LA/Hollywood Experience

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There are many additional Southern California sights that can be added to your Disneyland vacation package when you book through your travel agent.  One of them is a one day tour of Los Angeles and Hollywood through Grayline tours.  Since my daughters had never seen some of these iconic sights, we booked it for our most recent trip to Disneyland this summer.

We received vouchers for the tour in our travel documents prior to departure from home with a convenient phone number to call to schedule which day we wanted our tour.  This made it super convenient to plan since we could go any day that we wanted while we were staying in Anaheim.  When I called to schedule our date, the woman on the phone gave us simple instructions about where our bus would pick us up.  Since we were staying at the Tropicana Inn and Suites, this meant our bus picked us up right in front of the hotel next door.  It was a large double decker coach bus and people from several different hotels boarded with us.  What we did not know was that our next stop would be the Grayline bus terminal and many of us would be departing from there for many of the other tours that are available like Universal Studios, Sea World, Knotts Berry Farm, etc.

It is a standard bus terminal with not much going for it but we were able to quickly exchange our vouchers for our bus tour tickets, use the rest room, pick up some drinks for the bus if we needed them and then wait for our bus to depart.  We were originally told that we would have a smaller 15 passenger bus but as additional guests purchased tickets we were upgraded to a standard 55 passenger coach bus.  I preferred the higher view from the coach bus since I knew we would be driving past some of the sights and we’d be able to view them better in the traffic.  By 9:15am, we were on the road heading toward Los Angeles.  Dennis, our driver, had been driving for 16 years and had lived in the Los Angeles area his whole life and was very knowledgeable about all of the sights we visited.

As we drove toward our first stopping point, he pointed out many different famous sights that we knew from television and then we got our first glimpse of the Hollywood sign from the highway.  Hollywood Boulevard would be our first stop.  We didn’t have very long to visit there but we did get to walk down Hollywood Blvd in front of the TCL Chinese Theater formerly Grahman’s Chinese Theater and see hand prints from stars as well as several stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame including Mickey Mouse!  Right across the street is the Disney Soda Fountain and we couldn’t resist a picture in front of that.  Next door is the El Capitan theater so there were lots of sights to see in that short 45 minutes.  We did climb up to get a better view of the Hollywood sign but from a distance, it sure is small.

It was nice driving through the city, or letting someone else drive through the city, and seeing sights like the Chateau Marmont hotel, the Strip with all of its nightclubs, Rodeo drive, Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills.  We saw the Jim Henson Company which is the former location of the Charlie Chaplin production company.  What a great tribute to Charlie Chaplin to see Kermit dressed like the Little Tramp!

Our next stop was the LA Farmer’s Market and we had 90 minutes to explore and choose a spot for lunch.  Everything smelled so good and there were many different types of food to choose.  Ultimately, we ended up with flatbread pizza that were wood fired and delicious.  One was a cheese with pesto and the other a barbecued chicken.  To finish it off, we purchased a bowl of beautiful fresh cut fruit that was almost too pretty to eat.  My daughter and I visited a vintage shop in the farmer’s market that had all sorts of items and right near it was a shop devoted exclusively to hot sauces.  I had never seen some of the very creative names – and we do like our hot sauce around here.  My husband and other daughter opted to visit the Grove where she purchased a couple of books to read.

Our tour continued and finally stopped again at either Venice Beach or Santa Monica.  We had chosen the Santa Monica beach because both of our girls said they preferred the more quiet location.  As we drove down Ocean Drive, the sea became visible and it was simply beautiful.  We had a perfect day and it was clear all the way to the mountains on our right.  We had two hours to visit here.  While my older daughter and I took some photos and just enjoyed sitting on a bench watching people go by and looking at the ocean, my husband and other daughter walked down to the famous Santa Monica pier, the official end of the historic Route 66. When we were all together again, we walked to a quaint coffee shop called The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for something sweet and a coffee drink then we swapped daughters and I headed out to go shopping with my younger daughter while my husband and older daughter went exploring.  Many of the shops we don’t normally visit like Juicy Couture and Michael Kors were there but we did find a Disney Store and picked up a couple of souvenirs that were perfect.  When we found the others, they had discovered a great British shop called Ye Olde King’s Head and my daughter was sporting a new cape and scarf.  We all found something that made Santa Monica a highlight of the trip.

The journey back to Anaheim took the rest of our touring time allotted because of normal Los Angeles traffic but our driver had thought of everything and we were entertained with “Evan Almighty” while we were driving, albeit slowly, down the highway.

The tour ended as we were all dropped off at our respective hotels and we were all very glad that we had done this tour.  It was a great way to see many of the historic locations in the area without having to navigate the traffic on our own.  We got back with enough time to have dinner in Downtown Disney and a relaxing evening.  If you decide to give it a try, ask for Dennis if you can and tell him we said hello!

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