WOW! Los Angeles, CA was a whirl wind tour! There is so much that we wanted to do and we fit it all in but now we are exhausted! We are looking forward to chilling in Sequoia NP.
I’m going to break this week’s adventures up in to two separate blogs. The first one will have all the Hollywood highlights and the second one will be our amusement park marathon.
We changed our plans and left San Diego early because I was able to get us tickets to the Wheel of Fortune taping in Los Angles on Friday. You know, when in LA you must go to a TV taping to get the full Hollywood experience! We chose Wheel of Fortune for several reasons; it’s the longest running game show in America history, they just celebrated their 35th year , I grew up watching the Wheel of Fortune with my grandmother and when the girls were old enough they watched it with her whenever we visited her and because they allow children older than 8 yrs old to attend. Not many show tapings allow children under the age of 16.
The tickets are free, you just have to register online and then call 7 days before hand to confirm your seats. The seats are first come first serve. I didn’t research this until a week before when we are in San Diego but we lucked out with there still be availability. I’m sure during the summer vacation months you have to plan way in advance.
The taping was on a Friday, they only tape 3 days a week. We hadn’t planned to drive to LA until Saturday, our normal moving day but I had to make it work. I called the the RV site we had booked in LA and asked if we could add two extra nights, and luckily they had it empty for those two nights. However we didn’t get our money back from the spot we were in San Diego. Chris was sweet to move us on Thursday night after his day of work, it was a short trip, only 2 hours, but driving a 43ft motorhome with a tow (60ft total) through LA traffic is not the easiest thing.
We arrived in Anaheim, CA at our spot at Orangeland RV park at 6:00pm. After the checking in, we discovered this RV park was once an Orange grove with Orange, lemon, lime and Grapefruit trees still on the property and we can pick as many as we wanted. The girls picked some Oranges, Grapefruits and Lemons while we parked and hooked up. It was a tight spot, we had an escort and still came within inches of this little white car. Mackenzie made fresh squeezed orange juice for us Saturday morning and the girls both made homemade lemon Italian ice one day.
Then we headed directly to Downtown Disney (this one in CA is still called Downtown Disney vs the Orlando one is now called Disney Springs) for dinner and desert. We ate at Catal at an outside table and really enjoyed it. They came around and took pictures of us at the table and gave us a free postcard. After watching Caramel apples being made through the window, at Marceline’s Confectionery, Abby and I had to get one. Chris and Mackenzie opted for the Haagan Daz ice cream for desert. Of course, we visited the Lego store on the way out.
The girls and I left early on Friday morning and headed up to Culver City and Beverly Hills. Because we were staying in Anaheim, it took us an hour to get there. LA traffic is no joke! After the first day I already decided I would never want to live here. San Diego was bad but this is worse. On the way home it took us 2 hours!
I planned to drive up early so we could have lunch in Beverly Hills and window shop on Rodeo Drive before our taping at 3:00pm.
I also had a surprise for the girls… the cupcake ATM they had seen in a video once and thought was the coolest thing was on Santa Monica Blvd which intersects with Rodeo Drive so after lunch we had dessert.
We parked and enjoyed a few hours walking around.
We walked into Yves Saint Laurent so I could show them how there are one of kind pieces hanging and the prices of the shoes and handbags. I left the store with enough time to walk back to our car and get to Sony Pictures in time so we could get checked in and get a good seat. Well… as we were walking out of the store and Mackenzie got stung by a bee. This set us back a bit because I had to go back into the store and ask if they had tweezers in a first aid kit so I could try to pull the stinger out. Can you picture the look on this Rodeo drive store associate when I asked him for a first aid kit? Well, it was priceless! He was able to retrieve the kit and their were tweezers in there. Now picture Mackenzie leaning over a glass case of $2000.00 purses and me moving a small black cocktail purse made of feathers with a price tag of $1200 over so I can have room to open the kit and find an alcohol wipe to clean plastic blue tweezers all while this 30 something all dressed in black stands quietly over us. I joke that he probably doesn’t see this everyday and he chuckles uneasily. In the background as I over hear a conversation between a couple picking out a purse and who is going to pay for it while I carefully pull out the stinger. Needless to say, we were running behind on getting to the sound studio. And of course it was now 2:15 and traffic was thicker.
The Wheel of Fortune Taping
The taping was at Sony Studios on sound stage 11, we arrived right at 2:30, which was the cut off. We had to find and run back to sound stage on our own. We slid in the door right at the last moment, huffing and puffing. There was a long line of audience members waiting to be seated. We were looking around at the memorabilia when a lady walked up to us and said follow me please. We looked at each other and were trying to figure out where she was taking us. I figured they were going to seat the last row of the audience first but NO… she sat us in the front row! Could if have been because Abby and Mackenzie were the only children and they’d be able to see better, could it have been that we were dressed up complete with Mackenzie wearing a tiara, or could it have been because my grandmother told me years ago to sign up on the Wheel of Fortune to become a VIP member so she could watch for our winning code each night and we had special wristbands that were colored different that indicated this? I’ll never know but we are grateful because it made for a great experience. We are there for three tapings from 3:00pm-6:00pm. The producer, Jim Thornton, talked to the girls all day and before we left he gave the girls an autographed copy of his daily joke script he uses to keep the audience entertained during taping breaks.
The employees that help keep the audience engaged and clapping doded on the girls the whole time. They were the only ones chosen to do the job of holding the applause cards. At the beginning they ask everyone to put their phones away because photos and video’s are prohibited, but when the girls were picked to do the audience cards and stand up to ask Vanna White a question, he said “Mom, you can record this.” You know I lit up with excitement!
On the drive up to Culver City, I told the girls all about the history of the Wheel of Fortune and went over some trivia facts. This came in handy because during the 10 minute taping breaks (enough time for Vanna and Pat to change clothes) Jim Thorton told jokes and asked trivia questions. You could win small prizes for getting them right. The girls were on fire, they won blinking wheel of fortune pins, t-shirts and autographed one dollar bills. It was like we were the stars of the Wheel of Fortune audience. We learned all the behind the scenes tricks and camera work for this great show. This is something the girls will never forget.
Check out the Youtube video from our Wheel of Fortune taping experience.
Did you know Vanna White has never worn the same dress twice? That’s 6,000 dresses!
Finding the Hollywood Sign
On Saturday the whole family headed out in search of the Hollywood sign, to Hollywood Blvd and to tour the Warner Bro’s studio. We bought the LA 3 day Go Pass that includes the Warner Bros studio tour, Universal studios, Queen Mary, the La Brea tar pits, Santa Monica Pier and Knott’s Berry Farm. This saved us some money but we had to plan our day well and they were long days.
Finding the best spot to take a picture with the Hollywood sign wasn’t easy, it took some research and walking but we did it. As it turns out you can not walk right up to the sign anymore because as usual there are people on this planet that don’t respect public property and like to deface it so now there is an electric fence, security cameras and park rangers all around it. If you want to get a picture with it, this is what you have to do. Drive to Lake Hollywood Park on Canyon Lake Drive and park along the side of the street. This is the shot you will get.
I wanted to get closer and remembered seeing someone’s blog that said you could walk around the bend and get closer. So we tried it. We walked around the corner on the sidewalk up Mulholland Hwy and get a closer shot.
I liked these but I wanted to see if I could get closer. There is a residential neighbor right beyond this point that we took this picture, we were on foot and had our sneakers on so we set out on a hike. We used GPS and saw that there was a hiking trail that looped all around so we walked through the neighborhood looking for the trail head. We would have missed it if there had not been a couple walking their dog and walked out of mysterious tunnel of brush. We headed back there like we knew what we lived there and found the trail. There was a big group of girls there taking pictures and they offered to take ours because they were going to be while. So they set us up and snapped a few, they were so sweet. We enjoyed our hike.
Hollywood Blvd, Walk of Stars, The Chinese Theater
Next we headed to Hollywood Blvd, we parked in a parking garage and walked right out onto Hollywood Blvd. There is an outside mall where we ate at California Pizza Kitchen while we looked out at the Hollywood sign on top of Mt. Lee.
The Chinese Theater was right next to where we walked out so we spent some time looking at all the hand and foot prints in the cement. Favorites included, the Harry Potter and Star Wars casts.
Madame Tussauds wax museum is right next door but we did not go in, we just checked out the ones on display for free.
The girls love BubbleBee from Transformers (we watched the series of movies this week) so we got a picture with a street performer dressed as Bubble Bee. Later in the week, at Universal, we actually got to interact with the real Bubble Bee (he he) .
There are so many street performers and actor look alike all along Hollywood Blvd.
Next, we walked along looking at all the stars in the sidewalk. We were actually looking for Pat Sayjak and Vanna White’s star but never found them. Here is a sampling of our favorites we saw. We thought winter on Hollywood blvd would not be that busy- WRONG! I guess this place is always crowded.
We got a picture on the corner of the real Hollywood and Vine, not the one in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park that we have seen many times.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
We headed to Warner Bros studios to take our tour. Two weeks ago we watched the Jurassic Park series of movies in preparation of movie studio tours and our upcoming trip to Hawaii. It was a guided tour on a large golf cart and since it was a weekend there was no one working which is nice because we got to see more things, like the sound stage for one of Chris and I’s favorite shows; Big Bang Theory. We were not allow to take pictures inside there. I loved learning our they record audiences reactions and how they will tweak their jokes if they don’t get the reaction from them as they had hoped and do another take. It takes a whole week to film one episode.
We were able to go inside a sound stage that houses the Batmobiles, Wonder Women props, original comic books on display, Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts props. There is even the ever famous sorting hat from Harry Potter. Abby was not happy it sorted her into Gryffindor because she relates to Huffle Puff. Chris was wearing a Gryffindor shirt.
The tour guide let’s you hop on and off the golf cart to take pictures and show you how the shows and movies are transformed onto screen. I highly recommend this tour. At the end you get to sit in on an demonstration how they add sound to productions. There is an opportunity to sit on the couch on the set of Friends as well.
We asked why Universal has the Harry Potter world at their parks if it was a Warner Bros Production. She said it’s because they don’t have an amusement park so Universal just pays them royalties. We took the Universal Studios tour at Universal but that will be covered in our next post on the amusement park marathon.
La Brea Tar Pits
‘La Brea’ in Spanish means ‘the tar’ so it’s literally a redundant name of this fascinating area in the middle of urban Los Angeles. In this park natural asphalt has bubbled up from below the ground’s surface since the last Ice Age. The parking lot charges $15 for a space near the park but I’m sure you can find cheaper parking and walk. This allows you to walk around the 23 acres and see the active tar bubbling up. There is a museum that I highly recommend, it was included in our LA Gopass. If you are going it is $15 for Adults and $7 for children.
More than 3.5 million fossils have been uncovered here, which is the world’s largest collection of Ice Age fossils. The sticky asphalt is a really great preservative, it’s hard to get off but the fossils look just like they did when they were stuck in the pit. Scientist have also discovered 200 new microorganisms in the tar pits.
We came home and watched ‘Volcano’ where the La Brea Tar Pits spew magma and the lava attempts to destroy the whole city.
The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner, is docked in Long Beach, California. Queen Mary set sail in May 1936 and was a transatlantic passenger ship. With the outbreak of the WWII she was converted into a troopship and ferried soldiers for the duration of the war. Following the war, Queen Mary was used for transatlantic passenger service again and it dominated the market until the airplane took over in the late 1950’s. By the 1960’s, Queen Mary was retired in 1967.
Chris’s grandfather, Ray Adams, came back from the war on this ship in August 1945. It carried 400,000 soldiers back from WWII! Grandpa Ray is no longer alive but we carried a picture of him with us on the tour of the ship.
Included in the ticket you could chose one of three guided tours or an exhibit. We chose the evening ghost tour because it is the most haunted ships in the world! There are so many unique ghost stories, one was about a little girl that drowned on the ship so they have the pool closed off indefinitely. The second level is the most haunted. We did not see any on our tour but we may have heard something (see the video below). I also thought I felt something when just the 4 of us were in the boiler room before the ghost tour. You can spend the night on the ship now and they even have a 3 am ghost tour where apparently the real action happens. The have a room that constantly is being reported with ghost that they just made available to the public again after being shut down for a few years. This ship has been studied and featured on many shows.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is also located in Long Beach, about a mile from the Queen Mary. The Aquarium focuses on the Pacific Ocean. The Aquarium is 5 acres and has three major permanent galleries, Southern California and Baja, the waters of the Northern Pacific and the reefs of the Tropical Pacific.
Luckily it was an amazingly beautiful day because this Aquarium is mostly outside. They have a fun workbook for the kids to do a little scavenger hunt to keep them engaged.
Super Blue Blood Moon
On January 31, 2018 the full moon is special for three reasons: it’s the third in a series of “supermoons,” when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit — known as perigee — and about 14 percent brighter than usual. It’s also the second full moon of the month, commonly known as a “blue moon.” The super blue moon will pass through Earth’s shadow to give viewers in the right location a total lunar eclipse. While the Moon is in the Earth’s shadow it will take on a reddish tint, known as a “blood moon.” (nasa.gov)
Monday night we went to see Death Cure. Abby finished ready this series months ago and has been waiting for this movie to come out, I have also:) I had a little tooth ache so I found a dentist to fit me today, so I took care of that before the movie. Turns out I have a crack in one of my molars from an old cavity so he gave me antibiotics to clear up the infection. As I drove up to the movie theater I looked to my left and saw 3 rows of tents and blanket tents set up. I asked the ticket taker inside what the story was and she said they were homeless. I asked why they camp there and if it was a permanent solution for them. She explained its county property next to the freeway and people have tried to help them find jobs and places to live but they like to live there and not work. More and more people are settling there. She’s not sure what the county is going to do about it. She said it’s the numbers are like Skid Row. We have seen so many homeless people in San Diego and Los Angeles. I just read an article in the New York Times from December 2017 that says 1/4 of the countries “unsheltered” (the PC word for homeless) people live in California.
Pool, Beach and Valentine’s gift from Grandma
On Tuesday we drove up to Newport Beach in the morning and park at Balboa Peninsula Park. The beach was so dirty and smelled. We did not like it. I asked a mom that showed up shortly after us and camped out near us if they was normal and she said, “Pretty Much.” I’m telling you, we are just spoiled with have the gulf coast beaches so close to us; they truly are the world’s most beautiful beaches. There was a playground on the beach so the girls played for a bit. We walked near the pier and watched the men reinforce the pilings with a tube and concert. There were several homeless men camped under the pier. I would not recommend this beach.