My apologies for not posting for a while – was on vacation in Los Angeles and decided to not take any of my laptops to get a fresh break from things. I’m back at it now though and will try to do multiple posts this week to make up for not writing (because I know how bad my writing can get if I don’t write for a while).

While in Los Angeles, I did quite a few things with my girlfriend including:

  • Eating hand rolls at Kazu Nori (awesome hand rolls)
  • Visiting China Town, Little Tokyo (multiple times) and Korea Town and eating at restaurants at each place
  • Going to Disneyland twice (two different parks) and experiencing an awesome Halloween experience
  • Going to Universal Studios and realizing how different it is to Disney (more on this later)
  • Experiencing the glories of downtown LA and what I think are homeless people antics (experiencing a partial fight on the Metro, seeing people yell at each other across the street, seeing a woman dig around in the garbage to break bottles, watching a man run in front of me to pick up a bottle and break it on the sidewalk (for a very brief second, I thought he was breaking it into a weapon)

In short, I had an incredible time getting away from things and bringing out the kid in me. I thought I’d start by exploring some of the interesting differences between Disney and Universal Studios:

At Disney, the experience is much more streamlined and designed to be fair compared to Universal Studios (in terms of access to rides)

At Disney, everyone gets access to something called FastPass – which is a way of getting to near the front of any ride line. For $10 USD per guest, you can get access to it on your phone which is a really convenient way of not having to visit the FastPass distribution areas (you have to go to the rides to get a FastPass ticket, which then tells you when you can come back to access the FastPass lane). I didn’t physically go to the rides and decided to do everything through the Disney app but found the FastPass to be easy to use once I got the hang of it.

At Universal, you pay an extra $60 USD to get into the express line. Judging from the lines (and I didn’t pay for the express pass), not very many people pay for the express access and at Universal, the line ups can be really long which makes the experience not as great as Disney.

Getting to Disney and Universal early is crucial

Getting their early means you can get on to 1, maybe 2 or 3 rides even with minimal wait times. Past 10 – 11, you start to experience longer and longer waits, especially for the more popular rides so it is key to get to the most popular rides first (do your research online ahead of time) and then when the waits get crazy, use your FastPass. The Express access is a ‘pay-to-win’ type model – you can get unlimited express access or express access for every ride once although in my experience, I think you can experience most of the rides at Universal Studios without getting express access.

Disneyland is geared towards kids, Universal is more geared towards adults

This is not only obvious in the rides but in the character actors that are throughout the park. The characters at Disney certainly stay in character – for example, I met Rey from Star Wars who pretended to have no idea where Canada is when she asked where we were from but thought that we took a long trip to visit her and that we could have a good race with her and Poe Dameron. I didn’t get to interact with many characters at Universal Studios aside from some Transformers but more of the conversation and humour was directed at the adults when I did.

Both parks have excellent customer service

The attendants at both parks really go out of their way to ensure a world class experience for guests. Attendants dress up, get into character when appropriate, make sure that guests are getting into and out of rides quickly and make sure that all guests are safe and enjoying themselves.

My favourite rides were at Disney – Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Toy Story Mania Ride

Both rides are interactive in the sense that you have guns and you shoot at things as you go through the rides. The Buzz Lightyear ride used laser guns and the Toy Story ride used 3D glasses to simulate you shooting at things on screens. I think that if I could only go on a few rides, those would be at least two of my top ones.

Okay, enough about Disney vs. Universal Studios – I want to now talk about a few things that I learned while roaming around Los Angeles and some lessons:

  • Bring cash – some places only accept cash (for example, a ramen place we wanted to go to only accepted cash so we had to go to the ATM)
  • AirBnB can be a hit or miss even with great reviews and ratings – the first place we went to was a guest house near Disney and it was great; the second place we went to was a loft in downtown LA and while the location was okay (near skidrow no less), there were towels strewn about in the shower and bed linens piled up on the bed. We had no idea what was going on – did the last guest just leave it like that with the cleaner not having gotten around to cleaning it up? Was the host just negligent?
  • Visit some of the more ‘dangerous’ areas early in the day – although nothing happened, there were visibly more sketchy people around at night in some areas which you should probably avoid, not because something will happen but just in case something does happen
  • Plan things out well in advance – this goes without saying for most trips but there are a lot of events that you need to book tickets for in advance or that you need to plan ahead. We went to The Broad for instance and made sure to visit the Infinity Room – all of this was free but booking in advance means that you make the most of your time there.
  • Prepare to wait for everything good – while in LA, I think most of our time was spent waiting in line. We waited in line to get into Disney, waited in line to get into good restaurants, waited in line to visit different exhibits – I think that’s a sign that you’re onto something good but at the same time, I’m sure that other restaurants are just as good (I supposed you don’t have a choice with art exhibits or rides at Disney).
  • Don’t fall for the CD scam like I did – while on Hollywood, people come up to you and hand you CDs then ask for a donation. If they hand you a CD, refuse to give them any money and walk away. If you have the CD in hand for whatever reason, just hand it back to them – if they do not take it, put it at their feet and walk away.

Overall, I found that LA was just as expensive, if not more expensive – groceries for instance are the same price as Canada (but in US dollars), food was quite a bit more expensive (for the same reason, a meal might cost $50 USD and the same meal in Canada may also cost $50 CAD). The food was great – reminded me of Vancouver in terms of diversity and pockets of great restaurants everywhere. People were quite friendly though I didn’t talk to anyone homeless. The transit system was quite handy in helping us get around, though not as ubiquitous as we would like. I would love to see how the rich people live the next time I’m there.