Los Angeles is one of the most famous cities not just in the United States, but also the world. Known for being the main location of the nation’s television and film industry, Los Angeles is the focus point of the cultural, financial and commercial centres and is the second most populated city in the US (behind NYC) with just over 3.9million people. It is known for its year round sunshine, pacific coastlines and diverse cultures. And with landmarks such as the “Hollywood” sign and the “TCL Chinese Theatre”, it is one of the more popular US cities to visit …. and perfect for a wee #Ninja jaunt away!
The #Ninja has already covered off the travel with Ethiopian Airlines in a separate review (CLICK HERE). It is the quickest and easiest (and most cost effective) way to get to LA from this part of the world. There are of course other indirect options and Aer Lingus also offer a direct service out of Dublin. But if you ask this #Ninja the Ethiopian service is hard to top – mainly based on the costs and particularly the flight timings.
There are of course numerous options and types of accommodation in the Greater LA area, but on this particular visit the #NInja opted to stay in Marina Del Rey at the fantastic, and exotic sounding, Jamaica Bay Inn
The staff couldn’t have been friendlier and the concierge was always on hand to provide some local knowledge on the surrounding area and potential issues such as LA traffic (which I’ll come to later).
The hotel is located right on the beach / water and has a fitness centre and year round heated pool with a spectacular view across the marina.
The rooms are fantastic. The #NInjas room was on the fourth floor with an amazing view across the marina and a balcony which was great for watching the sunrise and sunset across the marina. There is complimentary wifi which is great for all you social media loving #NInjas and the rooms are stocked with gorgeous Molton Brown bathroom essentials. Rooms are also equipped with a mini fridge and complimentary coffees and Keurig coffeemaker which helped jumpstart this #NInja for the day ahead.
The Beachside Restaurant and Bar at the hotel was a great spot and the #NInja had breakfast here one of the mornings. The food was fantastic with the #NInja opting for the pancake stack and sausage (check out the chicken apple sausage which was a first for the #NInja – it was incredible!). The Restaurant is open for breakfast lunch and dinner and you can sit on the terrace as well and take in the spectacular view while enjoying a few drinks also.
Overnight rates are very competitive at this property – however the best value packages are bookable direct with the hotel and through their own website (www.jamaicabayinn.com)
Marina Del Rey / Venice / Santa Monica
The #NInja stayed in Marina Del Rey and its close proximity to LAX means you can get your LA adventure up and running in no time (for full info on this area please visit (www.visitmarinadelrey.com)
The water really is the star attraction at Marina Del Rey with so many activities to take advantage of right on your doorstep. From paddle boarding, kayaking, jet ski and power boat rentals to yacht charters and whale watching and marina cruises.
On this trip the #NInja took the opportunity to try out kayaking and had a blast touring around the marina checking out the scenery and the amazing variety of boats and cruisers. A #NInja top tip though is make sure you leave some energy for your trip back, that current just wants to take you back out to the deep water!
The location is superb as a base for exploring the Greater LA area, and as stated before, there is so much to do in MDR that you could spend most of your time here enjoying the activities and fabulous food. However if you want to venture out further LA s popular attractions and the famous Venice and Santa Monica Beach areas are right on your doorstep.
A short walk along the coast will bring you to Venice Beach with its eclectic mix of people and busy bars and restaurants. You will also see some fabulous street art dotted along the way.
Continuing on you will be heading towards the Santa Monica and the famous Santa Monica Pier. The iconic pier is home to numerous restaurants and the fantastic Pacific Park with its Fun Fair style attractions and not to mention the rollercoaster and Ferris wheel. The #NInja recommends the Ferris wheel for some spectacular views across the Beach and back towards Venice.
There are a number of eating options but if you’re a big fan of the movie Forrest Gump then a trip to the themed chain restaurant Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is a must. It has all your usual fare but the shrimp options were mind blowing for this shrimp loving #NInja. If you like it spicy, check out the Jambalaya!
A short dander from the pier is 3rd street promenade which is a shoppers paradise! There are a number of high end shops but also many mainstream and affordable ones as well so caters for all. This is a long pedestrianised street with street performers, cafes, cinema among the shops themselves … and if you are really lucky, it was world-renowned for being a celeb spotting hotspot!!
Food and Drink
There are a lot of fantastic dining options located in Marina Del Rey.
Tony Ps Dockside Grill was a great find and winner of numerous local awards. It is famous for its Mai Tai cocktail (has quite the kick!) and also has an unbelievable list of beers for any beer lovers out there. The food was amazing with the #NInja opting for a mouthwatering steak which was sublime.
Killer Cafe was just next to the #NInjas hotel and was a great diner style place open 24 hours. Breakfast was fantastic and very reasonable as well. Right next door is the restaurant / bar Killer Shrimp which has a great reputation as being one of the best seafood restaurants in the area, but unfortunately on this occasion the #NInja stayed just for a drink however as it was very busy – maybe best to book ahead next time!
If you’re a fan of the big American chain restaurants Marina Del Rey also has the The Cheesecake Factory right on the water. If you’ve never been it’s worth it alone just to view the incredible amount of cheesecakes on offer, and the book-like food menu! The Red Velvet Cheesecake is a personal #NInja favourite but whatever you go for, just make sure you try and save room for dessert!
An interesting fact for any pub quiz fans, the Cheesescake Factory in Marina Del Rey was the second one that ever opened! In fact the first 3 are all in LA / California – 1. Beverly Hills, 2. Marina Del Rey and 3. Redondo Beach.
There are also plenty of the usual US fast food places if looking for a quick snack etc. The #NInja did have to try out In n Out Burger which is a Cali tradition and wasn’t disappointed! A simple burger fast food chain with a very simple menu … but VERY tasty!!
Universal Studios Hollywood
LA is home to Universal Studios Hollywood and as a huge theme park fan the #NInja spent the day checking out what it had to offer.
A must for Harry Potter fans is the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with the main attraction being the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts castle. The attention to detail is incredible and it’s just like stepping into one of the movies and hanging out with Harry, Ron and Hermoine!
For any Simpsons fans there is the Springfield themed area with the Simpsons ride and loads of Simpsons themed eating options. Get your pic taken with some famous Simpsons characters and enjoy a lard lad donut or even a Duff Beer in Moe’s Tavern!
There are many other attractions such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Jurassic Park, Transformers and Revenge of the mummy. For the little #NInjas Super Silly Fun Land will have them entertained for hours!
Any fans of the Walking Dead TV show have to try out the Walking Dead walk through attraction. A word of warning though, not for the faint hearted!
One of the best attractions though has to be the World Famous Studio Backlot Tour which is a #NInja must do if visiting the park. It lasts approx an hour but the time flies as you go behind the scenes of real life movie sets. You get to see various sets from the movies, and tv and areas which have been used to recreate numerous famous American cities for the movies. As part of the tour you’ll also come face to face with King Kong, Jaws and the guys from the Fast and the Furious movies. Who knows, you may even be lucky to pass a “live” set with some stars walking about!
Before entering the park you’ll find yourself in Citywalk, with over 30 places to eat, a 19 screen cinema and numerous shops and activities. Great for a lunchtime pit stop before enjoying more of the park or for a night of dinner and drinks.
For further details and information on Universal Studios Hollywood please visit www.universalstudioshollywood.com
Hollywood – Walk of fame etc
You can’t go to LA without taking a trip up to Hollywood to mingle with the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Anyone who is anyone has their star on the pavements so go find your favourite and grab a pic!
The famous Chinese theatre is here and also the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held every year. It’s also a great spot to get a pic of the famous Hollywood sign in the distance in the adjacent shopping mall.
While in the area you are in close proximity to the famous Griffith Observatory which you’ll probably recognise from a few Hollywood movies. You can look through telescopes and see the many exhibits if that’s your thing. It offers some really spectacular views across downtown LA and the Hollywood sign. The #NInja didn’t make it at night this time but the views are supposed to be amazing so if you can, check it out as the Observatory is open to 10pm.
While up in the Hollywood area why not jump on a tour. Starline Tours offers a variety of different tours from Hop on Hop off, Celebrity Homes, City tours and Movie Locations tours.
The #NInja opted for the TCM movie locations tour which was fantastic for this movie loving #NInja!
The tour is done on a customised bus with massive viewing windows which help bring movie locations to life as you tour around LA. The tour also has movie clips playing as you pass by locations which really adds to the experience. You tour up to 50 locations from movies such as The Fast and the Furious, The Dark Knight Rises, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Pretty Woman to mention just a few. You also nip off the bus for a quick visit to the famous Bradbury Building which is such an iconic building used in many a movie.
For further information and details please visit www.starlinetours.com
#Ninja Tips and Tricks
Marina Del Rey to Santa Monica
It is a fantastic (though lengthy) walk down the coast from Marina Del Rey to Santa Monica, but there are also other options such as bike and scooter rentals etc so be sure to take advantage of these if you’d prefer those to walking.
It is LA and the weather is fantastic but depending on the time of year it can be cooler than you would imagine so make sure to check out what you can expect before you go. The #NInja went in the middle of April which could be a little cooler at night …. and caught the #NInja out a couple of times at how chilly it was!
Visiting Griffith Observatory
If visiting Griffith Observatory, be warned that parking at the actual Observatory is limited and will often be full. One good option is to park for free at the Greek Theatre on the way up and jump on the DASH (Bus) opposite which takes you right to the Observatory and back again. Coast is only 50 cents per person each way so a great hassle free way to do it.
The traffic can be pretty brutal so it is really important to plan your day around it if venturing out in the car. Rush hour is not your typical time as we would know it so traffic can start to build from 2pm to 3pm. Basically if you want to go anywhere of note, between 8-10am and 4pm-7pm can prove very difficult!!
If driving to or from LAX airport just be prepared and allow plenty of time. On this occasion the #NInja used Alamo car hire which has a location just off the airport but you still need to shuttle into the airport so the same applies – leave yourself plenty of time to get there.
With the heavy traffic, the car pool lanes can be an effective way to try and beat some of it. You simply need 2 or more people in the car to be able to use these. Be warned though even these lanes can be jammed at times, and negotiating over to them through 6 lanes of traffic is pretty stressful!
LA is a fantastic city with many iconic areas and so much to do. It’s fantastic for a short break like the #NInja did this time but equally a longer stay would enable you to explore the city and more so the surrounding areas a lot more.
Staying in Marina Del Rey was fantastic, with so much to do in its own right and a great base for exploring the wider LA area. Put simply, there really isnt that much difference cost wise in a 4 day trip to LA compared to the likes of New York, Boston or Chicago … its only an extra hour or so on the plane as well! And whilst you may fly into LA, the likes of San Diego, San Francisco and many other California hotspots are easily accessible and a great roadtrip away if you have longer to stay.
It really is a place the #NInja can’t wait to get back to to explore further … and maybe someday there will be a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with “The Holiday Ninja” emblazoned on it … a #Ninja can dream!!
For more details and information, please head over to www.visitcalifornia.co.uk or why not visit your local travel agent to plan your LA getaway