If I Start Walking Now…

Would I get to California in time for the Walking Dead Red Carpet Premiere? If that is what it is going to take to save me a couple bucks, then I will get my best sneakers ready. Give me a date, AMC execs! My friends and I are planning a trip to Los Angeles to be super-crazed Walking Deadhead bystanders at the hit television show’s premiere in October. Of course, while we are there, we will be hitting up all the things that have enticed me to visit the City of Angels some 10 years ago.

So what exactly are those things? I know I want to be fork-deep in fine food, and equally up to my elbows in carbs and grease from the nitty-gritty low-key eateries that have made my mouth water 3,000 miles away on shows like Man vs. Food, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and No Reservations.

Walking Dead series regulars Norman Reedus (left) Steven Yeun (middle) and Executive Producer Glen Mazzara

I want to skip the long lines trying to be someone I am not at clubs that make me wait two hours to maybe get in, and opt for a show at the Roxy or Viper Room. I want to travel on the Pacific Coast Highway, get stuck in the notorious traffic, and soak in the fumes from the California-plated cars and trucks- yes, you read correct. But when I have had enough of all the bustle and noise, I want to find a beach (like that should be hard) to tan my face with real, natural sunlight, and watch people on the piers; rollerblading, skateboarding, jogging… enjoying a different life than I lead at home.

As I finalized my vacation to Aruba this past month, I told my travel agent my plans for the October California trip and she told me that it was in fact, the best month to travel to the Golden State. She said that the weather is perfect, not too hot and not too cold. I asked her what I needed to know before traveling, and she responded, “there’s a lot to know, depending on the kind of trip you want it to be. Do the research before you go.”

Amen to that. I love the idea of doing research. Not only can I learn a little or a lot about a place than I ever knew before, but I am better prepared when I touch down. So that is just what I did, and for once I could not possibly a loose itinerary of any kind. There is too much, and while we all have our ideas of what we want to do, bouncing around from San Diego, to San Francisco back to LA is unrealistic.

We [friends] decided collectively that it would be a very long weekend. Leaving on perhaps a Wednesday and back to our drab home state of Connecticut on a Monday. That would give us four full days to explore. This is not that much time to really see everything we want, so making the most of our vacation is key.

First, the reason we are there in the first place, the Walking Dead. Yes, I am totally obsessed with the show and want to sneak peaks (from a distance, probably) at the stars of the show, including writers, directors- creators.

But what is there to do after that? I am all over the place. Someone help me. Who has been to California before? I still need to figure out a number of things that even the research could not help me with:

1. Where to stay

2. Where I have to eat

3. What I have to see (museums, landmarks, guided tours). I am not at all opposed to a good guided tour.

4. Where can I visit in my time frame that is of reasonable distance. Is San Fran, San Diego, etc. out of the question?

5. What airline is best from New York to LAX? I have heard that Southwest is the worst, which is why I ask.

Who out there in cyberworld can offer some advice? How can I make my first trip to California the best trip to California. I want to keep things budget-friendly, but still be able to take in as much as I can.

35 thoughts on “If I Start Walking Now…

  1. I went to LA last January to visit a friend who lives in Orange County and my cousin who lives a ten minute walk from Venice Beach. I would recommend a walk along Venice Beach, visiting Santa Monica pier, and getting some vietnamese food. Pho is supposed to be really good there, but I had to settle for a vietnamese food truck sandwich which was still amazing. Have fun!

  2. I was just in LA for a short weekend not too long ago and despite it being so short, it was amazing. If you have time and like Mexican food, you have to check out Salsa & Beer in Reseda.


    I didn’t get to see half of what I wanted to see while I was there mainly due to the fact that it really is a pretty traffic-filled town, but it was amazing that up in the hills in the middle of winter it smelled SO nice! (especially since LA is notorious for smog). Like oranges and flowers!

    Have fun planning!

  3. You should definitely check out Swingers, Joe’s Pizza, and the Ivy. Some of these are in Santa Monica and some are LA. Definitely get a corndog/lemonade on Venice Beach and check out the Promenade in SM. Pinkberry is also a really good fro-yo place if you don’t have one near you. Sprinkles has some of the most bomb-ass cupcakes you’ll ever have. (ESP the red velver—total foodgasm!)

    If you’ve never been to Hollywood, those are pretty good guided tours. You’ll see the Hollywood sign and Rodeo Dr and the Chinese Theater and that type of touristy stuff. Always good for your first time :)

    San Diego and San Fran are probably out of the question because (I don’t know about SD) but I know SF is about an 8hr drive from LA. So unless you have someone willing to take you, or you are willing to spend an astronomical fee on a rental car–probably save that for another trip.

    I’ve been to LA several times, so let me know if you have any other questions.

    1. Well, I know where I’m coming back to when I get together with friends to start this whole thing. Great info!! I normally stay away from the super touristy stuff, but the guided tours in Hollywood are a must. I will most likely stay away from San Diego and San Francisco this time around- good call! Thanks so much!! :)

  4. I visited LA for the first time back in August. Definitely see the touristy sights – Hollywood blvd, sunset blvd, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. I strayed off the path a little (aka. i got lost) and visited the La Brea Tar Pits Museum – which satisfied my geekier side. You should definitely try and visit something to do with Scientology too – i recommend Psychiatry: An Industry of Death Museum where you can try to avoid being brainwashed, plus Amoeba Records is also a few minutes down the road. For food i recommend Canters Deli down North Fairfax Av. Its a Jewish family owned Deli and has amazing pastries! Apparently its also good for celebrity spotting. I am also informed that Echo Park/Silverlake has some of the best Mexican food and all will come from the Taco Trucks. Hope you have a great time!

  5. Sarah,
    I have traveled from Tijuana to San Fransisco many times, and there is so much to see, you could spend a month traveleing the state and not cover everything. There is so much natural beauty and so much to do, it’s just mind blowing. Honestly, I am not a big fan of LA at all, although it’s beaches, shopping and restaurants are uncompromised. Santa Barbara also is very beautiful but San Diego and San Fransisco are my favorites. If it wasn’t for a constant chilly breeze, fog, and a little too much traffic, I’d be in San Fransisco. The people are generally super nice and laid back and everyone seems to be down to earth and open minded. San Diego really seems to be the best of everything and I never second guess my move here. Just the fact you could go lay on the beach in February and soak up some 78 degree air makes it worth it alone. Aside from weather that stays sunny, cloudless, and between 67 and 79 degrees 90% of the year, there is an endless amount of things to do, so many beautiful beaches, the best mexican food and craft beer you’ve ever had, and something going on every week, whether its a surf competition, reggae festival, farmers market, or international convention. If I ever do move out of San Diego, south-western europe would most likely be my only option. If you decide to pay us a visit, I would gladly be your tour guide. Don’t forget to brush up on your spanish before you come!!

  6. I flew from SF to NJ on United. From LAX to Newark or even right into NYC shouldn’t be bad. Eat good mexican food while you are here. It just isn’t the same on the East coast.

  7. I’ve done many of the things you write about. I’ll be going to Los Angeles in October too…Maybe we will be there at the same time! United Airlines is probably your best bet because they will have cheap (if you book early) direct flights from NYC to LA. Check out a hotel called The Standard. It caters to the young hip crowd of which I’m sure you are one. A room there should set you back about $150/night. That’s not bad considering the hotel is right on the Sunset Strip within walking distance to The Viper Room and Whiskey A Go Go. Since you’re in the movie capital, why not take the tours at all (or some) of the movie studios? You can also try to get tickets for a taping of a talk show like Ellen or The Tonight Show. San Diego is a 2 hr drive and San Fran is a 8 hr drive. If you are looking for something outdoors, check out Griffith Park. It is like the Central Park of LA because they have a ton of stuff to do there including a zoo and the observatory from which you can see the Hollywood sign. One of my fav museums is the Gene Autry Museum. It is a museum of the American West. I love westerns and history so it was pretty awesome for me. The cafe there makes a great buffalo burger. Eat a hot dog at Pinks and eat chicken & waffles at Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. Let me know if I can help further.

    1. Excellent advice… all of it. I appreciate it. When I gather the friends around and it’s time to get serious (which is very soon) I will pull up all these comments to look over. Thanks so much :)

  8. hey girl!

    thanks for the blog follow — it’s always exciting to hear about the travels of another zombie-movie-loving New Englander (and nice to know I’m not the only one out there). I once spent about 24 jet-lagged hours in L.A., so can’t be too helpful about that, but if you have a chance to get up to SF, DO IT! San Francisco and the PCH were my favorite parts of California, so I’d definitely recommend trying to make at least one of those happen.

    Oh, and I flew Virgin America, Logan to LAX, which may not be super helpful for you, but it worked out pretty well.

    1. Zombie-movie-loving New Englander?? That was perfect and made my day. I don’t think people understand my love for zombies, it’s weird. Thanks for the advice, I’ll have to plan a nice trip to San Fran in detail for another time- it’s on my Life List! :)

  9. There are a bunch of great suggestions already here, but I have one more. As a So Cal native, happily transplanted Yankee, there is one thing I miss, that I always have to eat as soon as humanly possible after I arrive in So Cal:

    In ‘N’ Out Burger. With Cheese. With Fries and a Chocolate Shake. Totally gut-bombing, and totally worth it. Do it. Trust me.

  10. I’m gonna echo Chelsea here — Save San Fran and San Diego for another trip. Holy cow, San Francisco is worth a couple of weeks just by itself, and Northern California is like another planet.

    1. I have heard Northern Cali is like another planet once before, too. So I guess that will have to do for another time :( I’m a wine-o so a trip to Napa Valley is in order… and all those beautiful rolling hills and that coastline.. jeez, there’s so much to see in this big beautiful world!

  11. I lived out there for 4 years. What is it that you like to do?

    The trick is really the “hidden” spots. Like Veggie Delight and this hole in the wall Comedy Club.

    What part/parts exactly will you be travelling to?

    1. I want to do an equal amount of tourist “must-do” things, but I want to go to a lot of the better, low-key eateries. I’m a big foodie and it is very important that I taste California as much as possible!

      1. Okay,

        Veggie Delight is in the Northridge area, it is a must try . . . there is a soup, I don’t remember what it is called, but it is UHmazing! you should check it out and make sure you check out nearby CSUN (gorgeous campus) with an Orange Grove. My bestie and I used to go running there.

        ChaCha’s on Ventura is delicious, and can be conveniently be followed by this amazing low-key Comedy Club nearby.

        How many days are you staying? I Have traveled from Temecula to San Luis Obisbo, so I know the area pretty well and would thoroughly enjoy helping you with your itinerary.

        Also, maybe you said but my life has been uber hectic, when are you traveling?

      1. He’d probably hug you instead…he’s got two pit bulls who are absolute sweethearts, wonderful wife and a new -ish baby. It’s always cool to see great things happen to deserving people. I haven’t seen him in a while, but you can imagine how often his dad speaks about him! :-)

  12. You have to see Disneyland and America Dreaming or disclaim your citizenship to humanity. CA has so much to offer, one can go nuts just planning it. Stick to some very basic stuff on your first trip, Call it an exploratory trip. Travel times in the state can be long so try not to stray too far from your hotel in miles. Enjoy the ambiance of a new location and try not to see everything on the same weekend.
    I’ve been their many times since 1961 and trust me there is too damn much state to see. I’ve done it on my own, with my cousins who I stayed with, and with personal friends who knew where to take me, and how to get there.
    Whatever you do will be fun and exciting.

  13. AH so excited for you! I’ve only ever been to the desert in Cali (Anza) and the mountains (Idyllwild) so I can’t give much city advice but you’re gonna love it!

  14. There are a few places that I can think of, being a native Californian. I worked at the Santa Monica pier for a year or two. First, Tito’s taco serves the best enchiladas in the L.A. area. You’re going to have to get to Washington in Culver City (That’s where Sony Motion Pictures is Located) Come South on Sepulveda, take a right on Washington place. It’s on the left.

    Second, any Baker’s Restaurant serves up the biggest beef beef burrito that you’ve ever seen.

    Third, the Mariasol Restaurant is on the Santa Monica Pier. It serves up the best Pina Colada’s, and they’re huge… about a foot tall. You can also fish right downstairs from them… it’s over the water.

    Don’t miss Hollywood Boulevard and Grauman’s Chinese at the edge of West wood (West Hollywood)… it’s a block north of the Sunset strip. You will see stars.

    Finally, in Malibu,North of Santa Monica, the wild seals sunbathe and dolphins are just offshore.

  15. Sarah you are going to love CA! I live in So Cal so if you have any questions let me know. Where you go really depends on your personality. Use something like Orbitz to find a good flight deal. The bonus to Southwest is free checked luggage, I’ve flown it before and have never had a problem with it. In-N-Out is a great suggestion. Be sure to order something animal style (if you like cheese and grilled onions), it’s on the secret menu, http://www.badmouth.net/in-n-outs-secret-menu/, super yummy. I usually go for the fries animal style. There’s one right outside of LAX on Sepulveda Blvd. If you go to Hollywood be sure to eat at Pinks, http://www.pinkshollywood.com/, they are famous for their hot dogs. My favorite beach is Santa Monica/Venice, park at the pier and if you don’t mind walking, you can walk down the beach to Venice which includes Muscle Beach and all sorts of people selling stuff on the sidewalk, street performers, shops, places to eat and tattoo shops. Then in the other direction from the pier you can walk up to 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica for more shops,restaurants and street performers. Other fun places in the LA area are The Grove, The LA Farmer’s Market, Olivera Street and Chinatown. For a four day trip I’d stick around the LA area, San Diego and San Fran are a bit unrealistic time wise. Hope you have an amazing trip and tell us all about it! ~ Naomi

  16. Touristy or not, I have to recommend going to see the Griffith Observatory. I finally went in Oct ’10, and it just might be the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen in real life. The park is gorgeous, there’s a lot of art deco buildings in the area, and it gives a great view of the Hollywood sign and downtown L.A. It became the defining part of that trip.

  17. I love to travel frugally, so my favorite book to use is Lonely Planet. I highly recommend this book, it’s great for planning a budget friendly trip, I’m sure they have a Southern California book that you can buy or check out from the library. I used lonely planet books when traveling in Europe, and they are spot on! Secondly, if you go to LA, you HAVE to go to San Diego!! It’s only about 2 hours drive and it is such a beautiful and fun beach city! Tons of stuff to do there too! Places to eat: Ramos House Cafe in San Juan Capistrano (between LA and San Diego), and In N Out (I don’t think they have those back east). There is also TONS of places to eat in Laguna Beach, you can’t go wrong….that would be a nice pit stop on your to San Diego from Los Angeles, Laguna is super fun, cute and beachy!!

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