Los Angeles is an ever-expanding, evolving mecca for the arts, entertainment, shopping, nature and the culinary arts. I may not be a Los Angeles native, but I’ve spent the majority of my life living in this crazy, beautiful city and can honestly say, there is still so much to be discovered. There is a very good reason it holds the reputation as one of the most interesting and sought out destinations in the world. Regardless of what you may come for, there is something for everybody…you just need to know where to look. With 47.3 million visitors in 2016 alone, finding that special “thing” can be a bit overwhelming, and at times, like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Generally speaking, those who are visiting want to experience a combination of three key elements : fun, sun and delicious dishes. Luckily, Los Angeles just so happens to have that covered. Whether you’re in town for the weekend or live here full time, if you haven’t checked these spots out already, you’re missing out! Below you’ll find a cheat sheet to some of my favorite hotspots for each of these categories.
K1 Racing is a good way to get your friends out for a challenge and your blood pumping. The wait times on the weekends can be obnoxious though, so plan accordingly!
If you’re up for a comedy show, The Laugh Factory, The Improv or The Comedy Store all feature world renowned comics and celebrities. It’s impossible not to leave with a giant sh*t eating grin on your face. *Just keep in mind that your entry ticket also requires you to purchase two beverages once inside, although it does not have to be alcoholic.
We can all use an escape sometimes, but are you up for a challenge? Escape Rooms are the newest trend popping up around town. With so many to choose from, you could do a different one every day for a month and still not experience them all!
Contrary to popular belief, we actually do get rain in L.A. every now and again. If the gloomy weather compels you to spend the day at the theater, perhaps you should pay a visit to the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd. Originally founded by American showman, Sid Grauman, in 1927, it still stands as an iconic landmark and beautiful display of Chinese artisanship. *Bonus: You can catch a glimpse of the Stars and original handprints of Old Hollywood royalty just outside.
If you’re feeling artsy, hit up the LACMA, The Broad Museum or The Getty Villa. These are not your average museums, so prepare to be amazed.
The Grove is a great spot to go for a bite, a trip to the cinema or to walk around the open air shops. I’d highly recommend making a pit stop to the Farmer’s Market for an array of sweets and savory treats to indulge in, amongst other things.
One of the best ways to really see the city and get a lay of the land is to go on a hike. My favorite for views are Runyon, Fryman, Will Rogers & Temescal Canyon. Runyon Canyon is the most centrally located and a popular spot for celebrity sightings. However, I personally prefer Temescal Canyon because of it’s proximity to the beach & great ocean views.
Some museums also offer outdoor entertainment like the LACMA’s Jazz night or The Getty Center‘s maze-like garden featuring over 500 plant varieties. The Getty Villa also has a beautiful outdoor garden to explore.
When you want to combine a little afternoon sunshine with shopping cardio, head to either the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or The Grove near West Hollywood. If you’d rather skip the corporate stores for something a little more eclectic and “hipster”, try Melrose Ave. Here you will also find Crossroads Trading Co., a nation-wide chain of chic second-hand stores, meticulously picked by in-house buyers and sold back to you at a discounted price.
Yoga in the park – Its a concept that only keeps gaining popularity. Creative new locations spring up all the time : parks, wineries (yes, there is wine involved), rooftops, beaches and more!
I recommend at least one afternoon at the beach. You can rent bikes, skateboards or rollerblades at shops that are sporadically spread out along Venice and Santa Monica. Follow the bike path that stretches from Palisades, all the way south to Redondo Beach for unobstructed views of the Pacific. There’s great people watching and a ton of hippie shops to buy cheap souvenirs from, but in general, Venice is just a laid back beach town.
Of course the Santa Monica Pier is a famous landmark. You’ll mostly find pricey rides & fair food here though. If you’re in the area it’d be worth checking out for bucket-list sake. (3rd Street Promenade is quite charming and just two blocks away). During the summer months, the pier transforms into a free outdoor jam session on Thursday nights and boasts live performances to picnicking concert-goers on the sand.
*If you’re near the pier or Promenade, you might as well grab a drink at The Bungalow at the Fairmont. It’s a trendy yet beachy outdoor bar located on Wilshire and Ocean. Modeled after a beachside bungalow, you can sip cocktails under the twinkling lanterns on the deck, or bring it inside for a game of pool or checkers near the fireplace.
Cinespia’s movie night at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is an unforgettable experience. There are now multiple venues that offer this newly trending “movie in the park” idea but the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the OG’s. Bring a blanket, a picnic basket of your favorite vino and snacks, and prepare yourself for a uniquely awesome evening under the stars..if you dare.
Libations & Munchies
For 24 hour grub, Kitchen 24 or Mel’s Diner are great for a higher quality of food and atmosphere (as opposed to fast food or IHOP). If you’re in the valley, Crave Cafe or Jerry’s Deli is going to be your best bet for a late night snack.
Wine tasting is an awesome way to spend the afternoon. Why not make your way to Rosenthal’s in Malibu? It’s not your traditional wine tasting venue but it might become one of your favorites. The weekends bring quite a crowd here during the summer when local bands play and the food trucks show up. Located on the famous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), across the street from the Pacific Ocean.
For the “Hollywood” brunch experience, try Chateau Marmont. Grab a table in the coveted garden terrace and soak up the sun with a mimosa.
Venturing into Downtown LA? My go-to favorites are Bottega Louie (anytime day or night), The Standard rooftop for a drink, and Perch rooftop deck for sunset appetizers, incredible views of DTLA, and live music.
If you’re on the west side, one of the best spots you can go to enjoy a specialty cocktail with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean is the High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach. There’s no cover charge to get in but expect it to get pretty busy on weekends and during the sunset. In my opinion, there’s no better place to experience true California golden hour.
Also, you might note that we on the West Side, have quite a few great places to dine. For a hearty and homestyle cooked breakfast, you’ll love what Flake and French Market Cafe have to offer, along with outdoor patio seating.
There are far too many incredible lunch spots on the west side to name them all but some of my favorite include The Butcher’s Daughter (vegetarian), Cha Cha Chicken, Gjusta, Lemonade and True Food Kitchen.
Skybar (WeHo) might interest you for a drink at the outdoor bar/pool area. There’s great views of the city & you can also hop around to other local bars and restaurants from here.
WeHo (West Hollywood) proudly boasts its gay district, which has been known to throw some fun parties and parades from time to time. The Abbey, SUR or Pump are typically best for good music, stiff drinks and a lively atmosphere, no matter how you identify – its all love.
Food trucks are quickly becoming a part of the local culture. It’s a great way to eat well and not spend the extra ‘dough’ on the whole restaurant experience. Follow your favorite food truck’s Twitter or visit a site like this one to get exact locations. There are also designated nights like “First Friday’s” on Abbot Kinney that feature an endless stretch of food trucks lined up along this trendy little section of Venice on the first Friday of every month.