On July 26th we packed up all our stuff at Rachel’s place and moved to an airbnb in downtown. It was thanks to the White family being so kind and hosting us that we were able to afford an airbnb in such a nice area for the rest of our time in LA.
Our airbnb host let us check in early, so we had some free time before going to see the LA derby that night. We decided to spend it in Santa Monica. I took the boys to the Third Street Promenade and we went into Urban Outfitters where James and Glenn each bought a new shirt. We also stopped by Ye Olde King’s Head, a British pub which has a British goods store attached where the boys were able to hydrate with the Scottish drink of choice: Irn Bru.
We walked over to the pier and had lunch there at a restaurant called Seaside on the Pier. It was a pretty typical tourist trap and the service was a bit slow but Sean really enjoyed the lobster BLT he had there. After lunch we were running low on time and had to rush to see the rest of the pier. Sean got a picture with the sign for the end of Route 66, as well as a Route 66 sticker. Glenn bought a California baseball cap from one of the souvenir vendors. We walked to the end of the pier and back but didn’t have time to go on any rides.
Once we got back to the car we realized we wouldn’t have time to go back to our airbnb before the game, so we drove straight to LAFC’s brand new Banc of California stadium. We lucked out with parking when a guy sold us the spot in front of his house. We got there just in time before the teams came out and sang the national anthem.
The stadium was packed, and we happened to be next to the LA Galaxy fan section. There was a lot of shouting and chanting competitions between the LAFC fans and Galaxy fans who were intermixed throughout our section. James and Sean were in white t-shirts and probably looked like Galaxy fans, even though Sean is a big fan of LAFC. This is LAFC’s first season, they are a brand new club, but they already have a huge fan base and the atmosphere of the rivalry was incredible. The boys said it was comparable and even better than some of the European games they had been to. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.
The next morning we started our day by going to the Griffith Observatory (made famous from that floating/dancing scene in La La Land). We had originally planned on hiking to the Hollywood sign itself, but those hikes were too long and intense and they don’t actually get you that close to the sign, which is well protected and guarded. Instead we settled for a much more minimal hike behind Griffith Observatory. We started at the Charlies Turner Trailhead and took the Mt. Hollywood Trail. We only went a mile or two up the trail, stopping at one spot with a good view of the Hollywood sign, and at another with a good view of the Observatory and downtown LA.
Once we got back to the Observatory we briefly explored inside, which was free, but we didn’t buy tickets to see one of the planetarium shows. By then we were hungry and ready for lunch, so we went to Shake Shack in Hollywood, which has James’s favorite burger. The burgers were delicious, but the fries were a bit lacking. We were already at the walk of fame, so after we finished eating we walked up to the Chinese Theater and saw all the handprints of famous actors. We passed by the remnants of Trump’s star, which was destroyed only days before we got there. We walked on the other side of the street on the way back to see even more celebrities’ stars. The boys took pictures of a couple of the stars, but ultimately they aren’t that exciting, just people’s names in cement.
That night we found out that the Echoplex was putting on an event called Electric Feels, where they were going to play a lot of indie dance music. They were supposed to play a number of my favorite bands like Phoenix, MGMT, Miike Snow, Passion Pit, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Empire of the Sun, Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc.. I managed to convince the boys to go even though I was the only one who is really into that kind of music, besides Sean to a lesser extent. Thanks to Facebook we saw that my friends Kelly and Katie were also going with a group of Pepperdine girls and so we made plans to meet them there.
We pre-gamed for our night out by playing a drinking game the boys like called Piccolo. It’s an app on your phone where you put in the name of each player and it gives you weird things to do or questions to answer. This led to some funny hijinks like Glenn and I having to switch shirts and James having to take a drink without using his hands.
We got to the club a while before my friends did. At first it was fun, the DJ was playing some good hits and he even played a Sylvan Esso song Sean really likes. But a little while before my friends showed up they switched DJs, and the new guy started playing a whole bunch of generic electronic stuff that nobody recognized. I could tell the boys weren’t really into it, and James even left at one point in search of food. Kelly, Katie, the rest of the girls and I still tried to dance and have fun, but the music was lame and it was a bit of a flop. Unfortunately, after hours of waiting for the music to get good again, the girls gave up and left to get ramen. We stuck it out and the music did eventually get better, with hit after hit for the last hour or so we were there, rescuing the night for everyone except James, who stood around outside waiting for us after his mission to find food.
We slept in late the next morning. Our plan was to go to Venice Beach that day but we wanted to stop for lunch somewhere first. Our first choice, the sandwich shop in our building, was closed. We were still in the mood for sandwiches though, and James suggested Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. We had banh mi sandwiches at a popular hole-in-the-wall place near my house called Yeh Yeh’s when the boys were in Seattle. My Mom took us the first time, and James, in attempt to smell one of the sauces you can put on your sandwich, squeezed the bottle too hard and ended up squirting it all over his white shirt. We had to bleach the stain out, and now anytime anyone spills something on themselves my Mom calls it “pulling a James.”
Despite this embarrassment James still loved that sandwich, and when we were getting new tires put on my car before the trip at an auto shop next to Yeh Yeh’s he went in and got himself another one. James had been waiting the whole trip to get another sandwich like those and so we looked up banh mi in LA. We found a place with good reviews called the Los Angeles Banh Mi Company. It was good, but it didn’t quite compare to Yeh Yeh’s.
Once we had satisfied our sandwich craving we headed over to Venice Beach. As we walked from our car toward the beach we came across a giant mural of Jim Morrison from the Doors. Glenn is a huge Doors fan so he was psyched and we all diverted from our original path to get a picture. Because of the diversion we ended up walking right into Muscle Beach. There was a bunch of equipment people were working out on, as well as a basketball court and other recreational areas.
We walked most of the length of the Venice Beach boardwalk and checked out the shops and art along the way. James and Glenn both bought shirts from souvenir shops and I bought a pair of sunglasses. There were a lot of vendors selling sliced mangoes with lime juice and chili powder, which is a pretty popular dessert or snack from Mexico. I got some of these mangoes and let the boys taste them since I knew it was kind of a local thing and something they probably hadn’t had before. It turns out that Sean had never had mangoes at all before. He wasn’t a fan and didn’t even finish his slice, although I blame this on the fact that the mango we had wasn’t very ripe and probably wasn’t the best introduction to the fruit. I wasn’t able to finish all of it and the boys didn’t want any more so I ended up giving the rest of the slices to some people with a sign that said they were hungry.
We went looking for the original Gold’s Gym, a gym chain which is apparently famous for all the celebrities who work out there. The original was not far from Muscle Beach, but it was closed down. James was disappointed since he really wanted to get a Gold’s Gym t-shirt, but he still took a picture of the run-down building.
We thought about renting out some roller blades and skating the rest of the boardwalk since this was a Venice Beach cliché that I had always wanted to try. But at that point we were running out of time and the boardwalk seemed too crowded to be worth the hassle. We walked back to Muscle Beach, and on the way ran into some British reality TV stars who had been on Love Island. Their names are Alex and Olivia and James got a picture with them. I lived in Malibu and the LA area for three years and never ran into anyone famous. The boys were there for a week and saw Pierce Brosnan, Romelu Lukaku, and the Love Island couple. Go figure.
That night we planned to go out again. We went to the Teragram Ballroom which was within walking distance of our airbnb. They were having a Green Day vs. Blink-182 Pop Punk Party. This time Tierney joined us, along with Katie from the night before. We showed them our apartment and pre-gamed a little bit before heading out. Once again the music was right up my alley, and this time they kept the hits going all night long. Sean and I were having a ball, and Glenn seemed to be enjoying it too, but it definitely wasn’t James or Tierney’s thing. It must not have been Katie’s either because she left early. Poor Tierney and James didn’t know any of the songs but at least they had each other for company. All in all it was an improvement on the night before.
The next morning we slept in late again and met my friend Chad for lunch at a Mexican place near his house. They had some of the most authentic street tacos we ate all trip, including when we actually went to Mexico later on. It was nice to catch up with Chad but we weren’t able to stay for long since we had tickets to see the Seattle Mariners play the Angels that day. James picked up a love for baseball when he lived in Canada and now supports the Toronto Blue Jays. I grew up playing softball and watching Mariners games, it’s still one of my favorite sports. Sean and Glenn on the other hand had never seen a baseball game. James and I warned them beforehand: sometimes it can be really slow and a lot of people find it boring to watch. America’s pastime isn’t for everyone.
Ironically, that ended up being one of the most exciting baseball games I had ever been to. The Mariners scored seven runs at the top of the first inning. James and I were in shock. We explained to Sean and Glenn that this never happens. Of course the rest of the game was slow after that and we sweated out our hangovers in the 90 degree heat for eight more innings. Luckily the ice water was free. The game ended with the Mariners winning 8 – 5. Glenn got pretty into it and said baseball was something he’d love to see again in person, but it would probably be too boring to watch on TV. Fair enough.
By the time we got out of the game it was right around dinner time. We decided to go to a famous local burger chain called Tommy’s that Sean had heard about in a YouTube video. They’re known for putting chili on their burgers, and they were pretty good, although personally I’m still partial to In-N-Out. We went to the original at Rampart and Beverly, although they have locations all over LA.
Something Chad had recommended to us that morning was to go to an escape room. He told us about a really intense horror themed one which had live actors and left you in complete darkness to solve the room only by the light of a candle. James and Glenn loved the sound of that one, but Sean seemed a bit weary. Unfortunately they were all booked up so we had to pick a different one. Sean didn’t seem too disappointed. We ended up booking the Hex Room for that night, which also came highly recommended by Chad.
The Hex Room requires 5-6 people, so we invited my friend Megan to come with us. She was letting her mom borrow her car, so we had to drive all the way up to her place in Woodland Hills to get her. Our booking wasn’t until 9:40 pm, so we had some extra time to kill. We took the long way back down into LA, going through the windy hipster areas of Topanga Canyon Road before getting onto PCH and taking that into Santa Monica.
We still had a little bit of extra time once we made it to the Hex Room and Megan hadn’t eaten yet so we went to In-N-Out for a second dinner. The Hex Room is set up like a classic slasher film. Each person is cast as a stereotype: the Rebel, the Prom Queen, the Jock, the Nerd, the Virgin, and the Detective. The goal is to “survive the movie” by escaping the rooms. Each person had their own room, themed for their stereotype, and they were all connected via the detective’s room in the middle. It is the Detective’s job to communicate between the rooms and help each person unlock their door. Then once everyone is together they can solve the final door and escape as a group.
For an additional challenge, each person also had a hex box in their room with a medallion inside. If you unlocked your box and wore your medallion when you escaped it meant that you had also escaped with your life. Escaping without the medallion meant you escaped but you did not survive, while getting the medallion and not escaping meant nothing, you did not survive or escape.
We each took a quiz before the game to determine who was which stereotype. Sean was the Rebel, Glenn was Prom Queen, James was the Jock, Megan was the Virgin, and I was the Detective. We only had five players so the Nerd room was left empty, although I could still look into it for clues. They gave each of us costume props that had to do with our stereotype and the clues for solving our hex boxes were hidden somewhere on these props.
It was stressful to be the Detective because I had to help each person solve their puzzles. They all needed information or objects from the other rooms to solve their own puzzles and I had to communicate between all of them while also trying to solve my own puzzles. There was also a phone in my room which would ring if they saw we needed help and they would give us hints. We got so close to winning the game. We had gotten each of our doors open and had just uncovered the final door and the last puzzle when time ran out. Megan was the only one who opened her hex box, so she would have been the only one to survive anyway.
It was a thrilling experience and I highly recommend it. We were all still on an adrenaline high when we came out. It was a fun way to spend our last night in LA. The next morning after we packed up all our stuff James walked to the nearest Gold’s Gym and finally got the t-shirt he wanted. The last place we hadn’t been to in LA yet was Beverly Hills, so we grabbed some breakfast at a nice little place called Walter’s Cafe and then drove around looking at the nice houses before setting off for San Diego.
Want more? Read about our next set of adventures in San Diego and Tijuana!