How to see Los Angeles in 8 hours or less… and still get churros!


I hope everyone is enjoying beautiful weather like I am here in the mountains of West Virginia. It’s been perfection here lately and I’ve had a slow travel schedule the past month and have had lots of time to enjoy the lake, the mountains, and laying at the pool with a book.

Coopers Rock State Park – Morgantown, West Virginia

When last we spoke, I promised a few short posts leading up to another multi-post series chronicling an amazing vacation I took earlier this year and I intend to deliver! I present for your amazement, how to tour Los Angeles in eight hours or less!

So I was out in LA for a conference and some client visits and my last visit wound up ending several hours early and I had a late flight out of LAX so I had about 8 hours to kill before I headed to the airport. I’ve been to LA more times than I can count but hadn’t been touristy there for probably about 18 years and figured this day was as good as any to tour it up! I will be perfectly honest – the place at the top of my list was the Lakewood Food Truck Park, where a truck I’d been stalking on Instagram for quite some time, the Ridges Churro Bar truck, would be parked that night. So I planned my day around being able to get to the churro truck in the evening with enough time left to get to LAX for my flight. And below is how I did it!

Los Angeles, as seen from Griffith Observatory

First Stop – The Haunted Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles

You didn’t think I’d miss a chance to swing by the infamous Cecil Hotel, did you? Those of you interested in the paranormal likely already know about this place, but for everyone else, here’s a quick synopsis – this hotel is old, in the Skid Row area of downtown LA, has seen no less than 16 murders and suicides, was a brief home to two serial killers, and is reportedly one of the last places that Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, was seen before her murder. Yikes.

I made this my first stop because I wanted to be there during daylight, business hours. The Skid Row section of downtown LA is known for its large population of homeless people, crime, and rundown buildings. It was very sobering to drive through this area – you desperately want to get out of your car and give anything you have to these people. It is still downtown LA though and you also have professionals in suits walking around too. It was a strange and sad dichotomy.

I knew ahead of time that the Cecil was not in an overly safe part of town so I was only intending to drive by, take some pictures, and leave. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been sensitive to spirits for as long as I can remember. I am also very sensitive to different energies to the point where I sometimes cannot be in a location because the energy is so negative that I physically cannot be there without getting sick or empathically feeling horribly sad or angry feelings that drain my energy to the point where I can’t stand up. The Cecil Hotel is one of these places.

The Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles

As I got to within about two blocks of the building, my hands started to shake and sweat, my heart started racing, and my head started to pound with a horribly painful headache. As I approached the hotel, the pain intensified and my mind felt like it was swirling with thoughts from dozens of people that I couldn’t keep straight. It was unsettling, to say the least. As I pulled up in front of the hotel, I discovered there was nowhere to pull over and take a picture so I drove up a few blocks so I could circle back around. As soon as I got a few blocks away, the pain, shaking, and swirly thoughts went away, almost like someone flipped a switch and shut all of that off. As I circled back and got within a few blocks of the hotel, everything came rushing back and unfortunately I still couldn’t find a place to pull over so I circled back yet again and as soon as I was two blocks away, felt totally normal, then as I approached the hotel for the third time, the sadness and negativity and physical effects came washing over me yet again. This time I managed to pull over and snap the photo above. The Hotel Cecil sign painted on the side is original and a haunting reminder of its violent past. I booked it the heck out of there as soon as I got my picture and sure enough, as soon as I was a few blocks away, I felt totally fine.

I want to be very clear about this place – it has been recently rebranded as the Stay on Main hotel and the pictures of it online actually look pretty nice. Please know that it is located in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles and that neighborhood is not good. If you decide to check out the Cecil, please be very careful, go during daylight, and do not get out of your car. I’m sure the current ownership is doing everything they can to clean the place up but I cannot overstate the negativity that surrounds this place. If you go, please be careful…

Next Stop – The La Brea Tar Pits

In an effort to cleanse myself of the negativity from the Cecil Hotel, I decided to visit an area that could not have been more polar opposite of Skid Row: Beverly Hills and West Hollywood! I had a number of stops to make but the first was the La Brea Tar Pits. I have wanted to go to the tar pits ever since I saw My Girl 2 when Vada and Nick went there and he pretended to throw her mood ring from Thomas J into the tar. I’m not sure what I was expecting, the but tar pits are right on Wilshire Boulevard and smack dab in the middle of a bustling part of the neighborhood. Parking was easy and you can just walk right into the park for free. The main pit was much smaller than I was expecting but it was interesting to see it bubbling. There is a pathway you can walk along to see some of the excavation currently being done in other small pits. Definitely a cool (and free!) stop if you’re in the area and up for something different.

On to Beverly Hills to Satisfy My Bravo-Loving Heart

My name is Emily and I’m a Bravoholic. Watching the terrible reality shows on Bravo is by far my biggest guilty pleasure and it’s my favorite way to decompress from work. Since Beverly Hills was only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the tar pits, I figured I’d take a spin through the Hills and see if I could spot any of my favorite Bravo trainwrecks. I cruised down Santa Monica Boulevard and Robertson Boulevard, eyes peeled for Lisa Vanderpump, Stassi Schroeder, or the Toms but no such luck. I did, however, see SUR, Pump, and TomTom. SUR looked surprisingly small (at least from the outside) and I marveled at how much drama could be crammed into such a tiny building! None of the restaurants had opened yet for the evening, so unfortunately I didn’t get to go inside any of them. Please pardon the very unimpressive photos below – I took them from my car while stopped in traffic. Typical.

Griffith Observatory/Hollywood Sign

A trip to Beverly Hills would not be complete without seeing the nearby Hollywood sign. It was a pretty clear day so I figured my best bet for seeing it was to head up to the Griffith Observatory and in keeping with my tourist vibe, I took the Sunset Boulevard route so I could see the Viper Room (haunted, of course!), and hung a left on Vine so I could cross the famous Hollywood and Vine intersection. You know I was into the tourist thing when I went out of my way to go this route during rush hour, especially given my disdain for traffic and swaths of people.

I hadn’t been up to the observatory for many years so I’d forgotten how beautiful of a drive it is up through the hills. I also forgot how crowded it could be and that you have to park along the side of the road in metered spots and hike quite a ways to get there. But the views when I reached the observatory were stunning and well worth the hike.

Griffith Observatory from the vantage point of my parked car.

I was last at the observatory in college and all I remember was how disappointed I was that I couldn’t see the Hollywood sign through the smog. The sign is right there and you literally couldn’t see it. But not the case this time! It was around 5 in the afternoon so the light was beautiful and the sign was fully visible. Also of note, the Hollywood Sign is reportedly haunted by the spirit of aspiring actress Peg Entwistle, who sadly jumped to her death from the “H” in 1932.

The Hollywood Sign, as seen from Griffith Observatory

I walked around the observatory for about an hour taking in the gorgeous and surprisingly clear views of downtown LA and the Hollywood Hills. As I drove down and out of the hills I unexpectedly encountered another Hollywood icon – the Greek Theater. No idea it was even there but glad I noticed it!


And now for the grand finale! A two hour drive… no, CRAWL, over to Lakewood for the weekly food truck gathering where my beloved Ridges Churro Bar would be parked and churning out the most delightful happy little churro sundaes! I suppose my two hours spent in LA freeway rush hour traffic was probably the most iconic LA thing I witnessed that day. Although not fun, the time spent in the car only served to increase my anticipation of the glorious churros I would soon be feasting on for dinner. And let me tell you – as I pulled up to the food truck gathering, it was one of the most glorious sights I’ve ever seen and it may have brought a tear to my eye. Not only were there churros, but there were tacos, burgers, BBQ, lobster, hot dogs, you name it, there was a truck for it! I was running short on time and my belly only had room for one meal so I settled on the cinnamon sugar churro sundae (although their signature Fruity Pebbles churro sundae was very tempting!). Cinnamon ice cream topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and two homemade churros in it. It was Sit in LA Rush Hour Traffic for Two Hours worth it!

Pure Bliss.

And that, my friends, is how you see the good, the bad, the ugly, the delicious, and the haunted of LA in under 8 hours!

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