Los Angeles is huge. Depending on who you ask, Malibu, Long Beach, and Anaheim all count as “L.A.,” and while it’s easy to prematurely judge the city, don’t underestimate what the City of Angels has to offer. After all, us Angelenos barely have it figured out…
Rent a bike and cruise along the beach on The Strand that runs from the Pacific Palisades 22 miles south to Torrance. Along the way, stop on the Venice Boardwalk to jam with the weekly drum circle, the Santa Monica Pier for a ride on the Ferris wheel, and Downtown Manhattan Beach to wander around the local shops and boutiques.
For expansive views, catch the sunset and stars at the Griffith Observatory, or do your best Zooey Deschanel impersonation on the infamous 500 Days of Summer bench at Angels Knoll. To break a sweat, day hike up the tourist-filled Runyon Canyon Park, or for something more low-key, head over to the Portuguese Bend Trail in my hometown of Palos Verdes.
Art & Culture
It’s no surprise that Hollywood is home to a handful of great movie theaters. Spice things up at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to watch a late night movie alongside celebrity corpses or the Electric Dusk Drive-In where you’ll never have to leave your car, not even for snacks.
Even though you may have just missed the Stanley Kubrik exhibit, LACMA, the largest art museum in the western United States, is an all-day event, holding more than 150,000 pieces. Tip: don’t miss Pomona-legend James Turrell’s new exhibition. On Thursday’s, dabble in contemporary art at any of MOCA’s 3 locations free of charge. A local favorite is the Downtown LA Art Walk, a free monthly showcase that has quickly evolved into a trendy social event. The Annenberg Space for Photography is the place to go for photo buffs while the always-free Getty and Getty Villa offer impressive American and European work from Rothko to Etruscan antiquities.
Shopping & Music
Despite popular belief, you can find more than yoga pants in L.A. For some great vintage buys, head over to the hipster-run Melrose Trading Post or the overwhelming Rosebowl Flea Market. It’s hard to go wrong at Olvera Street, the city’s oldest street that sells authentic Mexican and Latin American artisanal goods. To enjoy the flip-flop weather, meander along 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or West Hollywood’s The Grove where you’ll find a delicious Farmer’s Market.
A concert at the Hollywood Bowl is the perfect excuse for an outdoor summer picnic while the Walt Disney Concert Hall is your formal option. For free concerts, check out the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series featuring Xavier Rudd and Mr. Little Jeans, Saturday’s off the 405 featuring Geographer, or Jazz at LACMA. If you’re looking to pick up some records, run your fingers through endless rows of vinyl at Amoeba in Hollywood.
West Hollywood is home to some of the city’s best restaurants. L.A.’s up-and-coming Salt’s Cure has been creating a warranted buzz among Angeleno foodies with its unbeatable brunches and unpredictable daily menus. If meat isn’t your thing, hit up Tart a few minutes away for a quaint American lunch out on the patio. Pizzeria Mozza, the casual alternative to its fine-dining sibling Osteria Mozza, offers mouth-watering gourmet pizzas. Mozza2Go, the takeout option, recently opened up for those of us who are feeling lazy. If it’s a special occasion and you’re willing to splurge, you can never go wrong with Angelini—L.A.’s much-deserved master of Italian food. After dinner, try the infamous Sweet Lady Jane for mouthwatering cakes or Milk for a delicious selection of ice cream.
When in the trendy, hipster neighborhoods of East L.A., spend some time in Silver Lake, the hipster hot spot for great vegetarian and vegan bites. If you’re just stopping by, Intelligentsia serves the best (and most expensive) coffee in town, and if you don’t like coffee, run over to Spice Station for an impressive tea selection.
If you’re in Downtown LA and need a snack, the trendy Urth Café is great for paninis and people watching while Bottega Louie offers a selection of macaroons for a sweet afternoon craving. Philippe the Original is the place to go for an unbeatable, cheap French dip, and with tons of hole-in-the-wall options around the corner in Chinatown and Koreatown, don’t miss the all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ hotspot Moo Dae Po. On Sawtelle Boulevard in Japantown there are endless possibilities for non-instant ramen with Tsujita and Tatsu standing out with their “naked ramen.”
After hitting the beach in Venice or Santa Monica, there are tons of places to eat. For a more upscale In-N-Out burger, Umami Burger can whip up a variety of unique creations from their truffle burger to their beer-cheddar cheese, bacon lardons burger. With tons of possibilities on Abbott Kinney, AXE, Lemonade and Gjelina top the farm-to-table list. Not too far away in Westwood, eat amazing sandwiches at Fundamental and an ice cream sandwich from Diddy Riese to follow.
Don’t forget about the South Bay either. With tons of restaurants off of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and lively bars on Hermosa Avenue, you cannot skip local favorites Riviera Grill and El Burrito Junior (LBJ’s) for Mexican food and Martha’s 22nd St. Grill and Uncle Bill’s Pancake House for brunch. Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt has been an established local legend for years that never disappoints, especially if you try their Cake Batter.
If you have the time, it’s worth every dollar of gas to drive out to Arcadia for the legendary Din Tai Fung, or my personal favorite, Happy Harbor in Rowland Heights for unforgettable, cheap dim sum. Tip: save some room for their incredible milk buns for dessert!