A cheap return ticket took me to LA in November 2018. Initial thoughts of taking in a Marathon or Half-Marathon eventually gave way to a week's sports-fest with a few easy runs thrown in.
I flew into LA and worked my way to Santa Monica where I was staying in the HI hostel. We never really warmed to LA during our family trip in 2017, but after spending more time here, I now love LA! Hostel life is not for everyone, but at US$50 a night, it was the cheapest option out there. This one is one of the better ones - clean, safe, lot of communal space and in pretty good nick too. Sleep is a challenge with 4-6 other men in the same room, but ear plugs certainly help. Santa Monica is pretty well connected to the rest of LA too - the Expo line takes you into the city and was perfect for me with Staples Centre and the Coliseum on the same line. More of that later. Running was pretty good here too, up and down the coast to Venice Beach as well as being right next to Santa Monica Pier and its famous blue sign - where Forrest Gump turned around on his epic run.
On to the sports! First up on my first night was the Lakers vs Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Centre. As a Boston Celtics man, I could never root for the Lakers, but if you get the chance to see arguably the greatest player to ever set foot on court, you take it. LeBron James shot 24 points as the Lakers won by 4 points. Very much of a touristy atmosphere, but it's one off the list.
I took the next night off - my only day without a game, then took a flight to Salt Lake City to see the Utah Jazz take on my Boston Celtics. The atmosphere was superb here, albeit the majority supporting the Jazz, who played pretty well for the 8-point win. Despite being without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward getting a constant roasting from his former fans, the Celtics made things interesting by shooting 35 points in the 4th quarter, but it was never closer than 3 points. Great game though and great to have seen my Celtics in action. I stayed the night in SLC - took a short, cold run first thing in the morning before flying back to LA. It's an odd city, a little sterile from what I saw, but I liked my time there.
Back in LA, I was back in the hostel before a quick turnaround to Staples Centre for my first NHL game. LA Kings vs Calgary Flames was a great spectacle with both national anthems at the start. The game was unfortunately not much to write home about though, with the Flames scoring the only goal in the first minute. Still, another check in the box.
The following lunchtime was time for my first NFL game The NFL seems like a whole day out with the tailgate parties in full flow hours before kick off. LA Rams vs Seattle Seahawks was a great game, with the Superbowl-bound Rams eeking out a 5-point win. Great to have seen Russell Wilson in action, a future for the Hall of Fame for sure. A great day out and a superb atmosphere at the LA Coliseum, home of the 1932, 1984 and the future 2028 Olympics - soon to become the first stadium to host 3 Olympics.
My last night and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors were in town to take on the LA Clippers, again at the Staples Centre. No Stephen Curry in the line up, but great to see Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in action, who were both outstanding with 33 and 31 points respectively. I was rooting for the ex-Celtic Doc Rivers-managed Clippers, who came through with the 5-point win in overtime. A better atmosphere than at the Lakers game, with a more passionate and less touristy fan base. A great finish to a great week of sports!
Where I stayed (LA): HI Los Angeles - Santa Monica Hostel What I said at the time: Great communal areas - dining area, outdoor & indoor relax areas plus TV room. Free water taps. Decent breakfast (for the price). Great location. Nice to have individual lights and sockets next to each bed. First time in a hostel - all to be expected but sharing rooms takes some getting used to if you're a light sleeper. Only thing I really did not like was the individually wrapped slices of bread. I assume it's for hygiene/kosher purposes, but it's a shocking waste of plastic. Also the USB sockets downstairs - all seemed not to be working. Would I stay there again: Yes
Where I stayed (Salt Lake City): Quality Inn What I said at the time: Nice room - comfy bed, slept well. Good shower and amenities. Fairly quiet area (maybe all SLC is quiet?). Starbucks across the street which was convenient. Breakfast finished at 9am - my fault but I missed it - felt it could have been open a little longer. Would I stay there again: Yes