A City Trip to Los Angeles, California – Cross Country USA Road Trip (Part 8)

Welcome back to Part 8 of our six week road trip across the United States! In this article, I’ll cover the two days we spent in and around Los Angeles, California. 

We only stayed a single night in Los Angeles but managed to see a lot of the touristy highlights while in town. 

A brief recap of our trip: we set out from our home in Raleigh in early June and made it back home toward the end of July. In total we spent over six weeks (46 nights!!) on the road and drove 8,200 miles. 

Along the way, we visited 14 national parks and a ton of other interesting places. It was quite a busy trip, since we stayed in 25 different airbnbs or hotels and spent more than 100 hours traveling in the van

To cover the whole trip, I am breaking up the trip summary into thirteen separate blog posts.

Here is a table of contents for our whole trip if you want to check out other parts of our journey:

  1. North Carolina to Kansas via West Virginia and St. Louis
  2. Colorado: Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Frisco
  3. Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde National Parks plus Ouray
  4. Utah: Arches National Park and Capitol Reef National Park
  5. Utah: Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park
  6. Arizona: Glen Canyon Dam, the Grand Canyon, and Hoover Dam
  7. A Week in Las Vegas, Nevada
  8. California: Los Angeles and Long Beach
  9. California: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks
  10. Crossing the Desert in Nevada and Utah: Hawthorne and Bonneville Salt Flats
  11. Salt Lake City, Utah and Idaho Falls, Idaho
  12. Yellowstone National Park
  13. Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and National Museum of the US Air Force

Join me for part 8 of our trip across the country as we explore Los Angeles, California and the surrounding area.



Our route from Las Vegas, Nevada to Los Angeles, California and onwards to Bakersfield, California


Los Angeles

After we wrapped up our week-long stay in Las Vegas, we continued west toward our next stop on the road trip. We booked a one night stay at the Hilton next to the airport in Los Angeles for the night. 


Maybe I’m a transportation nerd, but this is pretty cool. The starting point, exit #1, on Interstate 40 in Barstow, California. The road stretches for 2,000+ miles across the USA and ends near the beach in Wilmington, North Carolina. And I’ve lived within a few miles of Interstate 40 almost my entire life so it’s a special road to me.


On the drive west through the greater LA area, we were amazed at the extent of the urban sprawl in the metro area. Looking at the GPS, it seemed like we were almost there since there were so many criss-crossing freeways all over the map. However, we still had over 60 miles of freeways to traverse until we arrived at our first stop in Long Beach! 

Fortunately we were in Los Angeles on the Fourth of July, a holiday, so the traffic jams were minimal on our drive into town. We only had to stop completely one time for a few seconds before traffic continued on. However, traffic volumes were still very high in spite of the holiday weekend. I’ve never seen so many cars driving 70-80 mph so close together!


Long Beach

After an hour and twenty minutes of the I-5, the I-210, the I-605, and finally SR-91, we made it to Cherry Avenue which brought us to the first of several stops in the Long Beach area. 

First, we visited Mrs. Root of Good’s grandma’s burial vault to pay our respects. Most of her distant family ended up in Long Beach after escaping from Cambodia as refugees back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

We tried to go shopping at the Cambodian grocery store in Little Cambodia but they were closed due to the Fourth of July holiday. Same story at the banh mi place we had carefully selected prior to arriving in town – “closed for the 4th!”. 

Still hungry, we visited a Cambodian donut shop in Long Beach proper. For some strange reason, Cambodians run most of the donut shops in the area. They have even spread their donut-craft to the Raleigh area with the Baker’s Dozen donut shops (best donuts in town, FYI). 

We bought way too many donuts and smoothies and enjoyed those for “lunch”. Long Beach, like many places, is changing. We watched as the donut shop’s private security guard strapped up with a few clips full of bullets and his firearm to defend the shop from whatever bad elements come out at night. Meanwhile, young gentrifiers splashed and played carelessly at a pool party in a million dollar home next door to the donut shop. 


Cambodian donut shop in Long Beach, California



Hilton for the Fireworks

We picked the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel for its high rise tower. Our goal was to get on a high floor facing the Los Angeles valley floor so we could watch a million people shoot off fireworks across the entire city. 

We lucked out with our Hilton Gold elite status. Free upgrade! They put us in the “penthouse suite” which was really just a 2 bed corner room on the top floor (but penthouse suite sounds really fancy). The room looked out to the north toward Beverly Hills and to the west toward the airport. We still got a nice view of the fireworks. Maybe the view looking straight east would have been better, but what we saw was pretty spectacular! 

We enjoyed some free chicken wings and chocolate cake courtesy of my Hilton Gold Elite status while we watched the fireworks for a few hours. 


Fireworks over LA. The view in person looked a lot better than this dark pic!



Touring Los Angeles

When we woke up in the Hilton, we packed up and headed out for a day of exploring Los Angeles. Our next hotel was in Bakersfield, so we had a couple hours of driving after we left Los Angeles.  

But before we headed out of town, we had a lot of places to visit on our itinerary. As we left the Hilton, we drove north through the Inglewood Oil Field to get to downtown LA. How cool is that? An oilfield in the middle of the city! 

Our first stop of the day was in Chinatown near downtown. We grabbed some banh mi’s from the My Dung sandwich shop for our picnic lunch later in the day.


My Dung Sandwich Shop in Chinatown. Good eats!


Great banh mi sandwiches. Only $4-5 each including tax.


Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills

After that we drove into the Hollywood hills to check out these quirky ritzy neighborhoods hugging the hillside. And of course as good tourists to Los Angeles we had to get a good look at the Hollywood sign! We drove up the winding road to the Hollywood Reservoir trailhead parking lot and enjoyed our banh mi picnic lunch underneath some shady trees. 


The Hollywood Reservoir . We parked, had lunch, and walked around the reservoir a bit. The famous “HOLLYWOOD” sign is visible on the hillside across the water.


Nice windy roads skirting up the hillside here in the Hollywood hills.

Having checked the box on seeing the Hollywood sign, we continued on our way west. Our next destination was a drive along Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive through Beverly Hills. Lots of fancy boutiques with lines of folks out the door and around the corner. We laughed and kept on driving west toward the Pacific Ocean.


Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills



The Pacific Ocean and onward to Bakersfield, California 

The goal was to drive up California Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway and then cut back to the east at some point and end up in Bakersfield. After about 30 minutes of stop and go traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway, we decided to pull over, take in the views of the Pacific, and do a u-turn and get outta LA. The traffic was unbearable and the beaches and waterfront were mostly unremarkable.


Killer traffic on Pacific Coast Highway just north of Los Angeles


I guess they’re nice compared to the urban jungle of Los Angeles itself but when you’ve been to most of the Caribbean islands (like the Bahamas) you get picky about beaches and natural beauty. I’m assuming all the traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway was due to it being the Fourth of July holiday weekend. 


It’s definitely a pretty view. But too busy for us.


Our whirlwind tour through Los Angeles was complete. So we set the GPS to navigate us to the Four Points Bakersfield hotel and headed north. We got caught in another inexplicable traffic jam on the I-5 freeway for an hour or two in the middle of nowhere. Just a lot of cars going home from a holiday weekend I guess? 

Tired but fulfilled, we arrived at our Bakersfield hotel right after dark. The next morning we woke up and headed out for Sequoia National Park! 




From Las Vegas, we headed west and visited Los Angeles and the surrounding area. It was a whirlwind visit lasting just two days, but we saw a lot. 

The first day we visited Little Cambodia in Long Beach where we enjoyed Cambodian donuts. Then we headed on to our hotel where we watched the Fourth of July Fireworks over the city of Los Angeles. 

The next day we visited Chinatown and got some banh mi sandwiches. We headed up the Hollywood Hills to see the Hollywood sign and enjoy a picnic lunch. Then we headed west out of town toward the ocean, stopping by Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on the way.

The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway was clogged with traffic so we enjoyed the view of the ocean for a while then got out of town and went to our next destination in Bakersfield, California.

Los Angeles looks like a fun city with a lot to do, so maybe we’ll go back at some point!  


Los Angeles! So much to love but such a short visit for us. What’s your impression of Los Angeles?


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    1. I watched “The donut King” (on an airplane of all places) kind of an incredible story and a bit sad (although I missed the last few minutes because we landed haha), so it is not just for a strange reason that so many Cambodians own donut shops…

  1. I know what you mean about Route 40; I’ve lived almost my entire life within a few miles of US 1 (in Maryland and South Carolina). It would be wonderful sometime to spend a summer week in Maine and a winter week in the Keys visiting the endpoints. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Well welcome neighbor! I’ve also spent almost all of my life living within a mile or less of US 1! Currently can see the traffic signals on US 1 <0.5 miles away when I go into the backyard and look over the lake where the trees are thinner.

      And it's fun to randomly run into US 1 on our drives up north or down to Miami. We had to take a loooooong detour through Daytona Beach in Florida on the drive home and ended up on US 1 for a while. We could have just followed it 600 more miles north then taken a left and we'd be home!

      1. Cheers! Our home of eleven years shares a block with the road; we’re half a dozen houses (and a pupuseria) from the intersection. I’ve never touched on it that far south — past Columbia and Lexington, it wends through locations I’ve yet to have reason to visit — but it sure beats I-95 for local flavor.

  2. I lived in Southern California in the early 1980’s.
    It was too crowded then and I am sure it must be more crowded now.
    Interesting place to visit but I would not want to live there.

  3. “Most of her distant family ended up in Long Beach after escaping from Cambodia as refugees back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.”

    Wow. Had no idea. Very interesting perspective on L.A. I was never a big fan of L.A. Love the weather and have family there but the city is not my kind of city.

    Glad you guys had fun!

    1. I think she’s only been to LA twice now (once as kid, once this past summer) so not really any big ties to the area other than most of the extended family being there. Interesting to see where “the other half” of her family lives!

      Agree on your take on LA – decent weather but not my kind of city. Most of her family are amazed when they come out to NC. How nice and green and clean and friendly and peaceful it is 🙂

    1. Yes, a credit card. I think the Hilton Amex Business card. Through the pandemic they’ve extended status several times and I think my status started back in October 2018 when I applied for that card!

    1. Oh, wow. It was totally jammed up. I guess it gets like that in North Carolina and elsewhere near the beach occasionally. Specifically Saturday and Sunday mid-day when all the weekly rentals turn over and everyone is leaving and trying to get onto the islands simultaneously (and there’s only 1 bridge from the mainland to the islands!!).

  4. Having done this trip in the past – it’s great! Keep going from Vegas into the West – Arizona, Utah, even all they way to Wyoming and Montana. It’s all beatiful.

  5. You are definitely a transportation nerd! Too bad you got out of the business, seems like there is plenty of work to be done after the latest bridge collapse…

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