Ah, sunny Southern California. What’s there not to love? It has the beach, the sprawling Pacific Ocean, and the mountains and hills which make for incredible hiking trails. From the laid back neighborhoods of Venice Beach and Silver Lake to the glitzy and glamorous Beverly Hills, there’s something for everyone in L.A. And thanks to warm temps year round, there’s never a bad time to go.
929 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015
The Ace Hotel in DTLA is definitely the place to be if you’re looking to stay downtown. It’s a vibrant and hip, but still luxurious boutique hotel. Enjoy coffee and cuisine at L.A. Chapter, the hotel’s brasserie located just off the lobby. For a livelier scene, head to the rooftop lounge “Upstairs,” for cocktails, or spend the afternoon poolside.
THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL
9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, California 90210
If you want to splurge on your accommodations in L.A., stay at the legendary and luxurious Beverly Hills Hotel. Located in the 90210 on Sunset Boulevard, the hotel commonly referred to as the “Pink Palace” sits on 12 acres of gorgeous grounds complete with lush gardens, private bungalows, a gorgeous pool area and restaurants. The interior of the hotel is iconic, decorated with its green and white banana leaf wallpaper. Don’t miss dining al fresco on the patio of the gorgeous Polo Lounge, or taking a dip in the pool complete with underwater music (!!!).
1020 N San Vicente Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
The London is in a great location in West Hollywood near Beverly Hills. All of the rooms are suites, each one with an open layout, spacious bathrooms with a soaking tub, and the best part… a private terrace with stunning views of the L.A. skyline, the Hollywood Hills or Santa Monica. Talk about a room with a view! Take advantage of the L.A. weather and enjoy the posh rooftop pool and its gorgeous cabanas with 360 degree views of the skyline.
SHUTTERS ON THE BEACH
1 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Located right on the beach in Santa Monica, the iconic hotel Shutters would be another well-worth-it accommodation splurge if you’re looking for a luxurious stay but with beachy California vibes rather than a hotel in the heart of the city. “The Strand” is the only thing separating the hotel from the ocean, and makes the perfect place to ride bikes along the sand through Santa Monica and Venice Beach. With gorgeous decor, delicious dining options and its location right on the beach, you can’t go wrong booking a stay at Shutters.
1001 Third St, Santa Monica, CA 90403
There’s so much charm to this unique and adorable hotel in the heart of Santa Monica, just blocks from the beach. The guest rooms are cozy, decorated with plush furniture and some even equipped with full kitchens, perfect for both a short weekend visit or even an extended stay. Read our entire Hotel Report on it here.
1819 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Viceroy Santa Monica is a contemporary-chic hotel, situated on Ocean Avenue just a few steps from the beach. The hotel offers it all – a fabulous pool in a gorgeous setting, adorably colorful guest rooms, a chic lobby and a restaurant. Read more about this hotel in our Hotel Report here.
700 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017
If you have a sweet tooth, head downtown and stop in Bottega Louie, L.A’s source for macarons galore. (Though Laduree has recently opened in L.A., too!) They also have chocolates, pastries and other confections, as well as a sit-down restaurant area where they serve pizzas, pastas and small plates. Not to mention the interior is lovely. So do not fear, you can get lunch, your sugar-fix and that cliché macaron pic for Instagram, all in one stop.
THE BUTCHER’S DAUGHTER
1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA
Definitely make a stop at The Butcher’s Daughter in Venice for a meal while you’re in L.A. This location is much more spacious than its NYC counterparts (which we mentioned here). The menu is healthy but hearty, and every bite is delicious. We suggest stopping in before or after exploring the shops along Abbot Kinney. The restaurant’s ambiance is laid back and quintessential Venice Beach, decorated by the owner herself with a mix of industrial and natural materials. Like her style? Check out her latest project, “Bungalow and Breakfast,” an AirBnb located right on the Venice canals.
With multiple locations around L.A., Café Gratitude is a great place to stop in for a healthy organic, plant-based meal. But carnivores, don’t be deterred! The menu is gourmet and delicious – you won’t leave unsatisfied. What makes Café Gratitude unique is its mantra. Plates ask “What are you grateful for?” and menu items are named after positive adjectives like “I am thankful,” “I am fortified,” and ” I am warm-hearted.” You can’t help but leave feeling full of that California positivity.
1 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Coast is the perfect place to go for drinks and a bite to eat after spending time on the beach in Santa Monica. Located literally steps off the sand in Shutters on the Beach, the restaurant has an adorable outside area with a view of the ocean that makes for great people watching. We love popping in for brunch, or some rosé and a salad in the afternoon.
8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Gracias Madre is a must-stop for delicious (and somewhat healthy!) Mexican. The vegetarian menu offers favorites like chips and guac along with more unique vegetarian dishes like the barbecue jackfruit carnitas. Can’t forget to mention the gorgeous interior decor and the swoon-worthy patio that is Instagram-worthy indeed. And where else can you drink a giant snow cone margarita with an adorable striped straw? Go for lunch or dinner… GM does not disappoint.
Sorry, but had to. Animal style, protein style, or whatever your style, In-N-Out is sinfully delicious and damn convenient because there are over 200 of them scattered about California. Plus, since probably 90% of your diet in L.A. will have heretofore consisted of plants and green juice, you can treat yo’self with a cheeseburger.
23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
A meal at Malibu Farm is worth the drive out to Malibu even if you do nothing else while there. Set on the Malibu Pier with sweeping views of the ocean, guests can enjoy a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner at the restaurant outside overlooking the water, or inside at the café. The owner, Helene, sources many of the restaurant’s fresh ingredients from her own farm at her home. The setting on the ocean and the fresh, healthy, organic and mostly local menu cannot be beat. Read about Helen’s food philosophy here. We couldn’t agree more and we wish we had more restaurants like this in the south!
22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Gonna go ahead and say that there is no better restaurant view in the L.A./Malibu area than Nobu Malibu. (If there is, pray tell.) Get a table outside where you will literally sit and watch the waves crash right beneath you as you eat delectable sushi. Definitely make reservations well in advance and be prepared for a crowd, but it’s so worth it.
THE POLO LOUNGE
9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
The Polo Lounge is the adorable and iconic, casual-chic restaurant at The Beverly Hills Hotel. Whatever you do, get a table outside on the Polo Patio and dine al fresco. It’s open daily from breakfast until late-night, and any time of day will be a luxurious dining experience.
624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
This is, in our opinion, one of the coolest restaurants in L.A. République opened in 2013 in a building that was originally built by actor and entertainer Charlie Chaplin, with shops on the bottom floor and office space above, all centered around a tile courtyard. The building served many purposes and went through many redesigns since then, until République’s owners bought it and restored it to its original brick, tile and ironwork. What resulted is a beautiful, airy space that reflects an original feel and is constantly buzzing with patrons. Brunch is amazing, cocktails are delicious, and it’s a hotspot for dinner, too.
1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice Beach, CA 90291
Head to Salt Air in Venice to enjoy a menu with seafood aplenty in a relaxed but polished atmosphere with beach-y vibes. It makes the perfect spot for a light, healthy dinner in Venice Beach after a day of hanging on the beach or shopping along Abbot Kinney.
Stop by Salt & Straw for insanely delicious ice cream! Be prepared to wait in line, but with every gourmet flavor you could imagine, you’ll literally need the time standing in line to decide what to get. The ice cream shop actually started in Portland, but opened its first shop outside of its hometown in L.A.’s Larchmont Village. There are now locations in Venice Beach, the Arts District (DTLA), West Hollywood and more.
The number of Sugarfish restaurants in the L.A. area (10 and counting!) gives you an idea of how high of a demand there is for Sugarfish sushi! And this ain’t your average American sushi restaurant. You won’t find fancy rolls drenched in sauces and shaped like a dragon’s tail. What you will find is super simple sushi with the finest, highest quality fish you’ve ever had. The focus of the menu is tradition and simplicity. Just trust me, and order the “Trust Me.”
945 N Fairfax Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90046
Open for dinner & weekend brunch.
Ysabel is a perfect place for a night of cocktails and dinner with friends. The indoor/outdoor atmosphere is decorated with lights and full of California chicness, the menu has tons of plates for sharing, and the scene starts buzzing with people as the night goes on. It’s definitely a place to put on your agenda for a fun night out.
8428 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069
But first, coffee. There are actually several locations of this wildly popular, super Instagrammable coffee shop, but the one on Melrose makes for a perfect pit stop to refuel while you walk around one of the best streets for shopping in L.A. (Click here to see a list of all Alfred Coffee locations.)
ALFRED TEA ROOM
705 N Alfred St, Los Angeles, CA 90069
If tea is your daytime beverage of choice, you’ll definitely want to stop by Alfred Tea Room. It’s decked from top to bottom in millennial pink and its signature antlers. Earl grey, green, matcha or boba – you’ll have no trouble finding your favorite here.
THE BLVD AT BEVERLY WILSHIRE
9500 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90212
The Blvd bar at the Beverly Wilshire hotel is my favorite place to go for a glass of champagne after a day of walking and shopping around Rodeo Drive. Sit at the bar or even better, get a table outside and people-watch.
101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Bungalow is definitely the place to go in Santa Monica if you’re looking to socialize over some cocktails. It’s a big indoor/outdoor space that basically feels like a giant beach house with tons of seating areas, multiple bars, fireplaces, fire pits, a pool table and ping pong table outside. The vibe is beach-y and casual and it’s a fun place to go during the day or at night.
THE CAVATINA BAR AT SUNSET MARQUIS
1200 Alta Loma Rd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Sunset Marquis is the iconic hotel known for being the L.A. home-away-from-home for rock stars. Not your typical hotel, it’s spread out over 5 acres and opens up to lush gardens with a walkway leading you back to Cavatina, the hotel’s restaurant, and the small bar sits just off the walkway where guests congregate in the evenings for cocktails. Be on the lookout for a famous musician or celeb.
COFFEE COUNTER AT L.A. CHAPTER
929 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Coffee Counter at the Ace Hotel’s restaurant, L.A. Chapter, is a great place get your caffeine fix any time of day. Enjoy your beverage sitting outside at one of the brass tables or take it with you to go and explore the downtown area.
448 South Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Located on the 15th floor of a building in Downtown L.A., Perch is a rooftop bistro and bar with delicious cocktails and incredible views of the city skyline. Sit indoor or out on the patio next to a fireplace, or go upstairs to the rooftop for a more intimate outdoor setting for cocktails.
UPSTAIRS AT ACE HOTEL
929 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015
If you’re looking for a lively scene with an upbeat atmosphere and live music, head to Upstairs, the rooftop bar at Ace Hotel downtown. There’s a pool, plenty of spaces to gather, and there’s live music or a DJ nearly every night. Check the events calendar here.
ABBOT KINNEY BOULEVARD
Abbot Kinney is a bustling street in Venice lined with dozens of restaurants and tons of unique shops and galleries. Start your day with breakfast at The Butcher’s Daughter, then explore the shops. Stop in Aesop for great skincare and bath products, Garrett Leight for sunglasses, Cuyana for the best basic pieces (love their hats and travel pouches) and personalize your own fragrance at Le Labo.
The famous Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is like the mecca of all shopping districts. Spanning two miles, the street is lined with designer shops and flagships, with some of the most grandiose storefronts you’ve ever seen. Even if you’re not up for dropping the big bucks, it’s worth visiting if you’ve never been. There’s always window shopping!
2800 East Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Griffith Observatory is a public astronomy center (I promise its cooler than it sounds) and has become a California icon and tourist attraction because of its incredible views (you can pretty much see the whole city from up there!) as well as the views of the sky it boasts from its telescope. It’s also been the setting for many movie scenes, including this scene in La La Land. Go just before sunset so that you can see the city during the final hours of daylight, watch the sunset, then watch as the city lights up at night.
A trip to L.A. wouldn’t be complete without getting a glimpse of that landmark sign! It’s located on Mt. Lee, just north of Hollywood Hills. There are some great spots around the city where you can get a good view of the sign, including Griffith Observatory. There are also some hiking trails that will take you up to some different views, including the Mt. Hollywood Trail and the Canyon Drive Trail. But be sure to check before you go that your chosen trail is open… trails can close for periods of time for various reasons. Read more about the hikes to see the Hollywood Sign here.
VIEWS OF SANTA MONICA FROM PACIFIC PARK FERRIS WHEEL
Santa Monica Pier
Sure, the Santa Monica Pier may be a tourist trap. But taking in the views of the ocean, the coastline, and the city of Santa Monica from the top of the ferris wheel are worth walking through the crowds. Try to avoid going on a Saturday or Sunday, as that’s when the pier is most crowded. Head down the beach to Coast at Shutters afterwards for lunch and a glass of rosé.
SPEND A DAY AT THE BEACH
Venice & Santa Monica
Rent a bike in Venice Beach and go for a bike ride along “The Strand,” (formally Marvin Braude Bike Trail) which runs up and down the shoreline, spanning over 20 miles. I like riding from Venice up to Santa Monica and back. Bring a book and a towel and stop along the way for some relaxation on the beach.
There are so many hiking trails in and around L.A., so why not take in the sights while getting a little exercise? There are plenty of trails to choose from (read about them here), with Runyon Canyon being one of the most popular. But be sure to check that the trail you want to hike is open that day, as sometimes they can temporarily close for various reasons.
LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is the largest art museum in the western U.S., and as such it gets a lot of really cool exhibits and collections. Remember the Rain Room you saw all over Instagram? You might also recognize Urban Light, pictured above. At LACMA, you’ll find art from all eras, with a strong international focus. And don’t miss The Broad, the newly opened contemporary art museum downtown that is home to The Broad Collection which is seen worldwide as a giant and really important collection of contemporary art.
HOW TO GET THERE
You’ll fly into LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport, which is about 20 miles from downtown L.A.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Uber is arguably the easiest way to get around L.A. The city is very spread out, so unless you’re sticking to one neighborhood, you’ll definitely need a vehicle to get around.
KNOW THE NEIGHBORHOODS
Like most cities, L.A. is made up of so many different areas and neighborhoods that all have their own
stereotypes personalities. Let’s tackle the main ones quickly, from east to west.
Downtown Los Angeles. Not your typical big city downtown that’s usually bustling with life, but it’s making a comeback. Cool hotels (like the Ace), restaurants and cafés have started to infiltrate, making downtown a more popular area than it’s been in the past. Check out Grand Central Market, The Last Bookstore, the other downtown spots mentioned above. It’s also where you’ll find the Flower District and the famous Los Angeles Flower Market.
Silver Lake and Echo Park (the neighborhood just east) have long been thought of as hipster town, but the area’s popularity even among the non-hipster crowd is increasing. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, spots of note include restaurants Sqirl, Ostrich Farm and Cliff’s Edge.
West Hollywood. A big area with lots going on. Good hotels (like the London and Sunset Marquis) are in this neighborhood, as well as tonnns of great eats. Gracias Madré, Ysabel, Republique, Alfred, etc. are all in West Hollywood. Also the shops on Melrose (which are great and you can read more about above).
Culver City is a large residential and business area, and home to several major production studios like Sony Pictures and MGM. It’s located just east of Venice and Marina del Rey.
Does it even need an introduction? The prestigious Beverly Hills is conveniently located just southwest of West Hollywood. Definitely make a trip into the area at some point during your stay in Los Angeles, whether it’s to shop on Rodeo Drive, to hotel hop (finish at the iconic BHH!), or just to look at the sprawling residences.
Venice is a charming yet eccentric beachfront neighborhood that draws tourists and locals alike. Take a stroll through the Venice Canals, which were the idea of developer Abbot Kinney who wanted to make this neighborhood America’s own version of Venice, Italy. Then check out the shops and restaurants on the main street, Abbot Kinney Boulevard. And finally, don’t miss the circus-like entertainment on the “boardwalk,” a pedestrian-only walkway with probably the best people watching in the city.
Just north of Venice, Santa Monica also sits on the shoreline and offers plenty of beach space, bike riding and other activities. There are some great restaurants and in the area, as well as chic hotels (see above). It’s probably best known for the touristy Santa Monica Pier and its amusement park sitting over the ocean.