Los Angeles, Las Vegas AND San Francisco! This is a fun-packed whirlwind tour of the three major attractions on the West Coast of California.
When you arrive at Terminal 1 Dublin you feel somewhat a little short-changed with the 70s look building and drab layout which is due a makeover soon but to be fair to the DAA they seem to be getting it right with their new DAA lounge which has a really nice relaxing feel, good selection of foods and drinks. All priority pass customers can avail of this before a flight including business class customers with British Airways, which is my airline of choice for my trip to Los Angeles.
Tip – depending on the time of your departure check out the new Dublin Airport Travel Services card which allows you to fast-track through security (very helpful at peak times) and access to DAA lounges which are available in T1 and T2.
After a speedy boarding of our flight to London in business class with BA for Club Europe passengers, we sat down on a spacious business class seat with ample room and a nice lunch. Heathrow is a bit of a nightmare for transfers however luckily all British Airways flights from Dublin to London now land in T5 making it much easier for customers to connect on their long haul flights.
This writer was getting excited flying on the British Airways Airbus A380 for the first time not to mention the luxurious Club World business class. The wonder of how such a big aircraft (double-decker) gets into the sky is still beyond belief. Turning left on a long haul plane is a nice experience for anyone but on this aircraft, you have a choice of main or upper deck when turning left. Club world on British Airways is luxurious with a new configuration of seating, the spacious and comfortable fully flatbeds are a saviour on an eleven-hour flight to Los Angeles. The menu selection is good with starter, mains and dessert and nice choice of wines/spirits. British Airways staff were very friendly and professional. By the way, while we’re Stateside, don’t forget to check out my travels in Las Vegas, Miami & New York.
So the holiday begins and after arriving in Los Angeles it’s time to pick up the SUV from Hertz which will be my mode of transport to getting me around for the next 3 days in LA (lucky James has a chauffeur). Before we plan out Las Vegas and San Francisco, our first stop is the luxurious Sofitel hotel on Beverley Boulevard in West Hollywood which is out central base for visiting Universal Studios, Disneyland, Beverly Hills (Rodeo drive), the luxurious homes in Malibu, Venice and Santa Monica beach.
Tip – if hiring a car with Hertz sign up to their Gold Rewards which will entitle you to avail of their express service and your vehicle and documents will be waiting for you. Nothing worse than hanging around for car hire for ages in large queues!
Los Angeles is a great place to start off on a three-center holiday. Basing ourselves in West Hollywood/Beverly hills means I have access to all areas. The Sofitel hotel on Beverly Boulevard is a really nice, luxurious hotel. Staff are so friendly. Rooms are spacious and the feeling in the hotel is one of relaxation. With a good gym and pool, you can exercise when needed. Breakfast in the mornings sitting outside in the garden relaxing before you start the madness of the day.
A decision to make was how many days at the theme parks. We decided one and as we had no kids on the trip so we went for universal studios over Disneyland. Takes about 20 mins by car from Beverly Hills. Recommend you pay for the fast pass. Day ticket $92 or $132 with Fast Pass. Fast Pass means you skip all the queues everywhere, unlike Disney, there is no coming back at a certain time. Rides are fun and 4D shows are great.
If you have hired a car it is definitely worth hitting the beach in LA. There are a number of options which include Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu. Santa Monica beach is popular with its pier and if you are hungry then check out Shutters on the beach which is only 3-4 blocks away from the Pier. My favorite beach was Malibu. It takes a little longer to drive to, but it’s more upmarket and more peaceful. Nobu (owned by Robert de Niro) in Malibu is fab for food and chilling out in the sun on their sun lounges or Nikita which is a Greek restaurant next door. You will definitely bump into a few famous faces here.
Shopping in LA can be fun especially if you start around Rodeo drive. This is where most designer shops are, but around this area, you will also find other popular stores such as Gstar, Diesel, All Saints, etc. The Beverly Shopping Centre on Beverly Boulevard is a good shopping centre too with Macy’s, Bloomingdales and lots more shops inside.
With all this shopping you will definitely need food and there are some amazing restaurants in West Hollywood/Beverly hills. Pump in West Hollywood is fab and only opened last May. The garden area is particularly nice to dine in, with a great choice of food and drink. Sur lounge is also another nice restaurant nearby. If you like Mexican, then Petty cash is a new restaurant just opened with sumptuous Mexican food and prices are reasonable. Finally, want more upmarket checkout Nobu in Malibu where many stars also go. Make sure you book!!
So after LA where next? VEGAS BABY!!!
Skip the four/five-hour drive… I say fly to Vegas from LA as it only takes 40-50 mins with United Airlines and travel with a bit of comfort.
With such a choice of hotels in Las Vegas, my recommendation is to stay centre of the strip. We chose the fabulous new Cosmopolitan hotel right next to the Bellagio. The Cosmopolitan is new, luxurious, rooms are large with balconies (rare in Vegas) and for some reason, it is easy to make your way around the hotel unlike other hotels in Vegas where you get lost around the slots and gambling tables. The pool is on the 14th floor and sure treat yourself with an amazing pool bed or cabana, staff are very friendly and ask for Michaela. Breakfast is a real treat in the Wicked Spoon restaurant with so much food to choose from. Either do breakfast or brunch ….either way you will be truly stuffed after. Not to worry, you can work off the calories in the amazing gym and a luxurious spa next to it.
If it’s your first time in Vegas then I would recommend you take a stroll down the strip and check out the various hotels. The Bellagio next door to the Cosmopolitan has a fountain display ever 30 mins to music. The Venetian has its indoor canal and gondoliers but really every hotel has something wow so just pop into them all.
You can’t come to Vegas without going to a show and most are Cirque du Soleil. One of my favorites is the Michael Jackson one at the Mandalay Bay, you come out buzzing after it and the music with the dancers/acrobats is fab. Other great shows include O at the Bellagio, La Reve at the Wynn, Ka at the MGM and Beatles Love at the X. Each season there is an artist that plays at Caesar’s Palace including Celine Dion, Elton, Cher, Rod and more.
If you want to treat yourself I suggest you take yourself on a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. It takes about 4 hours from door to door with approx 70 mins in the helicopter. We flew to the Grand Canyon with Maverick Helicopters who have the youngest fleet. You fly down into the canyon, land on the reserve and get the real experience of the canyon. Maverick helicopters also do a nighttime flight over the strip which lasts 15-20 mins and is a real treat. Maverick offer deals at various times so check them out at flymaverick.com.
There are so many restaurants to choose from in Vegas so here are my favourites:
- Thai – lemongrass in the Aria or Tao in the Venetian
- French – Mon Gabi Paris (ask for outside table)
- Olives (Todd English) lovely for lunch or dinner in Bellagio ( again ask for balcony table)
- Burgers – Holstein in Cosmopolitan (amazing wings, burgers, and shakes)
- Breakfast – Wicked spoon in Cosmopolitan
Don’t forget the clubs, there are so many in Vegas in each hotel. Top DJs from around the world play here especially in Hakkasan and wet Republic in the MGM, they regularly include Calvin Harris, Tiesto and more!
Now Vegas is done….time for San Francisco, so another quick flight with United only 2 hrs.
Wow, the view coming into San Francisco by air and seeing the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge is something spectacular and you know you are in for a good time. My trip to San Fran was starting with a check in to the four-star Morgan’s owned Clift Hotel on Geary St just off Union Square so ideal for shopping, dining out and a host of bars. The Clift hotel has an amazing reception, a cool trendy bar both day and night (everyone wants to go to), and spacious contemporary bedrooms (the only let down for me was the small bathroom). We found the staff friendly and a nice selection of food for breakfast each morning. So would recommend this hotel highly, other options are the Westin Hotel on Union Square and the European Hotel on Geary Street too!
Shopping is great in San Fran with a lot of the shops based around Union Square such as Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Ugg store and the nearby Westfield shopping centre with Bloomingdales, Abercrombie, Hollister, American Eagle, Aeropostale, Kenneth Cole and lots more.
You can’t really visit San Fran without taking a trip to Alcatraz, the former home of Al Capone!! You board at pier 39 down at Fishermans Wharf where most tourists seem to head to and you can get there by San Francisco Tram which is really cool.
Tip – Make sure you book Alcatraz tickets at least three weeks in advance or you may not get to see it.
If you like speed and fun try the Rocketboat which costs $25 and this high powered jet boat takes you whizzing out beyond Bay Bridge and has you spinning around, jumping waves and it’s great fun, prepared to get a little wet! Another option to do is take a trip across the bay to Sausalito which is a really nice quaint town and takes about 15 mins by ferry or be more active and take a rent a bike across the Golden gate and cycle down to Sausalito. The views of San Fran and the Pacific from the Golden Gate are Wow! You can also visit the golden gate park. Another worthwhile trip by tram or taxi is to the Castro Area where Harvey Milk started his campaign for gay rights and the rainbow flag flies proudly over the area frequented by the LGBT community in this chilled-out town.
There are so many restaurants and bars in San Francisco but the ones I can certainly recommend are:
- Epic Roadhouse – on the bay overlooking bay bridge. Lunch or dinner is fab
- Khin Khao – Thai at hotel 55
- Water bar – Embarcadero area at Bay Bridge
- E&O – Asian fusion near Union Square
- Foleys Irish pub (real Irish pub with friendly Irish staff) – order the wings for lunch!! and ask for Colin’s Bloody Mary if you want a hair and the dog!
- Farmer’s restaurant – a cool new restaurant
There are so many bars to choose from but one of the coolest is in the Clift hotel.
Tip – photocopy you passport or drivers licence and take out with you to bars. Don’t risk carrying it around!
What a holiday LA, Vegas, and San Francisco… Highly recommend that you try all three. Well, it’s time to head home back in Club World with British Airways. The comfort means a good night’s rest and ready for work again! Roll on the next holiday!