The only way to see America is by car, right?
The car is king in America. Everyone knows that. It is the land of Route 66 and road trips and in LA everyone drives everywhere.
Don’t hire a car
Phil and I hired a car at SF airport and both in San Francisco and Los Angeles it remained parked up in while we were there. I would never hire a car while staying in either of those cities again. To drive the Big Sur? Yes. To explore the city? Never. You do not need a car to enjoy either of these cities. Wasted cash on car hire for 6 days.
Use the Tourist Bus
In both cities we used the Tourist Bus to see the city and get our bearings. I used to think that these were a waste of time and money and just too touristy. Having used them in Europe, in Madrid and Barcelona whilst on a mini break with a friend, I changed my mind. They are a great way to see a new city, and when you tire of walking, just hop on a bus for a rest.
Explore using public transport
Brian, the helpful receptionist at The Coral Sands Motel, gave precise instructions how to get to the Observatory. While Phil volunteered to man the phone to call Qantas every 5 minutes in the hope to get our flights to Auckland, I set off from Hollywood and Western to Vermont Station. The stop for the Dash Observatory Shuttle is right outside the station. The fare is 50c each way or 35c if you have a TAP prepayment card. The shuttle only operates at weekends.
The Griffith Observatory
Located on the south slope of Mount Hollywood, it is worth visiting The Griffith Observatory for the views of LA and the Hollywood sign alone.
It is free to visit, the only charge is for the Samuel Oschin Planetarium which at $7 is very good value. There is also a Leonard Nimoy Theatre and entrance to events here are also free. The geek in me loved that there is theatre named for the man who played Spock.
It opened in 1935, funded by a bequest left by Griffith J Griffith, a Welsh man who made his fortune in Mexican silver mines. and was extensively renovated and expanded over 4 years from 2002 to ensure the citizens of and visitors to Los Angeles.
The architecture, inside and out is just stunning.
There are numerous exhibitions, many hands on, and you can even find out what you would weigh on other planets.
Of course using public transportation is not the only way to get to the observatory, there is some limited free parking and it is on one of the many hiking trails in the park. More information can be found here.
I would highly recommend it as a place to visit, great for families with young children as there is so much to keep them interested.
There are free public star parties with access to the telescopes. So when you tire of the Walk of Stars, and the wannabe stars on Hollywood Boulevard, head over to The Griffith Observatory, to see some real stars.
Naturally, because this is Hollywood, the observatory has been used for film locations. I prefered the golden age of Hollywood when stars were stars and not everyone who is in a soap on the telly is now a celebrity, so I was delighted to see the Rebel Without a Cause monument. Now James Dean, he was a proper star.