Sometimes you have to visit a place a second or third time before you can appreciate it.
I think it’s because we change so much. Through those changes we see the world through eyes that have different values and interests.
My opinion of Los Angeles has always been that it’s overrated. If I HAVE to pass through here, I head straight for the South Bay Beaches of Manhattan Beach and Hemosa Beach as I have had a liking for the local feel down there.
But the rest of LA, no thanks!
On this visit during our one year USA road trip, I’ve finally discovered an appreciation for it and have found what people find so attractive about it.
The change started a few years ago when I visited Downtown LA for the Blogher conference and discovered a city full of funk, good food and loads of promise.
This time I’m embracing the rest of the sprawling metropolis. It feels different, but I know it’s probably just me.
I’ve loved the excitement of visiting LA with the girls and exploring the world of Hollywood with them. Kalyra has acting dreams so it’s been lovely to help fuel that dream for her.
Driving up into the Hollywood Hills has given me a gorgeous perspective – rolling green hills! Who would have thought? It reminded me so much of Australia in some parts.
I can see the allure of spending $35 million on a property out this way.
Well maybe not, but you get what I mean.
We’re headed to Santa Monica this week, so I’ll let you know if my opinion on that changes. I’ve always found it tacky and over touristy.
Perhaps with these new eyes of mine that will change. I know many of you visit Santa Monica so I hope I can like it and share some cool things to do there.
Being in the city has been a welcome break from the wilderness, although I’m more than happy to return there very soon.
I’ve found myself missing Raleigh a lot this week.
It’s the simple things I miss – my local Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, my regular routine at the gym, my favorite cafes, bars and restaurants. The streets framed by beautiful oak trees. Our friends. The air even!
It’s strange how much I long to return so I can start living the regular life I love. The perfect lifestyle that took two decades to find.
I think it’s possibly community I’m longing for – to be a part of something bigger than me.
I’m practicing Patience Grasshopper. Everything has its season and that new phase of my life will come soon enough. For now, it’s enjoying this incredible journey with my girls.
At least we’ve reached the end of the road now here on the California coastline. Everything from here on end is the return leg home, albeit slowly.
If you want more real and personal connection, where we share the real story of how we unplug, how we manage the ups and downs, the sweet the funny, the strange and chaotic, than jump in my Notes from the Road virtual suitcase. Its like receiving letters from an old friend. Just click the following:
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This week 12 wrap up of our USA road trip shares our adventures from Saturday to Friday.
I publish the posts on Sunday (I need a few days to prepare it!) More in-depth posts on each region with loads of tips and suggestions will be coming soon.
What we Did in Palm Springs
We attempted to explore Palm Springs and didn’t get far beyond the main street.
Unbeknownst to us, warm and cozy in Goldie, flash floods were happening around us in Palm Springs last week. We did get a couple of text message warnings but didn’t pay them much attention!!
Thankfully, we didn’t need to.
It meant that Indian Canyon and the aerial tramway were closed because of the damage sustained. We’ll be back.
Craig and I both agreed that Palm Springs reminded us a lot of Noosa back in Australia, minus the oceanfront.
The main street in Palm Springs has the same feel: boutique stores, flash restaurants and cafes and a yuppy vibe.
We had a lovely lunch at Lulu California Bistro with its captivating mid century modern design and delicious food. They have fantastic 3 and 4 course menu deals here.
Other than that, our last few days in our Desert Springs RV park was spent chilling in the hot tubs, saunas and working and playing.
What we Did in Los Angeles
Hollywood – Behind the Scenes Walking Tour
I love doing tours like this as you learn so many cool stories and a deeper history to a certain area. I am so glad we did this. I learned so much and it helped me appreciate the very touristy Hollywood area much more.
I knew the Chinese Theater was the place to see stars hands in concrete, but I had NO idea about the theater’s background.
It is not owned by Chinese, but was started by Sid Grauman who is largely responsible for creating the concept of movie stars and celebrity status.
We also got special access to his Egyptian Theater, where Sid started it all.
If I had not done this tour, then the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame would have just been stars with famous names on it. And the buildings would have just been buildings that host the Oscars and have hand prints in concrete.
Now I know more about the traditions, rituals, symbolism stories and accolades. It means so much ore to me. The girls loved it as well, especially Kalyra who dreams of being an Oscar award winning actress.
We also got to walk on the red carpet (it was covered in plastic) and see them setting up for the Oscars show tonight!
Kids under 9 are free for this tour.
Stunning LA Sunsets
California wins with epic sunsets.
Of course, you get to watch it dip below the ocean horizon. We loved our evening sunset bike ride from El Segundo to Manhattan and watching the sunset.
No matter where you are in LA during sunset hour, be sure to look up at the sky. You’ll definitely get some vibrant colors with a few palm trees enhancing the view.
Palos Verdes Scenic Drive
Again, friends in our Instagram community recommended the Palos Verdes scenic drive – thank you!
The drive starts just south of Redondo on the South Bay Beaches. It’s a 14 mile scenic drive through quiet neighborhoods and along windy roads to view craggy cliffs, wide sandy beaches, and stunning viewpoints.
I’d love to come back and enjoy a few of the cliff face hiking trails along the way here. The girls just weren’t cooperating with a few walks. They wanted to get into the city!
It’s worth stopping off to see the Wayfarers Chapel, a full glass chapel in a redwood grove with ocean views. Almost enough to send me back to Sunday mass!
Also the Korean Friendship Bell is where the drive ends and worth seeing.
We spent half a day exploring Downtown Los Angeles. As a big city, it’s one of my favorite in the US.
I love that it offers everything a city does: gorgeous rooftop views, excellent food, museums, funky art, history, culture and markets, and diverse neighborhoods, but with far less crowds and frenetic pace.
You can walk around the streets at an easy pace and not be bombarded with traffic and honking horns and wailing sirens. I visited as a solo traveler three years ago – see my post here and my video below.
We almost had the OUE Skyspace to ourselves. If that was in Chicago or New York, you’d be lining up for hours!
The girls loved sliding from the 70th to the 9th floor on the glass slide hanging off the side of the building. Would you do it?
And how could you not love The Last Bookstore?
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Any book lovers in the house? You don’t want to miss the Last Bookstore in Downtown LA. A very cool space to browse, read, buy books and check out quirky book sculptures. . . . . #bookstagram #booklover #booklovers #thelastbookstore #bookstore #dtla #AmericaUnplugged #Usaroadtrip #USAtravel #visittheusa #downtownla #downtownlosangeles #discoverla #kidswhotravel #suitcasekids #travelkids #lpkids #laca #lacalifornia #losangelescalifornia #quirky #quirkyinteriors #bookshelf #booksgalore #itravelbecause #travelhappy
This time in Downtown LA we visited the Arts District, which I loved. I want to go back to explore more in-depth, and to visit the Angel City Brewery, which was closed. Look at this building!!
And Grand Central Market is also awesome for food, coffee, and craft brews.
Rodeo Drive and Four Seasons Beverly Hills
Walking along this street has to be done. You can shop here if you like, or window shopping is just as good. The girls LOVED pretending to be rich and famous on this street.
I enjoyed walking into the Four Seasons Beverly Wiltshire Hotel. I would loved to have sat at the bar having a cocktail. But, I wasn’t sure how kid-friendly it was.
I must admit, the Gucci store was the ugliest store I’ve ever been in. I felt like I was walking through Great Aunt Mildred’s wardrobes. I cannot believe people actually buy those clothes and enjoy the decor in there.
It is a very pretty street though.
Movie Stars Homes Van Tour
I really enjoyed this tour. Craig and I did one years ago, and all I remember is seeing a lot of high gates! It wasn’t all that interesting to me.
But, I found this one fascinating.
Again, there will be a lot of high gates, but you can still get glimpses of properties with okay views, like Beyonce and Jay Z’s $80 million dollar home in Bel Air, and the round glass rental home Justin Beiber got kicked out of when his mate threw a party when he was out of town.
I enjoyed sitting back of the open top van hearing the stories and taking in the beautiful Hollywood Hills, Mulholland Drive views and Beverly Hills exclusive estates.
The opulence was astounding.
The area, with it’s small hills, trees and views reminded me a little of Sydney, which is one reason I felt more connected to LA this time around.
I can understand why people would want to live in this area. Bring your checkbook though if that is you! You’ll need plenty of zeros.
Note, bring a jacket as it can get cool sitting in the open air van, and be aware that you won’t be looking over small picket fences at these properties.
Privacy is important for celebrities!
- Get your individual ticket for the tour here
- Or it is included in the Sightseeing Pass which you can purchase here.
Saving Money in LA
Hide your wallets folks, you’re in Los Angeles now!
- For those without an RV, consider renting an Airbnb or finding an apartment rental on Booking.com (yes they have them)
- Hollywood & Highlands is a shopping center that houses the Dolby Theater. You can get cheapish parking here as long as you get your parking ticket validated at any of the stores. Here’s a tip – get it validated at the Discover LA visitor center, then you don’t have to spend any money in the stores.
- Check if the tour companies have additional savings coupons for you. The Hollywood Behind the Scenes had a coupon for Hard Rock and Saddle Ranch. Don’t be an idiot like me though and forget to give Saddle Ranch your coupon ticket!! I missed a $15 savings from that.
If you plan on doing a few attractions in LA, purchase a Sightseeing Pass.
It is a city discount card which will save you money on several big name attractions. we use them in all major cities we visit. (We also work as affiliate partners with The Sightseeing Card and they provided us with LA passes).
We are happy to share them with you as they can be a great saving tool when you travel.
If you are visiting multiple cities in the USA, a USA Sightseeing Pass may work better for you.
Where we Stayed in Los Angeles
Dockweiler RV Park
The good news about this LA RV park is that it is right on the beach at El Segundo. We loved jumping on our bikes to cycle along the promenade down to Manhattan Beach.
The South Bay Beaches is our favorite place in LA so this is a good spot for access to them. It’s also just a block back from several restaurants and cafes.
Other than that, it’s basically a parking lot with full hookups.
The showers are awful. It’s a push button shower that lasts for about 60 seconds at most before switching off the water. The hot water is at bare minimum. Super expensive for what you get. But, hey you’re in LA!
Oh, and you’re right near LAX with plenty of planes flying over, but you get used to it.
Walnut RV Park
Again, it’s LA, it’s going to be overpriced. But at least the showers here have hot water! Sadly, the wifi is only available in the office area.
The spaces are a little cramped. But there are plenty of trees offering shade and there is a common room with a few games, and a swimming pool.
We haven’t been here much to really get a sense of how it is.
It’s location is not too bad – easy access to freeways and about 30 minutes to most places of interest (without traffic). See more here.
RV & Road Trip Lessons
- Hot water is important! After a week of little hot showers, I’m kinda over RV parks.
- Bamboo pillows are the bomb!! We bought them at the Travel Show in LA last week! I’d always wanted one and got what I thought was a great deal. Now I’ve looked at them on Amazon, I could have gotten it much cheaper! They are so comfy and my sleep has gone next level with it. Now I’m like how did I ever not have one? Get yours on Amazon!!
- We did look at a few apartment/hotel stays in Los Angeles – just because it’s a city and we like to give hotel options for you. But the price is so much more than camping + the hassle of storing the RV, putting all our fridge and freezer food somewhere, and packing up for a hotel stay is just too exhausting and not worth it. Life in the RV continues.
Each week, I include our travel related costs for the week.
I don’t include things like business costs, insurance, and souvenirs etc. That’s so personal that whatever I told you wouldn’t necessarily be true for you and your budget.
The following, apart from perhaps our groceries, will give you a reasonable estimate of costs related to travel.
If you are new to our weekly wrap, our costs each week are usually around $1,000 – $1,300. We’re really trying to stay under $1,000 a week.
City travel always raises our weekly costs as we’re eating out more and experiencing many attractions. I hate seeing the higher numbers, but part of travel is enjoying local flavors.
I know we’ll have cheaper weeks coming out in nature and it motivates me to be more creative in earning more income!
My 30 days to Money Mindfulness Course helps you learn how to master your money (and do things like weekly spending checks no matter how much they hurt!) You can’t change what you aren’t aware of.
- Fuel: $ 216
- Parking: $55
- Uber: $5
- Camping: $392 (3 nights @ $44 and 4 night @$65)
- Park Fees: $0
- Tours: $
- Tips: $40
* For the above attractions listed, it would have cost $325 total to purchase them individually (family of 2 adults 2 kids).
The Sightseeing Pass that covers them (+ an additional 3 activities) cost $461 (2 adults + 2 kids) The 3 attraction pass costs $247 so you can see the savings you get!
Note that the Sightseeing Pass was covered for us.
- Restaurants: $348
- Coffee: $37
- Groceries: $287
- Take out/ snacks: $ 159
- Alcohol: $
We eat a mostly whole foods, organic diet, which means our grocery bills are higher than what would be typical.
Don’t forget with eating out costs, tip will be included in the prices and the odd glass of wine or two,
RV supplies and living
- Laundry: $15
- Firewood: $
- Propane: $
- Supplies: $
Total paid by us: $ 1 554
Where to Next?
We’ll be in LA for all of next week.
It looks like the weather may warm up so we’ll head for the hills for a few views. We plan on hiking to the Hollywood sign, doing a Melrose selfie and coffee tour, checking out Malibu, and more fun things!
Oh, Oscar party in the van too!
Videos of the trip coming out soon. We’re very behind! Subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it. We’re now releasing our road trip videos.
Check out the video of Big Bend National Park
More Los Angeles Travel Tips
- 8 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Los Angeles, California
- Checking in: A Glamorous Boutique Hotel in Downtown LA
- Why You Should Consider a Disneyland Vacation Rental vs. Hotel
- 15 Best Hotels Near Disneyland, CA from Budget to Luxury