Photo Essay: Exploring Los Angeles with a Tourist

My good friend from Germany visited me last November.  It was her first time in Los Angeles, and the United States, so the pressure was on to share with her the best that Southern California has to offer.  She wanted to hit up the obvious places like Hollywood Boulevard to see the “stars” and Disneyland, the happiest and most expensive place on earth.  Two weeks flew by and almost a thousand photos later (literally), I’m here to share a few of my favorites today.

Manhattan Beach:

If you’re visiting Los Angeles for the first time, going to the beach is a must.  Santa Monica and Venice Beach are very popular with tourists but I’d suggest visiting Manhattan Beach!  It’s less crowded, extremely walkable, and more picturesque in my opinion.


This lovely beach town is right next door to where I live, only about 10 minutes from LAX! This pier has been featured in plenty of films and TV shows so you might recognize it.


Manhattan Beach is a perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon, even in November!


Just a typical beach home you’ll find while exploring the streets in Manhattan Beach. Not too shabby.

Hike to the Hollywood Sign:

Or if you’re pressed for time because you need to race to see the sunset at the Griffith Observatory (or if you’re lazy), drive to the Hollywood Sign! Type in 3000 Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068 into your GPS, drive up a few winding roads, and treat yourself to the closest view you can get of this famous landmark without getting arrested. You can get even closer if you hike behind it but who wants a picture from the back of the Hollywood Sign?


I’ve lived in Los Angeles my entire life and this was the closest I had ever been to the Hollywood Sign. It was such a beautiful and clear day. Also, I just love that lonely little cloud in the corner.


This was our view in the opposite direction, overlooking the Hollywood Reservoir.

Griffith Observatory:

This is the place to be in Los Angeles at sunset. I’ll let my pictures do the talking.


We were lucky to grab a parking spot in the Griffith Observatory lot just before sunset. I’d suggest arriving a couple hours earlier, explore the Observatory, have a picnic, and wait for the sun to go down. There’s also street parking available if you don’t mind hiking up the hill.


My friend Nicole trying to get the perfect shot for Instagram. 😉


Visitors watching the beautiful sunset at The Griffith Observatory.


We don’t really experience seasons in Los Angeles but I loved seeing some fall colors in November! Or that could just be the sun shining on the leaves…

Mission San Juan Capistrano:

Or just get out of Los Angeles (I know it’s hard, traffic-wise) and visit other parts of Southern California. While San Juan Capistrano isn’t the first place I’d recommend to tourists, I felt like I had to show my friend some sort of historic building that wasn’t just built in the 1900’s. Apart from visiting in the 3rd grade, this was my second time to Mission San Juan Capistrano and it was a beautiful place to explore and learn about the history of the missions. In grade school, I never really understood the sad history behind the missions and all the forced labor required from the Native Americans to build these beautiful settlements. There are 21 missions along the coast of California and I’d definitely recommend visiting at least one.


This is the first photo I took upon entering Mission San Juan Capistrano. The mission is very well preserved and a tranquil place to explore.


Mission San Juan Capistrano is built almost entirely of adobe brick.


Tickets for Mission San Juan Capistrano start at $9 for adults. Always look out for deals on websites such as Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Local. We were able to find a 2 for 1 deal on Groupon.


This was my favorite little courtyard in Mission San Juan Capistrano. So peaceful.

Have you visited Los Angeles before?  What is your favorite place to explore in the City of Angels?  Let me know in the comments!  I’ll be visiting London and Edinburgh over the next two weeks so look out for a guest post while I’m away.  I’ll be back on March 7th with a new post for my #Take12Trips challenge!

Happy Travels!

Picture 3

17.Los Angeles


  1. Mike says:

    I haven’t been to Los Angeles in years and last there my (ex) wife took to Manhattan Beach and fell head over heels for it! I still haven’t been to the Griffith Observatory nor Hollywood so that would be for the next visit. I’m always fascinated when friends come to Reno and want to see things here that I take for granted everyday. It’s actually a blast to see it through their eyes and be a tour guide. Good post, Lauren! 🙂
    Mike recently posted…Samantha & Ed: An Unexpected JourneyMy Profile

    • Lauren Meshkin says:

      Exactly, it’s so easy to take your hometown or city for granted. I always enjoy having family or friends visit but this trip was particularly exciting since my friend had never been anywhere in the states before. It really made me fall in love with California, specifically Los Angeles, all over again. So cool you went to Manhattan Beach! Not many people know about it who are from other states. I hope you can return soon and explore more! Thanks for reading, Mike 🙂

  2. Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans says:

    Beautiful pics, Lauren. I LOVE Manhattan Beach. I used to live south of you in Redondo and still visit my parents’ place there when they’re in between tenants. I always said that if I were single again, I’d definitely want to live in Manhattan Beach. I also really love your pic of the mission with the bench in the background. Wishing you fun and safe travels!!
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted…Traveling in ColorMy Profile

  3. Mary {The World Is A Book} says:

    Love these LA highlights and what a great way to showcase the city. Beautiful photos especially of the mission. So, I’ve never been to Manhattan Beach after all these years 🙂 I need to fix that soon. My husband grew up in LA and I went to college there but we just found that exact same spot to see the Hollywood sign last summer. It’s always fun to show our hometowns to visitors. It makes us appreciate what we take for granted. Have a wonderful trip!
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted…5 Free Things To Do in London With KidsMy Profile

  4. Kemkem says:

    Oh this brought back lovely memories of my 19 years in L.A. I loved going to the Observatory to watch the sunset, but l would always ride my motorcycle, easier to find parking. I lived up in the hills on Woodrow Wilson and was lucky enough to have a 360 degree view. Awesome. It was always nice to play tourist with my guests, taking the tour bus, watching a taping etc. Great times. Amazingly , we had much fewer visitors when we moved to Houston, but now that we’re in Malta, we are starting to get them again. I like Manhattan beach, very pretty and that diner at the end of the pier, wasn’t it in Taken at the end? Your pictures and posts are lovely and l look forward to your London post, it’s one of my favorite places! Glad l discovered your blog.
    Kemkem recently posted…It’s a beautiful day in my Malta neighborhood…My Profile

    • Lauren Meshkin says:

      Thank you for this awesome comment. LA is a great city, if you know where to look. I’m sure you get several visitors now that you’re in Malta 🙂 At the end of the pier there’s a small aquarium, but I’m afraid the diner isn’t there anymore! Just a small snack shop. The London posts are finally starting to appear, I posted my first one today. Traveling for two weeks without a laptop (recently broke) is not ideal but the posts are coming I promise! 🙂 Thanks again.

  5. NZ Muse says:

    There is just SO much in LA! We decided not to do the Hollywood walk (pressed for time and feeling lazy) but being at the Griffith Observatory was pretty cool.

    We were lucky to know quite a few people in LA so as well as Santa Monica we got taken to see Manhattan and Venice Beaches as well as Hermosa, and we went around to I think Palos Verdes as welll.
    NZ Muse recently posted…Three Thing Thursday: Tips for a one-way US road tripMy Profile

    • Lauren Meshkin says:

      Well thank you, Gray! That would be actually be quite fun…! 🙂 I hope you make it out to L.A. It’s a great city if you know where to look. Be sure to let me know when you’re in town! Also, thank you for reading.

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