West Coast USA 2017 – Los Angeles

Gilroy

Gilroy Premium Outlets

After my lovely experience at Napa and Sonoma County, it was time for the long trip down to SoCal. I planned a stopover at Gilroy Premium Outlets, because it was somewhere along the way and more importantly, they had a Lululemon store. Gilroy is located somewhere south of San Jose, so it’s not a hot tourist spot as compared to other outlet stores near SF or LA. There are plenty of outlet malls in California, so just pick any! If you’re driving from SF to LA, this will be a good pit stop to break down the long drive.

Tip: Get the tourist discount booklet from the information counter before you start shopping. It could give you discounts and for this mall, the booklet is free.

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Lululemon Outlet Store at Gilroy Premium Outlets

The selection at Lululemon Gilroy wasn’t fantastic but the prices were indeed lower than mark down price in city stores. I scored just 1 Cool Racerback tank (but it’s a colour which I’ve been wanting to buy even at full price!) for US$19+tax, and 2 headbands. I wanted them to take more of my money but there wasn’t anything else suitable, in the right size. I guess this is what you get from the leftovers of leftovers. (And by the way, I bought more items from the city stores at full price compared to this outlet, even though including tax, it would be the same price as buying online and paying for ComGateway/ VPost. Oh well.)

And of course, there were other shops besides Luluemon but I didn’t spend too much time here since I didn’t have all day. Got the popular Smashbox contour stick trio for just US$36 from the CCO (Cosmetics Company Outlet) and I was so pleased about it! It’s only 20% off but this item is still retailing in stores and definitely not phased out item. It will cost $72 in Singapore, so it is a steal. I kinda regret not getting the powder contour kit which was 30% off.

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In-N-Out Burger

Happy to see In-N-Out at Gilroy Premium Outlets too. By the way, the area of the whole mall was really huge and divided into a few parts. We drove and parked 3 times to get around.

In-N-Out is THE brand that West Coast residents love. It’s very much fast food, like McDonald’s kind of fast food, not pimped up to look semi gourmet at all. It was not bad, but this one wasn’t SUPER fantastic. Not my favourite from this trip, but it is the cheapest of them all at just US$2.70 for a cheeseburger!

Gilroy Premium Outlets
681 Leavesley Rd, Gilroy, CA 95020, USA


Beuna Park

The drive down afterwards was a very long one. Not highly recommended, but there isn’t a better way to get there anyway, unless you’re doing SF to LA direct – Megabus is as low as $1 and I saw $5 rates for this route but I was coming from Napa and wanted to go to the outlets AND I still needed a car for LA, so renting 2 cars is too much of a hassle.

My destination was not in LA itself, but was at Beuna Park, which is slightly further down.

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After years of hearing about it, I finally got to try Chipotle. It’s a very common Mexican fast food like chain in USA and I can’t believe I missed it both times I was there in recent years! Anyway, I loved it. The chips had some magical lime seasoning on it and the guacamole was as good as the kind I make at home. The closest to Chipotle concept we have in Singapore is GYG, but I think I prefer Chipotle! Plus, it’s cheap. No need to tip.

Chipotle Mexican Grill
Various outlets everywhere

Spent a night at a pretty basic inn at Beuna Park, because the plan for the next morning was Knott’s Berry Farm! Since I was going to check in late and check out early, I went for the cheapest decent option which I shall not even mention here because it’s just basic and not worth remembering. I would choose to stay in Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel if I could choose again.

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Breakfast at IHOP

There are plenty of breakfast options near Knott’s Berry Farm. IHOP is a typical American diner which is famous for their pancakes. But seriously? I can make WAY better pancakes than that. I’ve had much better pancakes from other similar concept breakfast places in Chicago too. The pancakes were so badly made, each piece actually separated into 2 layers (too much baking powder perhaps?). But alright, if you’re not picky, just drown it in maple flavoured syrup (by the way, they call it “the old fashioned” because there’s clearly no real maple in there!)and pretend it’s normal. They have boysenberry syrup too, since boysenberry is famous in this part of SoCal. By the way, this omelette and 3 pancakes is actually one portion. Be smart and share your meals if your appetite is not American sized! I finally internalized this rule after 2 trips to US and food was wasted.

Go LA Card

I planned to visit Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags in the LA region. After much research, I found it was best value to get a GO LA Card. I found a Groupon deal for it and it cost $112.50 (10% cheaper than retail price) for the 2 day pass. This is better than buying individual park tickets even at their most early bird rates, because this 2 day pass also entitles us to other attractions as long as it’s utilized on the same days! Therefore, I also got to visit Warner Brothers Studios since it was included. I could have gone for even more attractions but I just didn’t.

I would highly recommend this pass to visitors who intend to briefly visit the attractions, like you know you’re not going to stay all day in a park and want to hop to other attractions. But if you know you’re going to spend the entire day in 1 park with no time for anything else, buying individual tickets would be cheaper.

Knott’s Berry Farm

Did you know that boysenberry became popular and because of Knott’s Berry Farm? Mr Knott was an actual farmer and he cultivated boysenberry in this part of SoCal and starting selling them at Knott’s Berry Farm. This place eventually became a theme park of the same name many years later!

Boysenberry is now commonly grown in New Zealand – I tried boysenberry ice cream when I was there last year!

Knott’s Berry Farm theme park currently has 4 themed areas:

  • Ghost Town
  • Fiesta Village
  • The Boardwalk
  • Camp Snoopy

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The main purpose of us visiting Knott’s Berry Farm is for Camp Snoopy! We’re both not into thrill rides, no thanks.

Knott’s Berry Farm is pretty old but is well maintained and I love the old fashioned charm. Like everybody stays in character even though there weren’t many visitors since it was Thursday.

First ride was the low thrill Grand Sierra Railroad, spotting the Peanuts along the way.

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Balloon Race (mild thrill)

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Camp Bus (mild thrill)

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So scary! I was freaking out on the… Ferris wheel. Do not judge.

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High Sierra Ferris Wheel

To be fair they rated this as moderate thrill! My heart was popping out the entire time. Hahaha.

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Charlie Brown’s Kite Flyer

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Stone Charlie Brown

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Ghost Town

Calico Mine Ride from Ghost Town. Rated moderate thrill but it’s totally nothing thrilling and pretty boring. Maybe scary to those afraid of the dark.

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Scary looking roller coaster which I took!… I took a selfie.

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Snoopy

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Snoopy Headquaters

The experience at Knott’s Berry Farm was pleasant because there was no crowd. Going on a school season weekday is a good choice. No need to get fast lane passes and for everything, I didn’t wait more than 5 minutes! I should have tried the Mrs Knott’s Fried Chicken or the boysenberry pie but I wasn’t hungry enough.

Knott’s Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, USA


Los Angeles

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Shake Shack

My first meal and late lunch in Los Angeles was Shake Shack! This is nothing new as I’ve had it a few times in New York. West Coast purists will say this is not LA food but seriously I think it’s the better burger I’ve had this trip! (Or maybe I’m pro-New York haha). And the chocolate mint milkshake was so sinfully good. The crinkle cut fries were so crispy too. I’m officially looking forward to my next Shake Shack meal already. They have 4 outlets in LA and the one I went to was at West Hollywood.

Shake Shack
8520 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, USA

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There’s a Lululemon around the corner too!

Lululemon Melrose Ave
8532 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069, USA

For LA, I booked an Airbnb and it was a great idea. Staying downtown or near tourist places is a bad idea because in LA, you basically want to go all over the place and you must have a car. With a car, staying anywhere with free parking is fine and this residential area between LA and Santa Monica works. Coincidentally, this place was very much like the Airbnb I had in Blenheim, New Zealand – it was a container behind the main bungalow and they had lemon trees! Free lemons to make lemon tea again.

If anybody wants the link for this apartment, drop me an email or a comment in the comments box. I got it at a pretty decent rate of around SDG$150/ night!

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Just our luck to experience the rainy season when California has been in drought for 5 years. Nobody expected this! 2 out of 4 days we had in LA has this sort of weather. Thankfully, the 2 days I planned for theme parks were the sunny days. Yay!

LA Downtown – The Palm Restaurant 

The Palm restaurant is known for their steak and lobster. I’ve tried it before in Manhattan and I liked it enough to want to try it in LA again. It wasn’t that good this time, but still pretty decent value for this set lunch, which was very filling and still decently good!

The Palm Restaurant Downtown Los Angeles
1100 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90015, USA

West Hollywood – Connie & Ted’s 

It was restaurant week while I was in LA, so I tried one of the participating restaurants for dinner on the last day. The set dinner cost US$39 excluding drinks. The meal was not bad, but lobster roll from New York is better in my opinion.

Connie & Ted’s
8171 California Route 2, West Hollywood, CA 90046, USA


Culver City

As mentioned, it’s good to have a car so you can travel anywhere around LA. Culver City is somewhere non-touristy and a place you’ll only go with  car, and they have a Westfield mall which has everything, including Pinkberry.

I still love Pinkberry as much as the first time I had it. They have coconut flavour and I love it! I love everything about Pinkberry.

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This was the reason I found myself here – a marble rolling pin from Target! I have been wanting one of these for a while now and will not pay $60 for this slab. In Target they sell it for just US$14.99+tax! On Target’s website you can check to see which outlets carry it in store.

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Five Guys

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Five Guys

Five Guys is another popular burger chain. I didn’t actually have Five Guys in this outlet, but there’s one in Westfield Culver City as well. The burger was not bad, but Shake Shack still gets my vote.

Westfield Culver City
6000 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230, USA

Culver City is also home to Sony Studios. A tour of Sony Studios is also part of the Go LA Card, but I didn’t have time to slot it in the 2 days which I had my Go LA activated. Fans of movies, do not miss Culver City out!


Burbank

The most famous part of Burbank is of course, the Warner Brothers Studio. It is included as part of Go LA Card so you do not have to buy tickets, but you still should call to reserve your slot.

Sets

Check out my cars

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Props store

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Vote for me

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My favourite!

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TWEETY!

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Central Perk

Movie fans would enjoy this experience, for sure. I am not a movie or American TV fan so many things are irrelevant to me but it was still a good experience.

Warner Bros. Studios
4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91522,USA
 For lunch I decided to have Hawaiian Poke. Not a fantastic shop in particular, found by simply searching for one around Burbank on Google Maps.

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All About Poke
3503 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505


Valencia

Six Flags Magic Mountain

I actually spotted Magic Mountain on the way down from SF to LA because the roller coasters were so big and prominent. This is up north of LA, and for this season they are only open on weekends.

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I used the Go LA card once again for entrance to Six Flags. I felt that Six Flags was not as warm as Knott Berry’s Farm, just a feeling. The staff weren’t so friendly. It was like a more adult sort of park than a kid’s one.

My objective here was for Bugs Bunny’s world!

Here are some of the kiddy rides which I didn’t take. I took other kiddy rides, like the kid’s roller coaster (screamed my lungs off) and Grand American Carousel.

I was disappointed that Tweety was not scheduled for the meet & greet today but at least there were Sylvester and Bugs! And I am Tweety.

Games to play. Eyeing those tweety birds!

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I’m a proud owner of this Baby Tweety! I LOVE IT!

In case some of you are wondering where are the super scary rides that Six Flags is known for… here they are. I took a grand total of 0 of them hahaha. But really, there are 19 scary roller coasters in this park alone and Six Flags Magic Mountain is indeed the park with the most roller coasters of all the Six Flags parks AND all parks in the world! Daredevils and/ or fans of Tweety Bird must check out park.

Six Flags Magic Mountain
26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355, USA



Hollywood

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My favourite Hollywood star is Bugs Bunny

Up to this point in Los Angeles I was enjoying myself… until I went to the famous Hollywood area and felt annoyed to be part of a tourist trap. All international tour groups would park here at some point of time in their itinerary and the whole area is crowded and full of touristy stuff. I don’t like this place at all. If you’re not a die hard fan of Hollywood and don’t mind not seeing those stars on the ground, you are better off not coming to this area at all. If you want to take a good picture of the Hollywood sign, please go somewhere in the mountains. You won’t get a good picture here because it is too far.


Santa Monica

You know, I was really looking forward to Santa Monica when planning this trip. But tough luck with the weather, it was crazy rainy so I did not get a chance to enjoy the beauty of this coastal area or check out the yoga it has to offer. However, I still went to Santa Monica for food.

Hillstone Restaurant

I decided to try some sushi because you know, California roll. In all seriousness, California roll was invented in Canada and got popular in SoCal, so I consider this California style Japanese food as a whole new cuisine rather than comparing it to authentic Japanese fare. Hillstone is a popular restaurant and they were fully booked for dinner with many people waiting at the door for a table which would only be available 1.5 hours later. The bar seats are on first come first serve so I waited for those, which took 30 minutes. I did like the food I tried. Hillstone is also present in other cities, nearest being San Francisco

Hillstone
202 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA


Hot Pockets

I just had to talk about this.

Hot Pockets makes me happy – Ryan Higa

Sunday 22nd January – a huge storm was expected to sweep Los Angeles and neighbouring area. So the plan was just to stay indoor until it subsides. I stocked up on some Hot Pockets during my trip to Target the other day, so I could have an instant meal for breakfast and lunch. While this stuff isn’t fantastic, it sure is super easy. Just pop them in the microwave and it’s ready. The best part about Airnb is that you get a kitchen to do these things!

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