Los Angeles

After an amazing few days in San Francisco, we headed towards beautiful, sunny Los Angeles! We reached LA pretty late in the night and again opted to get a rental car at the airport. We have tried various modes of transportation during our vacations, but so far rental cars are the best. You are your own master and you have the liberty and flexibility to go wherever you want, whenever you want. It’s the best option!
We drove to our hotel in Burbank and settled in for the night. Burbank is an hour’s drive from LA and we opted to stay there since it was close to Universal Studios. Our hotel was really nice and we got a room on the 15th floor which had a spectacular view of the city and the famous hollywood hills all around us!
On the next day, we drove around the city for a while and headed towards the Hollywood sign around mid morning. As cold as SFO was, LA was completely opposite with scorching heat at a temperature of almost 47 deg C! It was unbelievably hot.
We reached the Hollywood sign and opted to just drive to the nearest vantage point to view the sign. There are various hiking trails that lead you to the sign but we ruled out hiking due to the crazy heat and also because we wanted to see a lot more places that day. It’s nothing extraordinary, but since the hollywood sign is the most popular landmark in LA, we went there first. After clicking a million pictures, we drove to Griffith Observatory.

Griffith Observatory is located on Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. You get a spectacular view of downtown LA from this place as well as a glimpse of the Hollywood sign. As you enter the observatory, there’s usually a docent at the entrance to welcome you and take you around. The murals in the lobby are really beautiful. They were painted by an artist named Hugo Ballin. It is called the “Advancement of Science from Remote Periods to Present Times,” and each of the eight panels depicts how science and engineering have changed through history, up until the time these murals were painted, which was 1935.

View of Downtown LA from Griffith Observatory

There are a lot of interesting exhibits in the observatory and we spent a lot of time looking around at all of them. There is also a 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope located on the rooftop dome of the building. The telescope is mainly intended for nighttime viewing. They say that the telescope usually targets the Moon, planets, and the brightest objects in the Milky Way. We really wanted to check it out but since we had gone in the afternoon it wasn’t open. Driving back to the observatory late in the evening was not practical either so we decided to go back another time!

After looking around the observatory, we went outside to look at the beautiful Los Angeles cityscape. We sat in the shade and admired the view with some refreshing popsicles!

Post this, we drove back to the city and headed straight to Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of Fame.

As most of you already know, Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of fame are some of the most popular places to visit in LA. The walk of fame runs around 1.3 miles (2.1 kms) on Hollywood Boulevard and comprises over 2600 stars on the walkways. We walked around for a while, looked at all the stars, took a million pictures and did some minor shopping at the end. It was a wonderful evening with so many people and performers all around us. This place is quite similar to Times Square in New York, although I love Times Square a little more! But it still has the same vibe. We decided to go to Madam Tussauds as well, which is located on the same street. Overall, it was a tiring but fun day and we couldn’t wait to head back to our hotel and crash. We had an eventful day planned for the next day after all. :D

On Day 2 and Day 3 of our stay in LA, we visited the Universal Studios in Burbank. Our initial plan was to see universal studios on the 2nd day and probably see Santa Monica Pier and a few other places on the 3rd day, but there was just so much to see in universal that we decided to go back again the next day!

I had heard many, many years ago that they were planning to open a Harry Potter theme park in America. I had read about it in a random article that they were planning to design the theme park with everything depicted exactly like it was described in the book. I was beyond excited! At that time, thinking that I could actually visit this place some day was definitely a distant dream. I had never even given it much thought. But when I moved to America, the possibility of seeing all these places in person was suddenly achievable. Next thing I knew, my husband was planning a week long vacation in california and we decided to add universal studios to our itinerary as well. dancing emoticon

I had always been a HUGE potter fan. I had absolutely loved reading all the books and I watch the movies everytime I see them playing on television. I remember how upset I was when the 7th book ended. The fact that there was never going to be another harry potter book to look forward to was very hard to digest. The amount of happiness I felt when I realized that I can experience the world of Harry Potter in real is indescribable. I did all those things that I ever wanted to do… right from having a meal at 3 broomsticks to visiting ollivanders, tried on a pair of extendable ears and other funny knick knacks at Zonko’s, drank a butterbeer (in fact a couple of them :D), ate an actual chocolate frog and tried every flavored beans at Honeydukes! I was so overwhelmed and felt truly lucky that I was getting to strike off so many of my top bucket list items in 2016! It has been a good year. happy

The theme park is awesome and a true treat to every potter fan. The amazing lengths that they have gone through to make sure every little thing is exactly like it was described in the book is truly commendable. There are actual portraits that talk to you, the portrait of the fat lady is in fact bang on and she talks to you (or rather shouts at you :D) while you walk through hogwarts. There are posters of wanted witches and wizards all around the park that move as well. There are special performances from Goblet of Fire where the girls from Beauxbatons, and guys from Durmstrang perform every other hour which is a definite must see!

Apart from the wizarding world, there are several other amazing rides like Revenge of the Mummy, Fast and Furious, Transformers, Minions, Simpsons, Jurassic Park, etc. We made sure we went on all the rides, some of them – more than once! :D

After finishing all the rides, we decided to go on the actual studio tour in universal. The layout of Universal Studios, Hollywood is such that the theme park is located on 2 levels for which you’ll have to take several escalators to go down the hill, the studios are much further below from the second level theme park. We reached the tram boarding station, that took us the rest of the way below to the working lots. Between the roar of the tram engines and the flashy special effects along the way, it’s easy to miss the commentary by the tram tour guide/narrator. But you’ll do yourself a favor if you pay attention to his spiel. As you make your way through the various sets, the guide will tell you about various movies and TV shows that were shot on those exact sets (as well as those being currently shot there).

Several movies like Indiana Jones, Princess Diaries, Spider Man, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, and many others were shot in these studios and you can actually see these sets while going around in the tram. You can see the actual plane crash site from the movie War of the Worlds, it is so amazingly realistic. Many TV shows like Mindy Project, Big Bang Theory were currently being filmed while we were driving around the studio and hence the tour guides told us to talk softly while driving around those sets. While on the studio tour they also take you through several 3D/4D rides while sitting in the tram. It was spectacular and we loved every bit of it! happy

After spending 2 whole days at Universal Studios, we were exhausted! It was mind blowing but also terribly tiring. We had spent an exciting week in California. We were heading back the next day with our hearts and minds filled with incredible memories of our week long vacation! There is still so much to explore in California that we would surely go back there a couple more times in the coming years!

Until then… make sure you follow my adventures here and come back next time for another travel blog with exciting details of my next destination! winking


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