We’ve recently moved back to Canada, but Greg and I wanted to share what we discovered while living in Los Angeles over the past 4 years. This guide is by no means comprehensive, but if you had a couple of days to spend in LA, it would give you some ideas of how to tackle this massive, sprawling, incredible city. We hope you’ll find it helpful (and we hope you’ll go visit!)!
There’s a lot around Hollywood, but the place itself is kinda boring/touristy. Hollywood and Highland is sort of like a trashy Times Square. It’s worth passing through, but maybe just for an hour to see the Walk of Fame stars and The Chinese Theatre (where the handprints are). If you go to the Dolby Theatre that’s where the Oscars take place. There’s a good view of the Hollywood Sign if you go into the mall courtyard and stand on the walkway.
Wanderlust Hollywood is an awesome, very LA experience if you feel like partaking in a morning workout followed by some boutique shopping and a delicious brunch or smoothie. Check the schedule here and try out “The Class” (on Sunday mornings) – it is extremely cathartic and intense, definitely unlike anything you’ve done before, and you may end up on a mat next to Drew Barrymore!
The Museum of Broken Relationships is a neat way to spend an hour. People donate mementos of their past relationships and write a little story about them. Greg says it is sort of “meh,” but I found the sentiment very moving.
Amoeba Records is a killer record store. Great vinyl selection and it’s massive. They have in-store performances throughout the week, so check the schedule here to see if someone’s playing.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery puts on outdoor movie screenings throughout the summer. Check the schedule here and buy tickets in advance. Is a fun night/vibe and you can bring a picnic/alcohol into the park.
The Hollywood Bowl is a spectacular venue. They do different concerts/shows all the time, check this site to see what’s on. We saw Paul Simon and it was FANTASTIC.
The Magic Castle is where dreams come true. Honestly, I’ve never seen Greg happier than he was here. It’s a magician’s club and every room of the castle is available to wander through; within you will find extremely talented magicians performing close-up magic that will knock your socks off. You need an “in” to go, but MAN is it worth it.
UCB Franklin is a great spot to see improv comedy. If you have a Sunday night free, Ben Schwartz has an improv show called Shitty Jobs that’s always awesome. Sometimes he’s not there, but the whole troupe is really good. Our other favorite shows are Bangarang (Fridays) and Asssscat (Saturdays – this show is the only one that sells out super quickly, so look for tickets a few weeks in advance).
Sushi Stop is a cheap sushi place next to UCB that’s good for a quick meal beforehand (the ceviche and salmon hand rolls are amazing!).
Van Leuwen’s Ice-Cream is right there as well and good pre/post show (known for their vegan options, but they also have classic ice-cream as well).
Right across from UCB is the Scientology Celebrity Centre. They do open houses some nights. We’ve never done it, but even just seeing the building is a site to behold.
Griffith Park is worth visiting. It’s a nice place to get some nature. There’s a trail that doesn’t take too long if you’re up for it (and it’s not too hot) that allows you to climb up to Griffith Observatory.
Griffith Observatory has amazing views. It’s free to walk around and look through telescopes, but you have to line up for those. We found it best to go around sunset. The planetarium shows are AWESOME and very worth it. Tickets are $7.
As for food, check out Yucca’s Tacos and Jeni’s Ice Cream on Hillhurst.
Also, The Greek Theatre is in Griffith Park and is Greg’s favorite venue in the country. Could be worth it if someone good is playing! Tickets here. We saw Ryan Adams and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to (and TPC played here too, of course!).
Silverlake/Sunset Junction is just past Los Feliz area (as Sunset starts winding south).
Lots of hip boutique clothing shops here as you get towards Sunset Junction. Also an Intelligentsia coffee here – they do very solid espresso drinks.
Mohawk Bend is a good vegetarian restaurant in this neighborhood. Other good food options are Night + Market Song and Silverlake Ramen.
Not far from there is a club called the Short Stop, which is fun if you’re looking for a night to go out hipster dancing.
Silverlake/Echo Park area is pretty walkable and there’s lots to explore. It’s a good place to take an Uber to and spend an afternoon.
There’s lots around here. The Broad is a great new art museum in this area – possibly our favorite in the city. It’s free, but you have to reserve tickets ahead of time and show up promptly. But we love their collection and it’s got a really un-stuffy vibe.
A walk from there is Grand Central Market. Tons of great food/drink stalls with a back patio. Good for a mid-day lunch especially if you have a group with different food palates to appeal to.
A little south/west of there is The Last Bookstore. Very cool bookstore, nice to browse.
Clifton’s Cafeteria is an old three-story restaurant/bar/club that just got a facelift – Greg’s parents introduced us to it when they were visiting. Quirky different sections with a hidden Tiki Bar on the top level. Cole’s is nearby as well which claims to have invented the French Dip roast beef sandwich. I don’t know, but it’s pretty good and has a hidden speakeasy in the back through a phone booth. Fun drunk food.
Little Tokyo is around here as well. It doesn’t feel dissimilar to Big Tokyo, so if you’re craving a mochi and rice triangle and just haven’t been able to scratch that itch, that’s the place to get ’em!
Also, The Arts District is quickly becoming LA’s little Brooklyn. Very hip and kinda pricy, but can be fun to explore.
The Santa Monica Pier is worth seeing and the ferris wheel can be fun at night. The sunset there is great. You can take the subway all the way out here too, which is a plus. It’s nice to walk along the beach here and it’s pretty at sunset.
3rd St. Promenade is a two block outdoor mall, with all the typical U.S. brand name clothing stores if you want to buy something? (There’s a huge Anthropologie here, with an awesome Petite section – worth checking out if you are under 5″4!).
There’s a great healthy/vegetarian restaurant in this area called True Food Kitchen. Also they have a Farmer’s Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings (excellent “LA sitings” available here).
Venice is a fun day. The Venice Boardwalk is crowded and overwhelming, but walking on the beach is great. The pier here is much chiller, a good place to relax and walk out over the ocean. Muscle Beach can be fun to people watch some real hardbodies and we love going to the Skatepark here. Super talented kids just flying around the bowl. Kinda hypnotizing.
The Venice Canals are great. Streets of cute, cottage-y homes here all backing onto water inlets. Very nice place to just walk around and gaze into wealthy beach people’s backyards.
Abbot Kinney is the main shopping strip in this neighborhood. Stop at Aesop to wash your hands with their over-the-top luxurious products. As for food/drinks, Intelligentsia Coffee, Lemonade for an easy lunch, Butcher’s Daughter for dinner (vegetarian). Gjelina (trendy, inventive, upscale Italian). Gjusta is by the same people as Gjelina and is more of a take away counter/lunch deal. Also, Tacos Por Favor are some of our favorite in LA (cheap) and are located at Electric Avenue and Brooks. Salt and Straw is great LA ice cream. There’ll be a line on a hot day, but it’s worth it.
Rose Ave is the other main Venice Strip. Boutique shops, another Jeni’s Ice Cream location, and a health food spot called Cafe Gratitude (Really good food, but Greg finds the menu “unbearable” as you receive affirmations with your meal). Yoga Collective is a great place to take a class, and Venice Beach Wines is a cozy restaurant for a nice dinner.
Driving out to Malibu is one of our favorite things to do. Scenic and totally different vibe than anywhere else in the city. Malibu is perfect for a beach day (Point Dume or Zuma Beach) or a hike, but there are lots of other fun things to do as well.
The canyon roads off the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) are really cool. The Santa Monica mountains tower over you and there’s some great lookouts. Malibu Canyon Road is worth driving inland for a few miles.
If you go out towards Point Dume, there’s a Pavilion’s grocery store shopping plaza with the best burritos in LA (in our opinion) – it’s called Lily’s. Get them to go and drive down to Point Dume beach. Very chill beach if it’s a weekday. Nice views of some cliffside mansions up above. Nobu is one of our favorite restaurants for a special lunch or dinner (pricey but delicious, and reservations are a must).
If you drive further up the PCH, there’s a beach park called Leo Carrillo. If the tide is low (you can check the level online) you can walk down to beach caves and low tide pools.
For a nice afternoon, pack a picnic and go to Malibu Wines – it’s a winery so you can buy flights and sample all afternoon. Plus, the people watching is epic, and there is live music. Malibu Cafe at Calamigos Ranch is another scene-y place for wine and food, with large-scale lawn games and a stunning atmosphere. Get your Instagram on.
Other Fun Things to Do:
The Getty Museum off the 405 Hwy is a really nice morning or afternoon. Greg loves going there to just walk around. It’s free if you Uber (or $15 for parking). The architecture is phenomenal and really spectacular views of West LA. They always have really interesting photography exhibits and an awesome cactus garden.
LACMA is a huge art museum. Some very cool permanent collections and good rotating exhibits. The La Brea Tar Pits are free to look there at and sometimes there’s archaeological digs happening during the week.
Hiking is big part of LA culture. If you bring decent sneakers/running shoes you’ll be fine. Some of our favorites are:
- Temescal Canyon (Pacific Palisades)
- Los Liones (Pacific Palisades)
- Runyon Canyon (Hollywood)
- Fryman Canyon (Studio City)
- Solstice Canyon (Malibu)
And those are just our recommendations within the city… if you want to go outside of LA for an easy day trip, Pasadena has Huntington Gardens and Library which is really nice. It’s huge and has massive gardens by climate/regions of the world. (So a big cactus garden, Australia garden, South East Asia garden, Jungle garden, etc.)
Also, if you have a few extra days, you could head to the desert and check out Joshua Tree and the Palm Springs area. In addition to driving through and exploring Joshua Tree National Park (which is stunning), some of our favorite things to do are:
- The Integratron – Sound Bath in Joshua Tree, a must-do
- Salvation Mountain and Slab City – seriously wild place to visit outside of Palm Springs
- Two Bunch Palms – Desert Hot Springs hotel for the most restful experience of your life. We would suggest staying 2 nights if you can.
There are SO many other road trips you can do from LA. Some of our favorites were driving the PCH to Big Sur, San Francisco and Yosemite. Exploring coastal beach towns like Laguna, Redondo and Huntington, and driving to San Diego and into Mexico.
LA, you were the biggest adventure. Thank you for the people you brought into our lives, the experiences we couldn’t have imagined, the way you changed how we think and act, and for surrounding us with mountains and ocean. We love you!
❤ Kailea and Greg