I've been fortunate enough to visit California, and in particular LA, a lot in recent years and have made many great friends and memories there.
However, I often come across people who've visited the city and just don't like it. I honestly believe that the main reason for this is because it's a vast and sprawling city, and so your experience of it will very much depend on what part of it you stay in, and where you go within that area. I wanted to share my personal favourite places and experiences with you to hopefully give you an insight into the LA that I know and love. Who knows, it might even inspire you to get booking your own adventure! And here they are, in no particular order:
- Hike Runyon Canyon
Hiking is a national pastime for Angelenos. With the benefit of having a wonderful climate year round, it inspires a lot of outdoor pastimes. There are plenty of hikes to choose from in the hills around LA but my personal favourite is Runyon Canyon. You have great views of the city and of course the Hollywood sign, and you may even see a celeb or two along the trail.
- Griffith Observatory
This iconic landmark is one of the highest points in LA. Depending on your energy levels you can hike or drive up to it. It has breath-taking views of the city laid out at your feet and if you are lucky enough to visit as the sun goes down, it will seem as if you are looking out over a sea of stars. There's a bronze bust there dedicated to the late great James Dean who filmed 'Rebel without a Cause' there in 1955, he sadly died later that year.
- The Grove and The Farmers Market
At the corner of 3rd and Fairfax, you'll find a uniquely LA experience. The Grove is a relatively new outdoor shopping area opened in 2002. It has a great selection of shops and restaurants, all situated around a beautiful fountain. Right beside it is the Farmers Market, serving Angelenos since 1934 and it's a veritable feast of the senses for foodies. From groaning tables piled high with delicious fruits and vegetables, to butchers selling steaks bigger than your head, to every type of cuisine imaginable from crepes to creole, you can easily spend an hour here browsing and dining as you go. Combined they make my favourite way to pass a morning or afternoon.
- Robertson and Melrose
Forget the overpriced and touristy Rodeo Drive. Shopping in West Hollywood just doesn't get any better. Browsing the boutiques of Robertson while seeing who's dining at the famous Ivy restaurant, is what it's all about. From All Saints and The Kooples to Kitson and Madison, there is superb shopping to be had. The Newsroom Cafe is a fab spot for lunch and then head over to Melrose Ave to browse the myriad of cool and funky boutiques.
- The Sunset Marquis
This is THE rock and roll hotel in LA. It's a hidden gem situated just off Sunset Boulevard where all the celebs stay, precisely because it's so discreet. It has 3.5 acres of lush gardens in the heart of the city with over 100 suites and 50 private villas. Despite its pedigree it's the most welcoming place that I've ever had the pleasure to stay. No snootiness here! The service was superb and we were made to feel like VIPs. If staying here isn't an option for you then I'd highly recommend having a meal in its beautiful outdoor restaurant or a drink in the infamous Whiskey Bar.
This hipster haven is well worth a day out. The beach boardwalk is a famous tourist site along with muscle beach, but it was a bit seedy for my taste. By all means have a look, but Venice has a lot more to offer. The beach itself is a vast expanse of white sand with the iconic lifeguard huts made famous by Baywatch. Abbott Kinney Blvd. is just the best road to amble along. It has a superb selection of boutiques, from Skylark (very reminiscent of Folkster) to Enda King (a men's boutique owned and run by one of our own).
There are fantastic restaurants to choose from, namely Gjelina (www.gjelina.com/) and The Tasting Kitchen (thetastingkitchen.com/). And funky hotels to match, like Hotel Erwin (www.hotelerwin.com/) and the fantastic roof top bar with its view of the city. For an amazing start to your day then brunch at Gjusta (www.gjusta.com/) and a smoothie from Moon Juice (https://www.moonjuiceshop.com/) are a must.
This beautiful and quaint island is only 60 mins off the coast of LA and accessible by the Catalina Express Ferry. Head over for the day to escape the city and get back to a simpler time of homemade ice cream and white picket fences. There are no cars allowed on the island so you can explore via golf buggy.
There are 3 small beaches to choose from but the one behind the Casino building (not an actual Casino) is the only one you can enjoy a drink at. The water is so crystal clear that you can see beautiful orange fish swimming about your feet. It’s an idyllic city break. (www.catalina.com)
- Santa Monica
Again, it's a tourist hotspot - but don't let that put you off. A shopping trip to 3rd Street Promenade and its hundreds of stores and restaurants is a fun way to spend an afternoon. While a quick trip down Santa Monica pier and a turn on the ferris wheel makes for some old time fun. The pier is also the official finish of Route 66.
- Dodgers Game
Admittedly, baseball isn't the most thrilling of sports, and on this side of the pond we tend to just assume it's a grown up version of rounders. However going to a game, whether you've an interest in the sport or not, is an experience in itself.
Dodgers Stadium is in a beautiful location and watching the sun set behind the palm trees while eating a hotdog and sipping a beer is a uniquely American experience. And between the KissCam, the 7th Inning Stretch, the music, the Dance Cams etc. I can guarantee that you won't get bored!
- Hollywood Bowl and LACMA
Two fantastic outdoor music experiences in LA. The Hollywood Bowl hosts an array of concerts over the summer months with popular musicians. Keep an eye on their website for details. It's an amazing venue so even if you're not a huge fan of the artist playing, I highly recommend a visit. (www.hollywoodbowl.com)
LACMA (Museum of Modern Art) offers free outdoor jazz concerts from April to October every Friday evening at 6.30 pm. Jazz fan or not, grab a bottle of wine and a picnic from Joans on Third (www.joansonthird.com/), and head along to soak up the atmosphere.
There's plenty more on offer in LA. These are some of my personal favourites. Have you any more must see/do things in LA to add to the list?