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City guide | Los Angeles | California

October 17, 2022

The city of dreams. Los Angeles is a vast-spread city with many exciting neighborhoods. We put together a guide for you to maneuver your search for cool spots. It was made by a local. Robin Laananen gives away her coolest places in The City of Angels.

People rarely move to Los Angeles without being in pursuit of something, a dream of sorts. People don’t move to Los Angeles just to pay higher rent, spend more time in their cars or to be that smaller fish in a bigger pond without a goal in mind. Some of the silver linings of taking the big plunge are the beautiful yearlong sunshine, the coastline full of beaches, being within a few hours of National Parks (ranging from the Redwoods to Death Valley), and the easy access to delicious culinary from around the world, whenever hunger strikes, despite the hour. A question I hear visitors ask is “does anyone work in this town?” as the streets always feel packed, coffee shops holding court to a sea of laptops, which all is a reflection of the beauty of working for themselves. The city inhabits artists of all mediums; architects, designers, photographers, filmmakers, tech wizards, athletes, comedians, and, of course, actors. To come to this city, the “City of Angels”, with an idea of what kind of life you want is taking it one step closer to making it possible. 

While considering the length of your stay, you’d be clever to keep in mind the amount of road trips easily inspired by the city. Not too far is Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, Idyllwild, Lake Arrowhead and even the crazy impressive Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. One of the most beautiful drives in the country is mainlined here, the drive North to Big Sur and the Redwoods, passing countless beautiful coastline cities, like Santa Barbara, or grab your passport and head South to Mexico (feel free to stop short in beautiful more mellow, San Diego). You will even find a charming Danish-inspired village of Solvang just over two hours away. Not to mention the Salton Sea, a unique stop being the largest lake in California below sea level accidentally to divert the flow of the Colorado River and a big fail as a tourist attraction.

If you have less time, the Pacific Coast Highway along the Malibu Coastline is not to miss with the ocean on one side and impressive cascading mountains on the other. The ease of taking a road trip, with so many options, to completely change perspective is one main reason why I’ve continued to live in Los Angeles. 

Cha Cha Lounge in Silver Lake is a great dive bar fully equipped with cocktails and a photo both.

Neighborhood | Silver Lake

This neighborhood is one of those with rolling hills covered in a range of mid-century to Spanish arches to contemporary homes and apartment buildings. You’ll find Silver Lake boulevard laced with boutique shops, cafes, posh bars, and the reservoir where locals lap around while jogging, walking, or basking in the sun on one of the grassy patches. This area could be walkable, with many airbnbs to choose from.

Cha Cha Lounge | Dive bar

The original Cha Cha Lounge in Seattle was in an institution, with mostly musicians employed as bar staff, it would be where everyone went before going to a show, and then drink with the band who played afterwards. I could walk in any time, any day, and grab a booth with people I knew. It was our version of “Cheers”. In 2005, the owners opened the Cha Cha Lounge in Silver Lake, open daily from 5pm – 2am. This dimly lit bar in Silver Lake is the epitome of an appreciated dive bar with a photo booth, wall to wall velvet paintings, foosball tables, daily happy hour specials and lived in booths that could make you lose track of time. Imagine a tiki bar bathed in red light and most likely music blasting that you’ll try to Shazam over the boisterous chatter. No need to leave if you get hungry, there’s a vending machine full of snacks and souvenirs. 
2375 Glendale Blvd
Cha Cha Lounge

Sqirl | Best brunch spot

If you go during the weekend, be prepared to wait, but it’s worth it. This insanely popular brunch spot, located in the Virgil Village, is the result of humble beginnings turned phenomena in the making of jam by owner, Jessica Koslow. The menu providing tough decisions between the Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl to French Toast and the Avocado Toast or Buckwheat Pancakes. Personally, I always go for “the Stella” served vegan (sans egg) with partial bias being friends with the namesake. The dishes even taste better when knowing the organic produce is from local farmers. After paying your check, you can shop at their store next door for a take-home jar of preserves, Sqirl swag or hot sauces, granolas, all the treats, and even Jessica’s cookbook, “Everything I Want to Eat” so you can try it at home. 
720 N Virgil Ave #4

Little Pine | Vegan heaven

This adorable vegan fine-dining restaurant located in Silver Lake was originally opened by musician and animal activist, Moby, in 2015. Their menu is full of healthy plant-based dishes, including ones meant to be shared with your entourage. While you’re enjoying scrumptious food, you can feel good with knowing the place donates some of their proceeds to animal charities in the community. Executive Chef Randy Leon is the passion behind the currently growing menu, of which, includes a beautiful cauliflower dish, a melt in your mouth truffle mac-n-cheese, sweet potato gnocchi and a picturesque panco crusted piccata. Come for brunch and pile on the pancakes, a brekkie sandwich or the colorfully delicious melon salad. They’re open for all the meals; brunch, lunch and dinner so you can choose the accompanying beverage of organic wines, micro brews, teas or coffee. The restaurant does have a cozy neighborhood vibe, where you can feel like part of a community.
2870 Rowena Avenue

Griffith Park is wilderness close to the city.

Parks, hiking and observatories 

Griffith Park | Hiking in the wilderness

Griffith Park is a treasure, with over 4500 acres of plush wilderness located convenient to the city, in the Eastern Santa Monica Mountain range and offers activities for everyone. The Griffith Observatory (yes, the one with movie cameos like “Rebel Without A Cause” and “La La Land”) has daily programs in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium while providing free public telescopes outside. There are tons of hiking trails through the park’s canyons, one very popular trail leads up to a view of the Observatory, downtown, the “Hollywood” sign and even the ocean. The park is home to the historic Greek Theatre, the Autry Museum of the America West, the Bronson Caves, the LA Zoo and scattered with golf courses and ball fields. If hiking during the summer months, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes sunbathing on or near the trail and perhaps you’ll spot the infamous yet evasive mountain lion during the cooler hours. Located near the Western Canyon entrance, you can find Trails Café for a satisfying breakfast or lunch under the trees. 

Angeles National Forest | Over 50 trails to choose from

While traversing the hustle of city life, when a local park isn’t enough, it’s refreshing to know that you’re about 25 minutes from over 640,000 acres of wilderness. The scenic Angeles Crest Highway cutting through the San Gabriel mountains can provide enough fresh air and scenic views supplying many spots to pull over and trails for a longer dose with a hike. You can choose your way of exploration through either cycling the hills, hiking with a choice of over 50 trails, and even boating or snowboarding. You can visit the Mount Wilson Observatory for a stunning view of the mountain range, or a nightly view of the stars. No matter what you decide to do, be sure to pick up an “adventure pass” to avoid being ticketed while parked in some areas, they only cost $5 and can be purchased at the Shell Station in La Canada prior to entering the forest, or at REI or Big 5 locations. 

Descanso Gardens | Japanese garden and park

Oddly enough, you might miss the Gardens as you cruise by heading north on the 2. The private estate turned public gardens back in the 1950’s, is home to 150 acres of plush forest, kept lawns, a Japanese Garden and seasonal blooming flowers. The fragrance of the gardens lure you from the parking lot, relaxation settles in as you step through the entrance. If you plan to come during the winter months, you can explore the “Enchanted Forest of Light” at night, just be sure to book tickets in advance. There is an onsite restaurant, Kitchen, where you can pick up lunch, to sit amongst beautiful nature with the city noise quieted to a inaudible hum. 
1418 Descanso Dr, La Canada Flintridge

Take a stroll in a japanese garden, Descanso gardens.
Salazar serves delicious Mexican food in Frogtown.

Neighborhood | Frogtown 

This area has often been called a “hidden gem of creative energy” with even having art studios and a rehearsal space for local bands. It’s located more centrally, running parallel to the LA River and accessible by bike paths. It is more spread out, and street parking is typically available.

Salazar | Mexican food

If you’re hungry for delicious Mexican food and want to take advantage of the city’s sunshine, you’d make a good choice to head to Salazar, located in Eastside’s Frogtown. The restaurant is known for its colorful Sonoran desert-style outdoor seating and delicious wood-grill focused menu, able to satisfy anyone’s appetite. Newly arrived chef, Esteban Lluis from Baja, California, is proudly bringing the recipes and spices from Mexico, being born and raised in both Mexicali and Calexico. While sitting in the patio, it almost feels as though you’ve left the city, and whether you’re looking for a boozy brunch or a pre-show funk before heading over to the venue next door, Zebulon, you won’t be disappointed. 
2490 Fletcher Dr

Zebulon | Music, food and drinks

Having once been located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, the Zebulon moved to Los Angeles’ Frogtown in 2017. Even buildings can be transplants. This 300 cap venue quickly became a favorite of locals, with an adjoining bar and restaurant, charming outdoor seating, and an eclectic array of bands and artists being booked. If you take notice, you can feel the influence of the founders – Parisian brothers Joce and Jef Soubiran and their friend, Blestel, with a selection of artsy movies played on the nights a band doesn’t pack the showroom and, naturally, there are DJ nights thrown into the mix. With a calendar full of events for everyone’s taste, it’s best to keep an eye out as anything could happen. 
2478 Fletcher Dr

Neighborhood | Los Feliz

This stretch of neighborhood is hillside from Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America, and attracts creatives of all types. The sidewalks lead you to old-school watering holes, like the Dresden, made famous by the movie, Swingers, to newer restaurants and lively sidewalk cafes, like Little Dom’s and Alcove. If you’re feeling like escaping the heat and take in a movie, you can choose from sweet neighborhood living room feeling theatre, Los Feliz 3, or the historic single-screen movie theater, The Vista. There’s plenty of night activities like karaoke with cocktails at the Drawing Room or watching a game with locals and giant pub beers at Ye Rustic Inn. You can shop to your heart’s content with the artsy boutique stores sprinkled about. To explore this area is to mingle with the locals.

Skylight Books | Book store

A vacation might not seem complete without having a good book along for those quiet moments. This independently owned bookstore is located in Los Feliz, at the foot of Griffith Park. They have two locations bumped up against each other, one offering literary fiction, cookbooks, essays and nonfiction, travel, poetry, stationary and gifts, while the Annex holds the artsy collection of photography, design, music, graphic novels, fashion and the wall of magazines and zines. The staff are very helpful, obvious avid readers and offer great options to discover on the “staff picks” shelf. If you don’t know what you’re in the mood for, just ask.
818 N Vermont Ave

Two great places, Donut Friend in Highland Park and Muddy Paw in Eagle Rock.

Neighborhood | Highland Park

Highland Park is what happened after Silver Lake and Echo Park overflowed, a rapidly burgeoning neighborhood where one could spend a whole day (and night) exploring through a bunch of stores, restaurants, bars, catch live music at the Lodge Room, and even bowl at appropriately named, Highland Park Bowl. This neighborhood has charm for days, and I’m always finding places I hadn’t seen before each time I go. 

Café Birdie | Bistro

Next to the bowling alley is this Parisian-style bistro, immediately welcoming with its gorgeous tile wall, long open bar, copper accents, tall ceiling, hanging pendant lighting and all the green from both plants and walls. Not to be overlooked is the calming back patio seating with exposed brick and string lights. Their menu consists of fresh farmer’s market vegetables, handmade pastas and proteins suitable for any diet. You can choose from a meal of elevated comfort foods, or a dish that will transport you to another city entirely, and the inviting list of cocktails satisfies weekend casual sippers or night on the town thirsts. 
5631 N Figueroa St

Café Birdie is a Parisian-style bistro in Highland Park.

Good Housekeeping | Cocktail bar

Should you want to have a proper nightcap after eating at Café Birdie or beating your friends at Highland Park Bowl, you can head to this adorably small bar. The most literal description would be the brickhouse tucked behind Birdie, with the same owners, and charming outdoor seating available, once the stools at the lovely marble bar or handful of booths quickly become occupied. You can find a plethora of classic cocktails made with only the best ingredients, perhaps a negroni, or going as far as a charcoal-filtered Manhattan. For such a small place, it is big in vibe. 
5635 N Figueroa St

Donut Friend | Vegan sugar kick

Should you find yourself with a sugar craving and either in Highland Park or Downtown, you could satisfy that craving with an incredible donut, or a dozen. A vegan donut shop, it’s wildly popular with all the locals, along with returning visitors to get their fix. With the owner being Mark Trombino, a punk rock music producer and former drummer of Drive Like Jehu, you won’t be surprised to see the donut flavors nodding tribute to bands, like “Rites of Sprinkles”, “Dag Nutty”, “MC5 Spice”, “Chocolate From the Crypt” and, of course, “Fudgegazi”. If your struggle to choose a donut wasn’t hard enough, they’ve more recently created the house made vegan ice cream, “Creamo”! Now you can make a donut ice cream sandwich and be buzzing for days.
goodhousekeepinghlp.com

Neighborhood | Eagle Rock 

Earning its name from a large rock bluff with an impression of an eagle, its situated Northeast of downtown, this neighborhood is super laidback with an eclectic collection of vintage shops, cafes, old diners, bars, parks and even an old school bowling alley. This area is unassuming but maintains a part of Los Angeles’ history, continues to be called home by a vibrant community which has had notable residents. The main drag is off Colorado Boulevard, including aptly named Eagle Rock Boulevard, where you’ll find both many places to walk and craft beers in most places as there’s a neighborhood brewery, Eagle Rock Brewery. 

Muddy Paw Coffee | Dogs’ best friend

People love their dogs, they’re part of the family. Owners Derek and Darren LaBorie took their love one step (or one paw) further by opening the unique roasting company turned coffee shop. They have two locations in Los Angeles, the Eagle Rock café even has a dog park in the back patio where you can bring your pup and your laptop. Menu items like “wag the tail”, “puppy love”, and “salty old dog” are delicious coffee drinks for humans, while they also have baked goods for your four-legged companion, and part of the proceeds go toward supporting local animal shelters. 
4610 Eagle Rock Blvd, 90041 (location with dogpark)
muddypawla.com

Brewmeister, Kimberly Rice at Sage Vegan Bistro.

Neighborhood | Echo Park 

This neighborhood is just South of Silver Lake, prior to entering Downtown, easily found while driving down Sunset Blvd. While still home to many hipsters, there are bars, restaurants, shops, taco trucks and venues to keep you busy at all hours. Depending on when you visit and what you’re into, you could catch a Dodger’s game or a car show involving classic old American cars and lowriders! Another relatively walkable neighborhood. If you have a rental car, you can usually find metered parking. 

Sage Vegan Bistro | All vegan eatery and brewery

Echo Park is continuously growing neighborhood, with a number of restaurants depending on your mood, from lunch spot, Honey Hi, to the Tacos Ariza, the taco truck parked on Logan Street, which happens to be across the street from the Friday afternoon Farmer’s Market. Since 2011, Sage Vegan Bistro has been at that corner spot, which its original location and has expanded to a neighborhood near you. A few years ago, this delicious all-vegan eatery added a brewery, headed by Brewmeister, Kimberly Rice. The visuals and results transpiring from this brewery only make this bistro more charming, with industrial metal sheeted walls, high ceilings with matching large windows and lacquered wood booths. This spot is perfect for lunch, dinner, or snacks with a seat at the bar, choosing from their array of brews, juices, coffees or mixed cocktails. You don’t even have to be vegan to have favorites on the menu.
sageveganbistro.com

The Echo & Echoplex | Music venue

The smaller Echo sits above the larger Echoplex which gives way for nearly any size band to play a show. You could miss both venues if you’re not paying attention with general lack of signage. (Your google map is not wrong). Even The Rolling Stones played a secret show at the Echoplex a few years ago, one of which I’m still kicking myself for being out of town at the time. It’s hard to compare the energy of a packed show at the Echo, catching a lesser-known yet incredible band get their chops in the small room, or having the chance to see a larger band play at the Echoplex, still a relatively small venue compared to the others in town. In both venues, you feel as though you’re seeing something special either before popularity or a rare opportunity for an intimate performance of larger band, an underplay. Each has their own outdoor hang which is a vibe in itself. 
The Echo: 822 Sunset Blvd 
The Echoplex: 1154 Glendale Blvd
theecho.com

Neighborhood | Downtown

Downtown Los Angeles is mainly separated by districts: Arts (Warehouse), Fashion/Garment, Flower, Financial, Jewelry, Toy. You’ll also find Little Tokyo and Chinatown. The Arts District is a fun walkable area with boutique shops, galleries and restaurants, also blending into Little Tokyo which brings you to the main museums of MOCA, The Broad, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and even the Walt Disney Concert Hall. You will never come short of things to do while spending time in the downtown area. I would heavily suggest either exploring on foot or an Uber as parking expense will quickly add up, if you’re lucky enough to find a spot. 
downtownla.com

Quote: Walk or Uber, parking is scarce and expensive

Verve Coffee | Fair java

Coffee can be an essential to begin the day, or maybe as an afternoon pick-me up. Verve has locations all over California, with 5 in Los Angeles alone, along with 4 in Japan should you need a familiar fix while traveling overseas. Originating from the coastal town of Santa Cruz, and with founders from both the Pacific Northwest and California, you can taste the passion they have for coffee in every sip. You can feel good about drinking that yummy coffee with knowing they are mindful of the farmers who make the quality possible, with the Farmlevel Initiative, that includes paying premium wages and contributing to the combat of climate change. Each café is designed to inspire with sunshine pouring through the giant windows, light wood perches for working on that screenplay or catching up with friends. The menu includes breakfast or lunch items, from overnight oats and granola to a kale chicken Caesar wrap and avocado toast. You can even grab a bag of beans to take the experience home with you.
vervecoffee.com

The Broad | Art Museum

While making plans to come to Los Angeles, it’d be a good idea to check out the upcoming exhibitions at the number of museums downtown. The Broad is a 120,000 square foot contemporary museum offering free general admission though tickets must be booked in advance. The museum holds special viewings of collections, like the “Infinity Mirrored Room” and “Longing For Eternity” by Yayoi Kusama. You’ll find work by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kara Walker. As with any museums, be sure to check current listings for any changes. You may take the escalator up as you walk in, but be sure to take the stairs on the way down as you can view “the vault” holding the portions of the collections not currently on display. 
221 S Grand Ave
thebroad.org

Walt Disney Concert Hall | Great Music and architecture

You can’t miss the stainless steel curves of this impressive hall designed by architect Frank Gehry, which is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra. A 2 minute walk from The Broad, it’d be a solid plan to check out the event listings for the Concert Hall way ahead of time. You can see everything from classical and jazz to experimental or maybe one of your favorite artists playing with the LA Phil. To see a show within these walls will make for a memorable night, with not only the acoustics but to take in the view of the organ looming over the stage. Gehry designed the façade with consultation from tonal designer, Manuel Rosales. It is a sight, with 6125 pipes, the longest measuring 32 feet. As with many buildings in Los Angeles, you’ll find the hall has also been a popular location in the movies. 
111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles

Grand Central Market | A fix for your thirst and food cravings

While exploring the heart of downtown Los Angeles, not to be missed when feeling puckish, is the Grand Central Market for everything from Sticky Rice’s Thai food, to Berlin Currywurst, a bowl at Ramen Hood, BBQ, yummy pupusas, anything made with egg at Eggslut, Mexican food, or a pie and cookie shop, Fat & Flour. You could quench your thirst with nice coffee, fresh juice or craft beer. With culinary options from around the world, it’s a great place to take a break from walking the streets. And make sure to notice that you’re inside an historical building, with the market having been around since 1917. Once you’ve taken a load off and replenished with a meal, if you feel like dancing, La Cita bar is directly next door and has been a popular place to get your boogie on. 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Highland Park Brewery in China Town. Here you can sip on a brew at the bar or outside on the sunny patio.

Highland Park Brewery | Brewery in China Town

With the original location being a small, cozy spot in Highland Park, they opened a second more spacious location in Chinatown. The brewery has won multiple awards for its beer, and you can watch the brewers at work as you enjoy a brew of your choice fresh on tap, like “Thunderbolt Gold”, “Old Tomorrow” or “Fill Pils”. Whether you like wild hoppy, crisp lagers or stoic stouts, you’ll be in good company, along with refreshing non-alcoholic options as not to leave anyone out. They have a full kitchen and tasting menu for anyone’s palette, including salads, burgers, big German pretzels, tater tots and all kinds of French fries. The spacious inside is inviting with tall ceilings and exposed brick walls, or you can sit outside in their big patio to soak in the California sun. On your way out, you can grab a fresh 4-pack to take home. 
1220 N Spring St

Neighborhood | Hollywood

Hollywood is vast and spacious with different moods depending on which direction you choose. The center of tinseltown being home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a lively nightlife with countless restaurants, bars, improv comedy clubs and historical landmarks like the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars. Head to North and you’ll find the NoHo Arts District with playhouses, art galleries and the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences. In continued Hollywood-style, you won’t be short of cocktail lounges, vintage shops, coffeehouses, old school diners and bars serving craft beers. West Hollywood, locally known as WeHo, is where you’ll find a more wild area off the Sunset Strip with legendary places like the Chateau Marmont, the Whiskey a Go Go and highly rated art galleries. WeHo has always been welcome to everyone with Santa Monica Boulevard being showered in rainbow flags paying homage to the LGBTQ community. Come one, come all!

The Hollywood Bowl | Legendary venue

This place is legendary. Even if you don’t live in LA, you’ve probably heard of the Bowl. This amphitheater under the stars has hosted everyone from Prince to Lady Gaga to Bob Dylan. I keep an eye on the calendar simply for the experience of seeing an artist I love play in this particular setting. Many artists have recorded their concerts here, like the Doors and Van Morrison. If you’re feeling fancy, you can book a box closer to the stage with a table and a bottle (or bottles) of wine, or the more DIY option of sitting on the lawn with picnic areas full of tables and benches, bringing your own picnic (permitted most nights but do double check). Alternatively, you can buy a bottle of wine at the venue rather than make the trek to the bar multiple times. Located in the Hollywood Hills, not far from the always bustling Highland Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, traffic can be chaos so be sure to plan ahead. Something you might not know is that, since it’s partially owned by the Parks and Recreation, you’re free to explore during the day, and on some mornings, you can watch the LA Philharmonic rehearse.
2301 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Get your caffeine kicks at Groundwork coffee in North Hollywood.

Neighborhood | North Hollywood

Groundwork Coffee | Inspiring organic coffee

The cafe has 11 locations spread throughout Los Angeles, from the far west by the beach at their original location in Venice and Santa Monica, to Hollywood and Downtown, with a few scattered in-between. Their mission being to “share exceptional, organic coffee that inspires people to work hard, dream big, and impact the world”. The first time I tasted Groundwork Coffee was during a visit in Portland, so I was thrilled to see so many options in LA. I visited the roastery in North Hollywood, and it’s very apparent how much the roasters enjoy what they do. Being an avid coffee drinker, I was intrigued with witnessing the roasting process. This company prides themselves of having long-standing relationships with farmers, and only working with organic beans. Each location has its own charm, the Northern Hollywood one being inside an old train station, conveniently by a subway and bus stop. You can grab brunch to go with your cup, from breakfast tacos to a “goddess bowl” for a more healthy boost. *multiple locations 

Neighborhood | West Hollywood

Troubador | For the music nerd

Opening in 1957, this 500 cap venue is located in West Hollywood and has been given props from a number of media outlets like Rolling Stone Magazine and NBC, and has the history to back that reputation. The venue has had legit rock stars play the stage early in their careers, like Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Billy Joel, Tom Waits and Guns N’ Roses. Breaking away from One Direction, Harry Styles played his solo debut there in 2017. The stage can be easily seen unless you’re in that one spot with the showroom bar separating your view. There’s two balconies typically held for VIP, and 3 bars making it easy to refresh your beverage. If you’re a music nerd, this venue isn’t one to miss. 
9081 N Santa Monica Blvd

Beautiful Malibu Beach and the Pacific Coast Highway is a great drive.

Neighborhood | Westside

Malibu Beach | Beach life

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic highways in the country, and people will often design a road trip for the sole purpose of traveling the length of it which totals just over 656 miles, the longest state route in California. You can get a taste of the drive heading to Malibu, a coastal city with gorgeous beaches silhouetted by the Santa Monica Mountains. You can choose from Zuma, El Matador or Point Dume, all of which have their own intrigue. Point Dume has an incredible higher view, but if you’re planning to watch the sunrise, plan to elbow your way into the pack of early rising “influencers”. El Matador is home of a popular arch typically photographed at sunset and parking is gated off until 8:00am. A word to the wise, pay attention to the parking signs as Malibu police don’t mess around and will ticket you in a heartbeat. And be prepared to gaze at the beautiful beachside homes with priceless views of the ocean. 

Where to stay

Los Angeles is undoubtedly vast and neverendingly spread out, and, from a distance, can appear like a city of sprawling highways, strip malls and countless box stores, but it’s much more. Yes, it is spread out, you can miss downtown if you’re not paying attention. Good things to keep in mind when planning a trip is to consider what you’d like to spend your time doing whether it’s lazy days at the beach, insightful exploration of the arts, soaking in the shine from the stars of film or throwing on your hiking boots to get dirty. This will help decide where you’d like to stay. Hotel June has a unique location nestled into the mountains mere minutes from Malibu which can feel like a retreat. If you’d like to have the Sunset Strip at your door, surrounded by restaurants, nightclubs, bars, comedy clubs and West Hollywood’s infamous giant billboards, you can book at the historical Sunset Tower. Mama’s Shelter has a location in the middle of Hollywood where you’re surrounded by endless options of entertainment, shopping and sustenance. To immerse yourself in arts & culture, you can stay at always hip Ace Hotel downtown which even has the Ace Theatre downstairs, where well-known artists will play more intimate shows, and the rooftop pool with a popular bar typically for guests only. To catch the cool fringes of Silver Lake and Echo Park, the Silver Lake Pool & Inn is an unassuming gem tucked away in Sunset Junction. 

Regardless of where you choose to stay, you will be in traffic at some point, it’s best to try to avoid the 3 – 7pm window of rush hour. An optimistic idea is to perhaps try to approach the stream of taillights is with the fun idea that you’re simply taking multiple mini-road trips, allotting a cushion of time for inevitable delays. 

Mama Shelter

Los Angeles is the only city in this country to have one of these lovely and adorable boutique hotels, as you can find them in France, UK and even Brazil. The location is ideal for those looking to stay down the street from the sidewalk of stars, and you would never go hungry (or thirsty) with all the closely surrounding restaurants and bars. Be sure to pop into Trejo’s Cantina, one of Danny Trejo’s restaurants, a block from the lobby. The hotel has a vibrant, cozy restaurant and bar, not to forget the fun, eclectic rooftop restaurant causing guests and locals to beeline straight to the elevator. 

Ace Hotel

With the Ace Hotel having locations around the globe, this hotel is located in the heart of downtown, literally sitting above the Ace Theater, a 1920s Spanish Gothic-style theater, where you can find many larger artists playing in the more intimate setting. As you walk to your room, the halls have a more resident vibe, easy to imagine actually living there, and some of these chic rooms are even equipped with acoustic guitars and record players available for your use. When hunger sets in, you can choose between the the street-level restaurant, “Best Girl Bistro” (where you’ll find delicious coffee and pastries in the morning) or the rooftop pool bar for a more party vibe opening to the public on the weekends, possibly with DJs. 

Silver Lake Pool & Inn

Part of the Palisociety’s ever-growing collection, at first glance the hotel is unassuming, almost a secret club of apartments, nestled next door of Erewhon Grocery (one of the healthiest most organic filled shops you can find). Though once checked in, you’ll find a lovely rooftop pool perfect for a dip and chill anytime of the day, set amongst beautiful handmade Morrocan and Italian tiles, artwork created by locals, and comfy low-slung chairs. Unwind from travel in of their impeccable rooms with a view of the hills, and it’ll be easy to imagine why this hidden gem is a top-rated hotel of the city. The Italian with California flare restaurant, Marco Polo, adjoins the hotel, though you can quickly venture into the artsy neighborhood of Silver Lake to find you have many restaurants, shops and bars at your doorstep. 

Hotel June

While this hotel has more than one location in Los Angeles, the most recent opening during 2020 in West Los Angeles, the location in Malibu feels more like a retreat, tucked in the mountains near a string of beaches on 4 lush acres. You can choose from Zuma Beach less than 5 minutes away, and being one of the longest surfing beaches in the state, Surfrider Beach or El Matador, where you’ll find the coves inspiring many photoshoots, especially at sunset. The historic bungalows have a creative, youthful Californian vibe, hotel is a place that has inspired artists to create during their stay, most notably Bob Dylan took up residence while writing “Blood on the Tracks”. Kid sister to LA’s Proper Hotel, Hotel June has also been a favorite for locals as a staycation. 

Proper Hotel

Located in downtown’s South Park district, this posh hotel is a renovated 1920s building full of vintage-chic rooms. You can book a suite with one having an indoor pool, another even an indoor basketball court. The rooftop terrace features a luscious pool and upscale restaurant, Cara Cara, with a seasonal menu rotating California’s delicious produce. You can grab a cocktail to sit by the firepit or stay awhile longer in one of the unique seats for dinner, taking in the view of the city’s skyline. Or there’s the modern Caldo Verde at street level gloriously bringing Portugese flavors with California delicacies. While staying in this neighborhood, you’re walking distance from the MOCA, The Broad, Grammy Museum LA Live, Disney Concert Hall and even the Staples Center. 

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