Los Angeles: City Guide

Every time I visit the Golden State, I fall a little bit more in love with the land of laid back. It’s a refreshing break from New York- palm trees, sunshine and warm weather year-round, what more could you ask for?

Contrary to what many people may think, LA is not just Hollywood. During most of my trips to LA, I’ve stayed in Santa Monica or Venice to get my fill of beach vibes. I’m planning a trip to LA in December though and will be staying in Silver Lake, as well as driving out to Palm Springs for a quick visit.

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Get Outside:

  • Santa Monica / Venice Beach (rent a bike and ride along the boardwalk)
  • Runyon Canyon: One of the most accessible hikes in LA (just off Hollywood Boulevard), Runyon becomes busier as the day goes on. Go early for great views of the LA skyline before the trails become too crowded
  • Hollywood Hills trails: Near the Griffith Observatory, and close to the Hollywood sign, there are a bunch of trails to choose from. I’d either go early in the am to catch the sunrise or at night as the sun is setting. If you go at sunset, expect to share the trails with other people
  • Palisades Park: With some of the city’s best sunset views, the ocean view trails are my favorite place to run when I’m staying in Santa Monica
    • Temescal Canyon’s loop is a local favorite, go to the top for stunning views
  • Best places to catch a sunset: Santa Monica/Venice Beach boardwalk, Malibu (El Matador beach is a favorite), Griffith Observatory (awesome view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign)

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View from Runyon Canyon

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View from Runyon Canyon

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Running trails at Pacific Palisades

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Sunset in Malibu at El Matador

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Sunset from the Griffith Observatory

 

Not Your Typical Museum/Tour:

  • Studio tours: On one of my visits, we took the tour at Paramount Pictures. Is it touristy? Yes, but if it’s your first time in LA, it can be a fun way to experience the Hollywood side of the city
  • The Getty: The collection of paintings and artifacts from around the world make this museum worth a visit, but the views are also amazing. The Getty sits on a hill that overlooks LA and the Pacific Ocean- if you happen to be here at sunset, you’re in for a treat
  • LACMA: If you follow anyone that lives in or has visited LA recently, chances are you’ve seen photos of the antique lampposts outside this museum. Lampposts aside, the Los Angles County Museum of Art is a great place to escape the heat for a few hours and check out cool art exhibits
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame: The famed sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard covered with red stars with celebrity names written on them is a must-see for a lot of visitors. Pro-tip: The Walk of Fame is quite long, look up your favorite celebs ahead of time to ensure you know where their star is located
    • Also on Hollywood Boulevard is the TCL Chinese Theatre, a historic theatre which hosts movie premieres
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Studio tour at Paramount

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Studio tour at Paramount

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Walk of Fame

 

Spend an Afternoon:

  • Biking Venice Beach, watching the skateboarders or walking the Venice canals
  • Shopping at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica or at the Grove (yes, the Grove can be touristy, but it’s also a great spot for celebrity sightings, if that’s your thing)
  • Checking out the Santa Monica Pier: The pier itself is lined with souvenir shops and amusement park rides, but the surrounding area and boardwalk are the perfect place to soak in some LA sunshine
  • Visiting the Original Farmers Market, or Santa Monica Farmers Market if you’re in LA on the weekend
  • Walking Rodeo Drive: Every store is extremely high-end on this famous shopping street. Even if you can’t afford to shop at the stores here, walking the street is still a nice experience
  • Cruising Mulholland Drive: Gorgeous views of the entire expanse of LA and grand celebrity homes
    • Pro-tip: There’s a good view of the Hollywood sign at the Hollywood Bowl Overlook spot on Mulholland Drive
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Skateboarders in Venice

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One of the overlooks on Mulholland Drive

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One of the overlooks on Mulholland Drive

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Where to Shop:

  • Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard has a fantastic range of boutiques. One of my favorites, The General Store Venice, has a beautiful collection of items ranging from home accessories to coffee table books, to design knick knacks and jewelry
  • If you’re in Silver Lake, stop by Broome St. General Store–  part-coffee shop, part curated collection of home goods and fashion items / wearables (think: candles, perfume, jewelry, leather bags, etc.)
  • Creatures of Comfort is pricey, but they curate some of the best clothing brands, so it’s worth a stop in to browse if you’re in Beverly Grove
  • If you find yourself window shopping in Beverly Hills, treat yourself to a manicure at Olive & June, a cute nail shop with great color selection

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Where to get Coffee:

  • Dogtown Coffee (Santa Monica): Try the sea salt caramel iced coffee
  • Intelligentsia (Venice): The best espresso based drinks
  • Alfred Coffee (Beverly Grove): Coffee and pastries are excellent
  • Coffee Commissary (Burbank): The essence of California in a coffee shop, the cold brew is strong and smooth. Order the Iced Cubano if you’re in the mood to try something different
  • Blue Bottle Coffee (Locations across LA): The quality of the cold brew is superb

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Sea salt caramel iced coffee from Dogtown & pastries from Huckleberry, the perfect breakfast

Where to Eat:

  • 26 Beach (Venice): Awesome brunch spot with 26 types of french toast and a bunch of different egg-based dishes
  • The Tasting Kitchen (Venice): Simple, yet delicious. Great cocktails and awesome food- love the roasted grapefruit and affogato bread pudding
  • Huckleberry Cafe & Bar (Santa Monica): The pastry case here rules: maple bacon biscuit, salted caramel bars and seasonal crostatas are all great
  • Umami Burger (Locations across LA): Fifth taste eating- I’m partial to the black bean burger, but regardless of what you order, a side of truffle fries should be included
  • Gjelina (Venice): Everything on the menu is fantastic, but my favorites are: the fresh heirloom salad with burrata, mushroom toast, brussels sprouts and super thin pizza with mushrooms and truffle cheese
  • Gracias Madre (West Hollywood): One of my favorite places to eat in LA, don’t be turned off by the vegan Mexican menu- I promise you, it’s delicious
  • Urth Cafe (Locations across LA): Fantastic brunch spot serving organic and natural ingredients
  • Toast Bakery Cafe (Beverly Grove): Classic American brunch- fluffy pancakes, stuffed French toast, croissant sandwiches, eggs, bacon and so on
  • Cafe Stella (Silver Lake): Great place for brunch, try the ricotta pancakes and order an Intelligentsia cappuccino
  • Square One (East Hollywood): Nothing compares to the brioche French Toast here, the salmon benedicts are also pretty stellar
  • Republique (Hancock Park): Plan to come here for brunch with a few friends, their small plates are designed to be shared. Personally a fan of the kimchi fried rice and mushroom toast
  • Eveleigh (West Hollywood): Come for brunch and sit on the front patio that’s been converted into a garden. Everyone raves about the lamb meatballs, but the cocktails are pretty solid here as well
  • Grand Central Market (Downtown LA – Arts District): At downtown LA’s artisanal food court, you can’t really go wrong with where you eat. One of my favorites, Eggslut is known for its tasty breakfast sandwiches
  • Lemonade (Locations across LA): Don’t let the name fool you, Lemonade serves more than just lemonade (although, the blood orange lemonade is great). Lemonade specializes in Southern California comfort food made with seasonal ingredients
  • Cerveteca Venice (Venice): Fish tacos are in one word, phenom
  • Malibu Farm Cafe (Malibu): Located at the end of the Malibu Pier, the cafe serves up fresh, organic salads and sandwiches in a cozy space
  • In-N-Out Burger (Locations across LA): Animal style, cheese fries and a milkshake- ’nuff said. Don’t leave LA without coming here
  • Homestate (East Hollywood): Two words- breakfast tacos
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French toast noms at 26 Beach

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After-dinner cocktails & dessert at the Tasting Kitchen

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Pizza perfection at Gjelina

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Umami #PraiseHands

 

Where to Drink:

  • The Tasting Kitchen (Venice): The food is good and the drinks don’t disappoint either. Tasting Kitchen’s mixologist is top-notch, personally a fan of the Painkiller cocktail
  • The Varnish (Downtown): Speakeasy style in that it’s somewhat hidden inside Cole’s restaurant. You can’t go wrong with the bartender’s choice- just tell them what kind of spirits and flavors you like
  • Sonny’s Hideaway (Highland Park): An old school, classic cocktail lounge with a great happy hour ($5 appetizers, $7 cocktails)
  • 1886 (South Pasadena): The patio is the perfect place to enjoy LA weather while sipping on a cocktail
  • Melrose Umbrella Company (Fairfax): Enjoy the vibe here and the speciality cocktails- if you’re a vodka drinker, order the Croatian Vacation
  • Tiki-Ti Cocktail Lounge (Los Feliz): Come ready to get your tropical drink on here, such a fun place to enjoy a few cocktails with friends
  • Ace Hotel (Downtown LA): Although in Downtown LA, it’s worth a trip here for the rooftop view alone
  • Rosenthal Winery (Malibu): If you’re in Malibu, this winery on the Pacific Coast Highway offers flights and tastings. Best time to visit is on the weekends- Friday-Sunday, there’s live music in the backyard

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Where to Have Dessert:

  • Bottega Louie (Downtown): Known for their macarons, but the other pastries won’t disappoint
  • Jeni’s Splendid (Los Feliz): The yummy ice cream flavors never disappoint. Definitely order yours with one of their sauces, love the bitter hot fudge
  • Scoops (East Hollywood): Light, refreshing, great flavors. Highly recommended if you’re craving ice cream
  • Sweet Rose Creamery (Fairfax): Loooove the seasonal ice cream flavors here
  • Milk (Fairfax): Macaron ice cream sandwiches!
  • Salt and Straw (Windsor Square): There’s a reason why everyone in LA (and Portland) loves this place. Expect the creamiest ice cream produced in killer flavors
  • California Donuts (Koreatown): The cutest and most unique donuts, dig the lucky charms and blueberry toast crunch variations. Order the panda one as well because it’s delicious and adorable
  • SK Donuts & Croissant (Wilshire): Blueberry cake donut FTW
  • Stan’s Donuts (Westwood): The strawberry old fashioned stole my heart, but a peanut-butter stuffed chocolate doughnut (called The Huell) is what they’re known for
  • CottonHi (Koreatown): Soft serve ice cream with fluffy cotton candy on top, so fun and yummy

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Just Outside the City:

  • Disneyland: A firm believer you’re never too old for Disney, visiting both Disneyland and California Adventure is doable in one day with a park-hopper ticket. I’ve participated in a few runDisney events at Disneyland and enjoyed spending a day exploring the parks. While it’s much smaller than Walt Disney World, it’s still a great escape from reality
  • Huntington Beach (Surf City USA): Take a drive down Highway 1 to spend a few hours at this expansive beach, relaxing in the sand, wandering the expansive pier or checking out the shopping plaza across from the beach
  •  Malibu: Parking and traffic can be tough here, but on a clear day, it’s worth driving up to Malibu for the ocean views. El Matador, with its rock formations is one of my favorite beaches in the area
  • Palm Springs: A desert city known for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses and spas. Hoping to spend a day or two here on my next trip to LA
  • Joshua Tree State Park: The beautiful desert scenery here is on my list of places to check-out when I visit LA in the late fall. From what I’ve heard, there’s a lot to enjoy at this state park, from the spiky Joshua trees to the cacti gardens and boulder formations

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Gorgeous day at Huntington Beach

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