The surrounding beach and boardwalk is what makes this pier a must-visit destination in the colorful Venice district of Los Angeles, a few miles south of Santa Monica. While the pier itself offers a 1,300-foot walking path with expansive ocean views (and scenes of fisherman reeling in the day’s catch), you’ll enjoy some seriously entertaining people-watching in any direction.
To the immediate north: famed Muscle Beach—an alfresco weight-lifting gym—and a buzzing bike path that cuts through the sand and leads to Santa Monica. To the south: one of the widest beaches in Southern California that’s always packed with surfers, sunbathers, and volleyball players. Street performers and artists entertain on the adjacent boardwalk, which is home to a wide variety of shops that sell everything from souvenir muscle tees to local art. But you can’t live on eye candy alone: The dining options, ranging from foodie magnets (like Gjelina and bakery Gjusta) to sushi and street tacos, are abundant.
Welcome to the bright lights and big-city allure of California’s largest metropolis. Here, A-list celebrities really do walk the sidewalks, triple-shot machiattos in one hand, cell phones in the other. While travelers may bypass much of the city by staying on a network of freeways that crisscross the region, they’re missing L.A.’s hidden gems. Turn off onto side streets to discover inviting neighborhoods, incredible museums, and shopping hot spots. And when the sun sets, L.A. comes to life in a whole new way, with clubs thumping to the beat of the latest indie band, a flock of starlets swaying in the front row. Rooftop restaurants, bars, and pools draw slinky-sexy crowds, while searchlights arc through the night sky, announcing the latest silver-screen premier.
When it comes to hitting the beaches of Los Angeles, many first-timers head straight to Santa Monica or Venice. But for those who want a more laid-back vibe, Manhattan Beach is the perfect coastal enclave.
Situated conveniently close to LAX in L.A.’s South Bay region, Manhattan Beach’s biggest draw is, of course, the beach. The sand and surf here are the real deal, and the scene can sometimes look straight out of an updated version of Baywatch. The ultra-smooth sand is perpetually dotted with volleyball nets and is home to the annual Manhattan Beach Open, the pro beach volleyball summer tournament. And, of course, it’s a hot spot for surfing. The International Surf Festival is also a big draw to MB (as the locals call it) every summer.
The Manhattan Beach Pier, where Manhattan Beach Boulevard meets the Pacific, offers a relaxing stroll with breathtaking views of L.A.’s most expensive beachside homes and the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south. Winners of past Manhattan Beach Opens are commemorated along the 928-foot pier, and the end houses the quaint, free Roundhouse Aquarium. Inside, there are viewing pools and touch tanks for close encounters with starfish and other invertebrates. Fun fact: Roundhouse was the location of the surf shop where Keanu Reeves’ character in Point Break bought his surfboard.
Along the beach is a nicely paved path known as The Strand, popular with cyclists, runners, and casual walkers taking in the idyllic scenery. Hermosa Beach is just a couple of miles south and makes for a good scenic route.
Further inland, Downtown Manhattan Beach is the bustling center of the city, loaded with high-end boutiques, retailers, and many popular casual and fine-dining restaurants. The Strand House offers unparalleled ocean views along with its top-rated farm-to-table and specialty cocktail menus. M.B. Post has a Michelin-starred chef. There are also plenty of low-key spots like the open-air pub Simmzy’s, perfect for a quick bite after spending the day shopping or surfing.
Often described as the “Brooklyn of Los Angeles,” Silver Lake is much more than just a hipster haven. The popular central L.A. neighborhood has gone from urban grit to sophisticated chic over the years and is home to celebrities, creatives, professionals, and an ever-increasing number of families. Silver Lake is diverse, eclectic, and above all, authentic. It offers some of the best of L.A. living, with close proximity to Hollywood and Downtown L.A., and incredible hilltop views, independent boutique shopping, and an increasingly popular dining scene.
One of the neighborhood’s most famous features is its massive namesake body of water, Silver Lake Reservoir, which offers a popular 2.25-mile loop for runners and walkers. Grab a cold brew at neighborhood staple Lamill Coffee down the street and take in the views of the res and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. After your reservoir stroll, head back down the street to catch happy hour at L&E Oyster Bar’s bright, airy upstairs patio or make your dinner reservations at the foodie-favorite Italian bistro, Alimento. Later, catch a rock show at the ’hood’s mainstay indie venue, The Satellite.
The main hub of Silver Lake is Sunset Junction, a bustling, walkable strip along Sunset Boulevard with dozens of trendy shops such as boho chic Mohawk General Store, clothing and home goods shop The Odells, and the neighborhood's favorite bar-stocking shop, Bar Keeper, which specializes in vintage barware and local and small-batch spirits.
If all the shopping and people-watching tires you out, there are plenty of places to refuel. For your caffeine fix, take your pick among Intelligentsia (known equally for its pour-over and people-watching), La Colombe, Alfred [“but first”] Coffee, or MatchaBar.
If java’s not enough, there are several hot restaurants dotted along Sunset Boulevard, including spicy Thai favorite Night + Market Song, insanely popular Silverlake Ramen (which opened a separate location just for takeout), and neighbors Sawyer and Kettle Black.
After you’ve pepped up, hit some of Silver Lake’s famous secret stairs, which are more hidden than secret (and there’s an app for that). These historic steps once played a major role in how residents got from their steep hillside homes to the main streets to take public transportation, proof that Los Angeles wasn’t always car-dependent. These days, the majority of the steps are used by locals for fitness and by visitors for photo ops, since many of them, including the Micheltorena Stairs (3400 Sunset Boulevard) and the Swan Stairs (Westerly Terrace and Swan Place), are vibrantly painted.
For Zoey Deutch, movies are the family business. Her mom, Lea Thompson, starred in Back to the Future, and her dad, Howard Deutch, directed Pretty in Pink. But plenty of kids grow up in California with parents who work in the entertainment industry; not many of them manage to carve out a career like that of Deutch, who, at just 23 years old, has already graduated from the Disney Channel to starring in films like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, the James Franco comedy Why Him? and the Sundance hit Before I Fall. She’s also made a name for herself as an activist, working with Water.org and other charitable organizations.
But with her latest movie, Flower, directed by another Hollywood scion—Max Winkler, son of “The Fonz,” Henry Winkler—Deutch has returned to a subject that she knows well: being a teenager in the Valley. In this case, it’s the San Fernando Valley, where Deutch’s Erica and her friends become amateur vigilantes amid the familiar trappings of high school. A proud lifelong Californian, Deutch shares her favorite parts of the state with us.
Where do you live? The Valley in Los Angeles.
Why there? I grew up here, love it here, can’t ever see myself leaving here. Die-hard Valley Girl!
Who or what is your greatest California love? Art’s Deli! Matzo ball soup, half pastrami, pickles, Caesar salad, egg cream, and latkes. Dream meal.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we solely exist in a vain and self-absorbed world. Call me biased, but I think Californians are generally really cool, hard-working, interesting humans…who really don’t know how to drive in the rain.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? See above, hahaha. That we do not know how to drive in the rain. And that all we do is talk about the 101, 405, and how much traffic we are always in.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I’m Los Angeles-partial. And damn, this is hard. Jon & Vinny’s, Sushi Katsu-ya Studio City, Madeo. I can’t choose. A dish from each place, possibly?
Given the fact that Julie Chen hosts a show called The Talk, it only follows that she has plenty to say about, well, everything. Does she have a favorite California food experience? Absolutely. And a favorite California song? Actually, she has four. And she doesn’t have one favorite attraction at Disneyland Resort—she has 10.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Chen was born in New York City and attended college at the University of Southern California, where she studied broadcast journalism and English. After various high-profile stints as a TV producer, reporter, and anchor, Chen has settled in as host and moderator of The Talk, CBS' Daytime Emmy Award–winning talk show that examines topical events and contemporary issues through the eyes of five female hosts. A busy mom and devoted yogi who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, Chen somehow finds time to host the long-running hit reality show Big Brother as well—and she also sat down to take the California Questionnaire.
Where do you live? Beverly Hills
Why there? Because I loved when Lucille Ball visited Beverly Hills on I Love Lucy and saw William Holden and was star struck. Beverly Hills seemed to me like a magical place where stars live. But also, it’s so central and an easy commute to work and school and is beautiful. (I also loved Beverly Hills 90210 and am still looking for the Peach Pit!)
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we are all Spicoli (Sean Penn’s character) from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? That some of us are Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? A convertible car—with the California sunshine and this weather, I just couldn’t resist.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? Up Highway One to Big Sur. I made the beautiful drive when I was a kid with my family in the 1970s. But I was a passenger. I want to do the drive myself now—preferably in my convertible, and not with my parents in the front and me and my two sisters squished in the back. (Guess who got the middle seat? Me!) This time, I’d like it to be more of a romantic getaway with my husband. We’d stay at the Post Ranch Inn. I hear it’s amazing, and I’ve never been.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Hands down, The French Laundry in Yountville. The food, the service, the setting—amazing. We went for my mom’s 80th-birthday celebration and are still talking about it five years later, for its California cuisine and healthy eating done in the most scrumptious way. Yum!
How do you define California style? Yoga pants, t-shirts, and hoodies with cool sneakers (think Yeezy, Kanye West’s line). Relaxed living. Open-air homes with an outside-inside feel. Lots of time being outside!
Best California song? “California Dreamin’,” by the Mamas and the Papas. It’s stood the test of time and is still good today. The harmony and the dreaminess of the sound lends itself to fantasizing about living free and easy and relaxed and happy. Also “Hotel California,” by the Eagles. Come on! You can just see the tall, skinny palm trees and the sun setting behind the Pacific Ocean as you hear it. It’s haunting—in a good way. Then there’s “California Love,” by 2Pac, with Dr. Dre. A modern-day feel, showing that California is not just all laid-back—we have an edge. Plus, I sang Dre’s portion on a dare on The Talk. I didn’t totally embarrass myself, and I even sent it to my friend Jimmy Iovine, who said he’d ask if Coachella had any openings. My phone hasn’t rung, by the way. Lastly, “California Girls.” Both the Beach Boys’ version and David Lee Roth’s. It’s a celebration of all kinds of beauty but with a special nod to California girls. Being a California girl myself now, I say “Yay!” whenever I hear it.
How would your California dream day unfold? I’d start with breakfast at the Malibu Farm Café. I’d order their fried-egg sandwich—it’s the best—and their surfrider coffee, which is basically their version of a Bulletproof coffee made with butter and coconut oil. This would be my fuel to start a day at Disneyland with my family, my sister and nephews, and my cousins and their kids. We’d start on the Radiator Springs Racers ride at California Adventure and end with the fireworks show and parade. But in between, we would have lots of churros, the yummy hot dogs on Main Street, and dinner at Steakhouse 55. And we’d go on all my favorite rides and attractions: the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Toy Story Midway Mania, Turtle Talk With Crush, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Indiana Jones Adventure. We’d stay the night at the Montage Laguna Beach.
What began as one couple’s small collection of postwar and contemporary art is now a treasure trove of more than 2,000 pieces, housed in an architectural stunner in downtown Los Angeles.
Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with “road”) have been involved in the Los Angeles art community since they arrived here in 1963. Eli—the founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) from 1979 to 1984—is the only person to have built two Fortune 500 companies in different industries (homebuilding and insurance). In August 2010, the Broads announced plans to finance their own contemporary art museum, located on Grand Avenue, across the street from MoCA and one block away from the Frank Gehry–designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. They wanted access to be free, “so that affordability isn’t a criteria to see the art,” said Eli Broad. “Edye and I have been deeply moved by contemporary art and believe it inspires creativity and provokes lively conversations.”
The museum exterior is provocative in itself. Architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro—known for designing Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and renovating New York City’s Lincoln Center—created the gallery space, dubbed “the vault,” with a honeycomb-like “veil” exterior that lets natural light flow inside. While some museums are dimly lit or bathed in artificial light, the high-ceilinged Broad lets sunlight come in from all sides, creating a clean, crisp ambience.
The “veil” of The Broad lets sunlight come in from all sides, creating a clean, crisp ambience.
When it opened in September 2015, the Broad was an immediate hit—so while admission is free, you still need a ticket for your specific day and time, which can be ordered in advance online. Once inside, make your way to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, a mirror-lined chamber with a seemingly endless LED light display. You provide your name and phone number and you’ll get two text messages alerting you when you should return. Once inside—you can go in alone or as a pair for 45 seconds—look in every direction to see how many copies of yourself you can see. It feels like you're in the middle of a Vegas show, or a parade of lights.
While you wait for your turn in the Infinity Mirrored Room, take the escalator upstairs to the third floor, so that you can navigate the museum in chronological order. Begin with the major artists who came to prominence in the 1950s, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly. Then move into the 1960s and the Pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol, followed by the 1980s and ’90s with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons. When you return downstairs, complete your visit with the museum’s rotating exhibits, and make time for the interesting short film about the Broads in the first-floor video gallery.
For some refueling afterward, sit down for contemporary cuisine at restaurant Otium, across the outdoor plaza from the museum, or explore the food stalls of the Grand Central Market, which is about a 10-minute walk away.
Insider Tip: If the timed tickets “sell” out on the day you want to go, you can still wait in the standby line. That typically takes at least 30 minutes during the week, and an hour or more on weekends. The museum is closed on Mondays.
When Giovani dos Santos joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer of 2015 he immediately became one of the biggest Mexican stars in Major League Soccer history. He delivered on the field, too, registering 14 goals and 12 assists in his first full season with the Galaxy and earning MLS All-Star team honors the past two years. A veteran of the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, dos Santos plays an exhilarating brand of soccer that combines speed, technique, and a deft passing touch.
“Gio,” as he is known, has fully embraced life in California, which has no doubt contributed to his status as a fan favorite. (His action-packed Instagram and Twitter feeds may have helped too; he has nearly 5 million followers across these two platforms.) We asked the former FC Barcelona first-teamer to share some of his Golden State favorites and he gladly obliged.
Where do you live? West Hollywood
Why there? I love West Hollywood, I feel like I am close to everything I want to be around and need. It’s a great neighborhood with great access to shopping, restaurants, and it’s also a very calm and relaxing location to live.
Who or what is your greatest California love? The LA Galaxy, of course. I also love being in Los Angeles where there are so many Mexicans living here. I am proud to be a part of such a large Mexican community in the United States.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That everyone just goes to the beach! We go to the beach, but there are so many things to do here. Everyone here always has a lot of different things they are doing and working on, not always just at the beach.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? Californians do talk a lot about how they get places. Because it is such a big state, everyone always mentions which freeway they took, how long it took them to arrive at their destination, and how the traffic was.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? One of my favorite places to go is Nobu Malibu. The food and the view of the ocean are difficult to beat. I love it there.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? I love taking trips up the coast. Though not too far, Malibu is definitely a place I like to visit whenever I have time and a day off from soccer.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Taco trucks and In-N-Out.
How do you define California style? California style is laid back, relaxed, and hip. Fashion is a big part of California, especially in Los Angeles, but people still dress very normally.
Best California song? “California Love” by Tupac Shakur. I feel like that song—both the lyrics and the rhythm—captures the vibe and style of California the best.
How would your California dream day unfold? In the morning, I go to work and train with my teammates at StubHub Center. In the afternoon, I rest in my home before going to Malibu to enjoy a nice dinner with friends in front of the ocean during a sunset.
Start your coastal cruise in this elegant city hugging the coastal mountains, where classic Spanish architecture gives the region a sun-washed European look straight out of the Riviera. Santa Barbara, nicknamed “the American Riviera,” may have a burnished antique look of much of the...
Dreaming big isn’t just a catchphrase for volleyball superstar Kerri Walsh Jennings—it’s an organizing principle. The Santa Clara native has four Olympic medals in her trophy case, including three golds, but she isn’t about to rest on past achievements. Instead, she and her husband Casey have launched a new business called p1440, an event series that includes a professional beach volleyball tournament, personal development experiences, a music festival, and a health and wellness village. The name of the company is a nod to its motto, “to live every minute of the day with purpose—all 1,440 of them.” It is set to debut in the second half of 2018.
Clearly, the six-foot-three Stanford University graduate and mother of three has a lot on her plate these days. Lucky for us, she carved out a few minutes to take the California Questionnaire.
Where do you live? Manhattan Beach
Why there? It’s an amazing community and it supports the dreams that my husband and I have for our careers and our family.
Who or what is your greatest California love? I have to say the San Francisco Giants because I grew up with them and there is a big shared love in my family. The ballpark is second to none and the franchise is the best in the business.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That California is made up of movie stars, hippies, and cowboys—we are so much more!
What is the stereotype that most holds true? That we are all big dreamers. People come here to chase their dreams, whether you are an athlete, in the entertainment industry, or in the science and technology field. From Silicon Valley all the way down to Hollywood, this is where people come to make things happen.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? I would say spending time at the farmer’s market in downtown Los Gatos with my family. It’s the most beautiful setting. Los Gatos is the most beautiful town in the world and I am with my most favorite people in the world eating and having a good time.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? A trip to NorCal because that’s where my family is, and it has amazing scenery. We’d drive along Highway 1 from Manhattan Beach to Northern California to see my family. My favorite thing to do there is enjoy the outdoors together as a family.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience what would it be? Farm-to-table and ocean-to-table. Perhaps at Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes—right on the cliff.
How do you define California style? Fashionably laid back. Simple, comfortable, and sassy!
Best California song? “California Love” by 2Pac because it reminds me of high school.
How would your California dream day unfold? It would start with a morning hike with the family and we’d stop at a local café for a break and cappuccino. Then we’d have a beach day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.-ish, playing volleyball, going in the ocean, playing Wiffle Ball, and reading a book. Then we’d head home to clean up and lounge about. We’d have an afternoon BBQ with friends and family, hang outside, listen to good music, and have the kids running around!
Mario Lopez fondly recalls the family trips he took as a child—to see the woods and waterfalls of Yosemite and the redwood trees in Northern California—but one excursion stands out: Universal Studios Hollywood. “I remember going as a kid,” says the actor and television host, 44. “I always loved TV and film, so the tram ride where you learn about where everything was made, and about the studio jobs and all that stuff—I loved that.”
Life has taken this California dreamer full circle, from his hometown of Chula Vista right back to Universal Studios, where he films his celebrity entertainment TV show Extra five days a week. And the fact that he now works at the center of all that magic he looked up to as a boy? “It doesn’t get old,” Lopez says with some amazement.
The perpetually charming Lopez is an unabashed fan of all that California has to offer—check out his answers to the California Questionnaire below.
Where do you live? Los Angeles.
Why there? Because it’s the best place in the world, and geographically convenient for my business and career.
Who or what is your greatest California love? I am the No. 1 fan of California. I feel this amazing state has everything you could ever want: it’s multicultural with awesome people and beautiful beaches. You can go skiing, to the mountains, to the desert—and of course it has the absolute best climate in the world.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we are all surfers and just want to hang out at the beach.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? The weather is always gorgeous.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? I have a very nice barbecue, so I can grill all year long.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? We’ve taken road trips to wine country—Santa Barbara, Temecula, and Napa Valley. We’ve done beach towns up and down the coast and have taken road trips to Big Bear.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Mexican food.
How do you define California style? Cool, laid back, edgy.
Best California song? “California Love” by Tupac, because he gives it some flavor, makes it funky, and gives us a shout-out when he says, “It wouldn’t be L.A. without Mexicans.”
How would your California dream day unfold? A perfect day would begin with an awesome mariachi brunch with my family, enjoying delicious food and drinking sangria. Then our designated driver would take us to the park, where the kids can play. After that, we would go on a great hike right by the park. Finally, we would go back to the house, enjoy a delicious barbecue, and follow it all with a bocce ball game while watching the sunset with family and friends.
Hip and historic, downtown Los Angeles (or simply DTLA) offers big-city excitement with restaurants, cultural attractions, and major league sports. An influx of new residents has helped energize the area, and downtown’s re-emergence has also been spurred by such attractions as Grand Park, an urban oasis with views stretching from the Music Center (including Walt Disney Concert Hall) to City Hall.
Start your exploration with a full stomach. The reinvented Grand Central Market, originally opened in 1917, now has artisanal food purveyors selling of-the-moment items (Belcampo grass-fed beef burgers, build-your-own ice cream sandwiches at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams) next to long-time vendors, like Wexler’s Deli. Vintage buildings have also been transformed, including the ornate 1927 United Artists building on Broadway, where the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles offers stylish digs and a restaurant. Crowds flock to the sports and entertainment combo of Staples Center and LA LIVE, where you can also see music artifacts (Elvis’s sheet music, Michael’s glove) at the Grammy Museum and catch concerts at the Nokia Theatre. And Grand Avenue is the city’s cultural hub, thanks to Los Angeles Philharmonic performances at spectacular Walt Disney Concert Hall and the sandstone-clad Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
Damon Dominique and Joanna Franco are travel experts, authors, and digital content creators who host a YouTube channel with more than 48 million views and 750,000 subscribers. They met the summer before entering college and bonded over their mutual love for travel and adventure. The young entrepreneurs began creating content while studying in Paris, showcasing their adventures and experiences on Facebook.
Today the duo boasts a following of nearly one million across their combined social channels. They are developing a Facebook Watch series called “Damn Millennials”; recently released their first e-book, Woke; and run the travel site Shut Up and Go.
Where do you live?
Jo: I moved with Damon to make our YouTube channel a full-time thing. We both figured that without the noise pollution, volatile weather, and absurd rents of New York City we might actually have a chance to succeed as digital entrepreneurs. Our logic proved accurate: Within three months we had become full-time YouTubers and bloggers. Plus, we now had the luxury of wearing flip-flops to business meetings—because it’s Los Angeles!
Damon: We chose Koreatown for the international vibe and access to public transportation—and because it was the cheapest neighborhood in central L.A.
Who or what is your greatest California love?
Jo: The explosive sunset in Venice Beach always gets me in a spiritually grateful mood. It’s a unique sight that always makes me appreciate nature.
Damon: I can ride my bike any day of the year—and L.A.’s golden hour is beautiful.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians?
Jo: That they’re slow. Californians are way slower than New Yorkers but they still manage to get things done. Californians seem to have mastered work-life balance, while people in most other states are still struggling to figure it out. I’m pretty sure it’s because we’re spoiled with nature.
What is the stereotype that most holds true?
Damon: It’s the healthiest state I’ve ever been to. People care about working out and what they eat. No one’s going to tease you for eating a kale and quinoa salad with toasted goat cheese, drinking a kombucha, or snacking on an açai bowl.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge?
Damon: Going up and down the Pacific Coast. I say “going” because I’ve done it via car, train, and even public bus, and the views never fail to impress.
Jo: An uninterrupted day at a white sand beach.
Time for a road trip—where are you going?
Jo: I would head down to Laguna Beach, visit Inspiration Point, and enjoy the little local shops. I’d keep driving until I hit a tiny fish shack, eat fresh fish overlooking the water, and continue on until I make it to San Diego so I could catch the sunset on the beach in Coronado.
Damon: I would drive up to see redwoods in the northern half of the state. The air is brisk and the trees are humongous—you really feel like you’re somewhere special.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be?
Jo: Eating fresh fish outside by the Pacific Coast Highway.
Damon: Avocado toast with a poached egg.
How do you define California style?
Jo: Super laid-back—the Birkenstock kind of style where ripped jeans and a white tee are all you need to get through the day. Stylish sunglasses and occasionally a wide-brimmed floppy hat. Bohemian vibes with beads dangling from wrists and necks—for men and women alike.
Damon: Casual and cool. Vintage light denim with a thin white linen shirt and some dirty white Converse sneakers is the uniform I find myself in nearly every day.
Best California song?
Damon: Los Angeles puts me in an alternative surf-rock kind of mood. “What You Were” by the Drums makes me want to drive along Pacific Coast Highway in a red drop-top. Their album Portamento always puts me in a good mood and makes me realize life doesn’t have to be so crazed.
How would your California dream day unfold?
Jo: First I would hit the beach early in the morning to paddleboard or boogie board. Next I would get a breakfast burrito with an iced coffee and then go for a walk on the Venice Beach boardwalk. After that I would take a nap on a hammock at a nearby bungalow. Wake up for a California-themed cooking class in a cool restaurant, or go to a salsa class. Finish the afternoon on a rooftop where the sunset is the main show. Spend the night at a beach bonfire!
Damon: I’d make it an early morning, sipping on a flat white as I walk along the palm-tree-lined promenade in Santa Monica. I’d make my way to this spot where you can sway on a swing set in the sand. After that I’d try looking for a vegetarian lunch near The Grove but would probably end up at Veggie Grill. I’d do some thrifting on Melrose Ave. and then make my way to downtown Los Angeles for a night out. I'd go to Clifton’s Cafeteria, or to a hip-hop club hidden in a Hollywood strip mall, or maybe to Mid-City for a night at the World on Wheels roller rink.
From gourmet chefs experimenting with tacos to funky ice cream sandwiches, you might be surprised by what you can find on the streets of L.A. Food trucks are a fun way to sample the cutting edge of cuisine in any city, and the Los Angeles food truck selection brings to the table (er, truck counter) a blend of ethnic cuisine and cheeky takes on old-school staples. Granted, these culinary delights on wheels can be a challenge to track down, so we’ve included Twitter handles where appropriate, as well as Web sites—so you can find their exact location on any given day.
What happens when a former fine-dining chef experiments with street tacos? A serious upgrade to the food-truck world. Although Wes Avila trained under world-class chefs—such as Walter Manzke of L’Auberge Carmel and Alain Ducasse at Le Centre de la Formation in Paris—his roots have always been back in his home neighborhood of East Los Angeles. Avila set out on a mission in 2012 to bring gourmet food to the masses, starting with pop-up shops in obscure locations—garages, stairwells—before buying his own food truck. The mobile restaurant medium allowed him to test creative flavor combinations without the pressure of a white-tablecloth setting, and to be able to build a changing weekly menu based on what’s available locally. Using unexpected taco bases like oxtail, lamb kidney, sweet potato, or octopus, Avila is constantly upping his own game to deliver the fresh and new to L.A. diners. Find the Guerrilla Tacos truck here.
The Grilled Cheese Truck
Take a childhood favorite, put an adult spin on it, and the masses will flock—at least that was the thought process for the creators of this popular L.A. truck, which offers variations on the nostalgic bread-and-cheese combo (locate trucks here). The Plain and Simple sandwich has six cheese options, or you can turn it up a notch: The Cheesy Mac & Rib is filled with sharp cheddar, house-smoked barbecue pork, Southern macaroni and cheese, and caramelized onions. The Pepperbelly Melt combines fire-roasted tomato salsa with habanero jack cheese and a familiar crunch from Fritos.
Street food is often associated with indulgence—but not the organic, sustainable eats from the Green Truck, which goes so far as to use leftover vegetable oil to power its wheels. Menu items like the “Kale Yeah Bowl”—this is health-conscious Southern California, after all—come loaded with superfoods like quinoa, carrots, and raw beets, and of course there are Paleo and gluten-free options for the choosing. Truck stops are located here.
The connection between a hot dog stand and acclaimed chef Alice Waters may seem like a stretch, but the creator behind Let’s Be Frank (@letsbefrank on Twitter) has close ties to the famous Chez Panisse as the restaurant’s former “meat forager.” Sue Moore and her business partner Larry Bain support local farmers committed to humane animal practices with their grass-fed beef truck. The menu keeps things simple—choose from one of six dog options and top it with onions and/or the signature Spicy Devil Sauce.
Many taco trucks have come onto the Los Angeles scene since chef Raul Ortega opened his truck in 2002, but none has matched it yet. Ortega mastered the formula for his famous Taco Dorado (a crispy shrimp taco): shrimp, vegetables, and spices inside a corn tortilla, then fried and topped with fresh avocado and a salsa made with chili, tomato, and cabbage. Seafood lovers should also try the Poseidon, a tostada piled high with fish and shrimp ceviche, octopus, and aguachile. Its Twitter handle is @mariscosjalisco.
The two founders of Coolhaus bonded over a love of architecture and a passion for food when they decided to turn an old postal van into a roving ice cream sandwich shop in 2008. Natasha Case and Freya Estreller create funky combinations inspired by surprising places and turn them into menu items, such as Whiskey Lucky Charms, the seasonal “Netflix” Ice Cream infused with white-cheddar popcorn and Doritos, and the strawberry shortcake homage known as Buttermilk, Biscuits & Strawberry. The truck (found on Twitter at @coolhausla) became so popular that it now has 10 nationwide trucks, packaged sandwiches in Whole Foods, and a cookbook devoted to its custom funky sandwiches.
This iconic food truck is often credited as being one of the first to tap the power of social media, which has earned it celebrity status since opening in 2008. Chef Roy Choi’s unexpected mix of Korean and Mexican flavors—as in kimchi quesadillas, or the short rib taco, with caramelized Korean barbecue and cilantro-lime relish in a chili-soy vinaigrette—remains a fan favorite. The truck's weekly schedule can be found here.
In a restaurant setting, chowing down on a massive handheld sushi roll seems weird—but from a food truck? The delicious (and convenient) idea of a sushi burrito makes perfect sense. Jogasaki (@jogasakiburrito on Twitter) takes tortillas or sesame-studded soy paper and stuffs them full of sweet sticky rice with go-to sushi favorites like spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, eel, and cucumber. If the signature menu item isn’t fusion enough for you, they’ve even been known to offer spicy tuna nachos served on top of a pile of Doritos.
Kristen Bell may look like a California native but the bubbly, blonde-haired, blue-eyed actress actually hails from Michigan. She moved to the West Coast in her early twenties and now qualifies as an outspoken advocate for the Golden State. Bell first came to fame as high school student and detective Veronica Mars on the eponymous TV series, which filmed in San Diego County, and later on Heroes, which was shot in Los Angeles. But she stole the hearts of little girls all around the globe as Princess Anna of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Bell, who currently co-stars with Ted Danson on NBC's The Good Place, explains why she and her husband, actor Dax Shepard, have chosen to raise their daughters in a sunshine-filled part of the world that also happens to be near some epic snow.
Where do you live? Los Angeles
Why there? I originally came to Los Angeles for work, but I stayed for the lifestyle. Every day, everywhere I look, I see acts of openness, and a plethora of diversity. The people here consistently reaffirm my belief in the human spirit. I’m very proud to call L.A. home.
Who or what is your greatest California love? The loyal sunshine. It never lets me down. It lifts my spirits, it makes my garden grow, and keeps me outdoors and active.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? Many refer to Californians as living in a “bubble.” I disagree. A bubble insinuates insulation and a barrier to outside elements. Across the state of California, there is a vast range of political opinions, diversity, and ideologies.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? Traffic. It lives up to its notorious reputation.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Family trips to Mammoth Mountain. Playing in the snow is such a treat for us, since L.A. (almost) never sees any. More than the snow angels and the snowmobiling, the serenity and peace that permeate everything on Mammoth are unparalleled. There’s a very special warmth that you can only find in a cold environment, and Mammoth has no shortage of it. That feeling alone is worth the splurge.
Time for a road trip. Where (in California) are you going? Glamis [Algodones] Sand Dunes! We camp in an RV and go off-roading as often as possible. We find it very freeing to escape real life for a long weekend and get dirty in the sand.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s flagship restaurant in Northern California. It is truly an incomparable dining experience. From the food to the presentation to the atmosphere, it is unforgettable. From the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, every detail is executed with precision and artistic integrity. It has received countless accolades and awards for excellence from the culinary industry, and when you eat there, you immediately know why. It is very special.
Best California song? “California Love” by Tupac, featuring Dr. Dre. Because truer words have never been spoken… California knows how to party.
How would your California dream day unfold? My perfect L.A. day would start by sleeping in (because on my dream day, my kids let me sleep past 6:30 a.m.) and waking up to the sunshine. Then, gathering the family, walking to Griffith Park and grabbing breakfast at the adorable and delicious café, Trails, that sits at the bottom of the mountain. After Trails, walking home, letting the kids play, while I dig around in my garden. After everyone feels adequately relaxed, we hop on our bikes and take a family bike ride along the L.A. River as the sun sets on us. After we get home, we have a family dance party while making dinner for the kids and singing them to sleep. Once the kids are tucked in, my husband and I get ready and head to dinner at our favorite spot, Eveleigh. The food is incredible and it’s a perfect date-night spot. It’s on Sunset Blvd, in the heart of L.A., and you can see the city twinkling all around you. After dinner, we come home, snuggle on the couch and throw on the latest episode of Dateline. And that’s that… perfection.
For a must-see look at the creative and business sides of making music, plan a visit to this outstanding, often-overlooked museum, part of downtown’s L.A. Live complex. Ultra-hands-on exhibits make this a great place for families, especially if you’ve got older kids who are into music. The museum lets them make their air-guitar fantasies come true on real instruments, or they can mix their own tunes in sound booths, just like a music producer or sound engineer. Historic recordings and videos let you relive your youth, too (Woodstock, anyone?), learn the roots of dozens of musical genres, or just tune in to some classic Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holliday. Another enlightening exhibit lets you listen to the same recording produced using different mediums through the years, including gramophones, vinyl records, eight-track tapes (remember those?), and MP3 players, the norm for today’s music. Also enjoy the huge collection of memorabilia and clothing ranging from Elvis’s personal fan notes to Michael Jackson’s bedazzled gloves and the jacket from his Thriller video.
Nwaka Onwusa, associate curator of the GRAMMY Museum, says that she’s most proud of “the diversity of content that is displayed in the museum…a reflection of revolutionary music and musicians.” Another hidden gem in the museum is the 200-seat, state-of-the-art Clive Davis Theater, which hosts live concerts by top artists, and talks with famous producers and others in the music business. It’s a great way to get insights and see major performers like Taylor Swift, The Cult, and Annie Lennox in an intimate performance space. (Check calendar well in advance as big names sell out fast.)
Although it’s known as the birthplace of Los Angeles, Olvera Street actually dates to 1930, when it was established to celebrate the city’s Mexican heritage. With its narrow passages and 19th-century buildings housing traditional restaurants and folk art shops, Olvera Street certainly evokes the romance of an authentic mercado. Technically, it’s part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, which includes many of the city’s oldest buildings and an 1815 plaza. Mariachis strum their big guitars, and the aroma of fresh tortillas and hot churros fills the air. On holidays, like Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead” in Spanish, which is much more festive than it sounds) in the fall or Las Posadas’ nine nights of candlelight processions at Christmastime, Olvera Street truly shines. Docents offer tours of the monument, and you can also see a partially restored mural by leading Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros at Olvera Street’s América Tropical Interpretive Center.
In Beverly Hills, ritzy Rodeo Drive is a must (even if it's just for window-shopping), with to-die-for boutiques like Prada, YSL, and Versace. In-the-know shoppers also head to nearby Beverly and Canon Drives, with beautiful shops and some of the best celebrity spotting in California. Head for The Grove nearby, a luxurious outdoor shopping entertainment center, where you can eat, shop, then catch a movie or stroll to the adjacent Original Farmers Market—a great spot for food-oriented shopping.
In the LGBT enclave of West Hollywood, discover trendy boutiques like Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin, and Stella McCartney, as well as nightclubs and notice-me street-side cafes, all popular with celebrities. Also visit L.A.’s Silver Lake neighbourhood, with appealing shops like Yolk or Hemingway and Pickett). If you’re an adventurous shopper, head for the L.A. Fashion District and Santee Alley, with more than 150 shops and street vendors selling almost everything imaginable—a great place to scour for bargain clothes. L.A.’s Citadel Outlet Mall has deals on big names like Calvin Klein and Michael Kors.
As the megawatt star when it comes to celebrities, L.A. naturally attracts chefs who want to make a big splash too. Household names like Wolfgang Puck—whose legendary Spago in Beverly Hills still attracts A-listers—offer amazing, innovative dishes, often in equally spectacular settings—even rooftops. Market-driven menus, focusing on California’s über-fresh ingredients, are the norm at places like chef Ben Ford’s airy downtown eatery, Ford’s Filling Station, and ultra-fancy Patina, the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s star restaurant, where chef Joachim Splichal creates gastronomic showstoppers, like his signature Seasonal Glazed Vegetable Mosaic.
For all the dress-up options and celebrity chefs dotting the city, the international city of Los Angeles also offers awesome places to get authentic, reasonably priced ethnic food, especially in tucked away neighborhoods. Try incredible do-it-yourself barbecue at Kang Hodong Baekjeong in Koreatown. Dig into perfect ramen at Tsujita in Little Tokyo. Or order the green corn tamales, a local favorite, at El Cholo, an L.A. tradition since 1923.
The sun sliding below the western horizon, a blanket of city lights spreading at your feet, the Hollywood Sign glowing from hits hillside perch—there’s nothing quite like sitting at a rooftop restaurant, club, or lounge in the middle of Los Angeles. One of the best things about L.A. is the weather, and all those warm sunny days have an extra bonus: warm evenings and nights. So relaxing outside, perhaps at cushy banquets around a swimming pool glowing with cool blue light, well, it doesn’t get much sexier than that.
To sample all that sultry fabulousness, consider riding the elevator to the top of the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood. Once there, you can relax at Herringbone, a restaurant from chef Brian Malarkey, with all his signature couches and space that make it look like you’ve wandered into the hippest living room on the planet—one that serves great food and drinks, too. Or, if you’re in the mood for short skirts, stiletto sandals, and DJ-thumping music, head for the pool scene at Skybar.
Another ace option is The Roof on Wilshire, atop the Hotel Wilshire in the heart of downtown. Relax on wraparound banquettes to watch the skyline light up, and sip on one of the bar’s signature Mule-style drinks until the stars come out. Also downtown is Upstairs at Ace Hotel, with wraparound city views, including the profile of the towering San Gabriel Mountains. Tropical drinks are the thing here; if you get a little peckish you can order food from the Ace’s restaurant, L.A. Chapter, then bring it up to your rooftop seat.
If you want a wacky and unforgettable night, try to nab one of the spaceship-like waterbed pods alongside the pool at The Rooftop at The Standard Downtown. Expect to wait—this is a seriously hot spot—but there’s plenty of people-watching to keep things entertaining.
With its soaring stainless-steel panels, the exterior of Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall has been likened to everything from a clipper ship to a blooming flower to origami. Some people say the experience of hearing a performance in its main hall wrapped by undulating walls and billowing ceilings made of Douglas fir, is like being inside a cello or violin. That means performances by the resident Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as a calendar-ful of other outstanding musicians are sensory feasts for not just the ears but the eyes too, with features including the striking central organ, nicknamed the “French fries.” Outside, take a self-guided or guided tour, including a stop at the third-level garden for city views and the rose-shaped Lillian Disney Fountain, made from crushed Delft porcelain and a meant as a tribute to the woman who made the concert hall possible.
Is that who I think it is? In California, the answer is probably yes. Here, stars and celebrities live, work, and play. Look around on a sunny SoCal beach and you might see Matthew McConaughey...