Los Angeles. The City of Angels. La La Land. Shakey Town. Tinseltown. Whatever you want to call it, L.A. is a city filled with culture, entertainment and diversity. The energy is intoxicating, the weather is outstanding, and the people, well, the people are what gives L.A. its charm.
Walking down the Venice Beach Boardwalk, artists line the streets—dancers, painters, caricaturists—talent is everywhere.
After spending the week in the sunshiny city with the Los Angeles Tourism Board exploring many of the cultural hotspots, foodie favorites and beachside paradises – I am absolutely smitten.
L.A. truly does have something for everyone, so I bring you the ultimate guide to exploring Los Angeles.
THINGS TO DO:
Transport yourself into the incredible world of the entertainment industry at Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Wander through the streets of some of your favourite production sets, admiring how the studio transforms these houses into different characters’ homes and hangouts. Immersing yourself into the Wizarding World, the Batcave, Friends’ Central Perk, Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow and The Big Bang Theory’s Apartment 4A, you’ll be able to take photos of your favourite sets, props and costumes. You can also test out their green screen and CGI technology, taking home videos of you riding the The Dark Knight’s Batpod or Harry Potter’s quidditch broom.
Rated one of the best outdoor activity companies in Los Angeles, Bikes and Hikes LA offers several different tours involving—you guessed it—hiking and biking. Choose to take in the sunrise over the Hollywood Sign during a morning hike or go celeb spotting on their celebrity bike experience. The tour guides are friendly, knowledgeable and filled with stories that will keep you laughing the whole time.
Explore the Arts District
Everywhere you go in Los Angeles, arts and culture paints the city bright. Most notably, the Arts District is home to some of the most incredible graffiti masterpieces. Although the practice of graffiti art is technically illegal, an exception is made in the Arts District with the building owners giving permission to the artists to tag their exteriors—and sometimes interiors too. With over 100 unique murals, exploring the street art in this part of town is a must. While you’re there, stop in at chef Wes Avila’s Guerrilla Tacos for his famous Hamachi tostadas. Can’t get enough of the Arts District? Stay at the Firehouse Hotel, a former firehouse transformed into a boutique hotel, restaurant and coffee shop.
With spectacular views from the rooftops of Level Downtown or Neuehouse Hollywood, the Rooftop Cinema Club is the ultimate cinema experience. Take in a iconic film as the sun goes down with popcorn and a drink, curled up in a cozy blanket with a loved one.
Cruise the Coastline
California cruising—rent a car and just get going. Drive from Santa Monica to Malibu, stopping along the way at Nekter Juice Bar for a smoothie bowl or at Neptune’s Net for a seafood feast. There are plenty of little beaches to relax and soak up the sun on, so why not make a day of it?
Eat your way through the city
When you’re in the City of Angels, get ready to wine and dine because the restaurants, food trucks, bars, and cafes are absolutely heavenly. From fried chicken fiestas to fresh and flavourful vegan eats, the food and drink offerings in L.A. are incredible. Somewhere in this magical city you’ll be sure to find your perfect smoothie bowl, acai bowl, sushi bowl, taco bowl, or truly any other bowl you desire. From Hollywood to Venice Beach, below are the places with my favourite eats.
WINING AND DINING
The Waterfront on the Venice Beach Boardwalk is an all-around great place—and quite possibly my favourite hangout in Los Angeles. Wanting to bring a little taste of Australia to the City of Angels, Dave—one of the owners—drew inspiration for the design from Wharf Bar, one of his favourite local hangouts in Sydney. The colourful and comfortable furniture perfectly pairs with the laid back vibe of the local eatery, which is complete with a lounge area, takeout window, all-day café, beer garden and dining area. Established in 1995, the soulful beach destination is an authentically Californian experience with a touch of Australia, providing options for carnivores and vegetarians alike. The food is flavour-filled and fresh, made with high-quality ingredients, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and happy hour offerings. It is hands down the spot to be with a cold beer in hand and a few of your best buds.
One of the most historic venues in Los Angeles, Clifton’s is an experience in and of itself. The decor and design pays homage to their California roots, tying in a bit of fantasy with a lot of nature and even more history. Walking into the large 5 story restaurant and bar, you’re transported to a weirdly cool and unique environment with a giant Redwood tree stationed in the middle and fireplaces, streams, and memorabilia all around.
Mama Shelter has a colourful and eclectic vibe with chalk artwork on the ceiling, delicious food and drink options awaiting, and foosball tables and game stations at the ready. The rooftop offers panoramic views of Los Angeles that can stretch from the legendary Hollywood sign to the bay area on clear, sunny days. Watch the sun go down over an Endless Summer cocktail and cheers to an amazing time in La La Land.
In Hollywood, you never know who you’ll see and when you’ll see them. While enjoying lunch at The Front Yard, Lady Gaga was enjoying hers at the table beside mine. Surprisingly, seeing Lady Gaga came second to the incredible lunch I devoured. Made to perfection, the Brussel sprout and hummus appetizers were the highlight of the experience, with the banana pudding dessert as the cherry on top [Full disclosure: no cherries were actually included in the dessert].
This old school joint will bring you back to old Hollywood. The grill was passed down through three generations with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Steve McQueen dining here. The restaurant remains true to the classic ambiance that was originally instilled in the grill and has kept much of the classic menu the same. If you’re a fan of dirty martinis, this is the place to enjoy one.
Nestled in DTLA, this market is home to a variety of food vendors offering cuisines from around the world—from Sari Sari, a Filipino stall that makes a fantastic chicken and rice bowl, to Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, a Mexico taqueria that is well worth the wait in the almost always guaranteed lineup. The eatery is also home to the original and much loved Eggslut. The late and great Anthony Bourdain featured the popular market in his season 9 premiere of Parts Unknown.
PLACES TO STAY:
This retro urban oasis is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located in Hollywood, The Garland is a pet-friendly boutique hotel with gorgeous grounds equipped with a dive-in movie theatre that plays movies poolside every Friday and Saturday night. Their restaurant, The Front Yard, offers to-go dining experiences where you can enjoy their delicious California rooted cuisine from the comfort of your room or even poolside—although, I do highly recommend dining-in or enjoying a cocktail at sunset by their patio’s fireplace at least once during your stay.
This hotel is a dream. It has practically everything you could desire within a nearly one block radius. With some of the best dining and nightlife options, it’s no wonder celebrities like Justin Bieber have stayed here. From TAO Asian Bistro, where Beyonce, Jay Z and Pharrell have frequented; to The Highlight Room, the rooftop restaurant, patio and pool with unparalleled views of the city; to Luchini, the late night pizzeria and bar; to their fully equipped gym designed by Gunnar Peterson, you could stay in this one neighbourhood your entire trip and leave fulfilled. From top to bottom, every detail of the Dream Hollywood complex is well thought-through and decadent, perfectly epitomizing Hollywood glam. To top it all off, the hotel is pet friendly and their bathrobes are the softest, most luxurious ones I’ve ever worn.
Want to be by the beach? Hotel Eriwin is a win. The hotel’s bar, High Lounge, is the only rooftop patio in Venice, promising a stunning view of the sunset year-round. Moreover, you’ll be close to the Boardwalk, Abbot Kinney and the beachside skate park. Soak up the sun, drink up the boozy beverages, browse the eclectic shops and enjoy the easy-going, cool, and creative California vibes.
For more insider tips on exploring Los Angeles, check out the Los Angeles Tourism Board and follow them on Instagram.