California Day 1: LA & La Brea Tar Pits
For spring break, Garrett and I decided to catch a flight to California. G has never been to CA, and it had been exactly 10 years since I had ventured to the west coast. Our plan was to fly into LA and drive along HWY 1 to San Francisco. We used Inspirock and a whole lot of Google to plan our trip. So, here is our California Hwy 1 vacation. LA is on the docket for the first day.
Before I go into a full account of our first full day in LA, I want to mention the flight and first evening. We flew out of Omaha and were beyond ecstatic when we got upgraded to first class!! We got a free meal, cushy seats, and all the leg room! Thank you American Airlines. We were off to an excellent start.
After landing in LA, grabbing our rental car, and checking into our hotel, we went out looking for dinner. Our original plan was to go to a decent restaurant towards Hollywood (our hotel was by the airport). The 10ish miles was going to take over 40 minutes thanks to crazy LA traffic. To say it was stressful was an understatement. Speed limits are merely a suggestion and folks weave in and out of traffic like crazy. We later found out that LA is home to some of the nation’s most aggressive drivers. Half-way to our destination, we decided to go to In-N-Out Burger instead. After several u-turns, a line that wrapped around the block, and biding our time for a table, we ate the glories that In-N-Out provides. The evening was a crash course into LA, thankfully without any crashes.
Our day started with a visit to the Original Farmers Market. It isn’t quite what we thought it would be, but it was awesome. It is very much a permanent farmers market with produce, meats, and treats, but there are also cute shops and restaurants. It is all open-air and leads into a cobblestone street with brick and mortar shops like Pottery Barn and a movie theater.
We ate at Phil’s where Garrett got a breakfast dish and I had a delicious pastrami sandwich with potato salad and a pickle. Eating here, also gave us a voucher for free parking!
After exploring the Farmers Market, we headed to the La Brea Tar Pits nearby. Parking for the Tar Pits is $15, but after a wrong turn, we ended up finding street parking a block over for $2. Win! We were extremely lucky.
Fun fact: the tar pits aren’t actually tar. They are asphalt pits. There are many of them all over the grounds that you can get close to. They stink (like asphalt) and bubble up. They have been trapping animals for centuries including mastodons, saber tooth tigers, and the occasional squirrel. Along with the pits, there are real, working excavation sites, and a museum with ton of fossils. We stayed for almost two hours.
After the pits, we headed towards Beverly Hills and Sunset Blvd. You can’t really see any of the fancy houses due to the massively tall privacy fences surrounding them. We had planned to get out and walk on the Hollywood Hall of Fame, but once we arrived, there wasn’t really any parking and the streets were very crowded with people. It was neat in the fact that it was the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but that was about it. So, we continued on Sunset Blvd and towards the Getty Center.
Boy, am I glad we took time to see the Getty Center. It was absolutely gorgeous! It is an art museum with amazing gardens and architecture. We got there at 3:02 so only had to pay $10 for parking rather than $15 (parking after 3 allows for this). We boarded a shuttle to the Center which overlooks the sea and city of LA. You could easily spend an entire day here looking at all the art (there’s even Van Gogh!) and the views. There’s no admission price—just parking and it is completely worth it!
After closing down the Getty, we drove to Santa Monica. Once again we lucked out on parking . We found free street parking fairly close to Santa Monica Pier and all the restaurants. We walked for a bit before eating at the Blue Taco. Delicious California styled tacos with views of all the goings on outside. At the end of dinner, the sun was setting, so it was perfect timing to watch the sun set into the ocean on the Santa Monica Pier. Romantic, huh?
The Pier had many interesting sights, people, and history. Did you know that the character Popeye was based off of a fisherman on the pier in the 30’s? It also used to be the municipal waste pier where the city would just dump their sewers into the ocean. Gross.
We walked some more, just enjoying each other and the beautiful weather. After walking close to 8 miles that day, we eagerly crashed in our beds.