Sightseeing in Santa Monica and LA

After 36 hours of Las Vegas debauchery, Santa Monica was the detox we needed. This lovely beachfront city in western Los Angeles was a breath of fresh air. We only had an afternoon and evening to take in the highlights of LA and this made it to the top of our list based on the recommendation of one of our best friends touting it as their “favourite place in the world.” I can understand why.

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We easily found parking for$20 not too far from the Santa Monica Pier, the city’s hottest tourist spot. This was far from cheap, but coming from Toronto this felt strangely reasonable. Also, with the car filled to the brim with my life goods, a fully supervised lot was something I was looking for. If you’re not as picky, there are a few public parking lots where the first couple hours are free. There are also advance parking reservations online if you plan on visiting during peak season, or on the weekend.

After our car was secured, we wandered Palisades Park where we took in ocean views, the odd homeless person sleeping on a bench and the view of the pier from afar. We stumbled upon Camera Obscura, the world’s largest pin hole camera which had been in existence for over 100 years. My road trip buddy Megan is a photographer, so even though we just missed viewing times (it closed at 4pm), we still took copious amounts of photos of the building which housed it.

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When we reached the pier, the tourist appeal became very clear. Home to the only amusement park on a pier, there was a Ferris wheel and midway rides, an arcade, a plethora of tacky gift shops, knock-off Disney characters in costume ready to pose for photos, caricature artists and a handful of restaurants including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The sun was shining, and the people were buzzing – it was fun to be part of briefly. I really enjoyed the worn wooden steps leading to the pier and the lookout across the ocean at the end.

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If we had more time, we would have rented bikes and cruised along the beach bike path. Now that’s my idea of a good time.

We walked more into the city to see the Third Street Promenade – a pedestrian only shopping district home to many big labels and a few local ones. We landed at CB2 where I picked up some new glasses and dino tea-light holders for my new place. I also may have found some winning wedding shoes, but nothing has been purchased yet! The city was really pretty, clean and lovely to walk around in.

We settled on a subpar food court dinner (we should have found something local, ugh) and jumped on the insanity that is LA highways to the heart of downtown. This was our closest brush with death so far on the trip. I thought driving in Colorado at night was intense, but that was a walk in the park. People had warned me about the madness, but experiencing it was intense. I now feel like I can take on Nascar like racing. Exit ramps appear out of nowhere, you’re changing lanes every two seconds to avoid getting on another highway, squeezing yourself between two other cars moving upwards of 70 mph even though the limit usually sits between 55-65 mph. Us Canadians don’t understand how good we have it at home. I shouldn’t say this, but I think I would have preferred gridlock.

We pulled up to Kat Von D’s High Voltage Tattoo shop which happens to be right beside her novelty shop, Wonderland LA in the hopes of doing some shopping, but we just missed out. Wonderland LA closed up at 7pm, but we were still able to see the famed tattoo shop in the flesh (pardon the pun).

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We decide it was time to see stars! After more white knuckle driving, we found reasonably priced parking at the Highland Center right beside the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars were held only days before. The stars were neat to see, but the real highlight was the cement imprints of celebrity signatures, hands and feet. Judy Garland had really tiny feet.

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That pretty much concluded our whirlwind tour of the city, at which point it was back into the car for another nightmare drive to our hotel for the night in Buena park.

I don’t think I will be visiting LA again anytime soon!

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