Well, to be honest Santa Monica was a bit under-whelming. Maybe it was the bad luck we had with the weather on the day we decided to explore the pier, but it kind of felt like a less-cool, smaller version of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
I love the water though, so we headed underneath the pier to splash around for a bit in the afternoon.
Warner Brothers Studios
This tour was definitely the "splurge" of our budget-trip, but SO worth it. We were given a tour of the sound-studio and set from The Big Bang Theory, and learned how the show is filmed. I highly recommend this tour to any visitors to L.A. (You can book tickets here.) Unfortunately, my sister and I were unable to attend an actual filming with the actors present because of lack of time, but the tickets to shows like The Big Bang Theory, Young & Hungry, Fuller House, and Dr. Phil are all free, you just need to book in advance. You can find free tickets here. Our German friends we met at the hostel attended the filming of Young & Hungry said it was a really fun experience!
The highlight from this tour was probably sitting on the actual couch from the TV show Friends (Central Perk!) Can you say "starstruck"?! Here we also visited the "Geller House," a.k.a. Monica and Ross' childhood home from Friends. To any of the show's fans, that staircase is from the episode "The One With the Prom," where the gang watches a home-video from the night of Monica and Rachel's prom (and Ross and Rachel kiss, yay!)
We saw the original Batmobiles (all real-working automobiles) and the house from Fuller House.
It was also cool to walk around "Stars Hollow," the town from the TV show Gilmore Girls. We even saw Luke's Diner!
Although the flashy-ness of L.A. is fun, I am a PNW-grown girl at heart, and need some nature to balance out the chaotic city life. We spent most of our second day here exploring the Santa Monica Mountains.
There are multiple starting points around the city for the hike to the Hollywood Sign, but we had heard that the Sunset Ranch option was the best. (I will post information on this "hidden" trail head soon! It is NOT closed, though locals have "paid off" google maps to hide its location and make it appear to be shut off.) After arriving at the Hollywood Sign, we continued our trek until we reached the Griffith Observatory.
Honestly, by the time we reached the observatory, all I wanted to do was pass out on the grass. We hadn't planned on more than a short hike, and were very under-prepared with water/food. (It's not a difficult hike, but we weren't used to the California sun.) We didn't end up spending much time here, though what we did see was beautiful. There is a cafe here (yay for food!), although I think if I was to return, I would pack a lunch and have a picnic on the front lawn!
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Our hostel was located right on Hollywood Boulevard, so we were able to do a lot of exploring here. As long-time Mary-Kate and Ashley Fans, my sister and I had to find the Olsen Twins' star, and I was excited to see another of my childhood favorites, Minnie Mouse, as well. There were a lot of costumed characters wandering around the boulevard, which felt a bit like Disneyland. Note that they, the many street performers, and the rappers handing out "free" (NOT free!!) CDs will all try to get you to pay them.
Cre8 Crepes is a yummy spot to get a snack while you're exploring. Choosing your own ingredients is always fun!