LBB Travel Diaries is where we tell stories about our trips and vacations. We also share our itineraries and tips of where to go, what to do, what to eat, and more!
I’ve been to the US a bunch of times already, although I’ve spent them mostly in the East Coast where my relatives reside. I’ve never stayed there any shorter than a month, since I never had to worry about hotel expenses or food. This time, however, I went on my US trip for only about 9 days, on my first time in the West Coast. This was also the first time I traveled with my older sister, just the 2 of us. I’ve always wanted to go to the West Coast for quite some time now, especially Hollywood which is the center of film, and has a lot of iconic places and great shooting locations from a lot of classic movies I’ve seen. So when my parents allowed my sister and I to go there on our own, partly as a graduation gift for me, it was a dream come true!
We started in Los Angeles, then went to Las Vegas and San Francisco, and ended back in Los Angeles. There are several ways to go about this; you can opt to start in San Francisco, then end in Los Angeles. But it all depends on you and the plane fare, whichever’s cheaper and more convenient. As long as you get to go to all the nice places, then it will definitely be worth it!
Here’s a rundown of the places we went to:
Day 1 – Los Angeles (DOWNTOWN DISNEY)
We hopped off the plane at LAX (lol I’ve wanted to say this since 2009!!!) at around 7 in the morning. It took us about an hour to gather our stuff and go through immigration. We were picked up by the driver of the tour agency we had booked and it was about an hour drive to our hotel, Holiday Inn Buena Park. We were hungry and had a little brunch at Wendy’s, which was right across the street. We also stopped by Target to do some groceries and buy a little drugstore makeup (heehee). When we got back to the hotel, we were told all the rooms were currently full and we had to come back at 3. As we couldn’t check in until later, we decided to go on a trip to Downtown Disney first, where we did a little (hehe maybe not) shopping.
When we found out that Downtown Disney had Sephora, we kinda went a little crazy. But since our parents would kill us if we spent all our money on makeup, we had to control ourselves and limited our buying to just 3 items each (huhu)
We did a lot of window shopping and saw some cute shops, such as this cute Disney princess hair salon for kids, and a Disney artwork gallery.
Downtown Disney is very small, and only has a few shops and restaurants so it would be easy to go over the whole place in about 3 hours. We decided to eat pizza for a light snack, and went back to the hotel to check in. After checking in, we went to Buena Park mall to look around. We didn’t buy anything though; frankly, it wasn’t all that nice and there are plenty of better malls in Manila.
Day 2 – Las Vegas (Shopping outlet, Vegas Night Tour)
We left LA early to drive all the way to Las Vegas, where we would be spending 2 nights. We had a quick stopover in an outlet where we had lunch and did some shopping. We arrived at Las Vegas around 3 in the afternoon, so minus the stopover, it approximately took about 4 hours to get to Vegas.
We had a night tour where we visited several hotels and casinos such as Luxor, New York New York, Treasure Island, Mirage, and Old Town Las Vegas. Las Vegas was full of bright lights and colors, but I found it to be a bit too loud and crazy for me. I did enjoy looking around but it didn’t feel like a place I’d be happy to live in for a long time.
Las Vegas Old Town
We got back to our hotel after the night tour. We stayed in the Stratosphere Hotel, which was pretty much, how would I put this, not nice? It was so old that the sink would always clog and the carpets made my nose itchy. It did have this really nice observatory deck though, where you could look at the whole city of Las Vegas.
Milkshake cocktails with this beautiful Vegas city view!
They also had rides and activities like bungee jumping offered, but I was too much of a scaredy cat to go through with those things!
Day 3 – Las Vegas (GRAND CANYON, HOOVER DAM, VEGAS NIGHT SHOW)
We departed Las Vegas to go to Grand Canyon South Rim via Hoover Dam. You can actually see the Grand Canyon in either the South Rim or West Rim. The South Rim is the one with the national park while the West Rim has the one with the helicopter ride. I am not sure which one is better, although our tour guide did mention that the South Rim gives a better view of the place, while the West Rim is more for those who want to have a little adventure.
Nothing to see here…
I’ve seen the Grand Canyon in so many movies and have heard a lot of great things about it since forever, so we were so stoked to finally be visiting it. The drive was pretty long, about 5 hours. We had a short stopover for lunch along the way. We arrived at Grand Canyon around 2 in the afternoon, but the weather was so bad and there was a snowstorm.
My sister and I were so underdressed — I only had a denim jacket on. We also weren’t able to see anything because of the snow and fog so that was a huge disappointment, and really felt like a waste of time. We only spent a few minutes in the park, because it was too cold. We then watched an iMax movie about the Grand Canyon, which showed the history of the place and how the explorers discovered it. That was pretty much it… so a word of advice: it’s best to visit during the summer so you can be sure you’ll see something!
On the way back to Las Vegas, we went to see the famous Hoover Dam, where we took a walk in a bridge to get the best view of the place. We arrived back in the city at around 6, and proceeded to the famous Vegas Night Show. It was full of singing and dancing and flashy lights. I can finally say I’ve seen a Vegas show!
Day 4 – Los Angeles (BARSTOW PREMIUM OUTLET, CACTUS GARDEN, CHOCOLATE FACTORY)
We drove back to Los Angeles and went on several stopovers. The first was at a cactus garden and a chocolate factory. The second was at Barstow Premium Outlets where we did some shopping. The weather that day was just perfect; I even got to wear a skirt!
Sipping my hot chocolate
I had time to look cute heehee
Day 5 – San Francisco (YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK)
We travelled to San Francisco and stopped by at Yosemite National Park. Yosemite National Park has a great viewing point for the famous Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfalls in California. It also has a view of the El Capitan Rocks and Tunnel View Point.
El Capitan Rocks
The drive to Yosemite was pretty long, but we got there around 4 in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the road was blocked because of a rockslide, so we were forced to take a detour, which took us an additional hour and a half and we were finally able to get to Yosemite by 5:30, just a few minutes before sunset.
It was a bit chilly, and there were remnants of snow on the ground. I really found the place to be so refreshing and nice, and the late afternoon lighting gave it a Twilight kind of feel. I wish we had been able to get there earlier so I could have seen some animals and taken better pictures. I also found out that there are hotels and cabins inside the park, so I really thought it would’ve been nice to stay overnight and wake up to nature just outside your window. I also can’t imagine how beautiful the place would be in the early morning. If you plan on visiting this place, I recommend you do that instead of taking just a day trip.
Day 6 – San Francisco (GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, FISHERMAN’S WHARF, SAN FRANCISCO BAY CRUISE, CHINATOWN, CITY HALL, LOMBARD ST., TWIN PEAKS, etc)
This day was one of my favorite parts of the trip, basically because I just LOVE San Francisco. It’s definitely my favorite city out of the 3, and I can just see myself living in this city (until I found out that the standard of living here is even higher than New York – LOL). We went on a city tour and went to so many places!
San Francisco Chinatown
We first stopped by Chinatown for breakfast, then walked uphill Lombard St., to see a great view of the city. We then went on the San Francisco Bay Cruise, where we got to see the city skyline and some islands near the main city. We also got to see famous Alcatraz Prison. I spent time on the cruise listening to some history about the city, and I found it so informative.
San Francisco city aesthetic
San Francisco street graffiti
San Francisco Bay Cruise
When we got back to the city, we had lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf. In the afternoon, we went to the Palace of Fine Arts, the city hall, twin peaks, and even to a church called Saint Mary Church, which looked just amazing!
Palace of Fine Arts
Golden Gate Bridge; City skyline
I really loved the city tour and wish I could’ve stayed in San Francisco longer. Definitely a highlight of the whole trip!
Day 7 – Back to Los Angeles (HEARST CASTLE, SOLVANG)
Hearst Castle (exterior)
We drove back to Los Angeles and on the way we had a stopover at Hearst Castle, a luxurious mansion owned by this really rich and influential guy back then. Right now, it’s been developed as a tourist destination where you can see antique collections and state of the art swimming pools.
Hearst Castle (interior)
We had lunch at Solvang, a cute little Danish-like town, with really unique shops and restaurants in the area.
Day 8 – Los Angeles (UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, DISNEYLAND)
We went to both Universal Studios and Disneyland on the same day. Having been to both places multiple times in the past (but in different countries, of course), we didn’t really mind having just one day for both places. Although for first timers, it is highly recommended to set aside 1 day each for both. Universals is relatively smaller than Disneyland, but it has the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which you would need more time on because of the insanely long line.
We went on the Studio Tour first, because we were told that it had insanely long lines in the afternoon. So after eating brunch at Starbucks, we proceeded straight to this attraction. It was one of the highlights, because we were able to see all the filming sets in popular Hollywood films, as well as TV series. Inside the studio tour were also rides and simulations, which was pretty cool.
After that, we spent majority of our time in Wizarding World of Harry Potter, because we’re major Potterheads. We rode on the famous Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and The Flight of the Hippogriff. We also spent a few hours looking around the shops, taking pictures, and drinking butterbeer.
We also went on Revenge of the Mummy, and The Simpsons Ride. For thrill seekers, I suggest Jurassic Park – The Ride.
Hog’s Head fish & chips and chicken tenders
After an early dinner at Hog’s Head in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we went to Disneyland. Since it was already late, we didn’t do much there except take a few pictures, and go on the newly opened Star Wars themed ride, Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, and a Finding Nemo ride, an underwater submarine ride, which was pretty much a waste of time.
Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
Day 9 – Los Angeles (HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME, DOLBY THEATER, CHINESE THEATER, BEVERLY HILLS, RODEO DRIVE, SUNSET BLVD, VENICE BEACH, SANTA MONICA BEACH, etc)
This was the last day of our tour, but since our flight wasn’t until at night, we had the whole day to take an LA city tour. Next to the San Francisco tour, this is probably the second on my list of faves.
In the morning, we went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dolby Theater (a few weeks before we were there, the Oscars had just happened), the Chinese Theater, and a lot of other places within that street. We were also able to have a viewing of the Hollywood sign, although it was already a bit far off and small in the picture.
Just a warning to tourists: There are a lot of people in that street wearing costumes of famous Hollywood characters who will try to ask for pictures with you. After the picture, they’ll demand money from you, even up to around $10 for just one picture. My sister and I were familiar with this sort of thing, so we kept our distance. But I had a friend who fell for this trick, and ended up being scammed, she had to pay them because they didn’t want to leave her alone.
Afterwards, we took a drive around the city to look at some famous spots, such as Pink Taco, The Comedy Store, Roxy, and Rodeo Drive.
For lunch, we stopped by the famous Farmer’s Market. I really loved the whole set up of the place, with various food stalls for you to choose from. My sister and I ended up eating at this Brazilian BBQ place called Pampas Grill. The food was amazing!
After lunch, we went to Sunset Boulevard, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica Beach. Although it was so windy, I really wanted to plunge into the waters and go catch some waves. Maybe next time though.
Santa Monica Beach
And that ends our US West Coast trip! Overall, it was really a fun experience, although I really wish we had stayed for a few more days. Since my sister could only take a few days off work, we had to squeeze in all these places in such a limited time. I believe the ideal time frame to go around the West Coast would be at least 2 weeks up to a month. But if like us, you’re only staying for about 10 days, this is an ideal itinerary you can copy, because it pretty much covers all the famous sights and gives you a glimpse of each city.
If you’re going to the West Coast anytime soon, hit me up in the comments if you have any questions!