LA is one of the key entry points to the United States for New Zealanders and many travellers choose to break up their journey to Europe, New York or Latin America with a stopover in Los Angeles. Ensure you get some sleep on the plane as marketing manager Zoe Macfarlane has planned the perfect jam-packed 24 hours in the City of Angels.
11am – Arrive Los Angeles
Land in Los Angeles on your Air New Zealand flight (move times around to accommodate your arrival time) and power walk towards the customs hall. Dodging and weaving passengers along the way can make the difference between and speedy or painfully slow entry into the US. One of the surliest immigration entrances you will ever have, remember to be polite and follow all instructions clearly with the customs officer to ensure entry isn’t delayed.
12pm – Grab a Ride
Don’t forget to on-check your luggage before leaving the airport – you’ll only need a small backpack or day bag for the adventures ahead. Using LAX’s free Wi-Fi, download the Uber app – it’s a great way to get around LA – like a taxi but with friendlier drivers. Have a quick Google for a discount code, you can normally get at least $10 off your first ride. Your destination is Venice Beach. If you prefer to drive in the US, take the relevant shuttle bus to the car rental depot and substitute all transport references below with your rental.
1pm – Venice Beach
It’s time to flex those muscles on one of LA’s most famous beaches. Eye-popping is one word for some of the sights you’re about to see as people exercise, parade and flaunt what their mama gave them. When you’ve had a good wander, head to nearby Café Gratitude (512 Rose Ave) for lunch. Healthy eats are IN right now in California and this restaurant is one of my faves. Grab one of their bowls and cleanse away that post-flight feeling.
3pm – Santa Monica
A little retail therapy is in order and Santa Monica’s Promenade is the perfect place to do it with a pleasant outdoor setting and a good range of stores interspersed with coffee shops. Get here from Venice by the No. 3 bus (catch it on Lincoln Boulevard) for a mere $1.75. Bargain.
Sunset – Santa Monica Pier
After some shopping, head down to Santa Monica Pier for sunset. Choose to wander the pier, play on some arcade games or ride the rickety rides or simply walk to the end, grab a spot on a bench and watch the sun say goodnight. Keep an eye out for dolphins around here; I once spotted a pair whilst doing this very activity.
6:30pm (or post sunset) – Sunset Boulevard
If you can find the discount codes, give Lyft or Sidecar a go and save some dollars and get the driver to take you to Sunset Boulevard. Lined with restaurants and bars, this area comes alive at night. My pick is the Pink Taco restaurant – the food is delicious, the prices are very reasonable there is a cocktail that comes in a pineapple and it gets raucous as the night progresses.
8:30pm – Star Spotting
Close to Pink Taco is Chateau Marmont, luxury hotel and celeb hangout. Extravagant décor in this fantastical folly are worth a nosey, and the bar is open from 6pm to 2am daily. Prices are high so only stay for a quick one and if you don’t spot Paris or Lindsey, pretend you’re the international star worth spotting!
9:30pm – Hollywood Boulevard
It’d be rude to come to LA and not hit one of its most famous tourist spots. Find your favourite actor or actress on the sidewalk, get your photo with a superhero (don’t forget to tip) and soak up the tourist buzz. One word of warning here, only cross the streets at the official crossings as LAPD love to bust people for jaywalking here.
11pm – Party Time
As it’s only early evening in NZ, you’ll be able to show Americans how to party at a Los Angeles club. See what’s happening at Avalon or Sound as they are close to Hollywood, or head to Exchange for some shenanigans. The latter is my favourite for its laser and sound systems, though petty crime can occur here so pop your backpack in at the coat check. When you’re partied out (or if this is not your scene) head to downtown LA and check in to your hotel. I recommend the Omni if it suits your budget.
6:30am – Runyon Canyon
It’s going to feel like the middle of the night but you won’t regret checking out and grabbing a 30 minutes Uber to Runyon Canyon. A 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, here hot guys and girls (and their pooches) enjoy a morning walk or run and the actual scenery up here is beautiful too. It’s a great place to see all that Los Angeles has to offer.
8:30am – Manhattan Beach
Head to historic Manhattan Beach where you can dip your toes in the ocean and admire the expansive yellow sand beach before nipping into a café for breakfast. Uncle Bill’s Pancake House will have you wishing you lived on this side of the world. If you have a sweet tooth like me, save a little room for a creamwich from the Manhattan Beach Creamery, one of the best ice-cream experiences I’ve ever had. Select your cookie and ice cream from a huge range of flavours and don’t forget to dip it in chocolate too. Mmmmmm.
10:45am – Onward Bound
Only a 15-minute ride to LAX, grab your final Uber to head to the airport for your onward flight, wherever it may be. Hopefully this quick taste of Los Angeles has given you a taste of the many pockets of fun and entertainment on offer and will have you coming back soon for more.