This eatery offers fresh takes on traditional Mexican staples. Chef Ray Garcia prepares dishes like oxtail quesadilla and chicharrón with elephant garlic mojo and radish sprouts, served up in a clean-lined space with cognac-hued tufted banquettes, hardwood floors, hanging plants and concrete accent walls.
Conceived by husband-and-wife duo Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, this rustic Italian go-to in the Arts District specializes in handmade pasta, pizza and charcuterie. Inside a repurposed warehouse, exposed brick walls, industrial bar stools and tan leather booths serve as the backdrop for inventive dishes like roasted bone marrow with crispy bread crumbs.
Resembling an urban resort with sweeping city views, this popular spot located on the rooftop of Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A. features one bar, a concrete pool, Moroccan tile and canopy lounge chairs. Mingle with the Hollywood crowd while sipping on a Tetanus Shot cocktail, a mixture of blended Scotch, Cynar, Averna and orange bitters.
This West Hollywood establishment – whose name stands for “extended play, long play” – features an Asian restaurant and a rooftop bar. At L.P., sip concoctions such as the Walk This Way cocktail, made with vodka, lychee, coconut water and tropical fruit pearls. For a late-night bite, choose from organic tofu fries or the pastrami bao with sliced pastrami, ginger, scallions and smoked chipotle.
An Angeleno institution for over 70 years, this family-owned deli in MacArthur Park has built an international reputation as one of world’s leading purveyors of pastrami. Sink into a well-worn vinyl booth and order the legendary #19: a mountain of hot pastrami topped with coleslaw, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing served on double-baked rye.
This 47,000-square-foot dining complex originally opened in 1935. The iconic establishment reopened its doors in 2015 after a five-year, multi-million renovation and houses an art deco-style cafeteria, six bars, a ballroom and a coffee shop. Inside, you’ll find updated versions of Clifton’s original curiosities, from manmade waterfalls and wildlife murals to a faux, three-storey redwood tree.
Los Angeles has no shortage of clinically precise caffeine labs, but if you’re looking to stay a while, this sun-filled coffee counter in Silver Lake is a cut above the rest. Dinosaur’s casual atmosphere and ample seating make it an ideal spot to feel like a local.
Tomas Martinez, taquero and co-owner of Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, has been serving tacos in downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market since 1995 and is responsible for some of the best carnitas in the city. Order one of his $4 tacos and get a generous piling of tender meat on two corn tortillas (plus two extra on the side).
Bruce Hornsby and the Talking Heads play through the speakers as diners dig into plates of glazed brisket and potato latkes (famously prepared in a waffle iron) at Freedman’s, a modern Jewish restaurant tucked into a strip mall in Silver Lake. If it feels like you are eating at a French bistro, it’s because owner (and Toronto native) Jonah Freedman drew inspiration from Parisian apartments for the decor, which includes dark wood, vintage accents and six different types of patterned wallpaper. The half sour salad, made with pickles, fennel and a savoury herb mix, balances out the menu’s heavier fare, and Matt Bone, Freedman’s general manager, curates an impressive all-natural wine list.
This 4,210-acre reserve is home to infinite hiking trails, a swimming pool, hidden gardens, tennis courts, a candy-striped carousel and even the original Batcave. Head to the Griffith Observatory to gaze through telescopes, explore cosmic exhibits and enjoy some of the best views of the city.
The undisputed epicentre of L.A.’s thriving comedy scene, UCB’s first West Coast outpost plays host to a nightly mélange of stand-up, improv and sketch comedy in an intimate 92-seat theatre. Sit stage-side as sitcom A-listers and tomorrow’s top talent spin their latest yarns, all for $12 or less. Many shows sell out weeks in advance, but there are usually a few standby tickets at the door.
For a taste of SoCal’s coastal culture, head west on Interstate 10 toward Santa Monica State Beach. The world-famous Santa Monica Pier bisects a 5.6-kilometre stretch of sand and features a full-service amusement park, arcade games, a hands-on aquarium and a hand-carved carousel.
The honeycombed hive of contemporary art is the brainchild of philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad – billionaire art buyers whose private collection alone includes over 2,000 major post-war and contemporary works from artists such as Takashi Murakami and Kara Walker. Admission is free, and advance tickets to the museum’s permanent collection are available online or via the same-day standby line.
The largest independent record store in the world, this Hollywood musical landmark occupies an airplane-hangar-size space on Sunset and Cahuenga. Its collection of new and used CDs, LPs and DVDs is a collector’s paradise.
Located in Venice Beach, the retail utopia of the Westside, this Japanese housewares store is a much-loved destination among L.A.’s design obsessives and regular locals alike. Shop the curated collection of high-end, minimalist essentials, from enamel table- and cookware to bookends and paperweights.
Anchoring the more mannered end of Melrose Avenue’s shopping district, this upscale NYC export stocks a selection of vintage and designer clothing for men and women. Shop cult fashion brands like Femail, 69 and Comme des Garçons alongside pieces from the store’s house line and far-flung vintage finds you won’t see anywhere else in town.
Holding its own amid the high-rises of Wilshire Boulevard, the 12-storey Line hotel has 388 rooms – concrete boxes brightened up by Aztec-inspired furnishings, original watercolour works by local artists and floor-to-ceiling windows (ask for a view of the Hollywood Hills). There’s also a fleet of Venice’s own Linus bikes available to guests.
Since opening in 2014, the hotel’s purposefully shambolic design and rooftop pool and bar have made it a hipster haven. But the real draw is the theatre: Built in 1927, it was the flagship for Charlie Chaplin’s United Artists film studio. Today, the 1,600-seat venue, masterfully restored and over-the-top ornate, is a hub for live music, film and the performing arts.
Nicknamed the Pink Palace, this rose-coloured stucco tower has been a hideaway for the well-heeled and celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor and John Lennon, for over a century. The hotel’s Polo Lounge, with its upholstered green booths and plush carpets, was featured in <i>The Way We Were</i>. Kick back in a poolside cabana, complete with flat-screen television, Wi-Fi and frozen mojito lollipops (different refreshments are doled out daily).
Located on a prime block of West Hollywood’s iconic Sunset Strip, this boutique hotel is a mishmash of modish, mid-century details, from the lobby’s thick shag carpeting to the blue Astroturf that flanks the rooftop pool. On-site amenities include a full-service food and drink program devised by the hotel’s critically acclaimed restaurant Alma, a not-so-secret nightclub on weekends and spectacular city views.
This hotel has been witness to some serious rock ’n’ roll history: It was once known as the Riot House, and the late Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham, was rumoured to have driven a motorcycle through the hallways. Today, the Andaz strikes a subdued and sophisticated note in the heart of the Sunset Strip. Head to the rooftop pool deck before dark, where you can get a glimpse of L.A.’s mid-century marvel, the Stahl House.
Each of the well-appointed rooms in this Los Feliz hotel has been fashioned to reflect an episode in the life of the highly acclaimed and completely fictitious writer George Covell. The spacious rooms include Malin+Goetz toiletries, Smeg refrigerators and Parachute bedding. For a nightcap, head downstairs to Bar Covell.
The foliage-filled property – inspired by the indoor-outdoor living style of Southern California – is a glitzy oasis with panoramic views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory. People-watch from your private cabana around the disappearing rooftop pool at the Highlight Room (the floor of the pool can be levelled to the surrounding deck for dance parties with the push of a button). Pull, pedal and sweat on the Avanti Cardiogym C6 machine at the 24-hour gym designed by celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson, famous for working with J.Lo, Angelina Jolie and the Kardashians.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the Airport
Taxi service from the airport to downtown Los Angeles costs a flat rate of $46.50, plus tip, while rideshare services like Lyft and Uber average around $30. (Rideshare pickups are restricted to the departures deck.) If you’re on a budget, hop on the LAX FlyAway, a regularly scheduled shuttle service that serves six major L.A.-area locales for $8 to $10.
L.A.’s public transportation system is notoriously unwieldy, but with some patience, you can get just about anywhere via the city’s six Metro lines and multiple bus routes with a $7 day pass. metro.net
There are a number of certified taxi companies offering metered transportation throughout Los Angeles, but curbside hailing isn’t especially common. Uber and Lyft are also available.
Ditch four wheels for two, and get a handle on the City of Angels at 15 kilometres an hour.
By Caitlin Walsh Miller
For 10 kilometres, Ballona Creek snakes through southwestern Los Angeles County, and cycling the bike path that runs alongside it, I see the day-to-day of the city from the inside out: girls playing basketball on the courts behind Culver City High School; the backyards of Mar Vista Gardens, a 1950s public housing project criss-crossed with clotheslines; an older couple enjoying breakfast on a perfect palm-shaded deck (hello, house goals). The creek widens, the air gets saltier and shrubs and overgrowth creep up the cement bank. Biking through the Ballona Wetlands, I flush out a great blue heron, then suddenly there’s water on all sides: the world’s largest manmade small-craft harbour, Marina del Rey, to my right, Ballona Creek (almost 100 metres wide at this point) to my left, and the entirety of the Pacific Ocean dead ahead. I cycle straight for it until there’s a sharp turn at a bridge that spans the width of the tributary, where I stop. Perched on a fence eating an orange, I bask in the morning sun and a dash of self-satisfaction – 20 kilometres before breakfast ain’t bad. Another cyclist pulls up and nods hello. Friendly fact: All the cyclists here nod hello, or ask you how your day’s going. He says what I’m thinking: “This is the best spot, isn’t it?”
A few days earlier, as we flew high above the sprawl during our descent into LAX, I never expected to see the city on such a human scale. (Another welcome surprise: the relatively flat terrain.) On two wheels, the famous sprawl resolves into distinct communities, connected by a growing group of tenacious cyclists, 350 kilometres of new cycling lanes, more doughnut shops than I could have imagined and the ever-present scent of fresh coffee.
On the ground, my first pit stop is the Wheelhouse, a brand new cycle-centric café, store and community centre in the Arts District, the neighbourhood west of downtown named for the creative class that took over and transformed derelict industrial buildings in the 1970s. The owners of the newest, hippest kid on the block are Chase and Tami Spenst, a young couple with broad smiles that betray their Midwest origins. They moved to L.A. a decade ago and found it difficult to adjust to the city’s car culture – but getting into biking here wasn’t easy either. According to Chase, “It used to be that only fanatics commuted by bike. CicLAvia changed everything.” The event, started in 2010 and inspired by Bogotá’s Ciclovía, closes L.A.’s streets to cars and opens them up to everyone else. It also created a space for cyclists and reminded Angelenos that biking was an option. So Chase and Tami got back in the saddle, and found they got to know – and like – L.A. better. “It stopped being endless sprawl,” says Chase. “Now, I see it like 88 small towns smashed together. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood on a bike.”
That’s a dictum echoed by Art Palacios, the owner and operator of LA Cycle Tours – though maybe not his parents. “They don’t really understand what my business is. For them, a bike is for getting from home to work. Why would anyone ride for fun?”
Art needs to get his parents out on one of his tours. We spend the afternoon freewheeling through downtown L.A., the former no man’s land that’s seen a massive resurgence over the past decade. Our outing is a time trip, starting near Olvera Street, the oldest part of downtown, where we loop around the plaza at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, and ending up in South Park, a name so new, Art says it would mean nothing to his parents. They’d know this neighbourhood as “the flats,” which is such perfectly noir nomenclature that I feel I should be getting hushed, staccato instructions from Philip Marlowe to meet him there at midnight.
The bulk of our time is spent in the Arts District, now a three-dimensional brick-and-mortar canvas covering one and a half square kilometres, weaving up and down streets, dipping into parking lots and out alleys. Art points out gritty-pretty work by local and international street artists along the way: Kim West’s sherbet-tinted nature scenes; saturated jewel-toned facades by homegrown legend Risk; Shepard Fairey’s Peace Goddess, presiding over the district from her position above the flagship location of local design brand Poketo. Down on the corner of 7th Place, Art stops short and points to an open garage door. “That’s Retna’s studio.” His voice is low, both out of reverence and a desire to remain unseen: The artist, whose idiosyncratic script can be seen on Miami’s Wynwood Walls, in Louis Vuitton’s 2013 campaign and on Nike’s Las Vegas store, is skittish about voyeurs. Somewhat hypnotized, we watch him paint his huge black letters – part hieroglyphs, part blackletter, with Arabic and Hebrew flavouring – from across the street as oblivious cars zoom up Santa Fe Avenue.
One afternoon, I head east on Sunset Boulevard, somewhere near the electronics shop where Elliott Smith used to work. As I cycle up to Silver Lake’s namesake reservoir, the steepening incline slows me, but it’s a series of mid-century-modern marvels that stops me in my tracks. I ditch my bike (and any sense of propriety) and peer through the lush landscaping: It’s nothing but uninterrupted windows, rectilinear shapes, wraparound patios and cantilevered roofs. These hills are home to the Neutra Colony, a cluster of 10 glass-and-beam gems designed by Richard Neutra between 1948 and 1962. Hidden off Silver Lake Boulevard, these houses constitute a world-class architecture museum, and you can find work by emerging and stratospheric street artists in pockets of the Arts District, but you’ll miss it all if you’re going over 15 kilometres an hour.
Under a pink and purple and golden sky, I take a sunrise ride through Koreatown. After one slipped chain and a few wrong turns, I hit the L.A. River bike path and head for Sunnynook River Park, home base for the L.A. River Camp Coffee crew, a group of cycling and coffee aficionados that meets every Wednesday morning. I slow down when I see three guys squinting out from under their cycling caps, homemade coffee-making paraphernalia at their feet. One of the trio speaks – “Pull up a rock” – before taking care of the introductions: “I’m Ray, this is Ray and that’s also Ray.” Ray #1 is joking, but it’s too late. Ray #2 offers me some coffee – attendees are responsible for bringing their own brew, but I’m relying on the kindness of strangers (though I did BYO mug) – as Ray #1 hands me a slice of “organic, picked-this-morning” orange and Ray #3 explains that there are usually more people here by this time. On cue, a bearded man rolls up. Ray #3: “Our fearless leader.”
This is Errin Vasquez, the beans behind this two-year old operation. He got the idea during a fatbiking trip in Minnesota one March. The L.A. native’s favourite part of the excursion was a hot-chocolate stop in a snowmobile shelter: slowing down, stopping and taking a moment. Back on the banks of the L.A. River, five, 10, 20 cyclists roll in, all keen to take a moment, whether it’s before a serious uphill grind in Griffith Park or a stop on their commute to work. They mill about, in an effortless combination of Lycra and streetwear, chatting about past rides, new injuries and last night’s dates, while I internalize a new life motto from the “no Garmin, no rules” sticker on one woman’s water bottle. Two of the Rays are talking about the different rides on offer by the city’s myriad cycling groups, many of which visiting cyclists are welcome to drop in on: The Wolfpack Hustle likes to, well, hustle; Sins and Sprockets takes it flat, slow and easy; the Passage Ride is bringing L.A. cycling off-piste (tunnels, stairways and storm drains are all fair game). As I roll out, armed with pages of restaurant and route recommendations, I hear Ray #1 telling the group: “What the hell, just ride it.” I don’t hear the context, but I don’t need it.
On my last night in town, all the axled axioms I’ve acquired over the past few days come rushing back when a flat tire and a flatter phone battery conspire to ruin the evening. But after a quick patch from a stranger (biking really brings out the best in people) and a bit of borrowed juice at an IHOP, I’m soon whizzing past the standstill traffic in the designated bike lane on Venice Boulevard. I’m going fast; it’s euphoric. At this speed, covering this much distance, the sprawl contains itself. Gliding past the cars, I get snippets of a SoCal-only soundtrack: Sublime, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses. A tank-topped gentleman sitting pretty on his banana seat asks me how my night is going, and recommends a burger place on Fairfax. Yes, this is the best spot, I think. And I’m in a fantastic mood. L.A. – what the hell, just ride it.