Los Angeles has a history as a place of indulgence and excess; for years it’s been a playground for the rich, famous and fabulous to live large. To visit and not go all out would be like eyeballing the treats in a French patisserie window only to walk away without tasting one – pretty damn unsatisfying. Los Angeles is a #yolo kind of town.
But unless you own a Kardashian’s gold Amex or your last name is Spielberg, you might be wondering how you’re going to make it rain, so to speak. In the city where the magic of Hollywood’s film industry was born, it’s all about faking it ’til you make it. Here’s how to have an Oscar winner’s experience on a soapie extra’s budget.[related_articles]4666[/related_articles]
#1 Take a room with a view
It doesn’t get more LA than waking up to a view of the Hollywood sign. Just steps from Hollywood Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, the Loews Hollywood Hotel puts you smack-bang in the centre of Tinseltown and a twin-share won’t break the bank. After a long day of sightseeing catch some of that soul-warming California sunshine with a poolside session.[related_articles]60711,34995,20485[/related_articles]
You can also sneak in a Barre or Pilates class at the health club, and have an oh-so-LA healthy breakfast or snack at nearby cafe Berry Que; they do delicious smoothie combos like peanut butter, banana, dates and ginger.
#2 Fly high
For some reason, going up in a helicopter just feels so badass. Group 3 Aviation can make your ’90s R&B music video dreams come true with an aerial tour of the city giving you an uninterrupted view of downtown, Santa Monica Pier, the Hollywood sign and into the backyards of some insanely extravagant mansions.
Depending on your pilot’s level of celebrity goss, they might be able to point out the homes of some famous names. The Hooray for Hollywood Helicopter Tour costs US$185 (AU$250) per person but it’s totally worth it.
#3 Hit the Los Angeles hot spots
You don’t have to blow the budget to find a sophisticated hang-out in LA – the city has plenty of high-quality but reasonably priced digs. The booming food truck scene makes eating especially affordable. One of the best is Guerilla Tacos – you can’t beat US$4 (AU$5.50) for lunch. For dinner, go to The Hungry Cat for seafood and “artisanal drinks” (ie, good cocktails) or Electric Owl for late-night eats including pizza, steak alongside craft cocktails and a decent beer line-up.
If you’re in West Hollwood, Estrella on Sunset Boulevard has a seriously cool vibe but won’t give you bill-induced anxiety. Have a post-dinner drink at the Sunset Tower Hotel just a few minutes up the road, where you’ll almost definitely find a celebrity lurking in the dimly lit lounge.[related_articles]63069,59341,57950[/related_articles]
The bar at the Chateau Marmont hotel is another old-favourite hangout for the stars; the new favourites are the rooftop bar at the Ace Hotel and Soho House (although you’ll need to know a member to get inside the latter).
#4 Look the part
Appearances are important in LA – it’s Hollywood, after all. But there’s no need to feel underdressed thanks to Rent The Runway, a website where you can borrow a designer outfit for the night.
To feel extra glam, treat yourself to a blowdry at Drybar and visit makeup and beauty lounge Blushington, side-by-side on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. You’ll feel like the star of your own makeover reality show.
#5 Shop like a VIP
You might not have the cash to splurge at a designer store, but a stroll along the boutiques of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is a quintessential LA experience – even if it’s just for the spectacle of it all. La La Luxe takes you on a shopping tour where you can sip champagne in the VIP room at Dior, the stylish suite where A-listers get fitted out for awards shows. (You can just imagine Kanye yay-or-naying Kim’s looks as he kicks back on one of the comfy couches.)[related_articles]57708,32768,60279[/related_articles]
#6 Sweat with the stars
Your best chance of spotting a celebrity in LA is probably at the gym as this city takes fitness very seriously. Loved by stars and mere mortals alike is SoulCycle, the cult-like spin class that has dedicated devotees across the States.
Forget watching the agonisingly slow tick of the clock and feeling like you’re in some kind of torture chamber; SoulCycle is an uplifting experience with badass beats and inspiring instructors that must do motivational speaking on the side.[related_articles]7742[/related_articles]
#7 Go behind-the-scenes
If being in Los Angeles gives you Hollywood fever, take a tour of Warner Bros Studios, where you can be a fly on the wall as real TV shows and films are being made.
See the set of The Big Bang Theory and Pretty Little Liars and walk down New York Street – the fake avenue used for productions set in NYC – which feels strangely familiar after being used in hundreds of films.[related_articles]47761,14230,59788[/related_articles]
Friends fan? Well you might get the chance to hang out at the real Central Perk set and sit on the exact couch where Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Joey swapped all that witty banter.
#8 Get some wheels
The best way to feel like a local is having your own ride to get around in. Hollywood Star Rent-A-Car has a range of vehicles to choose from, whether you want to go movie-director-having-a-mid-life-crisis with a red convertible, or something a little more subtle.
If you keep your shades on in your convertible, tourists on the Walk Of Fame will be convinced they just spotted a celeb. Prices start from US$39.99 (AU$54) a day for a convertible plus US$0.35 (AU$0.50) per mile.[qantas_widget code=LAX]Check out Qantas flights to Los Angeles.[/qantas_widget]
(Lead image: Jack Finnigan / Unsplash. All other images: Provided, or author’s own)
Erin Van Der Meer is a formerly Sydney-based writer who decided the whole desk job thing just didn’t allow enough time for travel. So she quit said job, bought a flight to Mexico and has been living out of a suitcase ever since. Keep track of her latest adventures on Instagram or Twitter.