Hollywood, Venice and Santa Monica on a budget

"Our tour finished with a loop around Rodeo Drive before heading up to the Hollywood Bowl Lookout where I get a photo with the Hollywood sign to tick that off my bucket list."

My first day in Hollywood begins with the Walk of Fame towards Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, conveniently located just around the corner from the hotel I’m staying in – and walking’s free.

I’m staying at the USA Hostel which has a mix of dormitories and private rooms. The dorms still offer a level of privacy with their ‘Privacy Pods’ on each bunk, and security – we’re each assigned a locker for valuables.

So it is I find myself strolling along the path of stars, taking photos of names that I recognize.

Top Tip for Hollywood Blvd: Do not be fooled by the men and women behind the masks – they are not paid to be there to take your photo –  they just want your tips. I realised this when Mr. Incredible started asking me for his tip after Batman had offered to take a photo of us. I was only being polite.

(and look it wasn’t even a good picture)

Although I do like the Twilight Saga, it was pretty funny to see everyone walking all over the Twilight casts’ handprints to get a photo with Michael Jackson’s.

Almost every shop along this strip is a souvenir shop and tour guides hover around continuously trying to get you to go on their tours. I booked myself on a celebrities’ homes tour online and saved myself some money in the process.

As the tour progresses through Beverley Hills we get to see (among many others): Houses belonging at some stage to Marilyn Monroe, Sean Connery, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Peter Falk – the Grandfather in The Princess Bride)

Johnny Depp, Ringo Starr and Ellen DeGenerous’s fences, David Spade’s, Hillary Duff, Gwen Stefani, Jackie Collins, Bruno Mars and Sacha Baren Cohen, Quentin Tarantino and Orlando Bloom’s house, the gates used in Batman, National Treasure and the latest Star Trek.

Tom Cruise’s Driveway, Simon Cowell, Larry King, David Beckham, Bruce Willis and Madonna’s houses and The Beverly Hills Hotel.

Our tour finished with a loop around Rodeo Drive before heading up to the Hollywood Bowl Lookout where I get a photo with the Hollywood sign to tick that off my bucket list.

Day 2

Day two and I’m off to Venice Beach, staying at the Samesun Venice Hostel which is RIGHT on the beach with great views up and down the coast of the busy esplanade. The dorms here range in price depending on the size of the room and day of the week.

Venice looks like a mix-up of the OC and Xanadu. There are people everywhere; rollerblading, roller-skating, zip lining, cycling, skateboarding, and even Segway-ing. Maybe I can hire some rollerblades and re-enact Xanadu.

Venturing a little further up the beach I decide to visit Santa Monica Pier.

Day 3

On Day three I go up market, staying in a bungalow at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica. I could very easily stay here forever; it’s absolutely gorgeous. The hotel sits opposite the beach, looking out on Santa Monica Pier, and inside it’s wrought iron gates lies a little oasis of calm.

The gardens surrounding the hotel are perfectly manicured, shaded by large fig trees and palms. A highlight here is Fig Restaurant which serves up delicious meals made from local produce, fresh from the farmers’ markets every day.

It’s definitely worth the indulgence.

A good low-budget option however is the HI Santa Monica Hostel, with dorm beds available.

Day 4

Day 4 and it’s time to visit Universal Studios. I got myself a “Front of the line” pass. Which is fantastic – it lets you skip the line and get on rides a lot faster than the Fast Passes at other parks.

Best Rides: The Mummy, The Simpsons and Jurassic Park (warning: drenching alert).

Top Tip: I recommend getting a seat on the right side of the car on the Studio Tour as there are a few things I missed out on being on the left side – including Jaws. The best part of the tour is the 3D King Kong experience. It’s one of the world’s largest 360 3D experiences and it actually feels like you’ve stepped onto skull island. Almost every ride in the park somehow involves the audience being a little bit drenched somehow, especially in the Waterworld show – beware of the soak zone.

Day 5

I take a Legends Bike Tour. My guide gives me a history of the pier before we head off along the beach, past the volleyball courts, the new Muscle Beach and up to the Venice Canals, which is where Valentines Day was filmed. The day (and my stay) ends Hollywood-style when I stumble upon a press conference with Disney Channel’s Ariana Grande and Jeanette McCurdy. So I snap away like the rest of the paparazzi.


Holly O’Sullivan

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Mr Incredible - LA
Graumans Theatre - LA


Los Angeles, CA, USA