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With its winning mixture of sun, sand and showbiz, Los Angeles is the greatest city in the world—and that’s why I choose to live here.
Take it from a local, if you’re going to visit, there’s much more to see than just Disneyland—which is at least an hour drive outside of town in Anaheim, anyway! The whole magical metropolis is a wonderland, and this selection of my favorite things in L.A. shows why.
Let’s start with the bars. Geek paradise Scum and Villainy is the best of the lot in my book. A themed pub modeled after the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars, this bizarrely brilliant Hollywood Boulevard hotspot offers out-of-this-world cocktails like “The Mind Trick” served by costumed bartenders. Originally started as a pop up in 2016, this bar was so incredibly popular it earned a permanent spot on the Boulevard. The Force is strong here.
If you prefer real life history to sci-fi spectacle, stagger along to the city’s best late-night dive, the Frolic Room. A dive-den of iniquity, this Hollywood landmark revels in its colorful past and present. Opened during prohibition in 1930 and only becoming a legal bar in 1934, it was the last place the “Black Dahlia” Elizabeth Short was seen alive before her 1947 murder and became the favorite bar of booze-soaked writer Charles Bukowski. While it’s a thrilling chance to feel part of Hollywood history, the Frolic Room is ultimately a no-frills spot, not the kind where you order fancy drinks. Just ask for a beer and be done with it.
But if beautiful people, a cool vibe, and Instagram-ready cocktails are more your speed, you’ll want to learn about the trendiest spot to be seen right now: Mama Shelter. This lively and red-hot hangout has the coolest and cutest Angelenos flocking to its rooftop bar. Also a restaurant and hotel, Mama Shelter is adored for its amazing views, killer cocktails, and awesome food.
Speaking of food, there’s so many things to see in Los Angeles (and so much time you’ll spend in traffic as a result) that you’ll be looking for fast food rather than fine dining if you plan to make a trip here. According to us Angelenos, there’s one place where you can get fine food fast: In-N-Out.
With a cult following and delicious taste, LA’s beloved burger chain is one of the best on the planet. And it’s no wonder the staff always look so happy–the pay and conditions there are great, too. Order the Double Double, Animal Style (grilled onions and special sauce)—your taste buds will thank you.
Now let’s look at shopping: you are going to want to take home some Los Angeles souvenirs from your trip, and the best place to get them is Amoeba Music.
With its endless racks of vinyl and band merch, Amoeba is so much more than just the world’s largest indie record store. It’s also a shopping theme park full of quirky, unique gifts that are so very L.A. Just going in person is an experience worth having—the staff has encyclopedic knowledge of all sorts of music, and there are often live performances of visiting bands. You can lose yourself here for hours and have a blast.
My personal favorite place to shop—which is also something of a hybrid—is The Last Bookstore. Located in a hundred-year-old former bank with the vaults full of books, this 22,000 square-foot salute to the written word is a literary labyrinth decorated with whimsical art and sculptures.
After a day of retail fun and exploration, you’ll want to relax. Where better to do so than the beach from Grease, where Danny and Sandy splashed in the surf at the iconic film’s start? You can find that beach at Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu. It’s the best place of the city’s 75 miles of coastline to spend summer nights—and days—with its golden sands, stunning sunsets, and peaceful solitude.
Another idyllic favorite with tourists, locals, and film fans alike is Griffith Observatory, which offers incredible views of the city from its central location in Griffith Park. The most stellar view of Los Angeles’ magnificent panorama comes from the roof of Griffith Observatory, a planetarium on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood that is 1,134 feet above sea level and has been featured in countless television shows and movies—including the James Dean classic, Rebel Without a Cause.
Hike the surrounding trails and snap iconic photos at Griffith during the day, and once the sun sets, you can raise your Instagram game even more by visiting Urban Light at LACMA. Pass by LA’s main art museum LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) anytime and you’ll see people posing for selfies amid the exhibition of 202 cast iron antique street lamps staged outside the entrance. It’s a striking exhibit which will illuminate your feed, especially when lit up after dusk.
Lastly, if you have your choice of lodgings in the City of Angels and can afford it, there’s no better place to stay than the Beverly Hills Hotel.
It was the original choice as the setting for the movie Pretty Woman, but the hotel turned down the filming request out of concerns that the presence of a prostitute in the script might tarnish the hotel’s classy image.
This is the only remaining luxury hotel from the Golden Age of Hollywood and has been an A-list hangout ever since opening in 1912. This iconic place offers a ticket to elegance and the best of everything the city has to offer. Walk through the hotel and grounds even if you are not a guest to get a firsthand view of the splendor and magic that makes this city so uniquely marvelous. If you do visit and happen to see me there, come say hi—it’s one of my favorite places to meet colleagues over a meal or drinks.
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