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Top tips for LA holiday with a teenager

(32 Posts)
Hulababy Sat 04-Jun-16 16:18:18

We (me, DH and 14y DD) are off to the west coast US in the summer holidays.

We are flying to Vegas, and staying 3 nights there.
Then hiring a car and driving to Santa Monica for a week.
We then have 3 nights at Disney (2 actual days in the parks - one day in each)
Finally we have one night back in Vegas before the flight home.

Does anyone have any top tips and 'what not to miss' recommendations, please?

We will be going to Universal for one day during the LA week, DD is a theme park fan!

And in Las Vegas we think we may go to see Rock of Ages, and DD has suggested the CSI Experience - has anyone done it and is it worth doing?

In LA we have it suggested to do the Warner Brothers tour perhaps, and a tour of the stars homes. Any recommendations?

And in Santa Monica its been suggested to hire bikes, and we wondered about hiring Segways (we've been on them before a couple of times in Lanzarote) too - again, any suggestions or recommendations on that front?

What else should we consider doing, suitable for a 14y DD? And for us?
She's not into sitting on a beach, likes to be a bit busy, enjoys films/music/shopping, and pretty easy going overall.

Thank you.

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FlowerOfTheWest Sat 04-Jun-16 16:31:03

I really enjoyed the Warner Brothers tour, if you or your DD are Friends fans you can get your photo taken on the Central Perk sofa. We also went to the LA Farmers Market one morning and enjoyed wandering around the stalls and having food there. There is a shopping mall right next to the market called The Grove which you might like, I spent most of my time in the book store but there are loads of shops.
It was really nice to just walk along by the beach at Santa Monica, we walked along to Venice Beach, amazing for people watching! And you get great views from the big wheel on Santa Monica pier. Have an amazing trip!

Hulababy Sat 04-Jun-16 16:38:41


DD is a huge Friends fan. I always liked it, and DH did too, back when it was out originally. DD is already watching re-runs!

I am sure DD will love the Mall! Dh's wallet less so, ha :D

Thanks - Santa Monica certainly looks lovely on the pictures we've seen and we like the idea of an early morning stroll for breakfast overlooking the sea, and evening wanders. I've read about free concerts/shows on the pier too on Thursday nights so will look into that more.

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Hulababy Sat 04-Jun-16 17:01:37

We are assuming driving in and out of LA will be a pain and busy. Have googled and it suggests a Big Blue Bus company for general travel. Can anyone advise?

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Hulababy Sat 04-Jun-16 21:21:53


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AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 04-Jun-16 21:45:42

Where are you staying in Las Vegas?.

Have a look at this site re segways as this is informative. Never used them though.

Are you staying in Anaheim to see the Disney Parks?. I ask only as its a fair old distance from Santa Monica.

I would consider seeing one of the Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas if both time and finances allow. Do visit the Fashion Show Mall there also.

You will need to get to Universal ideally for opening, lines for the rides do get very long particularly later in the day. If possible buy tickets online in advance.

Warner Bros tour is worth doing but again book it in advance. Would not bother doing a stars home tour as you will hardly see anything apart from high walls, the occasional gardener and well manicured lawns. The area around Mann's Chinese theatre in Hollywood is somewhat seedy as well as very busy.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 04-Jun-16 21:48:15

The above should also assist.

Hulababy Sat 04-Jun-16 22:26:08

In Vegas we are staying in the Venetian for the first 3 nights and the Bellagio for the final night of the holiday.

We've booked to stay at one of the Disney hotels for 3 nights too.

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Hulababy Sat 04-Jun-16 22:33:00

Yes - will be doing universal early and a long day. Did look at express passes as had them last time we went to Florida (as part of hotel package) but it's more than double the price to get them so making the decision heater the time. Will be booking in advance before we go though. Same for the web studio tour.

I did wonder that about the house tours - not sure if it's worth it to see some gates and walls!

Dd is obviously keen to do the whole photo with the Hollywood sign in the background but have been warned its not overly nice that side of town and may be best to do on a hop on/off bus.

Thanks for the suggestions. Will look at the links etc. In the morning.

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FlowerOfTheWest Sat 04-Jun-16 23:31:15

It's definitely possible to get round LA by bus - we did it using a combination of hop on hop off buses (you can get 2 day and maybe even 3 day tickets and one of the lines goes out to Santa Monica), the blue buses and other local buses. It's not the quickest way to travel but it's fine. The blue buses were really cheap, only one or two dollars for a ticket.
We did have to get a taxi from Santa Monica to Warner Brothers though and it was about $70 but for the time we had to be there it would have been an early start and a couple of changes to go on the bus so too much hassle. We then got the bus back to Hollywood from near Warner Brothers.
You could also look at Uber cars, it's like a taxi app. I registered but didn't end up using any but have heard they are pretty good value.

TheDucksAreComing Sat 04-Jun-16 23:40:43

I agree with Attila about the star's home tours. Mine was just a tour of the various tall trees and high walls of LA, with occasional "Ellen Degeneras lives behind this hedge" commentary. However, some tours will incorporate a stop off at a good viewpoint/photo opportunity for the Hollywood sign, which might be an easy way to get there.

Rodeo Drive is fun for a wander around. And obviously the Hollywood walk of fame / stars.

Pink's hotdogs! Best to go there mid-afternoon/late night to avoid long queues. Actually I think there might be a Pink's in Las Vegas as well?

Venice Beach is a bit like Camden-on-Sea, excellent people-watching.

Hulababy Sun 05-Jun-16 08:44:37

Thank you all.

We will have a car - picking it up in Vegas to drive over to LA, and will have it til we return. Just been told the traffic is awful for LA so wondering if it's better to avoid using it those days.

Dh and dd would like the sound of Pinks.

Will look at the suggestions so far, thanks.

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AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 05-Jun-16 09:17:38

Venetian has floating gondolas in their shopping mall.

Pinks Hot Dogs are located in the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino and Miracle Mile Shopping Mall.

I would suggest a visit to HashHouseAGoGo when you are in LV but go early and with an empty stomach. Portions are huge.

They are refurbishing the MM shopping mall although it is still fully open.
Malls tend to open at 10.00 (later on Sundays) and stay open till around 7.00pm.

Re the Hollywood sign this website should assist as well. You cannot get close to it any longer, its protected by security and cameras. Also people who actually live near this have become increasingly fed up with tourists being there in the first place.

Hulababy Wed 08-Jun-16 16:57:40

Thank you smile

has anyone done any water parks in the area? Any recommendation?

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ThroughThickAndThin01 Wed 08-Jun-16 17:02:33

Would really really recommend the universal VIP tour for theme park fans, is ££££ but very worthwhile.

We segwayed around Beverly hills when we stayed in Santa monica last year, that was great fun.

Hulababy Wed 08-Jun-16 17:42:28

Definitely can't justify the Universal VIP tour I'm afraid.

We will do Universal though. Just need to decide whether to
(a) go on normal tickets and prioritise the 'new' rides we've not done before at Florida (been there several times); or
(b) fork out for express passes, but maybe then have to forego something such as a show or hire/tour somewhere else on the trip. Had express passes last time in Florida but only because they were part of the hotel deal. Normally do it without.

Just not sure how busy Hollywood one is compared to the Florida one, in the summer.

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Hulababy Wed 08-Jun-16 17:43:01

DD really wants us to hire Segways. We've been on them before elsewhere so would be good to hire them to do our own thing, rather than a tour I think..

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AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 08-Jun-16 18:40:52

The difficulty I could foresee with you having standard tickets at Universal is the wait times for the rides and other attractions particularly from after lunchtime. You may well have to forego a couple of things. It was busy there even midweek when we visited there last July. You need to arrive there ideally for opening time anyway.

The VIP Experience is not quite the same as the express passes offered in FL: what happens here is that post the studio tour (where you actually get off the tram and have a look around the set pieces and visit some of the inside sets not available on the "standard" tour) you are escorted as a group by the tour guide to the front of the ride and then onto the next one. Doing this saves bags of time (and for me it was most gratifying to get to the front of the Minions ride without waiting the usual 60-90 minutes in the heat). You also receive breakfast items and a sit down lunch (its buffet but food is of good quality).

Am sorry that I cannot advise further on the Segways but you will likely be given a load of waiver forms to complete prior to getting on them.

Re water parks I would recommend a visit to Soak City at Buena Park (this is near where you are staying in Anaheim).

ThroughThickAndThin01 Wed 08-Jun-16 18:55:33

VIP is a must. Universal isn't as fantastic as we were expecting. With the tour you get a behind the scenes film experience, first in the queue for rides, and can go on the rides as much as you want.

twingygirl Wed 08-Jun-16 19:45:01

I have a teenager and live in LA! You definitely need to rent a car in Santa Monica at least for the days you are heading to Disneyland. I don't think I'd be able to spend a whole day at California Adventure, though. It's quite small and the lines are long. If you're staying in Anaheim, take half of one of the days and go to Soak City, nothing that special, but if you want a water park, there it is. Remember, I'm not 14 so your mileage may vary! Universal in LA is a bit ho-hum, though Harry Potter world just opened and it's going to be crowded! I'm going in late June though for my birthday, can't wait! The Warner Bros tour is ok (you can Uber there or keep your rental car for that day). There's a cute two story Harry Potter/Batman museum at the end of it with lots of props, costumes, storyboards, etc from the films, if you find that interesting. Do not take the BIg Blue Bus. It's great for students, or people going a mile or so in either direction. To get anywhere of any distance in LA requires a car of your own or a taxi (expensive) or an Uber (less so). You can download the app in your smartphone and punch in your credit card info and off you go in about two minutes. It's great. Check to see if they take cards with UK addresses though. It's so much cheaper to rent a car away form the airport, in the city, just FYI. You can still return it to the airport in the city from which you are departing though. The Grove/Farmers Market is one of the treasured places in LA. The Farmer's Market is virtually untouched from the 1920's and is great fun to wander around (lots of cheesy tourist shops, amid some very good food). Try La Lotteria for excellent authentic Mexican, or the Gumbo Pot for, yeah, Gumbo and great beignets! ANd DO NOT miss Little Johns for the best homemade candy on the west coast! English toffee to die for!!! O'Connells has wonderful homemade ice cream bars and frozen bananas. There is now adjacent to the Market a big glitzy outdoor mall called the Grove which should satisfy any teenagers shopping wish. Small enough to go through in a few hours.
There is also a wonderful shopping area in Santa Monica called the third street Promenade, three blocks of pedestrian streets 3 blocks from the beach. attached to that is a large indoor mall called Santa Monica Place. Renting bikes along the beach is a great way to spend half a day…they're quite cheap and you can ride up to Malibu or down to El Segundo (and farther), stopping at lots of little snacks shops for a drink or bite to keep you going. The bike path runs straight through Venice Beach, if you're so inclined. Haven't done Segways, but hear they're quite expensive. At night yu can walk down to Pacific Park on the pier for a little more carnival type action, or just to watch the waves. There're a few restaurants out there, and a beautiful old caurosel, and a nice little aquarium/museum underneath. Hope this helps!!

twingygirl Wed 08-Jun-16 19:50:24

Forgot to say that Santa Monica is well known as the city in the US with the highest population of homeless people, due to the weather, tolerance, and the amount of services available to them. In terms of early morning and late night "wanderings", stick to the places with lots of people. In high summer, that should be pretty much everywhere! Just something to be aware of when you're wandering. Lived here 20 years and never had a bit of trouble myself, but I don't go wandering down dark deserted streets at night, either!

Hulababy Wed 08-Jun-16 20:01:32

I really can't imagine doing the VIP sorry. I definitely don't want to be walked round, and DH definitely wouldn't!
Express passes maybe, but not the VIP tour.
I'll follow some wait line apps and see what its like I guess.
We kind of know which bits we want to do and accept we won't be doing it all, even though we will be there for rope drop and tie the end of the day.

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Hulababy Wed 08-Jun-16 20:09:18

twingygirl - we have a car the whole time from leaving Vegas until returning. We are staying onsite at Disney. We have passes for both days, and can park hop if required.

We don't intend doing 'it all' as such (Disney or Universal) - DD just wants to go, and we all like the rides. Been to Florida several times, so used to the whole theme park thing and the queuing, etc. We went to Universal just as it opened in Florida (both parks too, coincidence on timing there) and theres no express for HP there anyway - so used to the 2 hour+ queues!

Dd in particular will find the WB tour interesting smile

Good to hear advice about the buses - we shall avoid. We will have our own car so can take that in if the best option.

We'd had Santa Monica recommended as one of the better places to stay - so eek! We wouldn't be wandering streets late at night though, and the hotel is pretty close to the front.

Looking forward to hiring bikes - everyone we know who has been has recommended it so far!

We may do Segways - I know its dearer. We shall see when we get there if we have time to fit it in though.

Thank you for all the suggestions. Have added them to the list to look into. That's great!

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Glamourgates Wed 08-Jun-16 20:18:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Monkeyfeet12 Wed 08-Jun-16 20:38:51

Horse riding at Red Rock Canyon, Vegas is fantastic.

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