All Around LA: A First Visit Tour

This past weekend, my little sister came to LA for the first time. I knew there were certain places that she had on her bucket list, but I also wanted to make sure she saw all the quintessential "LA" landmarks and points of interest. Looking back on it now, we were acting like this was her one and only chance to visit LA - like she'd never ever be back - like she doesn't have a sister who LIVES HERE. But that being said, we did a pretty great job of cramming in some must-see locations in just two short days. So if you're thinking of visiting, and want to stay on the beaten trail, read on.

1. Visit Griffith Observatory. This spot is great for LA first-timers. With a view of both downtown LA and the Hollywood sign, it's a great photo op spot. The observatory itself is a beautiful example of art deco design in a unique building, and it sits perched on the hillside of one of LA's most iconic city parks. Be warned, though - crowds are thick, and parking can be difficult if your'e unwilling to walk a bit up the road. Head there earlier in the morning to avoid heavy foot traffic.

2. Walk down Hollywood Boulevard. I am the epitome of the LA local who hates Hollywood Boulevard for everything that it is - touristy, busy, kinda dirty. But how could I let my little sister visit LA without seeing the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater? It's fun just to wander along and point out the recognizable names on stars, or hunt down the one star you're looking for - like Jennifer Aniston. It might take you ten blocks and 20 minutes, but you'll find it.

3. Explore the Santa Monica Pier. Route 66 dead ends right into the Santa Monica pier, where tourists and locals alike flock on the weekends. The pier is huge, with an amusement park on one half, restaurants and shops on the other, and people everywhere in between. The giant ferris wheel is a icon of LA's beaches, and gorgeous to view at night when the lights are on and spinning.

4. Go to the beach - any beach. Especially in the summertime, the beach is a must. My personal favorite is Santa Monica, but Venice Beach is a spectacle in itself with the weaving bike path, busy skate park and countless tourist shops. At either beach, you can rent bikes, surfboards or longboards if laying in the sun isn't quite your style. But be warned: the water at LA beaches is usually on the chilly side, as our currents bring water down from the north. 

5. Eat! Whenever I have guests in town, I always make an effort to show them some of what I think is the best cuisine LA has to offer. This weekend my sister got to experience pancakes at House of Pies, Cuban food at Versailles, ice cream sandwiches from Cool Haus and my own personal cooking! (If anyone visiting really wants my personal cooking, I'll see what arrangements I can make to open the kitchen).

Ultimately, LA has so much to offer it's impossible to see it all in two days. But if you only have time to see the highlights, this list is a good place to start. Just make sure you come back for a few more days at some point or another!