guide to la

guide to la

One of the best things about living in LA is all of the amazing places to discover.  No matter which corner of LA’s sprawling landscape that you find yourself on, there’s always something fun to do or a great cafe to grab a bite to eat.  Having lived in Los Angeles for over six years now, when our friends are visiting from overseas (G’day, mates!) or from the midwest, heck even our hometown of The OC, they always want to know where they should stay, eat, and go and we have plenty of fun suggestions to go around.  Here are some of our favorite places to check out while exploring the City of Angels.

eat_lunch

  1. Lemonade: This is quickly becoming our favorite lunch spot with all of the amazing options to choose from.  With 12 locations throughout LA from Venice to Brentwood to West Hollywood, this cafeteria-style lunch spot serves up some seriously delish fare, amazing lemonade combinations (we’re talking about you, watermelon rosemary), and some sweet desserts (that pistachio macaron – swoon!). Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, a foodie, or a hungry guy in search of a hearty meal, Lemonade has got you covered with marketplace selections like cauliflower with golden raisins, almonds, and curry to white truffle mac and cheese to sandwiches and braised beef brisket.
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  2. Mendocino Farms: This sandwich market is an easy place to grab a quick bite. Must trys include their Steak BLT with carved steak, applewood bacon, romaine lettuce, roasted tomatoes, herb aioli, and red wine onions on toasted rustic white bread. Add blue cheese crumbles to make this perfect sandwich even more perfect.
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  3. Alcove: Tucked away in Los Feliz in two historic bungalows surrounded by a beautiful garden patio, this cute little cafe serves tasty american classics like sandwiches, grilled paninis, burgers, salads, soups, and wraps.  If you go for drinks, ask for our old friend Eugene behind the bar and say hello.  Grab a spot outside in the garden and keep your eyes open for celebrities.  Adam Levine was even cuter in person!  (True story.)
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  4. ink.sack: Located next door to Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio’s famed restaurant ink. on Melrose, ink.sack is the lunch-sized portion for foodies in the know.  Their menu is simple, offering just creative sandwiches and homemade snacks.  Try the “Jose Andres” with ham, tomato, chorizo, and manchego cheese with a side of pineapple marinated in chili and lemon.
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  5. In-N-Out: You can’t go wrong with a California classic.  Burgers, fries, and shakes. That’s it. Their menu’s pretty simple, unless of course, you know about their “secret menu”.  Go on, act like a local and get your double double protein style wrapped in lettuce with a side of smothered animal style fries.

do

  1. The Getty: This hilltop museum offers some amazing views of the city and free admission – just pay for parking.  Wander throughout the different wings taking in the Monets and the sculptures and then soak up the sun outside on the lawn with a bite to eat.  Walk off lunch in the garden and take a pic with the amazing skyline behind you.
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  2. La Brea Tar Pits: It’s crazy to think that millions of years ago, woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers were wandering around what is now Wilshire Boulevard. Scientists are still excavating the tar pits and the specimens they have on display are staggering.  Check out the wall of wolf skulls – you won’t believe how many there are!
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  3. Griffith Observatory: High up in the Hollywood hills, you’ll find the famed observatory and one of the best views of LA.  This is a fun spot for dates or tourists alike since admission is free.  Opened in 1935, check out the sweeping views from downtown to the Pacific while you take in the Old Hollywood architecture and star gazing.
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  4. Cinespia: What could be cooler than watching a movie outdoors in the middle of a cemetery where the stars of Old Hollywood are buried?  In the summer months this becomes one of LA’s hottest spots.  Bring a blanket to enjoy a picnic with the sounds of a DJ spinning today’s top tunes and when the sun sets, the movie begins. Even though you’re in a cemetery, not all movies screened are scary, this month includes There’s Something About Mary, Pretty in Pink, and The Matrix.
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  5. The Farmers Market: LA has some of the freshest produce around and the best way to taste it is to visit one of the many farmers markets around the city.  From the original one on the corner of 3rd and Fairfax next to The Grove to Santa Monica, explore all of the wonderful treats California has to offer.

see

  1. Santa Monica Pier: There is so much to do and see down at the pier from the restaurants to the performers.  Take in the salty sea air and grab a cocktail at Bubba Gump’s before taking a ride on the Ferris wheel.  Once you’ve walked to the end of the pier, you can explore some more at Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade or by taking a walk on the beach.  Don’t forget to catch the free summer concert series too!
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  2. The Ellen Degeneres Show: What better way to see celebs than by grabbing tickets to a taping of Ellen?  Filmed in Burbank on the Warner Bros. lot, this will no doubt be a fun way to spend some time in LA or get to know your way around a bit.  Be sure to bring your dancing shoes.
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  3. Rodeo Drive: Even if your wallet can’t afford that new Gucci bag, you can still have a great time window shopping up and down this famed street in Beverly Hills.  Packed with tons of shops and cute cafes, you can also branch out to the neighboring streets for more affordable fare.
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  4. Sprinkles Cupcake ATM: Yes, you read that right.  Sprinkles Cupcakes has a 24-hour ATM machine to make sure your sweet tooth is always satisfied.  If the line is out the door at the actual bakery next door or it’s after hours, sneak in a cupcake at the ATM.  If there’s no wait, go inside and use the secret “whisper word” found on Sprinkles’ social media pages for a free cupcake.  Shh…
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  5. Hollywood Sign: Quintessentially LA, this is probably the most famous landmark and something to see close-up.  While you can’t actually drive by or walk up to the sign, there are a few places where you can get a good view and a great photo. Check out Canyon Lake Drive, the Griffith Observatory, or Mulholland Drive.

be seen

  1. Laurel Hardware: This hip hot spot is great for brunch, dinner, cocktails, or to bump into someone attractive.  Catering to one of LA’s cutest crowds, Laurel Hardware kept the original name of the home improvement store that once occupied this space.  There’s a front area with open kitchen or head on back to the bar area with communal tables.  For beautiful scenery with dinner, opt to dine in their outdoor patio garden underneath olive trees.  The menu changes almost daily, but if they’re on the menu, trust us, order the brussel sprouts.
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  2. The Abbey: Looking for a fun scene to mingle with martinis?  The Abbey on Robertson is your go-to place for great people watching whilst cocktail in hand. This super high-energy bar has been dubbed “The Best Gay Bar in The World” and with the lively atmosphere and packed patio, it’s easy to see why.
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  3. The Hudson: Go for the jalapeño mac and cheese, stay for the happy hour prices. A must order is their brioche grilled cheese with short rib and tomato soup and “The Huddy” cocktail made with gin, lime, cucumber, and basil.  This place can get lively on game nights, so definitely bring some friends with you and keep your eyes open for good looking people all around.
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  4. Eveleigh: Hidden away in plain sight on The Sunset Strip, this Australian-inspired farm-to-table spot has amazing food, awesome service, incredible drinks, and fabulous views.  Check out our write-up here.  Grab a seat at the bar in the center of the restaurant underneath hanging cow skulls or strike up a conversation with that mysteriously hot guy lingering at the second bar way in the back.
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  5. Sur: Even before The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules hit the air, Sur was serving up a cute crowd alongside creative cocktails.  Hit this place before or after dinner and you might just catch a glimpse of one of the cast serving dinner or drinks behind the bar.  Just don’t go home with Jax, we beg you.

spot

  1. Chateau Marmont: If you want to rub shoulders with Hollywood’s elite, grab a table outside in the garden and enjoy planning your next day of exploration with a drink in hand.  This is the place where many a celeb has lived (we’re looking at you, Lohan) and even more have visited.  We ran into Ellen Pompeo while we were there and Katy Perry was spotted the next day.
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  2. The Ivy: After a long day of shopping, curl up at this quaint little haunt on Robertson and just wait.  If a celeb isn’t sitting right next to you, they may just be walking in or carrying a Kitson bag across the street.  Paparazzi are lurking behind every tree and if a celeb wants to get photographed, this is the place they’re sure to show up.
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  3. Runyon Canyon: Sweat out all those libations with a short and easy hike up the hill at Runyon Canyon.  A haven for celebrities and their pooches, this hike will take about 40 minutes round trip and is a great way to get outdoors and take in the amazing view of LA at the top.
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  4. Sunset Marquis: Hidden unassumingly at the end of a one-way street off The Sunset Strip, this hotel has a beautiful garden and bar to people and celeb watch. We sat next to Simon Fuller during a meeting and the hotel has a long history of rock ‘n’ roll royalty getting rowdy.
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  5. Sunset Tower: This is one of Jennifer Aniston’s favorite spots and one of ours as well.  Take in the amazing view of the LA skyline at Tower Bar while sipping drinks and nibbling on appetizers.  The hotel evokes a feeling of Old Hollywood glamour and it’s fun to check out where Hollywood’s elite rub elbows after The Oscars.  Just don’t go home with John Mayer, we beg you.

primp

  1. Drybar: With 11 locations throughout LA and at only $40 a pop, there’s no reason for your hair to look anything but fabulous.  This blow dry bar serves up snazzy ‘dos with sassy names like “The Manhattan” which will make your hair smooth and sleek, “The Cosmo” for a head of cascading curls, and “The Straight Up” for their signature blow out with lots of body and just a little bit of curl.  They do one thing and they do it well.  As their tagline says, “No cuts. No color. Just blowouts.” Blow on in and get your hair done before hitting the town.
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  2. Blushington: With your hair looking sweet, hit up Blushington for a double scoop of make-up perfection with their professional make-up application at affordable prices.  For only $45, you can walk out looking like a starlet with red lips and a fierce cat eye.
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  3. Olive & June: The cherry on top of this already rockin’ beauty sundae is Olive & June in Beverly Hills for a fab mani/pedi.  Created out of necessity for a great manicure without being sketchy or pricey, you won’t find a wall of massage chairs here.  Instead, you’ll be pampered in a pretty setting with soaking bowls and personalized service.  Now, that’s just wonderful.
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  4. Meridian Day Spa: Where can you go for a really good massage or facial without having to go to a pricey spa?  We couldn’t believe our wallets when we stumbled across this place tucked away around the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard.  At $56 for an hour massage, we could definitely see ourselves making this a monthly habit.
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  5. The Art of Shaving: To pamper your guy, you must check out this place located in Century City’s Westfield shopping center.  Guys can get a close shave by their expert barbers that wield a straight razor like a ninja sword across an inflated balloon filled with baby kittens.  Our maintenance manager felt like a king after cashing in his gift card for a 45-minute “Royal Shave” that included a hot towel and after shave mask.  Perhaps a perfect treat for say, the end of Movember?

shop

  1. Third Street Promenade: One of the best places to go in LA, you can easily spend the majority of your day here perusing the shops, exploring the cafes, watching the people, and playing in the sand.  This outdoor destination has a ton of well-known stores like CB2, Sephora, and Abercrombie & Fitch.
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  2. The Grove: This outdoor mall is home to great shops and restaurants.  Stop by The Whisper Lounge to rest your feet after a day of shopping at places like Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, Barneys’ New York, Michael Kors, & Banana Republic.  Be sure to wander through the Original Farmers Market while you’re there too.
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  3. Abbot Kinney: Venture out to artsy Venice for great shopping and people watching on this cute boulevard by the sea.  Stumble into any of the shops offering clothing and accessories, books and gifts, beauty products, or art.
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  4. Melrose: Gritty and trendy.  Fashionable and hip.  This very famous street offers very unique shops and very unique people.  Here you’ll find one-of-a-kind vintage stores alongside boutique retailers.
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  5. Robertson: Peruse this high-end mecca for luxury retailers like Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, Tory Burch, and Nanette Lepore. Keep your eyes peeled for celebs and paparazzi and be sure to check out Alice + Olivia and Kitson while you’re there.

view

  1. Perch: Perched high above the downtown skyline, this indoor/outdoor rooftop restaurant and bar is the perfect place to take in the city lights up close.  Cozy up to the outdoor fire pits and drink in the amazing view.  There’s even a roof above the roof – look out for the balcony up above.
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  2. Gladstones: For the best view of Malibu during the day or just as the sun is setting, check out this casual eatery where PCH and Sunset Boulevard meet.  With some of the freshest seafood around, be sure to try their mango fish tacos or their clambake with lobster, crab, clams, shrimp, andouille sausage, corn, and potatoes.  And be sure to take the leftovers with you – they’ll wrap them in foil in the shape of a mermaid or pelican.
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  3. Sunset Ranch Horseback Riding: Make reservations to explore the hills above the Hollywood sign by horseback.  Offering day, lunch and sunset rides, this is a surefire way to see Los Angeles in all her glory with a breathtaking backdrop and view.  There’s even a BBQ tour option that ends back at the ranch for some good grub and festive music after a 2-hour trail ride.  Yee-haw!
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  4. Petit Ermitage:  We had driven by this unassuming boutique hotel countless times, dismissing it as just another apartment building tucked away on a corner of a tiny intersection of side streets.  So when we were asked to meet on the rooftop for a business meeting, you can imagine our surprise.  This magical little gem felt like we had stumbled upon a secret door in the middle of the city that led to a rooftop terrace, pool, and sweeping views.
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  5. Sixty Beverly Hills:  Formerly known as The Thompson Beverly Hills, this rooftop bar, pool, and terrace offer incredible 360 degree views of swanky Bev Hills.  Grab a drink and a small bite and relax as you watch the sun set before heading out to dinner.

eat_dinner

  1. The Bazaar by Jose Andres: Listen, Imma let you finish, but this is one of our favorite restaurants of all time.  You see, we like the production and creativity that comes with dining at places that serve up molecular gastronomy artwork and pass it off as food.  Order the spicy “Jalé Berry” martini that mixes muddled black berries with jalapeños or the “Magic Mojito” that is presented to you table side as it’s poured from a chilled mini cocktail shaker over a glass filled with cotton candy that disappears as it melts into the drink.  When we say that everything on the menu is good, believe it!  Order the stuffed piquillo peppers filled with goat cheese, the sweet potato chips with yogurt dipping sauce flavored with tamarind and star anise, and the “Not Your Everyday Caprese” which comes with a fun surprise as you bite into the little skewers.  Ok, maybe we won’t let you finish… pass that jicama wrapped guacamole!
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  2. Red Medicine:  Speaking of eating art, run to Red Medicine for an adventure in culinary brush strokes of genius.  We wisely opted to go with the tasting menu and were served course after course of edible poetry.  The first course came presented in a fish bowl and you had to break through a frozen layer of pea puree with your spoon to get into the briny tang of orange fish row nestled at the bottom.  We’re not even sure what else was in there, all we know is that we were fighting for the last bite.
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  3. Hinoki & the Bird: When you’re bumping into Bobby Flay the first week this restaurant opens, you know you’re in for an amazing meal.  And when the owner and chef stop by your table to say hello (umm, swoon, David Myers) and then sends over every dessert on the menu, you will happily oblige trying every dish and not taking home any leftovers. The kitchen is helmed by Top Chef alum Kuniko Yagi who offers up sharable dishes like their signature lobster roll with green curry and thai basil, namesake hinoki scented black cod with maitake and shishito, and their stunning summer pepper toast with coconut miso jam and goat cheese.  Go. Now.
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  4. Osteria Mozza: Chef Mario Batali serves up some seriously delish Italian dishes at this eatery on the corner of Melrose and Highland.  Christina Aguilera likes to eat here and we recommend ordering the burrata with bacon, marinated escarolee, and carmelized shallots alongside the tagliatelle with oxtail ragu or the grilled quail wrapped in pancetta.  Bellissimo!
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  5. Jinpachi:  We are slightly obsessed with sushi.  Ok, majorly.  So when we tried this tiny little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hidden gem, it has quickly risen to the top spot on our favorite sushi restaurants.  Everyone you know says that they know about “the best sushi place ever” and that “you have to try it”.  We are totally ok if you don’t take our word for it though.  We actually don’t want you try this place.  Stay away, far away.  Because if you go, then you’ll be taking up one of the handful of coveted seats in this already small space.  Don’t order the salmon sashimi with jalapeño and cilantro or the halibut carpaccio with yuzu. Don’t even think about the black cod with miso or the green tea creme brulee.  Ok, but do try the spicy tuna on crispy rice if all else fails as this is the BEST one we have EVER ordered. Watch the door as we’ve run into many many a celeb here: Anne Hathaway orders avocado on crispy rice, Bette Midler sits in the corner, and Kristen Bell, Jonah Hill, Shiri Appleby, Lauren Bush Lauren, and Ronan Farrow all like to sit upstairs. If you do decide to try this place, ask the owner behind the bar, Taka, for his recommendations and definitely take his word for it.

stay

  1. The Viceroy: Located in Santa Monica, this hip and stylish hotel will blow your mind with their decor, their bar, their pool, their location, and their views.
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  2. The Roosevelt:  Stay in the heart of Hollywood off the famous Walk of Fame at this Old Hollywood haunt.  Opened in 1927 and home to the first Academy Awards in 1929, The Roosevelt offers an air of elegance and glamour of a bygone era mixed with the lively and rowdy good looking crowd at the pool and Beacher’s Madhouse nightclub downstairs.  If you feel a hand tap you on the shoulder one night while walking back to your room, don’t worry, that’s just the ghost of Marilyn Monroe that’s said to haunt these halls.
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  3. Palihouse:  Offering locations in West Hollywood and Santa Monica, Palihouse is a unique boutique-style hotel/residence.  It feels like a hotel and it looks like a hotel, but people actually live there?  Lucky.  With a great bar and restaurant downstairs, they’re pulling a Lindsay Lohan a la her Chateau Marmont era.  There’s also Palihotel on Melrose if that’s more your style.
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  4. The London: Swanky and hip, this luxurious hotel offers suites off The Sunset Strip where celebs love to celebrate their baby showers on the rooftop garden. Stay here to be close to everything, but far from ordinary.
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  5. Shutters on The Beach:  Stay on the sand in Santa Monica in this iconic hotel boasting amazing views of the Pacific.  Think of this place as if you were in the movie Dirty Dancing staying in a luxurious resort, only you were on the beach building sand castles instead of dancing with Johnny Castle.  And go on, grab a seat at their restaurant in the corner.  You’ll have the time of your life.

live

  1. West Hollywood:  A lot of the places we mentioned above are in or near WeHo and this vibrant city is home to famous icons and streets like Melrose, Robertson, Sunset Blvd, The Grove, The Beverly Center, and The Sunset Strip.  This small and friendly city has some of the most gorgeous Old Hollywood-era apartment buildings, rent control (hello!), and a welcoming community vibe.  Hey, any place that has a tram that runs along the main drag of Santa Monica Boulevard on the weekends to make sure you make it to the bars and back alive sounds like a good time to us.
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  2. Los Feliz: This affluent neighborhood sits hillside between Hollywood and Silverlake and is home to Griffth Park and Observatory.  Offering a very laid back vibe with its hipster residents and cool cafes, Los Feliz is a haven for expensive historic homes and celebrity inhabitants like Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Demi Lovato.  Rents here are more affordable than most of the neighborhoods further west, so look for those great deals.
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  3. Santa Monica: Nothing really beats living next to the ocean.  Considered part of “The Westside”, SaMo sits west of the 405 freeway and is home to upscale beachy residents, beautiful large homes, great hiking trails, and rent control.  While rents here are still pricey, think of all the money you’ll save by walking everywhere and not having to run your A/C in the summer and instead just letting the sea breeze cool off your apartment.  Sweet!
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  4. Silver Lake: Named “LA’s Best Neighborhood” by CNN Money in 2012, Silver Lake is a hipster haven for LA’s cool crowd that likes to talk about the script their writing and the latest art gallery opening over a cup of Intelligentsia coffee. Packed with shops and cafes, walking in this “eastside” neighborhood is as easy as finding an affordable abode with chill neighbors.
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  5. Brentwood: This upscale enclave is home to UCLA’s beautiful campus and a super cute downtown area full of fun restaurants and shopping.  Rents here may be pricey, but that’s because this is such a beautiful and quiet place to call home.

If you liked this, share it.  If you’ve got a favorite place you’d like us to check out for a future installment of our Guide to LA, let us know in the comments below.

photos: frugal travel guynewport beach independent, chasing aphrodite, alik griffineater la, models & moguls, drybar, downtown santa monica, the food stalker, boy meets girl meets food, bag trends, koning eizenberg

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