This is an historic building built in Japanese style in 1911. It sits high above Hollywood Blvd with a view toward downtown. Interesting fusion dishes and a great bar. A great place to escape Hollywood's frantic pace in a beautiful setting to enjoy the twinkling lights.
A wonderful spot to study the skyline and enjoy drinks, small plates or dinner, moderate prices. Romantic and historic at the same time. Be sure to check out history on website.
The epitomy of a roof top bar. Set of the 17th floor of the hotel, the only access is via a lift with its own doorman. The food is incredible, the cocktails are amazing and served until 2am. The clientele are hip and occasionally famous.
I did a food tour of East Los Angeles that is hosted by a group called Melting Pot Tours - it's their Latin Spice Tour. My guess is very few tourists go anywhere near this part of town so if you're looking for something different, and off the beaten path, check out this LA tour. The food was great, the guide was a hoot and I got to see a cultural side of Los Angeles (East, Latino, authentic) that most of us usually only get to drive by. It was wonderful, just loved it.
I have just had one of the best meals I have had in America - a simple meal of pasta with a Bolognese sauce provided with superior service.
Owner and chef, Jason is a gracious host.
Gourmet sausages and other 'fast food staples' including vegetarian in a part of Downtown LA that has been taken over by artists using old industrial spaces. An excellent choice of beers and long, long tables mean that the atmosphere is not only great but you will actually find conversation with the locals is the norm.
For Bohemian flair, it's not quite Silverlake or Echo Park but it makes for a great night out.
In a world where most music is just hop, skip and a click away via a download, the magic of going to a store and purchasing a CD or a record is easily forgotten. Not at Amoeba Music - this is the world's largest independent music store and it an absolute joy to spend time there. You can literally spend hours flicking through row after row of every genre of music you can think of. They have a neat system that scans the barcode of a CD and brings up the tracks at a listening post, allowing you to listen to basically anything and everything in store. The staff are very knowledgeable and the store itself also hosts free gigs with really high calibre performers such as Elvis Costello, The Roots and DJ Dangermouse. If you find yourself in LA, I recommend setting aside an afternoon to wander about in the cavernous musical awesomeness that is Amoeba. They also have smaller (but still massive!) branches in Berkeley and San Francisco.
Dearly Departed is a small company that runs a number of different tours. I recommend the Hollywood Movie Tour, in which you get to see the locations of around 50 movie scenes, from Glen or Glenda to Back to the Future. The guides know a ton about Hollywood history. It's less polished than your standard studio tour, and that's what makes it fun. We picked up a lot of trivia and interesting info.
A restaurant and a romantic place, nestled among the trees, and creekside, organic foods, half way up Topanga Canyon between Malibu and the San Fernando valley. A place to get away from hectic Los Angeles and enjoy an unforgettable meal
Los Angeles's largest Greek Orthodox church and filled with rich murals and a rich interior of gold leaf. It's an inspiring must see for visitors and locals alike. Built by the vision of movie makers and it houses a large greek festival in September.
Papa Cristos has been serving the Greek community in Los Angeles for sixty years, across from the beautiful St Sophias greek orthodox church.
Complete with take out foods and bakery. You can order greek specialities, lamb, sandwiches and salads, all moderate prices. Order at the counter and your food will be brought to the large and festive main room where you will join a hundred or more diners seated at tables. Papa's is not a formal place. The food is well prepared, customers come from USC and from Wilshire Blvd businesses. It's a great place for foreign visitors to relax and savor good food at moderate prices.
2771 West Pico at Normandie, Los Angeles 90006, 323.737.2970,
LA is a night and day town.
Watching the sun go down after a long day or before a long night is a great way to break up the pace of this city and see it at its most beautiful.
Sunset Blvd is the vein that flows from Hollywood down through Beverly Hills onto the Pacific Coast Highway. Driving down here anytime of day is fun.
Take a trip north up PCH 1 to Malibu for sunset on Zuma Beach. Tackle point Dume, Dolphins and Pelicans may turn up and it is a stunning beach.
Before the beach off PCH 1 Topanga, or Malibu Creek State Parks are both wonderful spots to watch the sun go down. Get up high to see the city, canyons, sea, simply amazing. Get down fast'ish as it gets dark out there!
Anywhere on the beach can be great for sunsets.
The chic suburb of Manhattan Beach has a romantic pier nicely lit with a small aquarium, stroll on the beach, or head on down the stylish beach side broad-walk to Hermosa for the most laid back beach scene in LA.
Santa Monica pier to Venice Beach. Walk, (hire) blades or bikes. Soak it all up. Get back into the canals of Venice and the Albert Kenny Blvd area for an a different perspective of Venice.
Away from the beach the Yamashiro in the Hollywood Hills is a super cool Japanese restaurant with an amazing view especially for sunset and night views.
No need to damage the budget either, hit the bar room for refreshments. Drink up the views and their delicious cocktails. Mia Tia and the Zombie, I can taste them now ... Zombie = don't drive.
Saunter down into Hollywood after and hit a dive bar and hustle some pool. Or go into West Hollywood and watch the people go by (in Lamborghini's) from the numerous establishments on Sunset Blvd.
The vibrancy of this city and variety of places and things to do is too immense a task for quick tip.
LA is well worth a long flight and pricy hotels.
So many hotels good and otherwise I can't scrape the surface.
Hostels are also hit and miss but some are no good altogether.
USA Hostels in Hollywood - clean, friendly
YHA in Santa Monica.
Surf City in Hermosa. Fun, friendly on the beach.
Camping is available at Malibu Creek SP and is one of the coolest ways to get cheap accommodation in the LA vicinity.
A guided walk with a difference, stopping at quality restaurants and specialist shops to sample food and beverages. Going places you would not find without the specialist local knowledge of the guide, being told the history of the areas as well as the food. This is the best guided 'tour' I have been on, unmissable, do not go to LA without booking on one of these, you will not be disappointed. Excellent value for money too!
www.meltingpottours.com -book via the website and in advance they are very popular and get booked up
While possibly uninspiring, the small town of Buellton in Santa Barbara County will nevertheless be unmissable to fans of the wine nerd film ‘Sideways’. From just beyond the windmill of Days Inn (the guy’s hotel in the film) take Avenue of the Flags which leads to the Santa Rosa Road. This idyllic winding road follows the Santa Ynez River through the Santa Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area). Stop off at legendary pinot producer Sanford to visit their recently opened mission-style tasting room sited in the middle of their historical vineyards. Don’t miss the Dominio del Falcon reserve pinot noir. Back in Buellton book a table in advance at the Hitching Post II for unbeatable steaks. Maya won’t be there, but open a bottle of ‘Highliner’ in her memory (the local wine made by Frank Ostini, the restaurant owner and head chef).
It is said that New Yorkers are a driven lot, but a large percentage of us are driven because we do not know how to drive. There is no need in this city to operate a car - there is excellent public transport at half the price of London. And yet New Yorkers are among the best-travelled people in the world. Sometimes we hire a car and driver, but our independent and sociable natures often inspire us to do what the locals do.
I am a regular visitor to Los Angeles and have figured out how to enjoy much of the area without a car. For a first-time or repeat visitor, my advice is to base yourself in Santa Monica. It has much of the iconic LA topography: sunsets on the Pacific Ocean; a sandy beach full of people who are in much too good condition; wandering “street” characters of every stripe; the occasional movie star sighting; one of the best outdoor food markets in America; superb restaurants; and, above all, the sense that this could not be anywhere else in the world but the LA we envision. All that is missing is Disneyland and that can be reached if one must.
My hotel of choice is the Georgian. It dates back to the 1930s and was preferred by more than a few movie stars for a romantic getaway. The building retains its elegant old bones but has been smartly updated. There are delicious breakfasts based on local ingredients, bracing ocean air, and those sunsets. The elegant Merigot hotel is another choice and its Cezanne restaurant offers many dishes based on local ingredients. I love the fish dishes there. Within three blocks of the Georgian Hotel are at least 50 restaurants, cinemas with 12 screens showing the latest hits and important independent films, and even a pub popular with British ex-pats. It is right across the street from the ocean and I would try to get in a swim every day.
You can rent a bicycle and cover a lot of local terrain. Santa Monica also has a superb local bus system as well as limited-stop long distance buses that go to Beverly Hills and downtown LA. Selective use of taxis can take you places where buses do not reach. The two I would recommend are both part of the J. Paul Getty Museum (www.getty.edu/museum), for which reservations are required to attend. The Getty Villa, straight up the Pacific Coast Highway, holds a superb collection of Greco-Roman art in an idyllic setting. It is a short trip from the Georgian Hotel. A bit further, and probably the most expensive transport (about $40) you will incur, is the Getty Museum, an omnium gatherum of paintings, sculpture, drawings and photographs. The Getty has one of the best educational initiatives of any museum in America. It also has good eating facilities, so I tend to make the visit a full day.
And what do I do if I need or want to go further afield? New Yorkers are resourceful and also friendly. I tend to befriend residents of LA, almost all of whom own a car and are willing to give me a lift. In exchange, I invite them for drinks on the terrace of the Georgian just in time for sunset over the Pacific.
Georgian Hotel: 1415 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401 Tel: 1-310/395-9945 Fax: 1-310/451-3374
Melrose Avenue is one of LA's longest and most celebrated shopping streets, home to designer boutiques, hip restaurants, street wear, thrift stores... you name it. It's also a great place to find bargains. Near to some of America's most affluent and fashion concious communities, the second hand vintage shops on Melrose are a cut above your average thrift store. It's not hard to spot designer jeans, couture dresses and other items, ranging from almost new to decades-old classics, and all at a fraction of the original price. Many of the independent boutiques in the area also sell brilliant, unique pieces for prices that are extremely reasonable for what you are getting. The Marc by Marc Jacobs boutique at Melrose & La Cienega is also surprisingly affordable.
Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles (the best section, retail wise, is in Hollywood and West Hollywood, between La Cienega & La Brea)
If your trip to the US and Canada is for several months, investigate the possibility of buying a used vehicle and then re-selling prior to returning home. The cost of insurance will be much lower, and if you buy at a reasonable price, the value of the vehicle at the end of the trip will hopefully not have dropped too much. I have done this with a motorhome, and saved a small fortune.
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