We visited LA, Palm Springs & JTNP for 4 nights in April 2017.
My daughter is a fashion blogger and had been begging me to go to LA with her.. I honestly had no desire to go but, I have to say, after going I really enjoyed it and would love to visit again one day.
We arrived in LA at 9:40 on a Tues morning. We rented a car from Alamo for less than $250.
About to land at LAX Airport
Look at all that traffic down there!
Tip – After making reservations online, you should keep checking prices on a regular basis to see if the price drops. I think we rebooked the car 3 different times due to the price dropping.
Also, when you rent from Alamo, they offer a “skip the line” service..this allows you to go straight to your rental car without going to the customer service desk to check in. To do this, you have to choose this option during or after you book your car online.
You then will have to enter your driver’s license info and payment information. I had used this service for the first time when we went to Hawaii and loved it!
Since we were only going to be in LA for 3 full days, I had us on a very busy itinerary. We left the airport and headed straight to the first stop which was the Urban Light Art Installation outside of the LACMA.
We only wanted to see the outside light installation and snap a few pics. The Urban Lights are 202 restored street lamps from the 1920’s and 30’s.
There is parking at the corner of Wilshire Blvd & Spaulding for around $15. We also saw another art display in this same area that we weren’t expecting to see…part of the Berlin Wall. Read about this “art installation” here.
We were ready for lunch so we headed to one of the places you just have to go when in LA, In-N-Out Burger. They opened their first location in 1948..they now have over 300 locations. Their burgers are so good!After we ate, my daughter had several places that she wanted to go. With her being a fashion blogger, she had researched all the “trendy” places to go so she could shoot some pics for her blog.
So, we headed to Dinosaur Coffee. It’s located on Sunset Blvd. They are open daily from 7-7. My daughter ordered a coffee and loved it!
1st pic above is a wall hanging inside the coffee shop
We then walked to the nearby Bates Motel. This is an old hotel that closed in the late 90’s. It was once the Sunset Pacific Motel but the locals refer to it as the Bates Motel because it sits on the corner of Sunset Blvd & Bates Ave.
A Paris based artist collaborated with the city of LA to turn it into an art installation by painting it all white. See what it looked like here.
I wasn’t impressed as it looked nothing like the pictures we saw online. It’s not opened to the public and was surrounded by a fence…looked more like a prison to me.
We then headed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We wanted to see those iconic stars on Hollywood Blvd. The first stars were unveiled in 1958.
You can click on the link I added above and check the schedule for unveilings. They have several throughout the year and they are free.
It was very cool to see this area but it was so “seedy”. There were so many sketchy people hanging around and several would approach you trying to sell you something or try to get you to take a picture with them. I held onto my purse very tight!
We also saw them setting up for a movie premier in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. You can click here to find out about upcoming movie premiers and a chance to see your favorite actor.
I was ready to get out of this area pretty quickly! We then headed back to our car to head to our next stop, the Hollywood Sign. It was about a 20 min drive from Hollywood Blvd. on Canyon Lake Dr.
There is a hike you can do where it takes you behind the sign but we didn’t do it.We then headed to the Griffith Observatory. You can go here and see awesome views of LA and the Hollywood sign. We only visited the grounds and walked around the observatory…we never went inside. It’s a very cool looking building.
This place was extremely crowded and I recommend you get here early. There is parking in front of the observatory but you have to pay.
However, it’s very reasonable and worth the money. If you have to park in the parking area below the observatory, you have to walk uphill.
It was about a 30 min drive to get to the observatory from the Hollywood sign. The drive took you through a residential area lined with huge trees..they were beautiful!View of the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory
After leaving here, we were ready to go eat dinner. We headed for the Grove Shopping Center. We had planned on trying out Umami Burger but opted for The Cheesecake Factory .
After eating dinner, we headed to our AirBnb apartment. This was the first time we had ever used AirBnb and I was very apprehensive after reading mixed reviews. I also don’t like reserving a property that I can’t cancel without a cancellation fee.
However, we were traveling with a friend and I thought it would be better if we had more than 1 bathroom for the 3 of us. The property I reserved was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment in West Hollywood.
After much research, we felt it was the best location for all the things we had planned on seeing and doing while we were there. We really liked the W Hollywood area and felt we had made a good decision staying here. We rented this apt and paid around $970 for 4 nights.
We checked in and had a few hiccups during our stay that could have ended up worse than it did but the owner was very responsive to all of our issues and corrected them as quickly as possible. All in all, I would rent from her again. The next morning we headed to Toast Bakery Cafe for breakfast. My daughter had picked out several restaurants that she had wanted to eat at and this was one of them. We arrived and got seated outside. We really loved the food and the atmosphere. After breakfast, we headed back to the Grove Shopping Center as my daughter had wanted to go to Laduree to purchase some of their macarons. They have the best!! We spent a couple of hours here walking around through the shops and the historic Farmers Market. The farmers market first opened in 1934.
It has tons of restaurants & retail shops….mostly vendors selling local goods. I highly recommend you check this area out if visiting the LA area.
After leaving the shopping center, we headed to some of the walls that my daughter had wanted to go and shoot some pics for her blog.
These walls are very popular with bloggers and instagrammers. So, we mapped out all of the walls that she wanted to shoot so we wouldn’t be backtracking.
The first wall was the “Girls Tour” wall. It’s located at 7811 Melrose…on the side of a boutique called, Sorella. The next wall wasn’t on the list but we spotted it after leaving the Girls Tour Wall.
It was an angel wing mural painted by the well known painter, Colette Miller. She has painted angel wing murals all around the world.The next wall was the “Made in LA” wall. It’s located .3 mi from the Girls Tour wall at 8025 Melrose.The next wall was the “Pink Wall”. This is one of the most “instagrammed” walls in LA. There is actually a sign by the wall with rules…one rule was that only cell phone pics could be taken…no professional cameras could be used.
They even have a security guard standing by the wall all day to make sure everyone follows the rules! We then headed to the “Kiss Wall” which is literally right across from the Pink Wall. Unfortunately, they had painted over it with a different Mural.
It was cute but nothing my daughter was interested in…so, we headed to the next stop which was in the building that the new mural was painted on, Carrera Cafe.
This cafe will “screen print” anything you want on top of your coffee…even a pic of your pet, significant other, etc…it was very cool! Since I forgot to bring a pic of my hubby, I opted for the cafe’s own personalized print. 😉We then headed to another coffee/tea place called, Alfred’s Coffee & Tea Room. We love coffee, ok? 😉 This place had really good coffee.Next we left this area and drove to Rodeo Drive. This is just one of those places you have to go when in LA. It’s a 2 mile long street lined with more than 100 luxury stores and hotels.
Go here to see the not to be missed places in this area including the Beverly Whilshire Hotel which was the backdrop for the film, Pretty Woman. It was also home to many famous actors.After walking around mostly window shopping, we walked to the nearby Beverly Gardens Park.The park features the Beverly Hills Sign which is one of the most photographed spots in the City.
It also has a cactus garden, rose garden, 2 fountains, jogging trails, walking paths, arbors and huge trees!After the park, we headed to Alfred Tea Room for tea. Alfreds has several locations in LA and 2 in Tokyo. Well, my daughter just had to try their tea this time so off we went.We then headed back to our hotel to get ready for our dinner reservations at The Ivy.
I had made reservations 2-3 weeks prior to leaving for LA and I would highly recommend you do the same. It’s a very popular place…just a warning, it’s not cheap! Book your reservation here.
It is one of the cutest, most colorful restaurant I’ve ever been! The food was delicious and the service was very good. The only thing I didn’t like was having to sit so close to other people while I ate..the girl behind my head really didn’t want to be in our pic.
After dinner, we headed back to our apt to pack up and head to Palm Springs. I told my daughter that I would go to LA with her if she would spend one day with me at Joshua Tree National Park. 😉
After much research, I decided it would be best for us to drive there in the evening hours so we wouldn’t run into all that horrible traffic you hear about in LA. I read the worst times to drive the freeway in LA was from 6 am – 9:30 am and from 3 pm to 7 pm.
So, to avoid having to get up super early, we opted to leave on Tues evening and spend the night in Palm Springs.
It was a 2 hr drive from our hotel in West Hollywood. Thankfully, we didn’t run into any traffic. It was a great decision!
I made reservations for the night at The Saguaro Hotel.
My daughter had talked about staying here because it was so colorful and knew it would be a good place to shoot some pictures. It really was the most colorful hotel I have ever stayed in. It was really cool!
The hotel is actually an old Holiday Inn (originally built as the International in 1977). The Saguaro converted it and opened the hotel under their name in 2012.
Unfortunately, we arrived so late that we went to bed soon after we checked in.
We woke up early the next morning so we could shoot a few pics of my daughter at the pool before we had to check out and head to Joshua Tree.After we checked out, we headed to the Pink Door. It’s simply a pink door on a personal residence and it’s the only door I know of that has it’s on Instagram page! It’s located at 1100 E Sierra Way.After having to wait, on who we think was another fashion blogger, we finally got to snap some pictures ….we then headed to find a place to eat breakfast.
We finally settled on MOD Cafe. They had lots of breakfast items to choose from and it wasn’t too expensive. The service and food were excellent! Try a smoothie if you are ever here…they were delicious!
We sat outside and the views were spectacular!We loved Palm Springs and hated that we didn’t have more time to spend here. There is a lot to do in/around this area. If you ever visit you can check out:
Palm Springs Tram, Palm Canyon Dr, Rudy’s General Store Museum, Coachella, Coachella Valley Preserve, Indian Canyons, Palm Springs Windmills, Cheeky’s Restaurant, Salvation Mountain (1 hr 45 mins from Palm Springs), The Sandwich Spot, Tramway Gas Station, The Movie Colony Neighborhood, Cabazon Dinosaurs, Marilyn Monroe Statue, Elvis Presley’s Honeymoon Hideaway, Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Salton Sea (1 hr from Palm Springs) & Pioneertown.
After breakfast, we headed to a nearby grocery store to pick up snacks and lots of water. I highly recommend you have a full tank of gas, plenty of snacks and lots of water before going into JTNP.
This whole area is very hot and dry. Wear a hat, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen and bring layers…it gets much cooler after the sun sets.
We then headed to Joshua Tree National Park. It was about a 45 min drive from Palm Springs. It was a beautiful drive! We passed the Windmill farm on the way.We finally arrived and entered at what we think was the South entrance. Our GPS had us all turned around so we’re not sure which entrance it was as there are three different ones.
There is a $25 entrance fee per vehicle. This park is so different than any other national park I’ve been to…it had a very barren landscape & was full of cacti.
It was very hot and dry and there were huge rocks scattered throughout the park. It was very cool to see those huge Joshua trees!
Can you spot the person in the pic above?
We were there in April so we saw a lot of the cacti blooming…We drove through the park stopping along the way until we came to the Barker Dam hiking trail. It’s a very easy, flat 1.2 mi loop trail that leads you to a body of water.
The “dam” was built over a century ago by ranchers to store water for their cattle. It is now a gathering place for wildlife in the park including many species of birds and bighorn sheep.
We didn’t do our research before coming here as we missed the inscriptions on some of the rocks near the top of the dam that read, “Big Horn Dam Built by Willis Keys, W.F. Keyes, Phyllis M. Keys, 1949-1950.”
The Keys took it over in 1949 but it was originally built in the early 1900’s. We also missed an old horse trough and the Petroglyphs. We were unaware that this was a loop trail. So, we just walked to the dam and turned around and went back the way we came.
However, at the end of the trail, right before you head back to the parking lot, there is a sign for the petroglyphs. The main area of the petroglyphs is right behind the sign in a big rock that appears to have a part cut out of it.
I guess this just means that I have to make another trip to the park 😉 I highly recommend you do this hike. The reflections of the rocks in the water were amazing the day we went!
We then headed to Skull Rock.
It’s located along the main east-west park road and is a favorite stop for park visitors. A parking spot is located just across the road from the rock.
For those wishing to stretch their legs, a 1.7-mile nature trail begins either just across from the entrance to Jumbo Rocks Campgroud or inside the campground, across from the amphitheater.
After leaving here, we arrived at the Cholla Cactus Garden. We had wanted to stop at the Arch but somehow missed the sign for it.
The cactus garden has a very short and easy 1/4 mi loop trail and I highly recommend you stop here. The concentration of cacti in this area was amazing!After leaving here, we made it to a different entrance…we stopped and snapped a few pictures before heading back into the park.
We had planned on staying in the park until it was dark as I had read that the stargazing in the park was amazing because it had no light pollution.
Three months after visiting the park, it was named a Dark Sky Park. Joshua Tree has some of the darkest night skies in the United States.
In July 2017, it was certified as the 10th International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. National Park system. Others include Death Valley, Big Bend and Grand Canyon national parks.
After driving back into the park, we found a place to park. We got out of the car and walked around and took more pictures until it was completely dark.Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera that would shoot night photography but the sky was absolutely amazing and I had never seen so many stars in my life! I highly recommend you stay in the park to see the stars and possibly the Milky Way.
After leaving the park, we headed back to LA. It was about a 3 hr drive.
The next morning, which was our last full day in LA, we headed to California Donuts for breakfast. It was a 20 min drive from our apt. They were delicious! We had a full day planned so we needed lots of sugar to keep us going. 😉
We then headed to Venice Beach. We had planned on spending a few hours here before heading to Malibu for dinner.
Tip – Get here early as the parking lot fills up very quickly!
The first thing we did after arriving was walk out to the pier. There were lots of people fishing at the end of the pier…probably why so many birds were hanging out here too.
We then headed to Venice Beach Rentals to rent a bike. I was VERY apprehensive about doing this as I hadn’t ridden a bike in years.
However turns out, It was so easy and fun! It was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The bike path was paved and very flat.
The cost was around $30-35 for an all day rental. You could rent for 1, 2 & 3 hours or all day. We didn’t know how long we would be there so we felt it would be safer to rent all day.
I can’t say this enough, DO IT! It was so much fun…but don’t do it in white pants! At one point, I got off my bike and the very greasy bike chain rested against my pant leg…need I say more?
We rode our bikes down to Santa Monica Pier so we could ride the ferris wheel. We were given a lock and chain with our bike rental so we could keep our bikes chained whenever we had to leave them.
Venice Beach is a very interesting place. It has lots of funky shops, street performers and colorful murals. There’s also a skate park and Muscle Beach Gym. Lots of sketchy people hang out here but we never felt unsafe.
I had to pick a bike that matched my outfit. 😉 Seriously though, do I look like I should be riding a bike dressed like this?
After spending a few hours at the beach, we headed to Lemonade for lunch. This was another place my daughter had put on the list to try out.
It’s a “cafeteria style” restaurant with lots of healthy options. They first opened in 2008 and now have 28 locations throughout LA and the surrounding areas.
The restaurant was so bright and clean…it just made you feel good to be here. The food was so good! You have to try their lemonade!After lunch, we headed to 3rd Street Promenade to check out the shops. The area consists of three open-air, car-free blocks that have unique shops, some well known ones and a few restaurants.We then headed back to the car. We were driving to Malibu to spend a few hours there before our 7 pm dinner reservation at Malibu Farm. It was yet another restaurant pick by my daughter.
We made reservations online a couple of weeks prior to leaving for LA and I would recommend you do the same if you plan to eat here.Driving down the Pacific Coast Hwy headed towards Malibu.
Our first stop was Zuma Beach. It was a beautiful, wide beach with lots of parking. It only cost $6 to park. There were several bathrooms and a snack bar located at this beach. Read reviews here. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Malibu so we basically drove around stopping when we saw anything that caught our eye.
After we left Zuma Beach, I spotted wildflowers blooming all over the cliffside.We then headed to the restaurant for our dinner reservation. Malibu Farm is a farm to table restaurant offering locally sourced American cuisine with pier side Pacific views.
I ordered the stoplight tacos trio. They were very good.My daughter ordered the grass fed beef burger. She thought it was very good. Check out their menu here and read reviews here.After dinner, we walked out to the pier and enjoyed the views and the sunset.We then headed back to West Hollywood..we decided we would have dessert since we had eaten so healthy for dinner. We headed to The Milk Shop.
My daughter had found this place during her research and they had “instagram” worthy desserts so she just had to go. We both ordered an ice cream macaron dipped in fruity pebbles. It was so good!We then headed back to our apartment and packed. We were flying out the next morning. Leaving LA Landing in Las Vegas – we had a layover here. Is anyone else amazed by the landscape views from the airplane?
It amazes me and I take tons of pics from the plane. My hubby loves going through all of our vacation pics! 😉Leaving Las Vegas and flying over Lake Mead Flying over the Grand Canyon
Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you plan your own trip to LA, Palm Springs and/or Joshua Tree.