5 of the Best Things to do in Los Angeles
Not sure where to start in the sprawling city of Los Angeles, California? Read on for our LA confidential: a guide to five of the best things to do in Los Angeles and make sure you get the most out of your trip to La La Land.
With a Mediterranean climate of dry warm summers and mild winters, the iconic American city of Los Angeles, California, is a great choice for a getaway, no matter the season. There’s so much to do in this sprawling city that it can be hard to sort the golden grains from the over-promoted hype.
Travioor’s Iseult Larkin took a whirlwind tour of LA and gives her recommendations for five of the best things to do in Los Angeles.
WHERE TO STAY IN LA
First things first: you’ll want somewhere awesome to stay. While I rented a lovely Airbnb in Tarzana which came complete with a pool and a temper tantrum-throwing Chris Brown as a neighbour (my September visit coincided with Brown’s infamous police stand off and subsequent Instagram rant), I wouldn’t recommend this charming suburban option for first-time visits. LA is a huge city of about 1,302 km² that dwarfs San Francisco, Seattle and Boston and you’ll want to stay closer to the action unless you plan on spending a lot of time in traffic jams. For total freedom (and to avoid the sub-par public transport and general lack of footpaths) you’ll either want to rent a car to get around or rely on Uber.
My recommendation would be to stay in West Hollywood at the boutique Sunset Marquis Hotel. Just minutes from famed Sunset Strip, you’ll be perfectly placed for restaurants, bars, shopping and easier access to Downtown and the beaches. What’s more, the Sunset Marquis has a hotel bar that’s known to be frequented by actors and rock stars, a fact that goes someway towards justifying the omnipresent sound of helicopters in the city. Whether it’s a traffic incident or a rare spotting of an elusive celebrity, the sound of low-flying choppers is pretty much a constant no matter where you are in this buzzing city. You get used to it, and it definitely adds an air of excitement to your trip.
HOLLYWOOD HOMES TOUR
A Hollywood Homes Tour may be cheesy, but it really is a must when you’re here in the land of the celebrity. You’ll be taken high up into the Hollywood Hills from where the views of the city are incredible and worth the price of the ticket alone, even if you couldn’t care less about Gwen Stefani’s latest tree-obscured purchase.
I’ll be honest, most of the houses have been strategically hidden off the road, behind hills and shielded by high-maintenance shrubbery. It’s quite tricky to get a good glimpse of anything much which is why paying for a tour rather than attempting to do it yourself is definitely worth it. Tours come in comfortable open-sided buses and guides know enough tales about the stars to keep you well entertained while you’re waiting to spot Katy Perry pull out of her driveway. Hollywood’s story is tightly wound up with the cult of celebrity, and as director David Lynch attested, you’ll feel “the history of Hollywood” on Mullhound Drive.
Afterwards, make your way back down A.O.C in West Hollywood — lauded by one LA Weekly reviewer as an “utter dream of a restaurant” thanks to its cozy, fire-place adorned dining room and leafy patio — and discuss who had the most impressive digs over tapas and fine wine.
STROLL FROM SANTA MONICA TO VENICE BEACH
With the weather so consistently pleasant, this hour-long amble is a must regardless of when in the year you visit. Make your way to Santa Monica for a late lunch and fuel up at the Water Grill at a table overlooking the street and down to the beach. These guys specialise in seafood and the dark wood interior is seriously relaxing. Take your time with a coffee afterwards and people watch from your table — you’ll be in prime position to spot all the varying forms of LA inhabitants, from Lycra-clad fitness freaks, to hip hop wanabies and crazy cat ladies.
Once you’ve had your fill, saunter down bright Santa Monica Pier and grab an ice cream for the road. Meander down to the beach-side promenade and take in the different atmospheres as you make your way towards the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Time it just right and you’ll arrive at Venice Beach for sunset and outstanding Instagram shots of silhouetted palm trees against orange skies. If you’d prefer to cycle, LA operates a great city bike scheme that’s super easy to use so long as you have a credit card. Just be aware that there’s often competition for bike parking spots at the weekend.
Who knew that stargazing could be so good in a city this lit up? Located on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory is an absolute must-do one night of your stay. The views of the perfectly gridded city after dark are incredibly romantic — trust me, you’ll be transported straight into an 80’s movie opening credits. If you’re driving, bear in mind that it can get extremely busy, especially during the weekend when it becomes LA’s Number One date spot and the battle for car parking spaces can be intense. The car park often fills up quite quickly and you may have to park further away than you’d bargained for, so wear comfortable shoes.
Arrive while it’s still bright and walk around the stunning gardens while admiring the daytime view of the city below. Next, pop inside and start with the solar panel exhibitions, which rather obviously don’t work after sundown. It’s a good idea to book a planetarium show before you go as there’s usually a queue on the day. Make sure you make it back outside for yet another incredible sunset and then take your time inside until closing time at 10 p.m. — see if you can catch a demonstration of the Tesla Coil. While leaving you’ll see brighter stars in the skies than at the Oscars but be prepared for a bit of a traffic jam if you stay until close.
End your evening with dinner in the Eveleigh on Sunset Blvd — book in advance and see if you can get a spot in their beautifully lighted garden patio at the back.
HAVE A BAYWATCH MOMENT
If you visit in summer, you’ll most certainly want to spend a day on the beach. The aforementioned Santa Monica and Venice Beach are both great long and sandy options with plenty of amenities, but if you want the real LA experience, spend the day at Malibu. If it’s warm enough, make your way to 22935 Pacific Coast Highway and try your hand at paddle boarding or surfing with a lesson at Malibu Surf Shack. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, make your way down the pier to Malibu Farm for a really delicious lunch on the deck with splendid views all around.
A word to the wise: if you’re visiting Malibu at the weekend, parking can be troublesome so arrive early and come prepared with eagle eyes and lots of patience.
A show at the iconic Hollywood Bowl is a great way to top off your LA experience. Far from a typical tourist attraction, the Hollywood Bowl is a favourite amongst locals, young and old, so it’s a great way to rub shoulders with Los Angelians and soak up the atmosphere of the city. Think jazz on a balmy evening and unrivaled view of the Hollywood sign.
If you want to go all out, book a table at the on-site restaurant for incredible food and the best seats in the house. Otherwise, pack a light picnic. You’ll see plenty of locals carrying huge coolers full of treats up the near vertical incline to their seats, but if this doesn’t look like your idea of fun, make do with a bottle of wine and a cheese plate from the small food kiosk at the entrance.
After the show, make your way to the Star Route. Once you’ve discovered your favourite squares, head to Running Goose for dinner.
Originally published at www.travioor.com.