California Dreamin’: L.A. Travel Guide

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First published in Vie Magazine, March 2020

From the snow-capped San Gabriel mountains to the shimmering Pacific and neighborhoods as culturally rich as small countries, Los Angeles is a city that needs little introduction or a weighty tome to describe it. But before we dive in, here are some pro-tips for your time out West: Plan road travel between ten and three then break poolside, on a rooftop, or at a museum until traffic wanes around seven. The Pacific is much colder than the Atlantic. And cashmere wraps are encouraged year-round. With that said, grab your shades – it’s time for Hollywood.

CITY LIFE

The West Hollywood EDITION

A new generation of luxury, the West Hollywood EDITION is it the best of both worlds: youthful sophistication in an ultra-modern setting with unparalleled hospitality to impress. Michelin star chef John Fraser sets the mood for a business and dinner crowd serving a “vegetable-forward,” but not solely vegetarian cuisine, at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Ardor. Travel to The Roof for three-sixty views while indulging in California Mexican dishes such as the colorful Dungeness crab nachos drizzled with mornay cheese sauce and topped with caviar (off the secret menu). Late-night dance parties ensue.

The Roosevelt Hotel

A Hollywood institution where Marylin Monroe posed for her earliest first photoshoots by the pool – the same pool where, years later, David Hockney painted mural guests now swim atop – the mid-century modern Tropicana Pool & Café sets the stage to see-and-be-seen from breakfast through midnight. The more drinks, the merrier as noted by a Dean Martin quote embossed in the menu: “It’s not called slurring your words, it’s called taking in cursive and it’s f*cking elegant.”

Wanderlust Hollywood

With daily yoga and workshops with internationally renowned teachers, Wanderlust embodies self-love on all fronts complete with a cafe featuring “mindful California-inspired cuisine,” local handmade jewelry, film screenings, even local wine, beer, and kombucha by-the-glass.

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Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

Light renovations kept the integrity of the 1927 building while pencil drawings etched on the walls of Missy Elliot and Britney Spears bring us to the present. The adjoining United Artist Theatre – founded by actress Mary Pickford, actors Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, and filmmaker D.W. Griffith – is a shrine to old Hollywood with jaw-dropping Spanish Gothic architecture which is still in use today. Best Girl, named after the first film screened at the theatre, is Ace’s main restaurant with James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Cimarusti. Daytime features American cuisine with brunch favorites like ricotta pancakes while dinner makes seafood the star of the show.

The Broad

While downtown pop over to The Broad, LA’s home for contemporary art from 1950 to the present day. Basquiat, Koons, Johns, and Warhol are found here alongside the performative photography of Cindy Sherman. Afterward, discuss your favorite exhibits with lunch at Otium, an eclectic restaurant of “elegant rusticity” right across the street.

Spire 73 at the InterContinental Los Angeles

A quick elevator ride to the seventy-third floor will lead you to Spire 73. Known as “the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere”, ten dollars will get you in if you’re not a guest of the hotel and it’s well worth it. From the Hollywood sign to the edge of Malibu, California is laid out as far as the eye can see. The Superman or Orion’s Paloma are house favorites and are delicious in mocktail versions, too. Reserve a table to watch the sun dip into the Pacific as traffic crawls below and helicopters pass at a bird’s-eye view. 

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Montage Beverly Hills

The manicured tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills interlace high-end retail with premier hotels like Montage Beverly Hills, a local favorite for its spa. “We are the crown jewel of spas in Beverly Hills,” Corporate Spa Director Patrick Huey said due to the extensive amenities available. Indulge in the ultra-premium, technological skincare treatments of L. Raphael Genéve (hello, Beauty Diamond Facial) or soak in the co-ed mineral pool to unwind. Not feeling social? Plunge pools are found in both the men and women’s locker rooms as well as Turkish steam rooms and redwood saunas.

Viceroy L’Eermitage Beverly Hills

A few blocks away tucked among the neighborhood streets is a former residential building turned high-end hotel who’s greatest appeal is its privacy. Fine French bistro cuisine is found at Avec Nous, the quietly glamorous in-house restaurant and bar that hosts a sizable wine cellar. Catering to celebrities or high-profile guests who need a break from the outside world or a quiet place to seal a movie deal – it was once known as the Writers’ Bar for this reason – no pictures are allowed in the building (but selfies are welcome).

The Beverly Hills Hotel

If you visit only one hotel, let this be it. Set among twelve acres of tropical gardens and eighty-year-old palm trees, the signature deep green stripes and Martinique banana leaf wallpaper – exclusively created for the hotel by Don Loper in 1942 – make the “Pink Palace” one of the most famous hotels in the world. Power lunches are frequent at The Polo Lounge and people watching is abundant at the Fountain Coffee Room on the floor below. Fresh fragrant flowers permeate the building and linger as you wander to a private bungalow or cabana by the pool.

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Melrose Place

Aside from premier shopping on Rodeo Drive, what makes Melrose Place standout are the private courtyards leading to select high-end boutiques. The architecture of The Row pays homage to a modern art museum while the Olsen twins’ impeccably tailored designs gently suspend throughout the rooms. Violet Grey is the beauty shop preferred by Hollywood elite. The top seller is Augustinus Bader PPC Cellular Renewal Rich Cream, so highly regarded that Victoria Beckham partnered with the brand for her new makeup line which, at time of writing, is exclusively sold at Violet Grey. Oscar de la Renta, Isabel Marant, Chloe, Balmain, and Marc Jacobs also call home on this softly shaded street. And the ivy covered Alfred Coffee is a must for strong, rich coffee to keep you fueled for your next hit.

Melrose Avenue

A mile from Melrose Place brings you to her rebellious sister, Melrose Avenue. Vintage lovers rejoice with shops such as World of Vintage T-shirts with a collection of perfectly worn T’s so thin you could read through; American Vintage offers vintage and reworked treasures at smaller price points; and most notably Wasteland, a streetwear forward collection where you’ll find a 1984 Michael Jackson T-shirt next to vintage Chanel. Celebs, stylists, and designers shop here not only for the highly curated vintage selection but to seek underground designers for the next best thing.

Shopping in Silver Lake

A neighborhood where celebs come to feel like normal people and hipsters reign supreme, this indie town is home to many sweet spots such as Skylight Books where bestselling author readings are frequent; The Odells Shop with goods for the entire family complete with a decked-out yurt in the back; and Botanica Restaurant & Market owned by former food writers and editors Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer so you know it’s good.

Runyon Canyon

Possibly the most popular hiking spot in LA and for good reason. Great people watching, celebrity sightings, and doable for most ages and levels of fitness, look forward to views of the Hollywood sign at a distance and the sprawl of LA for enviable Instagram shots.

BEACH DAYS

Malibu RV Park

For the true adventurer and bohemian, rent an RV to claim a spot at the Malibu RV Park on the cliffs above the Pacific. Open all year, the park is geared toward visitors instead of monthly guests to keep a fluid traveler’s vibe. Each spot comes with mountain or ocean views, which is perfect to check the surf or settle in for one of California’s epic sunrises or sunsets.

The Rose Venice

A social club since 1979 where locals, producers, and artists gather to share ideas and sell art, The Rose Venice has an industrial feel softened with hanging plants and pretty people. Formerly The Rose Café & Market, partner-and-chef Jason Neroni reopened the beloved spot in 2016 to a So-Cal-meets-Euroasian bill of fare with full bakery, espresso bar, and an open kitchen that presents inventive dishes like a grass-fed 10 day-aged prime hanger steak and miso butterscotch pot de créme. The menu lists farms where the ingredients are sourced so you can trace where the heirloom tomatoes and chickens were raised. Afterward, walk towards the ocean then hang a left to stroll the Venice Beach Boardwalk and visit Animal House for vintage rock T’s. It’s about a stone’s throw from the well-known “Venice” sign and the famous Muscle Beach.

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Cafe Gratitude, Venice

The epitome of California dining with all an organic and vegan menu, each dish is listed with a specific intention. For example, the “Brilliant,” (which you order by saying, “I am Brilliant”) will give you the Creamy Puttanesca Pasta made with capers, kalamata olives, smokey cashew sour cream, tomato confit, roasted red pepper walnut purée, and lacinato kale. They even have a question-of-the-day to ponder while waiting for your meal. (What would be your spirit animal? or What are you most proud of?) Gracias Madre is the sister restaurant in West Hollywood that’s also organic and vegan with an extensive mezcal and tequila bar. No intentions required.

Abbot Kinney

Foodies will praise Gjelina for it’s simple yet flavorful cuisine at the heart of another LA hotspot, Abbot Kinney. Next, travel to James Perse for elevated basics that can take you from beach to happy hour. The casual-luxe designs evoke a classy surfer vibe with cashmere sweaters, graphics, hats and more. Several home stores have recently opened, so your West Coast inspired decor can match your new laid-back style.

Lit Yoga

Hosting several community events a year, where you can enjoy cannabis in the presence of others, Lit Yoga is where plant medicine and spiritual practice meld as one. Private sessions are available “for those looking to explore cannabis as a tool for enhancing well-being and relieving physical pain during practice,” CEO Hannah Mason said. Cannabis consultations for products and dosing to fit your lifestyle are included. Teacher training is offered, too.

Stretch LAB

Too tired for yoga or feeling a little sore from the flight? Stretch LAB is a unique studio for assisted stretching designed to guide you towards smoother mobility. Similar to how athletes are pampered pre and post games, “Flexologists” help to discover your path to flexibility.

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Malibu Farm Restaurant and Cafe

The Malibu Farm Restaurant offers farm-to-table cuisine at the beginning of the pier while the Malibu Farm Cafe is anchors tip. Order the Fish Taco, a deconstructed show stopper made with branzino white fish, green cabbage, radish, cucumber, pico jack cheese, cilantro, and crema. Or walk to the end of the pier to enjoy quick bites from the Malibu Farm Cafe as you take in the surf culture in the waters below.

Chrome Hearts

What started as a top-grade leather goods line in an LA garage in 1988 has morphed into a critically acclaimed lifestyle brand. High-end silver jewelry put the brand on the map and has since expanded to clothing, scents, eyewear, and handbags to name a few. Having once collaborated with the Rolling Stones, Bella Hadid, and Comme des Garçone, indefinable is a good way to describe Chrome Hearts and they like it that way. 

Fred Segal

Fred Segal was once the denim king of Hollywood. Even the King of Rock ’n Roll, Elvis Presley, had custom clothing design by the man. Bob Dylan, Farrah Fawcett, and the Beatles frequented his shops, which have now grown from private label to adding new designers like embroidery artist C. Bonz and established brands like Proenza Schouler. Located in the Malibu Country Mart, Sunset Boulevard, and LAX they’ve gone international to Taiwan and Switzerland as well. No matter where you visit, Fred Segal remains a touchstone for the true California style.

Keep your eyes peeled for famous faces you may pass on the street and ears piqued to hear the next screenplay going down. A colorful tapestry weaving rich cultures, vibrant creatives, and the natural world into one, no matter where you roam in the City of Angels this seductive Southern California city has endless experiences to keep you coming back for more.

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