In this series Andy is going to show us how to get to experience the very finest luxury locations (Diamond Destination) without being a millionaire, and collect points along the way. I hope you’re looking forward to learning a few tips from a frugal guy up at the very front of the plane, in the left seat. In this installment, we’re off to California … Los Angeles to be exact …
Los Angeles, California needs no introduction and has a reputation of being expensive. Here are some tips to get the most of a cool break to the hippest town on the Pacific coast, without breaking the bank.
As a pilot having operated into the LA basin, I have never seen more air traffic shoehorned into a tighter airspace! This is because there are so many airports serving the city of angels. LAX, Orange county, Long Beach, Burbank, Ontario, and more within 30 miles of each other! What this means to the air traveler is a lot of choices and fares. Be sure to check all the airport options with SNA (John Wayne Airport) and LGB (Long Beach Airport) often having cheaper fares and less hassle than the metropolis of LAX.
In my mind some of the best ‘burbs to visit and hang out are Santa Monica and West Hollywood, giving you both a taste of beach life and grooving in the hills. I’m a confirmed beach bum myself but Santa Monica does not offer value hotel accommodation on the whole. I would recommend a hotel like the Ramada West Hollywood http://www.ramadaweho.com/ that although a chain has an independent feel and is showing rates in August as an example for $149. You can walk to ALL the cool spots from here with plenty of hip SoCal hang outs to hit. It has car rental onsite for your beach days also. Parking can be a hassle and if there are a few of you to split cab fare, I’m a big fan of kicking the rental car to touch sometimes and letting a local drive me around, sometimes you get the best skinny from a cab driver.
If you cannot give up a chance to rack up points and you do have a car the DoubleTree in Culver City is actually between the two locales, fabulous rates of $115 or less are available through the summer and with the current Hilton promo double miles or points on top of the standard double dip program. This is a very boring area and you have to be prepared to drive however.
A cool place for drinks and dinner is the Belmont; a very short walk away from the Ramada Weho. This is a genuine local hang out where service can be hit or miss but always a good time, with a 3-hour half price happy hour from 4-7pm every day. If you do want a table between now and the apocalypse a reservation is recommended!
Another great happy hour spot, this time smack bang on the beach … well as close as you can get for Santa Monica across the Ocean Boulevard is the very cool Makai with a fantastic value eclectic menu. The weekends transform smoothly from a lounge restaurant into a full blown club type atmosphere after 10.30 pm. Awesome place dudes as they say in Cali baby.
Another great Santa Monica spot with the best view from any bar I have frequented in the whole of the Pacific coast is the penthouse bar in the Huntley hotel, imaginatively called the Penthouse. Not particularly a value spot but almost obligatory for a quick sunset cocktail and a delicious appetizer.
Ok … so you’ve made it back to West Hollywood late night and you might need a taco before you hit the hay. Luckily, the best mexican take out joint this side of el border (trust me, my wife is Mexican, she told me) sizzles on Sunset Boulevard nearby is Pinches tacos. One Al pastor (slow broiled marinated pork) and a Camaron (Shrimp with veracruz slaw) for me por favor….around $5.
What about culture? Yes my friends, it does exist in the environs of “Hollyweird”; one of the finest examples being the Getty Museum, just a very short drive into the Mountains shown below and also the Getty Villa in Malibu. Both of these wonderful homages to the world of art with permanent and changing exhibitions, command the lofty entrance fee of $0 … that’s a bargain hard to beat. The Museum building itself is a work of art and has a head spinning view of the ocean with Catalina island sparkling in the distance (on a non-smoggy clear day!)
Although not cultural by conventional standards Venice beach, a stroll away from Santa Monica, has California soul, and you can catch some street performers doing their thing most days for free (or donations!) Pony up to one of the many cafes and bars on the beach boulevard, grab a corona, and watch the show. The show is “normal’ people going about their daily lives around here too.
Pack your sunblock, S’gonna be a hot summer they tell me.