These past few months, we’ve been doing a little bit of virtual travel here at Ask with remote visits to Paris, Rome, Athens. We’ve even watched the Northern Lights. But now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that fully vaccinated people can resume domestic travel it’s time to maybe actually go somewhere.
And since international trips are still a bit too much of a hassle, we’re keeping our trips closer to home in the U.S. Today, we have a getaway to Los Angeles, so that you have a very Californian experience.
Here are some of the many facets L.A. has to offer. And when we say L.A., we don’t mean exclusively the city of Los Angeles but the cluster of other towns that exist within the metropolitan area: Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and beyond.
How to Get There
You can obviously fly to LAX or any of the other area airports. But, depending on where you live and the number of days you want to spend on the road, Los Angeles may be one of the perfect cities to drive to since you know you’re going to be needing a car there for sure.
So make the perfect playlist — or borrow one from Spotify — roll your windows down, and plan your journey so that you get to enjoy the scenic route for at least a few miles while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. Also, be prepared to be stuck in traffic at any point. In L.A., it’s always rush hour, even during the pandemic.
Things to Do
The happy-to-drive-as-infrequently-as-possible in me can’t believe I’m about to say this, but driving is actually one of the required activities one needs to embrace in L.A. Just don’t do it aimlessly and check the traffic reports often to avoid ending up very much stuck. Although getting stuck in traffic is probably as authentically Angeleno as it gets.
Opt for a nighttime spin on Mulholland Drive for some arresting views of the city and its endless sea of lights. The Sunset Strip in West Hollywood is also an excellent tour that will give you a glimpse of some of the urban nightlife, as well as the city’s love for bright neons and TV and film billboards.
During the day, head north on Beachwood Drive for some of the best views of the Hollywood sign. And then there’s Doheny Drive or the rest of The Flats area in Beverly Hills, where you’ll find some perfect examples of charming streets flanked by towering palm trees.
If at any point during your trip you feel a bit overwhelmed by L.A.’s six-lanes-per-direction freeways and overpasses, just follow the Clueless guidelines: Relax. Also, keep your hands on the wheel at all times.
Other than driving — and if you’re feeling like having a full Clueless experience — there’s nothing like a little bit of shopping. L.A. is a fashion destination after all. But while Cher (Alicia Silverstone) favored the now-closed Westside Pavilion in West L.A. and the Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, we’re going to recommend the outdoor street mall The Grove in La Brea and the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica in case you want to hit some classics like Lululemon, Splendid, Anthropologie, Nike or the Apple Store.
If you want more of an artsy bohemian vibe, head to Abbot Kinney on Venice Beach where you’ll find labels like Scotch & Soda, Rag & Bone and Vince. And you can always finish your shopping spree with a little vinyl from the indie record store Amoeba Music in Hollywood or books from the indie The Last Bookstore in DTLA.
Where to Eat and What to Eat
Let’s go with salad as one of Los Angeles’ most basic staples. Many restaurants in the city really know how to make a yummy bowl packed with protein, grains and vegetables. Like the Mediterranean Gem at Sycamore Kitchen, the Dazzling Kale Salad with avocado at the vegan Café Gratitude, the Kale with Peanut Dressing one from M Café, the Avocado & Quinoa Superfood Ensalada at Mendocino Farms or the salad trio from Joan’s on Third.
For less healthy but equally delicious options, you need to savor some of the tacos the city has to offer. You can try the mole poblano or tinga de pollo from Guisados, the sweet potato taco from Guerrilla Tacos or the grilled fish ones from Neptune’s Nest, just to name a few options.
Discover that Los Angeles has nothing to envy from New York when it comes to pizza. Some of the best offerings include Pizzeria Mozza‘s Californian take on Italian pies, Gjelina‘s Californian Mediterranean ones and Jon & Vinny’s Italian Californian pies.
And allow yourself to discover the very healthy relationship Angelenos actually have with sugar and carbs by devouring red velvet cupcakes from Sprinkles, vanilla bean glazed concoctions from Sidecar Doughnuts, chocolate avocado pudding from Gjusta or a simple chocolate croissant from Urth Caffé.
Film buffs interested in touring one or several of the big studio lots. In the past, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Studio, Sony Pictures Studio and of course Universal Studios — as part of their theme park Universal Studios Hollywood — have all offered guided tours of their soundstages. Some of the studios are planning on reopening the tours in the upcoming weeks, while others are still on hold.
Also for cinema aficionados, visit Quentin Tarantino’s revival house cinema New Beverly or the equally artsy American Cinematheque. Sadly the iconic ArchLight Hollywood and its Cinerama Dome — which were part of the ArcLight chain — closed permanently in April of 2021 after more than a year of being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Celluloid lovers can also delight in visiting many of Los Angeles’ movie and TV filming locations. From La La Land and Rebel Without a Cause‘s Griffith Observatory to Bosch‘s Angels Fight Railway, Blade Runner’s Bradbury Building, Strange Days‘ Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Iron Man‘s Randy’s Donuts and the Swingers‘ diner at the Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel.
The One Thing You Shouldn’t Miss
Nothing beats something as simple as sunset over the Pacific. Head to the beach in Santa Monica or Venice and simply enjoy the end of the day. Plan accordingly though: bear in mind there will be traffic on the way to the beach and then you’ll have to find parking there. Allow yourself plenty of time. You wouldn’t want to finally make it to the Pacific when the sun is already gone for the day.