I had been to Los Angeles a few times before. Once with my parents while on an obligatory Disneyland holiday, and another in my early 20s while on business. Despite all of my global jaunts in recent years – and the painful experience of transiting through LAX several times – it never occurred to me to go back for a bit of a mini-break. I suppose, because LA is such a short flight from Vancouver, it’s one of those I’ll get to it places…like Hawaii. Recently another biz trip brought me back to SoCal so I decided to fly the HTB (husband to be) down to kick back for a bit.
We stationed our sun-deprived selves in Venice Beach, which turned out to be much more livable than I had thought. SO livable, in fact, we began to peruse long-term rental properties, but I’ll save that for another post. Sure there’s the freak shows, muscle beach and a slew of characters schlepping their wares along the boardwalk. But when you walk several minutes south, passed all the mayhem, you reach a super chilled out neighborhood with a SoCal-surfer-hippie vibe.
Los Angeles is hugely spread out, so it really depends on what kind of visit you’re after. For us, we wanted beach by day, exceptional food and entertainment by night. This is one the reasons I love LA – you can find just about anything your heart desires. If you’re planning a stay similar to ours, I have a few recommendations to throw down for you:
Cleo - Decked out with images of Dame Liz Taylor in her most famed role, Cleo (as in Cleopatra) is a sultry resto lounge on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. I can’t say enough about the cool décor, and the food didn’t disappoint either; a fine mix of Mediterranean dishes. Try the Brussels sprouts. I know, just trust me.
Fig & Olive – If you were wondering where the sexy sophisticates of LA hang out on a Saturday night, this may be a good place to start. The moment you walk in, you’re accosted by the smell of fresh herbs…and expensive fragrances. Belly up to the bar for a round of cocktails before diving in to their incredible menu of fresh, locally sourced fare.
Bin 73 – We stumbled upon this little gem on our last day, situated on Washington Boulevard a few blocks from the boardwalk in Venice Beach. We noticed many of the patrons were regulars, so there’s plenty of local appeal. We even spotted Pink and Carey Hart who live nearby. Great for pre-dinner cocktails and share plates. Try the grapes covered with goat cheese & crushed nuts!
Viper Room - Made famous as the scene of River Phoenix’s untimely overdose in the early 90s, the Viper Room is the premier live music venue of LA. The lineup is mostly local acts and the patrons are there for the music, not the scene, unlike many of the nearby clubs on the Sunset strip. The drinks are strong and the music is loud, naturally.
The Spare Room - If walls could talk! Think gaming parlor meets cocktail lounge. The kind of place where it would almost seem fitting for men to wear a smoking jacket and women to be playing bridge. Located in the Roosevelt Hotel, this dark and mysterious haunt is perfect for some late night canoodling.
Father’s Office - We checked out the Santa Monica location, which was small, loud and teeming with energy. This is the place to be if you’re looking to mingle. Known for it’s massive selection of craft beer on tap, FO is elbow room only but a great place to kick start your evening.
The Inn at Venice Beach - I cannot say enough about this fabulous little find, 3 blocks from Venice Beach. Modest looking on the outside; super modern and eclectic boutique hotel throughout. The rooms are huge and fabulously appointed. Breakfast is included and served in a common, sun-drenched courtyard in the centre of the hotel.
The Standard – I stayed in the downtown LA locale on a previous trip, which was fantastic, and if I were to stay again I would check-in to the Hollywood address. The Standard is anything but…standard. It’s modern motif has a definite 60s feel and the hotel plays host to some of the most fabulous parties in the city.
The Hollywood Bowl - If you do one thing in LA aside from shopping, party-hopping and beach-bumming, you have to take in a show at the Hollywood Bowl. We snagged tickets to Ben Harper and were completely floored with the natural surroundings and kick ass acoustics. At one point he sang a cappella to the 14,000 spectators. Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks made a surprise appearance to sing Pink Floyd’s Mother, which was the highlight of the night…that and the open drinking policy in the venue. Pack a picnic and pick up a bottle of vino on your way in. Our kinda place.