How to See the Charming Side of Los Angeles
Los Angeles had worked its way to the top USA destination of my 2018 Travel Wishlist, and I was so glad to be able to make the trip earlier this year. It was a wonderful escape from a muddy grey spring - even if it was still too cold for surfing lessons - and we were lucky enough to have some local recommendations (thanks, Evan!). We spent five days exploring from downtown to the Venice canals, finding our favorite views, restaurants, art, and shopping. Because I never seem to check everything off my list in any destination, there are a few spots below that I haven't tried yet - looks like time to schedule a return trip!
Eat & Drink
Bottega Louie: I think it's safe to say this is the prettiest restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles. It's bright and open with a bit of Ladurée flair, and is home to a macaron counter, a bar/café, and a full-service restaurant. Stop by for a drink or lunch, and pick up a box of macarons on your way out.
Croft Alley: Hidden away on Melrose Place, this is a perfect spot for a relaxing patio lunch. They serve a fresh and artful menu, with another location at The Standard Hotel in Hollywood.
Alfred Coffee: This coffee & tea spot has a few different locations, but the cutest one is tucked into an alley on Melrose. They have just about any kind of caffeination you could need, but I stick with an oat milk cappuccino.
for sweets: Salt & Straw serves famously delicious handmade ice cream at a few different locations, while Proof Bakery turns out fantastic pastries in Atwater. If you're looking for doughnuts, California Donuts in Koreatown is the place.
for dinner: Ostrich Farm (Echo Park; make a reservation), Milo & Olive (Santa Monica; casual), Bäco Mercat (Downtown; global & fun), Alimento (Silver Lake; handmade pasta!), The Rose Café (Venice; also brunch & lunch).
Do & See
The Broad: The Andy Warhol collection here would be enough to lure me in on it's own, but there's also plenty of Jeff Koons and a couple of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms. The Broad is a wonderfully digestible museum where you can see everything in a couple of hours. Admission is free - except to special exhibits - but you'll want to reserve tickets well in advance.
Angel's Flight: While you're downtown, hop on the newly reopened Angel's Flight funicular train and pretend you're in La La Land. It will bring you up to Grand Avenue near The Broad, or down to Grand Central Market on Hill Street.
The Venice Canals: Between a visit to Venice Beach and shopping on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, take a stroll around the Venice Canals. Small houses are built along the water, lined with sidewalks and moored boats - not so unlike Venice, Italy. You won't have the place to yourself, but it's still a perfect spot for some relaxing wandering and filling up your camera roll.
Olive & June: Skip any pre-vacation manicure you may have been contemplating, and book one here instead. This pretty salon is known for their chic nail art, luxury experience, and reasonable pricing.
for views: Don't miss a sunset view from the beach, whether you're in Santa Monica, Venice, or down at Hermosa Beach. Griffith Observatory is always busy, but the views - from downtown L.A. out to the ocean - and the art deco details are worth your trouble. If you're looking for a good photo spot with the Hollywood sign, see the map below!
for more art: The Getty is home to fantastic art and fantastic views, so be sure to see both. At LACMA, the Urban Light installation on Wilshire is worth a visit even if you don't have time to see the full museum. For an evening show, check what's on at the L.A. Opera.
The Last Bookstore: In an old bank building downtown, this shop is an expansive maze of books and records, both used and new. Any book lover could spend hours browsing here, feeling like you've fallen into this magical short film.
The Los Angeles Flower Market: Picking up a fresh bouquet while traveling is one of my favorite ways to feel more local, and downtown L.A. has an entire flower district where you can buy just about any blooms under the sun.
Melrose Place: The main avenue is lined with plenty of designer brands - perfect for window shopping - but this little street has a few hidden gems like beauty brand Violet Grey, The Apartment by The Line, Alfred in the Alley for coffee and Croft Alley for lunch.
for gifts & stationery: Sugar Paper (Santa Monica), Yolk (Silver Lake), Soap Plant (Los Feliz), The Social Type (Silver Lake), Poketo (Little Tokyo), Brentwood Country Mart (Santa Monica), Arcana Books (Culver City), Heath Ceramics (West Hollywood).
P.S. Rent a car in Los Angeles. If you're debating between driving or using public transit and ride-shares, here's my thinking: The cost may be about the same in the end, but having a car is so much more convenient. Plus, you'll be in crazy traffic either way, and you might as well be the one in charge of the music.