Hyperlocal is the best way to do the city of angels.
TRUE CONFESSION: I didn’t become an L.A. fan until I discovered its neighborhoods. Before that, every visit made me feel overwhelmed, with the nagging sense I was skating across a glossy veneer, the real city hidden underneath.
That all changed when I began to base each stay in an area of the city I wanted to know better, choosing as my headquarters a personality-rich hotel that promised a window into the local scene.
On my last trip, that was the Kimpton La Peer, located in West Hollywood’s Design District, just blocks from the landmark rainbow crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard. Not only does the La Peer have a stunning pool and a roof deck ideally placed for sunset watching, it’s supremely dog-friendly, which meant I could join my WeHo neighbors in chatting about our breed mixes as we strolled the shady side streets. But there’s an even greater secret to the successful L.A. get away: brunch. And not just any brunch, the right brunch, preferably in a low-key neighborhood hangout with plenty of outdoor
seating (read: dog-friendly) where you can eavesdrop while the party at the next table discusses their upcoming comedy showcase. In WeHo, that’s Blu Jam Cafe on Melrose, the original location of what’s grown to be a group of six breakfast spots around town. Take a sidewalk table for a front row seat to the WeHo parade.
My favorite brunch hangout of all, though, has to be Sqirl, and not just because it’s in über cool Silver Lake. The menu here tilts well toward groovy, with a plethora of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, but dishes like the skillet-baked Fritt-Omlette with fresh herbs and ricotta brioche toast are what keep me coming back. Afterwards I stroll over to the Silver Lake Saturday farmers market to admire the beeswax candles and goat’s milk soap and seek out my favorite organic chai. Silver Lake also has a Tuesday afternoon market, while the Friday market in nearby Echo Park is the place to go to wind down your work week with a fresh kombucha and a couple of empanadas.
Another neighborhood favorite is Echo Park Lake itself, where the city turns out to stroll on sunny afternoons, mothers pushing strollers and couples pedaling swan boats through the spray of a towering fountain. It was big news last November when Silver Lake got its first upscale boutique hotel, the Silver Lake Pool & Inn, and that’s where I’ll stay the next time I’m in town, lured by the siren call of the inn’s sunny Palm Springs– style pool deck. One of L.A.’s most walkable neighborhoods, Silver Lake has so many options for dining and nightlife that there’s no need to go anywhere else, but I jump in the car to check out Pilot, the new rooftop poolside restaurant and bar at The Hoxton, an outpost of the London-based hotel group that opened last fall in the historic former headquarters of the Los Angeles Railway Authority.
Together with a host of projects that include the Downtown LA Proper, a luxury landmark hotel opening later this year, The Hoxton is part of an adaptive-reuse boom that’s fast transforming the city’s once seedy downtown (now going by the annoying acronym DTLA) into a hub of arts and culture. Maybe this neighborhood is where I should base my next visit instead?
Not-To-Miss SoCal Spots
1. Take the Train to Santa Monica Pier
There’s only one thing that could keep you from visiting the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach Boardwalk, and that’s traffic. Solve that problem by taking the Metro Expo line — and bring your bike to continue your journey on two wheels.
2. Ride the Angels Flight Funicular
Yes, it’s hokey, but the world’s shortest railway is also a hoot, its wooden cars ascending Bunker Hill for the bargain price of a dollar a ride. Reopened in 2017, the 118-year-old funicular is a favorite of location scouts, so you might catch a shoot in progress.
3. Eat Your Way Around the World at Grand Central Market
From chop suey (really) to pupusas to the beloved pastrami and corned beef at Wexler’s Deli, Grand Central Market has it all and then some. A food hall before they were a thing, it’s been a downtown gathering spot since 1917.
4. Skywatch From Griffith Observatory
Come for the view, stay for the exhibits, which include multiple telescopes, a planetarium, a timeline of the universe, and a mural-covered dome. Surrounded by 53 miles of hiking trails, Griffith Observatory offers telescope viewings on clear nights.
5. Revisit the Ice Age at La Brea Tar Pits
Where else can you descend a staircase in the heart of the city to find yourself in a grotto studded with mastodon and mammoth bones? The La Brea Tar Pits continue to fascinate, with paleontologists still digging up fossils today.
6. Visit the Huntington Library
Equal parts art museum and antiquarian book collection and surrounded by 120 acres of lush gardens, the Huntington Library is a getaway within itself.
7. Watch the Sunset at El Matador State Beach
A short walk from the Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu takes you to the protected coves of El Matador State Beach, a favorite of photographers for its rock arches and crashing surf.
8. Take In a Comedy Show at the Groundlings
Gilda Radner, Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey all got their start here, and chances are at least one of the performers you see at a current Groundlings show could be Saturday Night Live’s next breakout star.
Updates from the Happiest Place on Earth.
Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort is having quite the year. The January 2020 opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Disney’s most ambitious and immersive attraction ever created, rounds out the already epic 14-acre, $1 billion land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened last May. Magic Happens, Disneyland’s first new daytime parade in a decade, debuted February 28. A sound track by Todrick Hall and collaborations with choreographer Tessandra Chavez (So You Think You Can Dance) and makeup artist David Petruschin (RuPaul’s Drag Race) bring next-level music, moves and makeup to Main Street, U.S.A. Foodies will flock to the Disney California Food & Wine Festival through April 21 for a celebration of California ingredients and cuisine. Looking ahead, Marvel fans will want to assemble later this summer for the opening of phase one of Avengers Campus, the Marvel-themed land debuting at Disney California Adventure with a new Spider-Man attraction, Ant-Man microbrewery and more. disneyland.com
Rosewood Mir Amar Beach Hotel
After years of languishing, the venerable hotel is back and better than ever.
SANTA BARBARA ,with its vibrant downtown, historic mission, beautiful harbor, beaches and Mediterranean-like setting, has long lured visitors. Now reasons to come here have taken a giant leap forward thanks to the lavish Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel, which opened in nearby Montecito last year. Though it is now flourishing, the Rosewood Miramar’s 16-acre oceanfront site has a somewhat up-and-down history. From its first opening in 1934, the original and venerable Miramar Hotel had a loyal following, despite pressures brought by the Great Depression, World War II and numerous too-close-for-comfort wildfires. Then in 2000 it was acquired by renowned hotelier Ian Schrager and shuttered, with promises to redevelop it within 18 months. But five years later the place had been only partly demolished, and it laid dormant for over a decade. Soon another buyer, Ty Warner Hotels, announced intentions to restore the property to its former glory; still, nothing happened for several years until developer Rick Caruso stepped in. With both a bold vision and the will and ability to carry it out, he began construction in 2016. The Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel fronts Miramar Beach, and its 161 units include a range of options, with a variety of suites and bungalows.
Oceanfront rooms literally sit on the sand, and the bungalows are surrounded with lush landscaping. There are vast lawn areas and pools for both family and adult swimming. Whether you’re strolling through the gardens, working out in the gym, indulging in a spa treatment, swimming in the ocean or dining in one of the fine restaurants, a stay here feels like a five-star experience. And there’s a bonus: the hotel encourages visitors from the community and out of town to come here, relax and take in the beauty.
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