From riding the roller coaster at Santa Monica Pier and eating food truck tacos to celebrity sightings, our second free day in Los Angeles could not have been more enchanting and eventful.
The day started off bright and early with a trip to Santa Monica, where the group had three hours to roam free. We started off by walking the boardwalk and taking more photos than necessary.
Once the rides opened, I ended up riding the West Coaster with some classmates. While I would never pay $10 for a roller coaster at a regular amusement park, I figured this one was special. It turned out to be worth it because we got to ride it twice! Although it was not the best coaster I have ever been on, it was amusing hearing the group scream and laugh as the wind blew through our hair and sudden drops and accelerations tickled our stomachs. After the coaster, I split off from the group who had reconvened with one other girl, Cassie. The others were standing around with nothing to do in mind, and this does not go over well with me—if I am in a new place, I want to be exploring!
Cassie and I strolled onto the beach, dipped our toes into the Pacific Ocean and then headed up to the street to find a spot for lunch. We settled on a charming brunch place, where Cassie got a burger, and I patently waited to get some nice food truck tacos. After Cassie ate, I got a steak taco and a shrimp taco, and they were unexpectedly delicious.
I was eating my tacos on a bench with Cassie overlooking the beach and ocean, when suddenly a man walking his dog passed us and pointed out a guy he believed to be Mathew McConaughey. It really did resemble him from the back and he has been photographed in this location many times before, but I was unable to get a view of his face. I guess we will never know!
From the beautiful beach town of Santa Monica, we bussed to the hills of Hollywood to visit the Griffith Observatory. The observatory gives striking views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign, and on a clear day, of the Pacific Ocean. There are also space exhibits and artifacts as well as a planetarium, which most of the group bought a ticket to.
Once we got many photos from the top of the observatory, though, Cassie and I had a different plan. We found a long and winding upward trail and took it as far as we could within the one-and-a-half-hour time frame we had. This was by far the best decision of the day. Not only did we get much closer views of the Hollywood Sign (pictures do not do it justice), we could see even further than we could from the observatory, and the nature aspect was stunning.
It quite reminded me of the landscape from the Stirling Range in Australia: the hills were rolling green until they turned into mountains in the distance, with brown dirt paths. Steeper walkways off the main route climbed through unique green plants and bright flowers, giving our feet a test with rocks jutting out in opposing angles.
Once we climbed down from seemingly a slice of heaven, we met with the group and bussed to our final stop of the night: Melrose Ave. This is where we would see a Boogie Sunday show at the Groundlings, a sketch comedy and improv theater and school that has helped drive some of the biggest names in the comedic world: Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, Lisa Kudrow and more.
We walked the street before settling on a bar for some munchies, and then headed to Cold Rolled Ice Cream. I have never been so thrilled about ice cream, but I also have never had my name written into ice cream with chocolate or the outside shell of a toasted marshmallow filled with whipped cream, so my astonishment was acceptable.
Finally, to end the night, we got some amazingly good laughs at the comedy show, and even a spot of a celebrity among us: the lead singer from Walk the Moon, Nicholas Petricca.
The two days of free fun have now ended, and we have five days full of meetings to look forward to. However, I don’t think that means the magic will stop.