First-Timers Guide to LA

Los Angeles City Guide

If you’ve never been to Los Angeles, you are in for a real treat. I truly believe that each city has a unique personality, a powerful energy and a way of changing you. I’ve lived in the City of Angels for 12 years now and have resided on both the east and west sides of the far reaching landscape. Speaking of energy and personality, this place truly holds its own. People move here from all over the world and there are so many different cultures that comprise the beautiful melting pot of the city. People also come here to pursue an idea, a dream, a passion, and you can feel it walking the streets—they are hustling, they are writing scripts, designing fashion lines, playing music in hipster bars late at night or hurrying to auditions; they are opening restaurants, food trucks or coffee houses and taking risks on start-up businesses—making the city all the better for their contributions. It’s a place bustling with the energy of “yes, just do it,” so when you visit, that spirit rubs off on you. Los Angeles doesn’t cater to cynics; it invigorates visionaries.

When Expedia asked for my advice on what a first-time visitor to Los Angeles should do, I planned a three-day tour of Los Angeles from sunrise to sundown, imagining that my family was coming to visit me for the first time. I feel this is the best overall experience and then you can build upon it during future trips to this fantastic destination.

First off, where to stay.

Of course, since I’m an east-sider I’m a little biased, so I would pick the Ace Hotel located in the up and coming downtown area on Broadway, that’s walking distance to new stores like A.P.C. and Acne, Urban Outfitters and Gentle Monster. I also adore the Freehand Hotel, also in the same area, that has amazing brunch and a cute store attached.

Location: The Freehand Hotel. Photo Credit: hostels.com

 

Photo Credit: Warren Office for Research and Design

 

A little more central is The Line hotel, a mid-century modern spot with an amazing, arboretum-style restaurant. If you would rather be near the beach, I’d say the boutique Mediterranean-style hotel, Palihouse Santa Monica, would be phenomenal. If you’re on more of a budget, I’d say snag a room at the Hilton right by the airport; it has great rooms and a fantastic pool. To see all your Los Angeles hotel options and get great deals visit Expedia.com.

Day 1.

First, look at the weather at the beach when choosing your “Westside” day, but here is the ideal scenario. A few days before, make reservations for breakfast at The Malibu Farm Restaurant, a farm to table spot that’s located on the end of the pier, it is breathtaking! Then drive up the coast into Malibu and stop at Vintage Grocers for some lunch to go for your beach day. There are many beaches along the coast, but I recommend a more low-key, less crowded one called El Matador.

Los Angeles City Guide

Location: El Matador Beach. Photo Credit: fritzhaeg.com

 

Los Angeles City Guide

Location: Malibu Farm Restaurant. Photo Credit: Garance Dore

 

Also, if you’re up for it, head to Point Sand Dune, you can’t miss a huge sand dune on your right—park on the side of the road, climb up and go bounding down—it will leave you laughing like a kid. As the sun sets, you can do a casual meal at the 60-year-old seafood diner, Neptune’s Net, or head into Topanga Canyon among the forest for something more fancy at Inn of the Seventh Ray or The Old Place (been in business for 45 years!)

Day 2.

For this day, we’ll contrast the beach vibe with urban culture. Wake up and head to Little Doms restaurant in Los Feliz—it’s a local favorite and you might spot a celebrity or two. Next drive up the same road this is on to the Griffith Observatory for a look over the entire city—movies such as Rebel Without a Cause and La La Land were filmed up here, so it might look familiar!

Location: Little Doms Restaurant. Photo Credit: laist.com

 

Los Angeles City Guide

Location: Griffith Observatory. Photo Credit: Travels with Mai Tai Tom

 

Next head to Intelligentsia coffee on Sunset boulevard in Silverlake and walk around that area for the ultimate hipster experience. Make your way downtown to Alchemy Works for some great shopping and then walk across the street to the beautiful indoor/outdoor modern art museum, Hauser and Wirth. If you have time before dinner, walk into the Little Tokyo area for some traditional Japanese culture and shopping. For dinner, try Bestia for Italian, Wurstkuche for classic sausages and beer, or Kazu Nori for the best Japanese handrolls of your life (*this is my favorite spot in all of LA, hands down).

Day 3.

You can’t visit Los Angeles without seeing the iconic Beverly Hills area and Hollywood, of course. So, I’d say start your morning with brunch at Mama Shelter in Hollywood (also a great hotel to stay at!) and go from there but be sure you go to the roof! However, I have a word of caution about Hollywood—I promise it’s not what’s in your minds’ eye from the 1950s. Sadly it has been taken over by commercialism and tourist trap shops, so I recommend a slow drive down Hollywood Blvd. with perhaps only a quick stop at the Chinese Theater and the Roosevelt Hotel—you can also come back here late at night for bowling at The Spare Room, a modern day gaming parlour and cocktail lounge, situated on the mezzanine level of the hotel.

Location: Mama Shelter. Photo Credit: Time Out

 

La City Guide

Location: Rodeo Dr. Photo Credit: California Beaches

 

From here, I recommend Expedia’s self guided driving or biking tour through the hills. You’ll see incredible homes, manicured lawns and amazing views. Next, drive to Rodeo Dr. and park in one of the 2-hour free lots to grab lunch at the affordable and organic favorite, M Café. Walk around and shop at beautiful mid-range stores such as And Other Stories and COS and also peruse the high-end spots such as Chanel, Yves St. Laurent and Intermix. For dinner, tonight could be your night to splurge at the Hotel Bel Air restaurant (you can also stay here if you want a very high end experience). You need reservations for the restaurant, but this is one of the most gorgeous properties in the area. If they are full, try the iconic and historic Beverly Hills Hotel for a splash of color and fun!

City Guide

Location: Hotel Bel Air. Photo Credit: Dorchester Collection

 

So, here you’ve hit three fantastic areas, but of course Los Angeles warrants more than one trip to see it all. If you’re really into packing it in, I would also recommend the Universal Studios Tour—it is fascinating to get an insider look at the movie industry, a visit to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens—a collections-based educational and research institution in San Marino (Where The Father of the Bride location filming house is) and also The Getty Museum.

Hope you enjoy your trip and I hope that I steered you in all the right places!

Sarah is CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Darling Magazine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and is a lover of well told stories, Chai tea, cats, nature and Paris.

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