Two Full Days Guide to Explore LA. (San Francisco I’m Leaving You and Become a Digital Nomad.)

Pacific Park by Santa Monic Pier

The perk of being a digital nomad is being able to explore and travel whenever I wasn’t working. During my time co-living and co-working in Hollywood, I was able to explore most things in Hollywood during the weekdays. Now the weekend has arrived, I wanted to explore further. I split into two days: Saturday for Santa Monica and Sunday for Universal Studio.

Saturday: Santa Monica

Santa Monica Blvd

I took the red-line train from Hollywood/Vine to 7th street station, which is basically right at Downtown LA, and then transferred to the express (light) blue line, which basically took me directly to downtown Santa Monica. The entire trip was about an hour, but it was worth it. There was no need to drive and fight through LA traffic.

Once I arrived, the station is basically within a short walking distance to the third street Promenade. It is a big shopping area. Additionally, there are also street performers, local markets, a movie theater and food courts.

Third Street Promenade — Shopping center area

Thereafter, I walked to Santa Monica Pier and there was a lot of people. The famous Route-66 the end of trail is also at Santa Monica Pier and it also has an amusement ride and elements (i.e. Ferris wheel and Pacific park).

Santa Monica Pier from Pacific Santa Monica Beach.

Walking down the pier and Ocean avenue, there was Pacific Santa Monica beach. It was beautiful and packed with people. There were parks along the beach. I could potentially walk to Venice beach from here, but it would probably take about thirty or more minutes and I didn’t do it.

I got sunburn from this fun outdoor exploration at Santa Monica. If I came back here next time, I’d definitely bring a sunscreen, a bottle of water, and a daypacker with me.

Once I returned back in Hollywood, I was quite exhausted but I was still thinking about going to Universal Studio the next day. Therefore, I started doing a research on it.

Sunday: Universal Studio at Hollywood

Studio Tour (Trams) by Jimmy Fallon. It is A-MUST-SEE if you visited Universal Studio.

Some people may prefer the one in Orlando, Florida. However, I prefer this one right here in Hollywood because I have access to trams tour to the actual movie and TV show studios.

I took the red line train to North Hollywood, exited at Universal City station, used a crossing bridge to a shuttle stop, and hopped on Universal Studio shuttle. The shuttle picked me up at the stop and dropped me right at City Walk, which is next to the park.

I spent the entire day at Universal Studio Hollywood. It was fun and worthwhile. New Harry Potter area and attractions were really nice.

New Harry Potter Attraction (August 2016)

Here is some tips I’ve learned:

Tip#1 Purchase a ticket online

I’d suggest purchasing a ticket online directly from Universal Studio website beforehand since it offers a discount and an early get-in to the park (one hour before the rides open) as well as to avoid a long line. I wish I had arrived early.

Since I was thinking about coming back here, I purchased a season pass and the ticket was emailed to me. There was no need to print anything out and I just went straight to turnstile, showed my ID, got my ticket scanned from my mobile phone, received a pass, and I was right in.

Tip#2 Stay Light

I was trying to stay light as much as possible to avoid any security-check line and avoid having to store a backpack at the park’s locker.

What I bring:

  • A bottle of water.

What I wish I brought:

  • Light jacket or a hoodie for rides and shows after the sunset. It was a little chilly.

Tip#3 Avoid Inflated Price for Foods

Most foods selling inside Universal Studio are usually overpriced. There are two options. Panda Express at the lower level of the park is one of them. Since it is a franchise, the price is usually consistent and not inflated too much. The second option is getting food by City Walk, which requires getting out of the park — you can re-enter if getting stamped on the back of your hand at the gate prior leaving.

CityWalk right next to Universal Studio. Photo taken at night.

Tip#4 Single Rider Rules!

It is faster and reduce a lot of waiting time if being offered.

Other Official Tips

Official Tips from Universal Studio Hollywood.

I can confirm the official tips from Universal Studio Hollywood are true.

Exploring Hollywood

It was great having opportunities to explore Hollywood area after work every day.

Hollywood & Highland Center

It is located right by Hollywood/Highland Metro station and it is across Jimmy Kimmel Live Show Studio. It is a shopping area and connected to Loews Hollywood Hotel and nearby mall and theaters. It also has one of the best viewing spots of Hollywood sign. The upper level by the entrance to Loews Hollywood Hotel and above Starbucks is where this spot is located. I found out about this when I was staying at Loews Hollywood years ago and it was still there when I was revisiting as a digital nomad.

Highland Plaza (Hollywood Highland Center) — shopping area and also has a great spot for viewing Hollywood Sign.
One of the best viewing spots for Hollywood sign by Hollywood Highland Center.

El Capitan Theatre

Half of Hollywood Blvd in front of this theatre was closed down when I was there. I was witnessing a premiere of Pete’s dragon at El Capitan Theatre and I saw a couple of celebrities there as well. It was a great experience.

Pete’s Dragon Premiere at The El Capitan. I was taking this photo from the top level of Hollywood and Highland Center.

Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theater

There was no way I would be missing Hollywood Walk of Fame while I was on Hollywood Blvd because I was stepping on it. TCL Chinese Theater is located just right next to Dolby Theater. It has hand prints, signatures and footprints of many famous celebrities. I’d say it is a MUST-SEE.

Hey Matt Damon. I stepped on your footprints at TCL Chinese Theatre. Look like we both wear the same size.

Jimmy Kimmel Live Studio

It is located right next to El Capitan theatre. I’ve been trying to get to be the audience of Jimmy Kimmel Live show. So far I was only on their waiting list. The ticket is free but needs to request far ahead in advance. If you got one, it was worthwhile, but be prepared to spend about four to five hours.

Jimmy Kimmel Live Studio next to El Capitan Theatre during Pete’s Dragon Premiere.

Two full days with a trip to Santa Monica, Universal Studio Hollywood and Hollywood walk of fame were definitely worthwhile. If you had only two full days, I’d suggest picking two main area you’d like to go.

After this trip, I flew to my next destination, Chicago, Illinois. However, I wasn’t staying at metropolitan area this time. I was staying at the suburban area of Chicago for three weeks and living nomadically in the suburb was certainly giving me a different experience. My next article will be talking about my experience living in a suburb of Chicago.

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