L.A. is imperfect but lovable, like America’s problem child. On 70-degree days in January, hike the Santa Monica Mountains and marvel at nature towering over the highrises. Or, while crossing West Hollywood during rush hour, meditate to avoid an existential crisis and complete mental breakdown. The City of Angels calls for a thick skin, but — if you search in the right corners — it rewards with rich experiences.
Where to Eat & Drink
So a Man Walks Into a Tiki Bar…
L.A. food demigod Jonathan Gold called Bestia “the place where the cooks know where to stop” — a nod to the restaurant’s restrained Italian cooking and its irreproachable credentials. It’s a tough reservation, but the meats, cured in-house, and handmade pastas, served just a touch underdone, are worth the planning.
Night + Market Song
At Night + Market Song, a Thai street-food joint, enjoy a tallboy and vibrant walls painted Home Depot orange and covered with dusty posters. This place offers the charm of antithesis, juxtaposing the surrounding “craft” neighborhood restaurants with a dose of soul.
The genius of an L.A. taco lies in its simplicity. Guisados finds perfection with handmade tortillas, fresh salsa, and a wide variety of stewy, slow-cooked meats. The original was born in Boyle Heights, but this location in Echo Park offers a nice patio and BYOB.
L.A.’s vibrant Little Osaka has hordes of top-flight eateries — like the vaunted ramen spot Tsujita or the no-frills sushi bar Hide — but this burger restaurant is a standout. So-named for its location near the L.A. Department of Building and Safety, Plan Check produces meat that is mind-blowingly tender and moist.
Angel City Brewery
L.A.’s Arts District (which is home to fewer and fewer artists) has experienced a craft-beer boom, and this is the best of the bunch. The dog-friendly, open-air space has cornhole, ping-pong, food trucks and, of course, a host of beers brewed on site.
The rooftop bar at Mama Shelter, a boutique hotel located in the heart of Hollywood, doubles as a restaurant and yoga studio. This is really everything you need to know about L.A., stuffed into a location with a view.
The Buhens family has owned and operated this pleasantly kitschy Los Feliz dive bar since 1961. It will occasionally close for a few weeks, when they leave on vacation, and it’s cash only. But the stiff, tropical drinks are worth any trouble.
What to Do
Highland Park Bowl
This bowling alley opened in 1927, before falling into disrepair and eventually transforming into a now-defunct punk venue. Last year, a group of entrepreneurs decided to peel back the layers and rebirth a once-brilliant space.
Kayak the L.A. River
The concrete channel that courses through the city was neglected for years, but the city council recently approved a $1.35 billion plan for redevelopment (with star architect Frank Gehry lending expertise). Kayaking the river is an adventure that might seem like a parody, if it weren’t actually challenging.
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Nearby Runyon Canyon is the go-to trail for celeb sightings (Justin Bieber, Matthew McConaughey, Taylor Swift), but Griffith Park offers a wider range of hiking, trail running, and panoramic city views. The West Griffith Observatory Trail and the Hollyridge Trail to the Hollywood Sign are the most popular.
Where to Stay
From Boutique Hotels to Bungalows
Staying in a bungalow here remains a canonical L.A. experience. The bar is filled with Old Hollywood lore, the restaurant burger is among L.A.’s finest, and you’re steps from the Sunset Strip.
Local legend Roy Choi opened his first hotel in Koreatown, an area he’s loved for decades. The adoration shows. Modern, unpretentious rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Hollywood Hills, and the attached night spot, Break Room 86, is perfect for a nightcap.
The Eastside (Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Echo Park) is one of L.A.’s best areas, but it lacks quality places to spend the night. Hotel Covell is the exception, offering five cozy, artfully designed rooms on a hip stretch of Hollywood Boulevard.
Shutters on the Beach
If you’ve come to L.A. to be near the coast, there is no better place than Shutters. The Santa Monica Pier is just outside, Venice is a short walk away and Malibu is within striking distance by car. Expect top-shelf amenities, and the accompanying price tag.
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