15 Places in L.A. the True Tita Will Love

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan," sings Miley Cyrus. The song kept replaying inside my head during our 15-hour flight.

universal studios hollywood
When it comes to traveling to the United States, if you’re a Filipino and you have relatives living in America, there’s a big fat chance you’ll be spending quite some time in California. In our case, it’s Los Angeles.

What makes this vacation different from when you visit other countries is that you don’t need to worry about itinerary - your relatives mostly do that for you. And if you surpassed the two-hour long queue at the immigration in LAX (and the interrogation of why you’re in the Land of the Free and if you’re bringing in chicharon or balut), congratulations – you’ve finally come to America.

Visiting L.A. for the second time (and being with my mother and REAL aunts who are nearing their big 60), I noticed a pattern as to where the true Tita (and Tita at heart) will find herself enjoying her time under the sunny California weather.

The ultimate tita itinerary should fall under these categories where you can find (1) cheap and discount shopping, (2) trolley tours allowing the titas to sit for an hour or so (with occasional naps because jet lag is real), and (3) well-known places where they can have their photos taken like 20 times on the same spot, same pose, and same smile all to be uploaded on their Facebook account in one go.

So if you’re a true tita and if you see yourself becoming one, here are 15 places in Los Angeles you will ultimately love!

1. Universal Studios Hollywood

If the kids’ happiest place on earth is Disneyland, I would say Universal Studios Hollywood is the happiest place for titas. And I mean both the genuine tita and the #TitasOfManila. I guess this is the reason why I didn’t enjoy the one in Osaka because Universal Studios in Hollywood is on another level. Starting from the long strip of Universal CityWalk filled with shops, restaurants, and eye-catching screens, you can already feel that you are indeed in the Entertainment Capital of the World.

Sure, you get the usual theme park rides, plus the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which feels really odd when you hear the wizards speak in Japanese at the Osaka theme park), but what sets USH apart is their backlot studio tour.

metal globe, fountain, hollywood
theme park schedule
entrance to backlot
trolley tour
trolley tours, disasters
boat ride at theme park
theme park at universal studios

You ride a trolley for an hour as you go through the entire four acres of real working movie studio. We’ve seen the set-up for Jaws, Bates Motel, Psycho, and behind the scenes of many Hollywood superhero films. What I enjoyed the most is the part where we got into a subway set complete with earthquake, flood, and sound effects. Oh, plus the burning plane in Waterworld (spoiler alert)! It’s hard to put into words how much we’ve enjoyed the tour. And if I have to do it all over again, I would!

2. Warner Bros Studio

"Welcome to the land of fame excess. Am I gonna fit in?"

We’ve embraced American entertainment and it’s so apparent because we grew up watching cartoons, movies, sitcoms, and talk shows based in the United States. During my second time in LA, we’ve finally conquered Warner Bros Studio in Hollywood and I couldn’t be more excited! Again, the true titas will love this because they get to ride the trolley for two hours.

So what’s inside the Warner Bros Studio Tour? You get to learn a little bit about the history of the classics and the basics of filmmaking. You’ll find yourself visiting the iconic sound stage, props, and backlots for Batman, Gilmore Girls and more, and how these backlots are transformed into different themes for multiple use. If you’re a film fanatic, you’ll enjoy entering the studios where costumes and props were made for The Great Gatsby, Sweeney Todd, and Vampire Diaries to name a few.

trolley tours at warner bros
coffee shop and buildings
typical street in new york
studio sign
studio set for tv show
ellen studio show

If you’re lucky enough, you’ll also get to peek inside the studio of Big Bang Theory, The Real, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. My favorite part? It’s got to be Central Perk and the famous couch in F.R.I.E.N.D.S!

cafe set-up

3. Dollar Tree

There are plenty of dollar stores in Los Angeles and the whole United States, but our favorite one is Dollar Tree. Every item only costs a dollar (plus 7.5% sales tax). Toiletries, kitchen supplies, party favors, school and office supplies, slippers, Wet n Wild makeup  anything you can think of  it’s right there. Think of an American version of Daiso and you’ll figure out how much time you’ll spend at Dollar Tree, no matter how big or small the store is.

discount store
Image from www.dollartree.com
Bring a reusable bag when you shop there or you can purchase a sturdy plastic bag for 10 cents.

4. Costco

If you like shopping at S&R, you need to drop by at Costco for all your bulk shopping, food pasalubong needs. If you see the Kirkland Signature brand in S&R, that's actually Costco's private label.

Not only will you find your favorite American snacks and skincare in their wide aisles and massive shelves, you’ll also find TV sets, gadgets, and cameras at US prices. The only downside is that you need to tag along your relative who has a Costco membership.

5. Ross and Marshalls

More bargain shopping? The department store set-up of Ross and Marshalls will give you that thrill of finding discount prices of branded clothes, bags, shoes, belts, makeup, perfumes and more. You’ll find tons of their branches in Los Angeles.

I’ve talked about Ross in my previous Guam post so you already have an idea of what Marshalls looks like because they are similar. If you like brands like Nine West, Calvin Klein, and Michael Kors, you’ll find big discounts at both discount stores.

In my opinion, Ross is a tad bit cheaper than Marshalls, but Marshalls has better stocks. They have salon quality hair dryers that are worth Php3,000-5,000 in Manila, but are only sold for around USD30 in the US. The only downside in buying appliances in the US is that you can’t use them in the Philippines without a converter due to voltage difference.

6. Outlet Stores

I can’t explain how thrilling it feels everytime my uncle says he’s finally driving us to the outlet store! If you’ve been to outlet stores in Asia, wait until you get to the ones in the United States. I’ve only been to five, by the way (3 in LA, 1 in Las Vegas, 1 in Guam), and when I did, I stopped buying at outlet shops and online resellers in the Philippines.

The prices? As much as 70% off of my purchases (you can even get more than that). I recently got a Coach City Zip Tote bag in nude pink, crossgrain leather for less than USD110 and it’s sold originally at USD295. The great thing about shopping in the outlet store is that not only are you paying for discount prices, but you can be sure the products are 100% legit (although there are some market research about brands producing items intended for outlet stores only vs retail shops, but that's a different topic).

outlet store in california
Camarillo Premium Outlets. Image from www.premiumoutlets.com
The biggest outlet store that I’ve been to is at Camarillo Premium Outlets and you have to be there THE WHOLE DAY to get around the entire place. There are more than 100 boutiques and that includes Lululemon, Coach, Kate Spade, Lacoste, Tory Burch, DKNY, Guess, Boss, Adidas, Nike and a WHOLE LOT MORE. The Nike outlet stores in the US are completely different from ours in the Philippines because the US outlets have better shoe selection and sizes.

Aside from the big one at Camarillo, I also enjoy shopping at the small outlet store in Van Nuys that has Ross, GAP, and Old Navy because there are fewer people in there. I rarely buy clothes, bags, shoes, and accessories at full price when I can always get them at discount.

7. Hollywood Sign

“Jumped in the cab, here I for the first time. Looked to my right, and I see the Hollywood sign.”

I feel like when it’s your first time in LA, you need to get at least one photo at the famous Hollywood Sign. I’ve only seen it on TV and on the big screen, but looking at it in person made me feel so ecstatic during our vacation!

hollywood sign on mountain

Some of the movies that featured the Hollywood Sign are San Andreas, Argo, Valentine’s Day, The Day After Tomorrow, City of Angels, and even The Kissing Booth released on Netflix.


Have you seen your friends and colleagues getting their photos taken with a background of countless street lamps when they’re in LA? The place is at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and the collection of street lamps is called the Urban Light, a sculpture by Chris Burden.

people photo at streetlamps
people taking photos at street lamps

Because a lot of people go to Urban Light to get their photos taken, you will find yourself spending at least 30 minutes here to get a top model, dramatic, shot, too. It’s not enough to get 50 shots; plus you need to have photos of the lights in your phone, point-and-shoot or DSLR camera, GoPro, and somebody else’s camera to get that one perfect shot to be uploaded on your Instagram. You will be surprised as to how much time (and effort) people bring in here, as if they’re posing for their last 10 frames at America’s Next Top Model.

Your mom and titas won’t get enough of the lighting and the free experience so you’ll discover in a few hours getting tagged in Facebook of at least 20 identical group pictures in LACMA.

9. Arts District

The Arts District is one of the trendiest places right now and the murals you’ll find here are worth taking photos of. Located at downtown LA, old buildings and warehouses are given new life through colorful works of art. It’s not the flashy kind of place, but it is downtown’s trendiest neighborhood at the moment.

hands mural at arts district
i love you for free
typewriter mural
shop at arts district los angeles

The place is full of history, dating back to the 20th century. In here, you will find art galleries, museums, and the hippest boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants.

10. Griffith Observatory

If the constellations take your breath away, a trip to Griffith Observatory is a must for first timers in Los Angeles. Sitting atop Mount Hollywood, we went there in the afternoon until sunset and enjoyed the view outside, which includes the LA skyline and the Hollywood sign from afar.

Inside the observatory, you’ll find science-related programs, inventions, as well as the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon presentation theater (which, to be honest, I recalled only because of Sheldon Cooper).

public observatory
public observatory building
public observatory in los angeles
science exhibits

Not an astronomy geek? You may still find interest in setting foot at Griffith Observatory because it’s one of the most famous filming locations. The list includes Transformers, La La Land, and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

11. Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive. The place where celebrities hang out. The place where extravagance is a norm. The place where you will find yourself drooling outside posh boutiques of designer brands, too afraid to step inside because you’ve got no money to spend while you tell yourself, “Sa outlet store na lang ako bibili.” ("I'll just buy at the outlet store.")

yellow rolls royce car
group photo
lady in coral at rodeo drive

Well even if you don’t have the money to burn, taking a photo along Rodeo Drive is FREE! Never mind that you can’t bring home a shopping bag from Versace, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, or Cartier. What’s more important is you get to visit and feel posh as you walk in style at Rodeo Drive.

12. The Boiling Crab and Kickin KAsian

For Filipino families who love to eat, they will appreciate the ambiance of The Boiling Crab and Kickin KAsian. Think of shrimp, crab, and sweet corn in a bag, smothered in garlic butter. Yuuuummm! Of course, every Filipino will never miss a cup of rice (or two) with their sinful, seafood meal.

For six persons, we usually order 6 cups of rice, two pounds of shrimp, and 12 pieces of sweet corn. The shrimps are fresh and are cooked just right, making them easy to devein and peel. The best part of dining in both restaurants is that you can get your hands dirty  literally. You have the option to use plastic gloves, but the satisfaction comes when you use your bare hands!

softdrinks and restaurant tissue holder
three ladies eating at seafood restaurant
shrimp and corn
cup of rice and softdrinks cup
seafood dining

Just like any popular restaurant, you have to line up early at The Boiling Crab and Kickin KAsian as soon as they open, especially if their location is a popular spot. Another option is to visit after common lunch hours or before the usual dinner time.

13. Santa Monica Pier

Beach, theme park, and entertainment area all-in-one, the tita can enjoy a quick getaway at Santa Monica Pier. Don’t expect the beach to be as pristine as the waters in the Philippines or Guam. However, the scenery is what you’re after.

In the pier, you’ll find tons of restaurants and merchants selling fruits, small tokens, and even CDs of their self-produced music. There’s a boardwalk where you can enjoy the sea view and take tons of selfies, as if you were in a Nicholas Sparks novel.

group photos of ladies at pier with ferris wheel

The family theme park (called Pacific Park) is perfect for kids and for young teens. Entrance is free, so you only need to buy tickets for the rides. If you have enough time, try to get into the Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier, as it has been around for more than 75 years, which is truly an icon.

In addition, you’ll be reminded of movies that featured Santa Monica, such as Iron Man, Hannah Montana: The Movie, and Pacific Rim Uprising.

14. Hollywood Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is probably the closest thing we can ever get to the most famous stars in the entire world. As of 2018, the sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard have been embedded with 2,600 stars, bearing the name of actors, directors, musicians, producers, and other noteworthy occupations in the entertainment industry.

We started chasing for stars right in front of the Dolby Theatre (previously called the Kodak Theatre), which is popularly known as the venue for the Oscars. It was also rented out by reality TV shows American Idol and America’s Got Talent.

stars on the ground
hand and foot print of samuel l. jackson

How do the stars get their spot at the Hollywood Walk of Fame? They pay USD30,000 according to CNN.

15. Sephora and Ulta

Finally, but certainly not the least, the tita does not simply leave the United States behind without experiencing the thrill of getting into makeup land! I may be a self-proclaimed tita, but I love makeup. Sephora and Ulta aren’t exclusive in Los Angeles, but there are TONS of these beauty stores in their county.

For the past two years, I’ve been collecting too many makeup and most of them are brands that are hard to find back home. High-end makeup isn’t cheap at all  but it’s more affordable to buy in the US as compared to resellers in the Philippines. Plus you get freebies, too!

The first time I went into Sephora to buy a Too Faced bronzer, I was asked if I wanted to be a member for free. It was a no-brainer, of course! Although I was a tourist, I got a birthday gift consisting of two mini Nars lipstick. SWEET!

sephora makeup store

Kat Von D, Hourglass, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Stila, Becca, Urban Decay and more  it’s all at Sephora! In the case of Ulta, I went here initially to get my stock of Tarte Shape Tape Concealer (available in Ulta only aside from Tarte’s website). Of course, I ended up buying other travel size makeup from Benefit - all in under 10 minutes.

A week isn’t enough to enjoy all these sites and scenes. Start looking for promo flights pronto and pack your bags for LA, Titas!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The contents of this entry are purely my opinion and 100% honest based on my travel experience.

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