Home Guides & AdviceBudget Travel 7 Bucket-List-Worthy Things To Do In LA

7 Bucket-List-Worthy Things To Do In LA

By Daisy Li

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

fun things to do in la California union stationWith 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

things-to-do-in-la-united-states-(6)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

hollywood sign la californiaThe 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.

celebrity homes in la californiaDespite 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.

TCL Chinese Theatre la california

6. Have Dinner at the Hollywood and Highland Center

handland center things-to-do-in-la-united-states

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.

night drive things-to-do-in-la-united-states-(1)Hollywood night cruisers

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.

man in LA

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.

Total Cost

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).

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Emily April 26, 2017 - 2:15 pm

LA has been at the top of my list for YEARS, and I still haven’t made it even though I live in the US. Sounds like you had a great time! I love the breakdown at the end of everything you spent!

Bachelor of Roaming April 22, 2017 - 1:46 am

I love the post, I enjoyed reading it.. It was really engaging and entertaining!
I’ll keep looking for new posts….. 🙂

Bachelor of Roaming April 22, 2017 - 1:42 am

I love the post.. It is really engaging and entertaining!
I’ll keep looking for new posts….. 🙂

Bri April 22, 2017 - 12:11 am

I love LA so much!! If you are ever back in the area, however, I recommend you explore a little more south and check out Long Beach – which is where I’m originally from! It’s not as hot, it’s cheaper, but it’s just as jaw-dropping!

Daisy Li April 22, 2017 - 6:19 pm

Definitely! I lived in orange county for a couple of days and loved everything about it!

Rhiannon April 21, 2017 - 11:54 pm

I’ve never been a huge fan of LA, but I will admit it’s a very fascinating and entertaining city. I love the atmosphere and energy! Definitely one of those places you need to see for yourself, photos don’t do the hustle and bustle justice 🙂 Great post! I love that you gave an alternative to driving around the city 🙂

Charlotte Karp April 21, 2017 - 9:53 am

Would totally love to go to LA, but I’ve never really looked in to it – I had no idea about tours or anything like that, so this was pretty useful. looks like you had a great time, great post 🙂

Jitaditya Narzary April 21, 2017 - 9:43 am

I loved what you did there. Although it was more than your usual budget, $27 very low for a city like LA. Walking or cycling would be my preferred more to explore any place although it is not always possible to do so!

Kristine April 21, 2017 - 6:03 am

I visited LA by foot too. Was also the only one dragging my suitcase around. I have mixed feelings about LA. Some parts were nice, but it didn’t quite live up my expectations. Maybe I’ll have to revisit it and learn to like it 🙂

Ling Ge April 21, 2017 - 5:26 am

This is a nice post but for me, LA is not one of my preferred places to visit. There are some nice places to see and do, and there’s definitely a great array of food and culture to experience. However, I tend to stay away from visiting LA unless I’m hanging out with friends or if there are visitors. I do live further south, so distance is a factor, but the traffic drives me mad all the time, so I like staying at home or going to the beach 😀

Daisy Li April 21, 2017 - 9:55 am

Definitely one of my more typical tourist visits, hopefully I will venture out of the norm next time I visit 🙂

Iza c/o Kathy James (Walk About Wanderer) April 20, 2017 - 10:00 pm

I am impressed that you did not spend that much. I have been fascinated with LA since the day I watched Clueless. Haha! LA is the trendsetter!
It is interesting to me that you said that the gated communities are ‘boring as hell’. I think that maybe they are too perfect, that is why they look boring already?
I would like to have a tour here someday. I love watching movies and it would be so much fun to be here.

Daisy Li April 21, 2017 - 7:45 am

Hahah, clueless is my favorite!

Rhiannon April 20, 2017 - 6:52 pm

I feel like Moses was the same man who somehow got me to also agree on a tour! He originally quoted $30, but I said I had a flight that night and all of a sudden it was down to $15. Bargain!

Wolf of Wall Street to Alaskan fishing boat – that’s a Hollywood movie storyline if ever I saw one!

Deni April 20, 2017 - 10:04 am

It’s been a couple of years since I last went to LA and I’d really like to go back and see more of the city and explore the beaches along the coast! I’m glad that even though you went over budget, $28 for a single day of travelling really isn’t all that much. (Also love the Tim Hortons reference as a fellow Canadian! Where are you from?!)

Daisy Li April 21, 2017 - 8:08 am

Yes! The beaches are definitely a must! I’m from Toronto, how about you?

Amanda Tran April 20, 2017 - 1:15 am

Ahhh this is fantastic and I really wish I had seen this BEFORE going to LA last year. Fantastic suggestions for people who don’t want / can’t afford to hire a car. We did have one which made things easier but I love just exploring by foot too.

Tania Mukherjee April 20, 2017 - 12:19 am

I loved your straightforward and humorous writing style. Thank you for attaching your survival cost in LA for a day, since I always travel on shoestring budget this would really help me! And in front of Jamie’s drastic life change all our life changes fall short!

Jean April 19, 2017 - 6:51 pm

I’d never considered walking around LA.What a great way to see the different side of the city. Even if you did blow out your budget. I too would’ve gone for a $3 ice coffee!

Jen April 19, 2017 - 2:57 pm

Thanks for the tip on touring without a car! It’s always an issue when it comes to convenience and budget. It looks like you were able to do your trip affordably, amazing! Oh, and I want to see the Hollywood sign too. 🙂

Suzanne April 19, 2017 - 11:39 am

Great post on LA by foot. I agree with you that it’s tough to navigate the city without a car but it’s doable. When I went in 2004, I found the Walk of Fame yawn-worthy. You’re right when you say Hollywood, in this respect, does not live up to its image in the media. There are also a lot of crazies in LA. I remember the girl from the Levi’s store telling us not to walk along Venice Beach at night because people could randomly stick us with needles.

Daisy Li April 19, 2017 - 11:45 am

Hahah, I’ve heard of that too! People even told me to be careful in the metro since there were cases where needles were placed on seats. Not sure if it’s true, but its both scary and hilarious

Chloe April 19, 2017 - 10:05 am

LOVE this! I was actually born in Newport Beach just south of LA and yet I still haven’t spent much time in LA due to the crazy traffic. Might have to do something like your tour next time I make it back to the west coast just so I can say I’ve done it! Love your photos!

Bhushavali April 19, 2017 - 6:50 am

I haven’t been to the American continent yet! So, thanks for this guide. Being a budget backpacker most of the times, I too try my best to walk or take public transport than to rent a car or hire taxi! A $50 ticket at $14??? That’s a fab deal!!! And I have to agree, meeting amazing strangers is the best part of solo travels!

Gareth April 19, 2017 - 5:54 am

Wow, that certainly was a baptism of fire in your first day in LA! Certainly, durng my time there, I experienced a very specific slice of Americana, warts and all and truly, it was fascinating. Personally, I’m not sure I would attempt to tackle the place without a car but good on you for giving it a go and I’m sure others wary of the city’s notorious traffic will be thankful of your advice

Sonia April 18, 2017 - 11:20 pm

I have never been to USA and when I do, the Hollywood sign is on top of my list. I will bookmark your post for reference when I plan my trip. Thanks for sharing the costs … it’s really helpful!

Anita April 18, 2017 - 9:50 pm

LOL – I am laughing at your initial experience. Our first 1/2 day in LA consisted of our shuttle bus almost rear-ending a car on the freeway and then as we were walking to our hotel, a white car was heading towards us at the speed of like then lost control and smashed into a store front. OF course, I had just finish say how we almost died this morning and this happened. hehehe Looks like we did some of the same stuff during our LA trip.

Daisy Li April 19, 2017 - 11:41 am

omg noo way hahah, glad you guys were fine! Yea LA was definitely a string of confusing events, I loved it 😀

Bianca Karina April 18, 2017 - 11:30 am

Next time you do LA you have to do a food tour. LA has some of the best affordable (and not so affordable) food stops. I’ve lived in SoCal about 7 years now and still have not ventured to the Hollywood sign. It’s on my bucketlist though!

Daisy Li April 18, 2017 - 1:18 pm

Definitely! I spent wayy too much time at starbucks haha, always missing out on good food 🙁 Wish I had more time to get a decent picture of the sign though!

Whimsy April 18, 2017 - 10:55 am

Wow, sounds like you had so much fun! I would love to do something like this one day! Great post!


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