Over the years I’ve been asked by a number of people about what to do during their visit to Los Angeles and Southern California so I’ve been compiling a guide. It’s sad to think that some of the places that I will mention will in a few years no longer be relevant and I won’t know the newest restaurant or the new hotspot, but I will always know the best places to SHOP! LOL! 🙂 Enjoy this guide for how long it remains relevant since LA is constantly changing.
Santa Monica & Venice Beach: You must visit these two beaches, they are located right next to each other, rent bikes and bike from one side to the other. Main Attraction: The Santa Monica Pier and 3rd street Promenade for some fun outdoor shopping. Venice beach for it’s Muscle beach and great people watching! On the weekends you can find drum circles to Hula-Hoop dancers.
Universal Studios: A great amusement park for older kids that are into movies. It’s fun to see how your favorite movies were created. It’s an all day event so plan for a day there. After the amusement park you can have dinner at the Universal Citywalk which is located right out of the entrance of the park, tons of restaurants.
Hollywood: Hollywood is mostly made up of tourists, street performers and the homeless. I would visit Hollywood Blvd for the day. Main Attractions: Kodak Theatre & Chinese Theatre located on Hollywood and Highland blvd. This is where you can see the stars hand prints and the streets lined with the Hollywood stars.
Hollywood sign: Drive up Beachwood Canyon to get a great view of the Hollywood sign.
Griffith Park/Observatory: Amazing views of the entire city and Hollywood sign, must see. You can hike up to the Griffith from Los Feliz Blvd. This sits on top of the mountain and has been seen in many movies. Take a drive up Mulholland blvd and catch the amazing views.
Shopping: On Hollywood and Highland there is an outdoor mall with general retail stores. This area is catered to the tourist, but definitely not the only place to shop.
Nightlife: Hollywood blvd is also considered NIGHT CLUB row because of all the nightclubs you can find within a few blocks of each other. Most are located on Hollywood between Cherokee Ave… I would suggest avoiding those places because the crowd can be a little (for lack of a better word) “Ghetto”.
Places to Eat: I think Los Angeles has the best food of anywhere in the world. I love following chefs and eating at all the new restaurants in the city. In Hollywood, you will find a few great places: Wood & Vine, Cleo and Beso (owned by Eva Longoria).
West Hollywood: I love West Hollywood and lived there for many years. I love this area because it has a really cool vibe, lots of shops and places to eat. There are 2 sides to West Hollywood, one side are cute shops, restaurants and bars and the other side… “boy’s town”.
Main Attraction: Take a drive down Sunset blvd and take it all in… a lot of movies and TV shows were filmed in this area because of the palm trees and iconic stores.
Shopping: Stroll down Melrose Ave for small retail shops or if you prefer a mall, the Beverly Center as a mix of high end and normal retail…Also enjoy the outdoor mall that is THE GROVE, great restaurants located inside with an awesome farmer’s market. Shops and great place for the family.
Nightlife: In this area there are more bars than clubs… some bars will have areas to dance but usually smaller. This has a classier/trendy vibe to it.
Bars: Bar Marmont which is next to the famous Chateau Marmont Hotel (also where Daniel and I met) – it has a dark and Parisian flare to it, SkyBar is located in the Mondrian hotel with an outdoor swimming pool and views of the city from their poolside. It is really breathtaking in the evening. Also in the Mondrian you have a great restaurant called Asia De Cuba which is an Asian/Cuban fusion restaurant, delicious.
Places to Eat: This is by far one of my favorite places to eat since there are restaurants everywhere. For Italian food I like Osteria Mozza (by Chef Mario Balotelli) for a more casual Italian next door is Pizzeria Mozza by the same chef, make reservations. He also has a great meat restaurant on the same street call chi SPACCA. For French, The Little Door… set in a romantic garden with twinkle lights and delicious food. Or Petit Trois Chef Ludo’s restaurant. For all American, STK – which is more of a steakhouse but very cool and also delicious food. If you want really good steak you have to go to Morton’s or Ruth Chris…famous for their delicious cuts of beef. Japanese – Mastushia by famous Chef Nobu or Koi. The London serves delicious meals by famous Chef Gordon Ramsey. Petrossian for their caviar!
Casual Dining: Cafe Med (Italian) located near Sunset Plaza, this area has a lot of outdoor restaurants that is great for the daytime. Cheesecake Factory with their large menus everyone can select a great dish.
Beverly Hills: You will fall in love with Beverly Hills with its grand shops and beautiful homes.
Main Attractions: SHOPPING! The best place in Los Angeles to shop in my opinion. You have every fashion house designer all in a few blocks of Rodeo Drive. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier and David Yurman across the street from each other. You have Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Ave and you can really have breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s every girl’s dream… ;). Stay on Santa Monica Blvd and there will be a sign as you enter Beverly Hills. You will see a huge difference compared to the other streets and neighborhoods. Everyone is driving a Mercedes, Bentleys or Ferraris on this street and you can spot celebrities daily. Another great outdoor shopping area is Robertson Blvd, high-end boutique where the celebrities shop. Take a drive through the neighborhood to see the multi-million dollar mansions.
Nightlife: Here the nightlife is not as busy as it is tucked away in a residential community. The hotels will have bars, but if you want to go out, you have to go to West Hollywood or Hollywood.
Places to Eat: This is a tough one because there are so many great places! French: Bouchon located in the heart of Beverly Hills and known as one of the best restaurants in the city, Italian: Spago by Chef Wolfgang Puck, if you are lucky to catch him… he will come out and greet you while you dine. Brazilian: Fogo de Chao: all you can eat. Best steaks: Mastros or CUT.
Downtown LA: LA is unusual because it is the one city where Downtown isn’t the main attraction… because of all the other neighborhoods Downtown gets a little bit neglected, but it offers so many great things to see and do.
Main Attractions: Walt Disney Concert Hall, this is where the LA philharmonic plays and where the famed Gustav Duhamel conducts. The architecture of this building is beautiful and a must see. Downtown is the heart of the financial district as well as our fashion/garment district. The garment district is where the wholesalers have all their buyers go out to see the latest fashions and the fashion houses have their showrooms.
Nightlife: The Standard Downtown has an impressive rooftop bar/club. You can see the entire city up there and because the weather is warm year round it’s always an amazing view. Getting in is tough unless you know someone or are on a guest list. The Edison is a great bar to visit, it used to be the old Edison Powerplant and is known to be very 1950’s inspired. They have great chicken wings too! 😉 Perch is also another rooftop bar that has amazing views, equally hard to get into.
Where to Eat: Downtown has a lot of hidden gems when it comes to food: Patina is delicious French, Bottega Louie is also delicious there.
Disneyland is a 45 minutes drive from Los Angeles, it is actually located in Orange County in the city of Anaheim. If you are going to Disneyland, I would suggest staying out there in a near by city. Staying near Disneyland will cost you. In Orange County you can got to Laguna Beach or Newport Beach. This is where they film that show Real Housewives of Orange County.
Places to Stay: If you are going to stay in OC, I suggest staying in Irvine. It’s about a 20 minute drive to Anaheim and much safer and cleaner. Irvine has been voted the safest city in America for several years running, it’s a University City and made of mostly upper middle class to the wealthy. So I’d suggest making the drive to Disneyland then coming back to Irvine in the evening. It’s more family friendly and not as dangerous as Anaheim can be. Any hotel you pick in Irvine will be sufficient.
Places to Eat: OC and LA people are rivals and usually don’t care to have anything to do with each other, so when I say their food isn’t as good, I mean it! LOL. They are made up of chain restaurants and generic food in my opinion, but still, they have a few gems. They love their texmex food there, but if you are going to any of them you have to try Javier’s. Steaks: Houston’s, they have a hawaiian ribeye that is just delicious! All American BBQ: Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ, best bbq in town. There are also tons of asians restaurants in this area so you can’t really go wrong. Japanese: Tokyo Table. All these restaurants are located in Irvine, I lived there for 2 years so that’s the only place I really know. If you go towards Newport Beach, you can find Joe’s Crab Shack.
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