I’ve been to Los Angeles a few times before, mainly for the super touristy adventures of theme parks and beaches, but I never was enamoured with the city in the same way some of my friends are. It’s sprawling and dense, busy, overpopulated, and always felt a little fake. Needless to say, it’s been very low on my list of places to re-visit so when I made a relatively impulse decision to go on a short getaway, LA was somewhat of a begrudged choice of destination.

Developing a serious case of cabin fever and a need to get out of Vancouver for at least a couple days, I searched high and low for cheap airfares to anywhere I hadn’t been before. I didn’t care if it was somewhere in remote BC, but the best deal I could find was $300 for flights to Victoria, via Calgary (for context, Victoria is about 100km SW of Vancouver, Calgary is almost 700km’s east!). And then I stumbled across direct flights to LA for about $200 return, which is a decent price.

So with that, it was time to research fun things to do in Los Angeles that can be done in a weekend, and to hopefully change my long held belief that LA sucks. And to make the challenge even harder, I’d be getting around exclusively by public transit, and I was trying to keep things as cheap as possible.

The science geek in me got pretty excited to discover that the California Science Center has the NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour on display, so obviously that immediately rose to the top of my list of things to see. It was also free (!) to visit the museum, except for the $2.50 fee to see the Space Shuttle, to help pay for a permanent exhibit structure for the shuttle. It’s an incredible sight to see, and the trip definitely peaked early with this visit being pretty much the first thing I did.

Getting in a bit of culture, Olvera St is the historic first street in Los Angeles with a little Mexican market with lots of Mexican food stalls as well. Echo Park provided an oasis of a man-made lake surrounded by palm trees to offset the noisy and fast-paced life of LA in general.Sunset Boulevard was the usual frenzy of trinket shops and tourists, made all the worse by the set up for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere, and was avoided as much as possible.

As always LA was host to plenty of nightlife, and I opted for the Viper Room to catch a performance by Punk Rock Karaoke, a show that sounded super fun in theory, but was more a shambles of self-obsessed nobodies trying to sing in front of aging rock stars whose best days were behind them.

Runyon Canyon was also a special part of the trip, a short and relatively easy hike up the Hollywood Hills for great views across the vast city. Even for a mid-winter morning, the temperature was warm, turning the hike into a sweaty mission. Highly recommended.

Not so highly recommended: Catching public transit from Hollywood to LAX airport. I had several hours to kill, and a all-day unlimited transit pass, so it seemed like a great idea for a guy who enjoys experiencing a city like the locals. But transferring buses in a sketchy neighbourhood at sundown turned out to be a terrible idea. Threatened with what may or may not have been a gun or knife (I didn’t stick around long enough to find out) my adventure through LA was apparently a pretty bad idea.

All in all, an interesting and activity-packed weekend.

Below is a short video of some of the fun things to do while in Los Angeles: