Top 10 Things To Do in Los Angeles

1. Check out the view of LA from the car park of Dodger Stadium

 http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/
Where? 1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles
Why go? Even if you’re not a baseball fan (like me), the view from the car park is unreal!
How long will you need? We were there for about an hour, because husband discovered we could go into the stadium and just sit around. And, the gift shop was open.
Cost? Free!
Read more:
– Travel Tuesday: Dodger Stadium, LA

 

2. Eat your way around Grand Central Market

 http://www.grandcentralmarket.com/
Where? 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
Why go? Food. All of the food. It’s also full of locals, and watching the way the huge the mix of cultures and ethnicities interact in a market setting is a true experience.
How long will you need? A few hours, preferably first thing in the morning.
Cost? How hungry are you? You can get a solid breakfast for only a few dollars if you’re struggling for cash, or you can buy all of the food!
Read more:
– Eat here: Eggslut & Tumbras at Grand Central Market, LA

 

3. Be a big kid at Universal Studios

 http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/
Where? 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Why go? As if you need a reason…
How long will you need? All day!
Cost? Ticket prices start from USD$105.00 per adult

 

4. People watch in Santa Monica and Venice Beach

Why go? People watching at it’s absolute best, it’s the perfect spot to melt into the background and just observe the goings on.
How long will you need? A few hours.
Cost? People watching is the greatest free activity ever!
Read more:
– Through my eyes: Santa Monica & Venice Beach, LA

 

5. While you’re in Venice Beach, check out Abbot Kinney Blvd for good shopping and great food

 http://www.abbotkinneyblvd.com/
Where? Abbot Kinney Blvd. Obviously.
Why go? It’s a pretty hipster area, but in a good way – lots of gorgeous and really unique stores to buy some different souvenirs (because do you really want to be that guy with the Hollywood Star fridge magnet?!). And with hipsters comes great food – my cereal and peanut butter bowl from Another Kind of Sunrise (above) was magic!
How long will you need? Another few hours after you’re done people watching in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
Cost? Free to meander, bring some money to shop and eat!
Read more:
– Eat here: Another Kind of Sunrise, LA (breakfast/healthy)

 

6. Enjoy a chili dog at the institution that is Pink’s

 http://www.pinkshollywood.com/
Where? 709 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
Why go? Because it’s a city institution – everyone from Dolly Parton to Jimmy Fallon to Aerosmith to Betty White have been! When we visited, we came across a particularly excited lady who was finally visiting for the first time after having lived in LA her whole life!
How long will you need? We were there for about an hour.
Cost? We got the classic chili dog with mustard, onions and chili, for around USD$5.00
Read more:
– Eat here: Pink’s, LA

 

7. Eat your way through The Grove Farmers Market

 http://www.farmersmarketla.com/
Where? 6333 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles
Why go? Food (noticing a theme?), and lots of it! While the Grove itself is a bit upper class and la-di-da, the Farmers Market is much more laid back, with those plebian food options that everyone loves. You can have your table-cloth clad restaurants, I’ll take a doughnut and pulled pork sandwich any day!
How long will you need? We visited a few times, and spend an hour or two each visit. It’s a great spot to grab a coffee and sweet and just watch the world go by!
Cost? Again, depends how much you’re eating…
Read more:
– Shop & Eat at The Grove Farmers Market, LA (Bryan’s BBQ Pit, Bob’s Coffee Doughnuts & Short Cake)

 

8. Take the trek out the Greystone Mansion and Gardens

 http://www.greystonemansion.org/
Where? 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills
Why go? It’s stunning. It’s nothing like you’d expect to find in the neon soaked world that is Hollywood, and that’s why you need to go. It’s a little piece of paradise in a world of botox and hairspray, and that’s what you’ll need after a day or two in the mayhem.
How long will you need? Hire a car and drive. It’ll cut down on time walking and time spent in marriage counselling. Trust me (if you don’t read more below). Once you’re there, an hour or so should be enough to recharge!
Cost? Free parking and admission.
Read more:
– Greystone Mansion & Park, LA

 

9. See how the other half live out in Beverly Hills

Why go? Honestly, it’s fascinating. There is so much wealth and so many bizarre activities and conversations associated with that, and as a regular, middle class gal, it really is mesmerising to see how life unfolds for those with money.
How long will you need? Not long – we only lasted an hour.
Cost? Free to people watch, bring a few credit cards if you plan to shop!
Read more:
– From my travel journal: Los Angeles, 2014

 

10. Catch a movie at the legendary TCL (Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre

 http://www.tclchinesetheatres.com/
Where? 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood
Why go? Hollywood takes a special kind of person to put up with it and find it interesting for more than an hour or two, particularly at night. When you reach your limit of fake-and-touristy, why not catch a movie at one of the most iconic movie theatres in the world?!
How long will you need? A few hours – they’re great cinemas so you may want to go back more than once!
Cost? USD$16.00 for a standard adult ticket

 

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From my travel journal: Los Angeles, 2014

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“Our first trek was out to Rodeo Drive. An unseasonably warm day had us overly-toasty from the outset – we were dressed completely inappropriately due to a crappy weather forecast. So, in my leggings and $5 top, I wandered down Rodeo Drive; we were actually passed by a couple being preceded by not one but TWO nannies to deal with their dead-silent, stroller-bound twins. Why in the name of all that is sane, would you feel the need to PAY someone to push the pram holding your own children?!

Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Tiffany’s… I felt like I wasn’t even fit to breathe the same air. I do wonder how they live, the other side, the rich and famous. There are times I think I’d give my own arm for the chance to swan around a fabulous party in the perfect gown and jewels, just for the night… there are probably more times that I wouldn’t trade in my life for anything else…

Anyway, we didn’t last long in that shiny Golden Triangle.”

Shop & Eat at The Grove Farmers Market, LA (Bryan’s BBQ Pit, Bob’s Coffee Doughnuts & Short Cake)

The Grove Farmers Market
6333 W.3rd St.Los Angeles
http://www.farmersmarketla.com/

“When did you get back?”
“Ohh like 2 weeks ago now!”
“How was it?! Did you have a favourite place?”
“Nah, I loved everywhere. Except LA. What a hole!”

This was a conversation that went on in my office last week. Poor old Los Angeles. It gets SUCH a shit wrap from Aussies who visit! And I blame Hollywood – after spending 10 minutes on Hollywood Boulevard, I found myself asking my husband, “is that it?? Seriously?!” So very underwhelming… BUT there are some absolute gems hidden around the city if you’re willing to let go of the “Hollywood” fantasy and see something else! Greystone Mansion & Park was one of my favourite not-shit spots in the city, with Grand Central Market , the whole Venice Beach/Santa Monica area and The Grove’s Farmers Market coming right in behind it; these are the three places I’ve been recommending to people going to LA who are already wary of it’s disappointing and tacky reputation.

The Grove’s Farmers Market in LA was the nicest surprise possible for someone like me. After running the gauntlet of designer clad, miniature dog-clutching “ladies” and “gentlemen” rolling up in their fancy cars, throwing their keys to/at the valet, I felt like I was walking through the world’s biggest cliché! Not at ALL my scene! We pushed on through the crowd though, determined to see this Grove we’d heard about with it’s pretty Christmas decorations and nice shops (which people neglected to mention we wouldn’t be able to afford to actually shop in, for the most part).

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Yes, it was mental. Yes, there were kids running around all over the place. And ladies swinging oversized handbags around, paying no attention to anyone passing them. And tourists stopping to take a photo beside every Christmas tree (and there are a real lot of trees there). And incessant Christmas carols. You don’t want to spend too long at the Grove at Christmas, but you definitely do want to experience it. After all, what’s Christmas without sparkling lights and complete mayhem?! After 15 minutes of that, we were ready to give up and call it a night, when I saw the sign for the Farmers Market. I was out of the twilight zone and back in my world, even though it was on the other side of the world…

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The Farmers Market is part fresh produce, part eateries, part tourist shopping. It reminded me a lot of the Queen Vic Market in Melbourne, but on a smaller (and much more American) scale. The beauty of this place is that, unlike other farmers markets, it’s open daily, not just on set dates! Foodies rejoice! The touristy souvenir stalls were a bit tacky for me, but the produce looked quality, and the little food stalls were fantastic, heaps of variety, and all busy. We visited of an evening, and also during the day, and the crowd didn’t seem to have been any lighter at either time, which I guess speaks to the quality of the market. It’s absolutely a must-visit in LA if you want a proper food experience without the “fanciness” factor and price tag (and especially if you need to escape the Hollywood hip crowds). As for places to eat, I’ll recommend the following…

Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts
http://www.bobscoffeeanddoughnuts.com/

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4767.jpgFirst up, check out the variety – cake, raised, original, glazed, decorated, they have it ALL! And while I can’t speak for the coffee, but the doughnut I had here was amazing – I got a buttermilk glazed and it was light, fluffy, sugary perfection. Absolute must.

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Short Cake
http://www.shortcakela.com/

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4768.jpgVegan? All good. Caeliac? No worries. Not only does Short Cake cater for the regular sugar lovers, the dietarily challenged can indulge here, too! I’d heard amazing things about their date and sesame seed scones, so I had one of them with a cup of tea – fantastic, particularly as a winter warm up! Would have loved to have had more stomach space to try some of those cookies – the coconut avocado one really had me intrigued! Anyone else tried them?!

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Bryan’s Pit Barbecue
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bryans-Pit-Bbq/356609594406484

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4769.jpgThis isn’t fancy food. It’s not typical hipster LA. There’s no gluten free/refined sugar free/lactose free/super food charged/vegan option. It’s meat and carbs and grease and deliciousness. Pulled pork sandwich. Mac & cheese. Big serving for a decent price. That’s what happiness looks like my friends.
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Travel Tuesday: Dodger Stadium, LA

Dodger Stadium
1000 Elysian Park Ave, Los Angeles
http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/

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Husband and I decided to hire a car and drive ourselves from Anaheim to LA when we visited last December, which proved to be a fantastic decision; LA is not walkable on limited time, the public transport system isn’t amazing, and there are basically no cabs driving around. We figured that seeing as we were hiring the car for a relatively quick drive which was still charged as a minimum one day hire, we may as well have gotten our monies worth and use it to see all the things we thought we’d have issues using the above mentioned methods to get to, like Grand Central Market. Unfortunately we overlooked Greystone Mansion, but that’s another story

After finishing at the market and consulting the map, husband also realised that Dodger Stadium wasn’t going to be easy to get to without the car, so we took as detour on the way back to returning the car. I’m not a baseball fan, I wasn’t too fussed about going there, but holy wow, that view…

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The stadium was also open to visit, and the view from the seating way up was pretty impressive too, even for a non-baseball fan like myself. Well worth the visit if you’ve got that car and a bit of time to spare before returning it!

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Coast to coast hot dogs! Eat here: Papaya King, NYC and Pink’s, LA

Happy Friday friends! OMG it’s been such a long week… since my run on Sunday, my body has been aching like no-one’s business (I tore the cartilage in both hips a few years ago training for taekwondo national championships, had one operated on, the other ignored, and dear god they hurt like hell after a run!), I woke up a few mornings ago feeling like I was swallowing razor blades, work’s been busy (this is a good thing, just tiring!), and I’m trying to make sure I’m making enough time in the week to work on my blog and other writing. I feel like I’m putting almost all of my energy and time into meal planning so I won’t screw up this low FODMAP thing as well as practicing anti-anxiety and depression and disordered eating behaviour, I am baking up a storm over the next two days for my sister-in-law’s weekend baby shower (there is an ungodly amount of butter and eggs in my fridge at the moment), and, despite not having having made time to de-stress with my usual daily yoga,  and not having had more than 6 broken hours sleep in a night for the last few months, I am trying to keep a positive frame of mind going! I’m actually feeling surprisingly, oddly good at the moment… calm before the storm, perhaps?!

ANYWAY, back to my original point – Friday!!! If I wasn’t FODMAPing, I’d probably be heading out for some sort of delicious meaty treat for dinner. Husband and I were discussing hot dogs last night (just the standard kind of highly intelligent dinner-table conversation that goes on in our house), and I started thinking about how much I’d love one… but instead of going to get a hot dog, I’m going to flash back to two delicious dogs I had in America back at the start of the year, on opposite sides of the country. Both classics, both city institutions, both delicious, both worthy of your spare change and time to visit.

 

First up, representing the east coast…

Papaya King
179 E 86th St, New York
http://www.papayaking.com/index.php/food/

IMG_5569To quote the great man, Anthony Bourdain, “…there’s always a shining light on the hill, an old reliable, arguably the best hot dog in New York City, our best food forward in the meat-in-tube form department: Papaya King.”

With an endorsement like that, you can hardly not visit this place when you go to New York! And so we did. We actually walked the whole 3.7km (or 2.3 miles) from our hotel to Papaya King, because we had literally just gotten off the Amtrak train that took us into NYC, dumped our bags, and were ready to kill two birds with one stone – let’s see a bit of the city on our way to food!

While I’m not sure this is the best hot dog in New York (Crif Dogs, I’m looking at you!), this was certainly the best old-style dog we had there. And the papaya drink was pretty darn good too,; I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised as I wasn’t expecting much from it! Plain and simple, dog and sauerkraut, fantastic mustard, quick and friendly service, good snap on the hot dog, soft bun, happy days. It’s standing room only, so if you’re there in winter like we were, get cosy with the guy standing at the counter next to you and come together over a mutual love for good food!

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And the west coast’s delegate…

Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
http://www.pinkshollywood.com/

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I have a confession to make; this hot dog was not a planned thing. We were on our way out to dinner at Umami when our walk from the hotel to The Grove took us on a path right past Pink’s. We knew we were having big fat burgers for dinner. We still stopped for a snack. Naughty fatties, I know, but when passes a city institution such as Pink’s one does not pass it by! It’s pretty exciting, as demonstrated in the photo above by the kid who just dropped for no apparent reason other than extreme hot dog excitement.

Pink’s has been around since 1939 and if the walls lined with signed celebrity photos are anything to go by, it’s still pretty popular 75 years on. We had a chat to a local lady lining up who told us she’d lived here her whole life and never had one – she only stopped there tonight because it was the shortest she’d ever seen the line! Guess it was meant to be…

We kept it simple with our order, going the classic chili dog with mustard, onions and chili, come in at around USD$5.00 including tax. It was money well spent; fantastic dog! The chili was amazing, just enough kick to help the flavour along, not enough to overpower it. The dog itself was delicious, the bun was perfect – soft enough to enjoy, not so soft that it went soggy.

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Pink’s wasn’t originally on our list of place’s to try, but it should have been – it’s not just the delicious food, it’s the experience! People there were friendly and happy and willing to chat to us strange foreigners, even though the line was deep and they could have all been grumpy and impatient… I guess that’s just the by-product of good food and service! It’s not fancy food, but it is fun, and it’s been around so long for a reason – enjoy!

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Umami Burger, LA

Umami Burger
The Grove – 189 The Grove Dve, Suite C-10, Los Angeles
http://www.umamiburger.com/

Arghhh my stomach is driving me mental! I’ve been sick all week and weekend, everything is aggravating it, and that sucks, because I JUST WANT TO EAT A BURGER WITHOUT BEING SICK!!! But I can’t, so I’ll blog about a burger instead. Totally not the same thing, but that’s as good as I can do right now 😦

Do you remember a few years ago when this “umami” business was going crazy in the food world? Everyone was talking about this “new” flavour (well, not new, just branded), this savouryness, a taste that wasn’t sweet or salty or bitter or sour. It was big news for a while, and a clever man called Adam Fleischman capitalised on it in a big way with his Umami Burger chain.

The story goes something like this: he was eating at In-N-Out while thinking about a term he’s read in Heston books – “umami.” Many years later, after experimenting with umami ingredients like cheeses, seaweed, soy, he opened his first Umami Burger store in LA. A few more years later and you can now find Umami Burger not only all over California, but also in NYC, Vegas and Chicago. Happy days!

But you’re not here to read about that stuff. You want to know about the burgers. And whether or not they live up to the hype. Yeah? Thought so.

I ordered the name same Umami burger, bottom left (parmesan frico, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelised onion, Umami house ketchup) because any time I try a new burger place, I always try the namesake burger first. It’s just the rule.

Husband chose from the special menu, which is often his downfall, and got The Manly, bottom right (beer-cheddar, bacon lardons, onion rings, ketchup and mustard).

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So, what usually happens when husband and I go out for a meal, is that I order something awesome that is delicious and wonderful, and husband orders something maybe a bit out of the box and then regrets it when he finds its not as amazing as it sounded on the menu, spending the rest of the meal staring longingly at my dish, with food envy in his eyes. For one of the first times in our decade long relationship, the food envy was reversed.

Let me clarify firstly though – my burger was delicious. The pattie was magnificent, cooked medium rare, crumbly and soft meat, clearly of high quality. The parmesan crisp was a nice touch for something different and signature, though it is hard to beat soft, melty cheese. All in all, a really good burger, and would smash most of the opposition on any other day.

The Manly was another level of burger, and any time we discuss our top 5 burgers ever, The Manly is ALWAYS up there. Just think about it – perfectly booked pattie. Brioche bun. Crispy, golden onion rings. Chunky bacon cooked in fat to bring out a bacon flavour I didn’t know existed. And melted cheese. Seriously. Nothing more needs to be said about this burger; it’s as close to the perfect burger as I think I’ve ever had. Those bacon lardons… omg…

We weren’t sure what to expect from Umami – the hype had all come and gone so long ago, and the food scene changes SO quickly. But I can honestly say that even though they’ve been forgotten about now that the hype has died down, the burgers are phenomenal, and should be on everyone’s list if they’re visiting a Umami-friendly city. That Manly Burger though… I still dream of it…

 

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Disneyland’s World of Color + dining package at Ariel’s Grotto

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So yesterday’s post got me thinking more about my upcoming trip to Tokyo…  I don’t know when this happened, but it’s only 106 more sleeps until I’m off to Japan! Yay! And one of the things I’m a little excited about doing there is Disneyland – I can’t believe that its the third Disneyland I’ll get to tick off the list since 2013, that’s crazy!

One of the things I was most excited about doing in California’s Disneyland last December was the World of Color light and sound show, something I’ve wanted to see for as long as I can remember. The World of Color show is a half hour spectacular held in the Disney California Adventure Park, where clips of Disney’s favourites are projected onto an absolutely mammoth water “screen,” complete with music and light/water effects; we were in for a double treat, visiting a week and a half before Christmas! They use somewhere around 1,200 fountains to shoot water up to 200 feet into the air, to create an almost 20, 000 square-foot projection screen – only at Disneyland, hey? I’d also heard that viewing the show could be difficult, and had recommended the Dining Package; basically, you’re paying for dinner and priority viewing area, which we figured was worthwhile seeing as we had to eat anyway.

Three options are available, restaurant-wise – the Italian Wine Country Trattoria, the fancy Carthay Circle Restaurant, and the only option I was ever going to choose being a lifelong Little Mermaid fan: Ariel’s Grotto. I grinned like an idiotic, sugar-hyped child on my way down the spiral staircase to the dining room, and happily took my seat in a very “under the sea” themed restaurant. The service was, as one expects in Disneyland, second to none. We were seated with a smile, the fanciest complimentary bread basket I’ve ever seen (below, top right), and a patient explanation of how the dining package menu worked. For USD$45.35 each, we were entitled to three courses, our choice of entrée and main, as well as a dessert platter each. After dinner, we would be directed to the priority viewing area.

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The food, like the service, was amazing. I went with:
– Entrée: salad with apple, walnut and blue cheese (above, top right)
– Main: grilled lobster tail and red oak-smoked tri-tip with mashed potato and vegetables (above, bottom left)
– Dessert: platter of crème brulee, chocolate s’more slice and chocolate dipped strawberry (above, bottom right)

The grilled lobster tail and tri-tip were such a big highlight for me, they were cooked perfectly, both tender and soft, and the smokiness of the tri-tip was fantastic! I’d highly recommend the dining package, particularly to first time visitors like us; it makes a fun night a bit more special, and it’s nice to know that you don’t have to rush or get involved in the push and shove of finding a spot.  And our priority viewing was quite literally front and centre, we couldn’t have possible asked for a better vantage point! The show itself was fantastic, Christmas themed with all the Disney favourites both old and new, and some Christmas carols led by Frozen’s Olaf. Beware, though; these amazing viewing spots should come with a warning – you will get a little wet, because that’s how close you are to the action!