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, mobile phones in the other. While travellers 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 neighbourhoods, 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 282-metre 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 kilometres south and makes for a good scenic route.
Further inland, Downtown Manhattan Beach is the bustling centre 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 enclave. The popular central L.A. neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood’s most famous features is its massive namesake body of water, Silver Lake Reservoir, which offers a popular 3.6-kilometre loop for runners and walkers. Grab a cold brew at neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood's favourite bar-stocking shop, Bar Keeper, which specialises 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 neighbours 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 organisations.
But with her latest movie, Flower, directed by another Hollywood scion—Max Winkler, son of the Fonz—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 lifelong and proud Californian, Deutch shares her favourite 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?
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 favourite. (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 favourites 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 neighbourhood 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 favourite 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.
Dreaming big isn’t just a catchphrase for volleyball superstar Kerri Walsh Jennings—it’s an organising 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 190cm 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 favourite 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 favourite 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!
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 energise 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).
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 fill the air. On holidays, like Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead” in Spanish—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 neighbourhoods. 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 favourite, at El Cholo, an L.A. tradition since 1923.
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. Though Santa Barbara, nicknamed “the American Riviera,” may have a burnished antique look of much of the...
End your trip with at this sunny, waterfront city. Downtown, shop at Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, Little Italy, North Park, South Park, East Village—pedestrian-friendly...
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 making it look like you’ve wandered into the hippest living room on the planet—and 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...
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.
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?
Jo: “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. It just sounds like Venice Beach, or a sunset anywhere on the West Coast. No matter where I am in the world, this song will always make me think of California.
Damon: Los Angeles puts me in an alternative surf-rock kind of mood. “What You Were” by the 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.