I moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and hit the ground running. I call LA a “city of cities” – each neighborhood has its own distinct features, feel, and type of people. That’s why you can never get bored in LA: because you’ll never run out of things to see, do, and explore. It’s one of the most diverse and creative cities in the whole world, and I’m proud to call it my new home. If you find yourself in the city of angels, take my guide with you..
AREAS TO STAY IN
West Hollywood – access to tons of restaurants, nightlife, shopping. One of the rare walkable areas of LA. I lived here the longest. Beverly Hills – central, safe, lovely.
Hollywood – central and access to night life and attractions, but really do your research when choosing which street. There are definitely some dangerous areas.
Beverlywood – where I live now. Super peaceful, safe, and charming. Central location. Must have a car though.
Westwood / West LA / Santa Monica – good if you want to be close to the beach and the Pacific Coast Highway. Beautiful neighborhoods. But far if you want to go to Downtown / east side often.
The Hollywood Hills – I mean, if you can afford to rent a house up there…
No Vacancy – speakeasy in an old Victorian house. 2 bars and DJ. Burlesque performer. Multiple rooms. Arrive by 10pm if big group / guys. Mama Shelter – bottom floor: DJ and food. Rooftop: drinks, beds, and views
La Descarga – speakeasy Cuban salsa club with burlesque performance. Live band. Go on a weekday. Need to know bouncer for Fri-Sat night.
The Roosevelt Hotel- 3 bars inside plus a poolside bar. Walk around and explore. This is where the old stars like Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin used to stay.
Highlight Room – gorgeous rooftop of the Dream hotel. Pool, cabanas, club, DJ. Pretty dead on weekdays, packed on weekends (arrive early).
Black Rabbit Rose Magic – quirky magician bar. Black and red themed. Live music and performers in side room.
Culver Hotel- historical hotel where Hollywood greats stayed. Live jazz music every night of the week for free. Swanky but inviting vibe.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s – 70’s themed club. Outdoor back patio with food. Indoor bar with drinks. 70’s music on the dancefloor. Living room. Feels like being in a house.
West Hollywood Exclusive clubs (best ones, lots of celebrities – you’ll need a promoter) – 1Oak, Bootsy Bellows, SoHo House, Hyde, Warwick
Gay bars – all along Santa Monica Blvd. Fun to dance at even if you’re straight. The Abbey is the most famous of them. Flaming Saddles: male cowboy dancers.
The Sunset Strip – lots of concert venues and late night food all along the road “the strip”
EP&LP – rooftop bar with hip hop music. Great for people watching. Line is always long.
Ysabel – fancy romantic outdoor indoor. 2 bars, lit up trees. Feels like a rich person’s house.
Santa Monica Bungalow – beach house turned party central. All different rooms. Always packed
Penthouse – the top level of the Huntley hotel. Sophisticated
Shangri-La – watch the sunset over the ocean atop the hotel’s rooftop bar.
Downtown Rooftop bars: ACE hotel, The Standard rooftop (my favorite: has music, a pool, huge space), Perch, 70above at Us Bank (highest open air rooftop bar in CA)
Break Room 86- arcade/ secret video game themed bar
Continental Club- swanky basement speakeasy. See calendar of events
And if you’re a karaoke fan, there are loads of karaoke bars in Koreatown with bottle service.
Don’t leave LA without going to a comedy show! Famous comedians every night at The Hollywood Improv, The Laugh Factory, Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, Flappers, and the Comedy Store.
Mexican (what LA is famous for): El Coyote (fun colorful overly decorated restaurant with waitresses dressed in traditional Mexican dresses), El Compadre (the one located on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood; very busy, make a reservation: live mariachi band), Pinches Tacos (casual), Pink Taco (on the Sunset Strip), Chico’s Tacos (downtown, cute little spot with an airstream), Los Tacos (in West Hollywood, open 24 hours, delicious fast grub), literally any taco truck or stand after a night out!
Asian: Rock Sugar, Izakaya, Sugarfish (famous sushi place; pricey), Little Tokyo district in Downtown, Chinatown district in Downtown, Korean BBQ literally anywhere in Koreatown, Palms Thai, Natalee Thai, Chung Krao, Rock N Roll Sushi (50% off happy hour after 5pm til 2 am!)
Mediterranean: Open Sesame (really cute place with amazing Lebanese food), Carousel (share multiple dishes with a group- incredible Lebanese/Armenian food), Jaffa (expensive but beautiful restaurant with Israeli food), Pita Grill (yummy late night falafel), Cafe Istanbul (located on Beverly Drive, romantic and quiet; try the bourek cigars!)
The Stocking Frame – huge venue downtown with eclectic decor, good for groups. Try the pizza pies!
Urth Caffe – I mean, this goes without saying. I stalked this place on Instagram well before I knew I was ever moving to LA. Literally everything you can imagine is on the menu and there are multiple locations throughout the city. Inexpensive, healthy options, and the matcha boba blend drink is basically a drug.
Otium – if you’re checking out museum row in downtown, stop here for lunch or dinner after hitting The Broad art museum. Definitely more upscale but worth the higher prices. The gnocchi is to die for.
The Hudson – cool grungy place with gastropub food and a photobooth), literally all of 3rd Street (Goldie’s, Toast, Little Door).. a whole street of restaurants so you’ll definitely find something you like.
In N Out burger – it’s overhyped in my opinion, but an LA staple nevertheless. Look online for the secret menu (everyone loves animal style!)
Laurel Hardware – secret entrance through a fake hardware store; sit on the romantic outdoor back patio with fairy lights; order the pizza, it’s amazing! Must make reservation and arrive before 9pm.
Yamashiro – Japanese restaurant in the Hollywood Hills with live piano and great views. Designed to look like a Japanese temple. Expensive, but there’s also a farmer’s market there every Thursday with food vendors.
Backyard Bowls – the best post-hike treat. Custom acai bowls with a variety of healthy fruit, nut, seeds, granola, honey toppings. Beautiful and good for you too!
Cleo (at the Redbury, Hollywood) – my favorite restaurant in LA. Grand, lavish interior with a photo booth and stylish tables. Sharing style: I recommend going with some friends and ordering 6 or so dishes to share. Try a little bit of everything.
Delilah – celebrity hot spot. No windows and no photos allowed. Paparazzi outside. You’ll never get in on a weekend – you can try a Monday or random week day. Good luck!
Catch – another celebrity hot spot. Really good food, too. Rooftop in West Hollywood. Make a reservation weeks in advance.
Griffith- hike up to the Griffith Observatory in Hollywood for the most spectacular overlook view, telescopes, and planetarium. Check website for hours. Griffith Park has tons of trails, research in advance which you want to take.
Inspiration Point- lovely views and there are also horse stables and a polo field on the property.
Runyon Canyon- most famous hiking trail in LA. Lots of models, celebs, fit people, and cute dogs.
Eaton Canyon- can be up to 2hrs drive away but well worth it. Hike through the LA National Forest and feel like you’re in the wild west.
Los Liones- hike in Malibu with views of the Pacific ocean. Fryman Canyon- hike with view of Hollywood hills houses.
Solstice Canyon- beautiful Malibu canyon hike.
Fryman Canyon- not as well known so you may get the trail to yourself! Spot birds and butterflies, enjoy the views from the hills.
Melrose Trading Post- every Sunday from 9am to 5pm, artists and local vendors set up shop at Fairfax High School to sell their goods. You can find really unique vintage clothes, jewelry, plants, paintings, lotions, candles, fashion accessories, home decor, and so much more. Support your local craftsmen! Aside from shopping, there is also live music and a variety of food and beverage vendors.
Rodeo Drive – you probably can’t afford any of these designer stores, but it’s a beautiful street and fun to visit all the luxury stores! Plus see all the Rolls Royce cars.
Melrose- endless stores and street art. Very Instagram-able. All different types of fashion, from Coachella vibes to vintage to grunge to designer.
Beverly Center- upscale indoor mall in West Hollywood
The Grove- outdoor style mall, modeled after Italian and French plazas. Beautiful daytime and at night. Also has the Farmers Market with 50 booths of all different types of foods. I used to live right by here and would go all the time. Home to Pacific theaters, the fanciest movie theater I’ve ever seen- looks like an opera.
Glendale Galleria / Americana at the Brand- every store you could ever imagine. Indoor mall and beautiful outdoor shopping plaza. Plus restaurants. Could spend all day here.
Westfield Century City- my favorite shopping place, personally. Endless stores, huge food court with actual good quality food, movie theater, lots of restaurants, and more. Brand new so it’s a gorgeous modern design; everything is clean and attractive.
Main Street Promenade – located right off the beach in Santa Monica. Lots of stores and outdoor dance/ music performances.
Hollywood Walk of Fame (obviously)
Grand Central Market and Angels Flight – downtown
Santa Monica pier
Abbott Kinney street in Venice (tons of one of a kind stores, cafes, and restaurants right off the beach)
Venice Canals- located off of Venice Beach, modeled after Italy’s canals
The Broad – contemporary art with famous Yayoi Kusama infinity room. Free entry but must wait outside in line. Try to go on a weekday morning for fastest entry
The Getty – amazing location overlooking LA. European paintings and sculptures, but most come for the grounds: gardens, overlooks, fountains. Need a full afternoon here. Stunning architecture. Free entry.
LACMA – Paid entry. Exhibits from all over the world. Famous lamp posts photo opp.
La Brea Tar Pits – located next to LACMA. Tar still bubbling from the prehistoric era. Every day you can watch as they excavate bones of ice age creatures.
MOCA – located next to the Broad downtown. Contemporary art. Free entry
Museum of Natural History & Science Museum – dinosaurs galore. You’ll definitely learn something new here. Very large museums, requires full afternoon.
San Clemente State Beach
Malibu – go to El Matador beach (cool rock formations), sample wine and have a picnic at Malibu Wines, play game and rowboat and eat/drink at Malibu café, climb the giant sand dune, tons of hikes, climb Point Dume for view of the ocean, make a reservation for Nobu sushi
Ojai – visit olive farms and wineries, walk around the cute town, visit the outdoor book store, plenty of hiking and walking trails, feel at peace in nature
Santa Barbara – walk along the beach, visit the gorgeous Spanish style Mission church, eat everything on Main Street, play beach volleyball, check out bars in the Funky Zone
San Diego – visit the San Diego Zoo (the best one in the USA, in my opinion – feels like a safari), hit the beach, eat at the Gaslamp Quarter, visit Balboa Park, take photos at La Jolla, watch the seals Long Beach – go on a whale watching tour, visit the aquarium
Temecula – spend a day wine tasting at all different wineries
Solvang – Danish settlement down. All things Danish. Get some chocolate and photograph a windmill!
Palm Springs / Palm Desert – this is where trendy Coachella people stay. Rent a place with a pool, sunbathe, go shopping at the outlets.
Joshua Tree – visit Joshua Tree National Park (definitely see Skull Rock, Jumbo Rocks, watch the sunset at Keys View, drive all along the route and get out wherever you want, end at Chula Cactus Garden), eat and buy souvenirs in the adorable town of 29 Palms, keep an eye out for wildlife like roadrunners, coyotes, hummingbirds, etc. Watch the stars in the clear night sky (bring a coat – it gets cold at night)
Catalina Island – Take the ferry or a boat over. Look out for dolphins and “flying fish”! Everything on the island is walkable, no car needed. Very charming Caribbean meets Mediterranean feel. Can also go to the Channel Islands.
Big Bear – good for the late autumn / winter season. Rent a cabin with a fireplace. Go skiing and snowboarding.