchase the VIP ticket which will allow you to skip the line, otherwise if you’re tactical in the morning you’ll be fine and won’t need it. The best food spot is Luigi’s pizza, the pizza, pasta and meatballs are all incredible!!!
Two Days in Palm Springs
Where We Stayed
By far one of the most beautiful accomodation spots I have ever stayed in, everything about it is magic! They include free breakfast, yoga and cute bikes to go for a ride around Palm Springs.
Where We Went
If you’ve hired a car (which you probably have if you’re out in Palm Springs), you MUST do a day trip out to Joshua Tree National Park. There is so much to explore and the scenes are unreal! Take snacks for the day as there are no cafes or restaurants.
Ginormous dinosaurs right next to the outlets. Enough said.
Where We Ate
We found Palm Springs really tricky with food, it was either takeaways or super expensive meals.. so we discovered a chain wood fired pizza place called Blaze Pizza and loved it so much we went on both nights! It’s like 8 USD to build your own woodfired pizza and it’s absolutely amazing.
New Years Eve
If you’re in LA for New Years and you’re not sure what to do, Countdown Festival is EPIC and generally always has a great lineup, Alison Wonderland rang in the New Year and we loooove her so we had such a fun night. The location of the festival is a bit random, it’s in this desert town called San Bernadino and it’s definitely not somewhere you want to be hanging around in the wrong place at the wrong time. We stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton which was fine, however it was a 10 minute drive from the festival and there was no easy transport between our hotel and the festival (there are minimal Uber’s & taxi’s!). For our safety and because both of us were unwell with coughs, sore throats & runny noses we actually just decided to have a sober NYE and drive to and home from the festival (they had security patrolled parking).
They wouldn’t serve us alcohol with our NZ ID’s anyway, only if we had our passports on us which we didn’t so that’s also something to bare in mind with US festivals! Regardless of the sober night we had SO much fun and I would highly recommend the festival itself!
Everything Else You Need To Know
You need an ESTA visa to travel to the US
The NZ Passport is exempt from the ‘6 month validity rule’. Your passport only needs to be valid until the date your passport expires on the date you leave to fly home
We hired our Jeep Wrangler from a company called Turo. I HIGHLY recommend it! It’s kind of like Air BnB for cars, but make sure you read reviews before you book one. The people we hired from were great and picked us up in a big shuttle with other tourists from the airport, took us to their location where they keep 250 hire cars, then to get back to the airport at the end of the trip we drove back to the same location and they took us back to the airport in the same shuttle. You communicate with them via the Turo app and it’s SO easy and stress free!