Los Angeles did not fail to amuse. Within a day of my arrival, I’ve witnessed the transaction between a movie scout and an aspiring actress in downtown Hollywood, the attempted suicide of a man atop a 40-story building, the numerous homeless folks along the tourist-filled boulevards and the massive celebrity mansions in the secured streets of Beverly Hills.
Backpacking California was a treat. Although LA without a car is not suggested, it is possible. I was able to mission through my two-day stay with lots and lots of walking. Needless to say, I was the only one in the streets of LA dragging my luggage around like a complete idiot.
Three days before my arrival, my host canceled my stay at his flat downtown LA. Fortunately, his friend agreed to house me in his condo in Studio City.
1. Explore Union Station, LA
With its red brick rooftop, beige walls, and palm trees, the LA union station is the epitome of Sunny California as seen on 90210.
Since it was a bit ways from the beachside, downtown LA oozed dry heat, the sort that causes breathless heaves and burnt shoulders. I dragged my luggage out of Union and became instantly thankful for the amount of Starbucks in this town. I’ve never been interested in Starbucks– we’ve got Tim Horton– the cheaper, less classy version in Canada. But Starbucks became a pit stop between all my destinations. With its free WIFI and AC, I was more than willing to spend a few hours in between my walks and just sit and chill. I’ve always said I’m the worst kind of traveler- I’d sleep all day if I could.
2. Explore the Streets of Downtown LA
Drew’s friend, my host Jamie, was the most interesting person. He lived in the San Fernando Valley, home to (apparently) rich porn stars and an extensive network of adult film producers.
Before the 2008 crash, he was a mortgage broker in LA, riding the big buck and partying night and day. Basically some next level Wolf of Wall Street fiesta.
The crash left him devastated. Within two months, he packed his bags and moved to Alaska to work on a fishing boat. The man went from partying away his 6 figure income to slaving 16 hours a day abroad a sailboat. Talk about dramatic life changes!
3. Visit the Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood sign is a must-visit for any traveler to LA. There are a number of ways to see the Hollywood sign. Whether you look at it afar from downtown LA or have a closer view from Griffith Observatory, whether you tackle a 2-3 hike towards the sign or hop on a helicopter, there are quite a few ways to enjoy the symbol to a captivating world unfamiliar to most.
4. Gwak at Some Celebrity Houses
After wandering around Hollywood Boulevard, I was stopped by one of those ‘2-hour tour bus’ salespeople. Since I didn’t have a car, this was undoubtedly the best way to venture around LA. Nonetheless, the given price of US 50 was pretty high for my liking, so I negotiated for a student discount.
One of the perks of traveling alone is all the benefits. There is always that extra solo spot no one else would want to fill, always that additional conversation with strangers that wouldn’t happen if not by yourself.
I began chatting with Moses, the man at the counter. He ended up giving me the ticket for US 14, which is really quite a steal for a 2-hour guided tour around the ins-and-outs of LA. He even went out of his way to buy me a bottle of water for the trip.
Despite the cheap tour, I wasn’t much of a fan of Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Hills, and all those other fancy celebrity residential areas. In spite of the beautiful mansions, these gated communities were too quiet. I felt all too strange ‘stalking’ these celebrity homes.
Perhaps I am just a tourist at heart. I can’t keep myself away from the obnoxious scene downtown Hollywood provided. I absolutely loved every second of the buzzing streets and spent the rest of my evening wandering among the buzzing crowds.
Following the celebrity house tour, we were dropped off at Hollywood and Highland, which was the downtown core of Hollywood Boulevard. The two must-sees in the area are the TCL Chinese Theater and Dolby Theater.
5. Compare Handprints at the TCL Chinese Theater
The TCL Chinese Theater is a magnificent theater palace in Hollywood. Located at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, it is just a block down the street from the Hollywood and Highland station. It has the exaggerated features of Chinese architecture and contains the largest IMAX theater in the world. In front of its doors, a select number of celebrities– the “Forecourt of the Stars” graced the cement floors with imprints of their hands and feet.
6. Have Dinner at the Hollywood and Highland Center
7. Watch the Nighter Cruisers by the Dolby Theater
is located just beside the TCL Chinese Theater. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit the former. I was completely awestruck by the Hollywood and Highland Center. It encompasses the Dolby Theater and various restaurants, bars and stores. If you walk to the back of the complex, you can vaguely see the Hollywood sign atop the hills.
I spent the rest of the night wandering along the rooftop of the Highland Center, watching street performers and vintage cars from the terrace.
Every Friday or Saturday night, Hollywood Boulevard would be crowded by night cruisers. It’s neat to see these beauties roaming the streets of LA. The line went on for miles with hundreds of onlookers gathered in the streets cheering them on.
Of course, I couldn’t end the night in Hollywood without chatting up love, drugs & rock n’ roll with a dapper stranger. So in came xx who egged on the fun with his travels across the country.
LA definitely did not fail to amuse. While there wasn’t a celebrity sighting, people in LA were one of a kind. I met too many fun spirits running around town.
Whether it be the streets of Santa Ana or the beaches of Santa Barbara, California is full of excitement. It’s no surprise that Los Angeles is no different. This is one of the days where I went over my US15 budget/day backpacking California. While this is a shorter list, there are lots of other things to do both at night and during the day in LA. It’s always fun to find a budget way to explore an otherwise expensive city. And seeing that I’ve only spent US 30 for more than 5 destinations, I did pretty good!
- Public transit (US 1.75/way).
- US 2 burger at 7/11,
- US 3 ice cap at a coffee shop and,
- US 5 meal at McD,
- I spent around US 27.5 (including my 2-hour bus tour).