Spotlight: Los Angeles
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.
It’s possible that Los Angeles County has the richest music culture in the country—possibly the planet. Its diversity and depth...
In many ways, the central Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz may just have it all. The neighborhood seamlessly blends picturesque greenery from nearby hills and backyard neighbor Griffith Park with a jam-packed urban epicenter.
The celebrity-filled enclave sits between Hollywood (and its Hills) and Silver Lake—meaning it’s not far from any of the city’s action. One minute, you could be enjoying a serene solo hike in the middle of a rugged trail and the next, dining al fresco at one of the many bustling sidewalk cafés such as Little Dom’s or Alcove. Insider tip: While many tourists are busy hopping on and off the double-decker buses in Hollywood, these are some of the spots where locals mix and mingle with A-listers.
The stretches of independent storefronts along Hillhurst and Vermont avenues make up what is known as Los Feliz Village, one of the most walkable commercial districts in the city. The robust offerings include dozens of restaurants (with a wide array of cuisines), boutiques, and a historic single-screen movie theater, The Vista, which has been a prized Los Angeles landmark since 1923.
Other Los Feliz Village must-sees include Skylight Books, one of the city’s most popular independent bookstores, and The Dresden, a lively spot for cocktails made famous by the movie Swingers. The musical duo Marty and Elayne, featured in the film, perform in the lounge there most nights and the spot is perfect for a preshow drink before hitting Griffith Park's lovely open-air amphitheater, the Greek Theatre.
Aside from the shops, bars, and restaurants, Los Feliz is also home to some world-famous architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House (calling all Blade Runner fans) and Hollyhock House, located in the Barnsdall Art Park. Self-guided tours are available for the public. Barnsdall is a destination on its own, as it offers stunning city and sunset views, plus a popular summer wine-tasting series that is BYOP (picnic). If picnics aren’t your thing, opt for a meal at one of the food trucks or walk down the street to HomeState to try some of L.A.’s best breakfast tacos.
THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: MADELAINE PETSCH
On Riverdale, TV’s fresh reimagining of the Archie comics universe, Madelaine Petsch stars as Cheryl Blossom, something of a complicated vixen. Is she good? Is she bad? In her real life, Petsch plays it right down the middle. “There’s not just one way to be,” says the actress who grew up in Washington state but moved to Los Angeles for her role in Riverdale, following her big break in a Coke commercial. The fair-skinned Petsch says she has upped her use of sunscreen since relocating from the Pacific Northwest, but has otherwise embraced the local culture—from California malls to a never-ending pursuit of the perfect road trip soundtrack. The actress shares with us some of her other California favorites.
Where do you live? West Hollywood
Why there? Because of the hills. And there’s not a big-city hustle and bustle (vibe)+ I hear birds! There’s this wonderful thing about L.A., where you go one street over and there’s a completely different vibe.
Who or what is your greatest California love? For me, it’s the weather. I do not like the super-super heat. That’s not my vibe at all. I’m too pale to go (out into) the sun. The weather here is ever-changing.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? Before I moved here, I was super-nervous. I kept hearing about “L.A. people.” Weird, stuck up, lots of attitude, not welcoming to new people. But that’s not been my experience. The city has been very welcoming. And it was always taught to me that if you live here for more than five years, you’re a native. It’s been six years now. I’m officially a local!
What is the stereotype that most holds true? That you’ll never leave the west side if you live there. Specifically, Venice Beach. There’s just something about it out there that’s captivating. That’s what they say. So I can’t live in Venice or I’ll get stuck there.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? I love a good day when the sun is out, it’s not too hot, and there’s a breeze. And then, I know this is super basic, but going shopping at The Grove. I love the Americana of a mall. I also love hitting the small stores in Santa Monica.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? The last road trip I took was to drive up to San Francisco. It was so gorgeous. We took the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) all the way up, along the water, and we drove straight, all in one go. My favorite band at the time was playing—Two Door Cinema Club.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I’m a vegan, so there’s only so many places I can recommend. But for me, it’s the restaurant Sage. They have three locations in Los Angeles. Oh, and get the potato broccoli perogies. Mmmm! It’s so good.
How do you define California style? California is the only place I’ve lived where everyone fits in. So I stick to my own style. There’s not just one way to be. But that’s what I like about it here. All the different styles mix together. One thing for sure: I always hide from the sun, so I don’t get sunburned.
Best California song? "Beaches” by Tokyo Police Club. The first time I heard it, I was on the beach, finishing a shoot. I pressed shuffle on my Spotify and that song came on. I listened to it the whole way home. And this is true: Any song that’s good driving music is a California song.
How would your California dream day unfold? I love a nice, lazy morning. So I’d order in breakfast. Then I’d drive over to Santa Monica. Get a coffee. Oh! And spend the night over there. I love the bungalows at the Fairmont Miramar—that’s where my favorite coffee shop is, right by there. I don’t ever want to go out at night. I like my California days. I may even go to Griffith Observatory for a hike.
Where to Go Now in Downtown Los Angeles
The Museum of Contemporary Art
Founded in 1979, the mission of this institution is clear—it’s committed to preserving, presenting, and interpreting art created after 1940. Its methods, however, are ever changing. Three distinct venues in the city shine a spotlight on forward-thinking artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Start at the Grand Avenue location, arriving right at the 11 a.m. opening for a chance to contemplate Mark Rothko’s emotional color studies in peace. After exploring work by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Miró, and Nijideka Akunyili Crosby (who created the mural that wraps around the building), grab lunch from Lemonade café to enjoy in the Sculpture Plaza. One mile away, the same general admission ticket gets you entry to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, which opened in Little Tokyo in 1983 after a renovation of a former police car warehouse by Frank Gehry; today, it hosts the museum’s more experimental exhibits. Architecture aficionados should also visit the third location, the MOCA Pacific Design Center, about 10 miles away in West Hollywood. (A fourth MOCA location, called Double Negative, requires much more of a detour—it’s a work of land art by Michael Heizer in the middle of the Nevada desert.) Art talks, screenings, and live music alongside food trucks make MOCA Grand and Geffen as much social venues as they are cultural ones. Pro tip: For an in-depth look at the collections, book the completely customizable educator-led tour (request a couple weeks ahead). For a livelier experience, visit on a Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m., when admission is free.
This rooftop bar has a refreshingly inclusive, come-as-you-are vibe. There’s no list at the door, no doorman sizing you up for anything beyond ensuring you’re of legal drinking age. For the prized sunset hour, arrive early—especially during summer—and grab a vintage table or booth by the pool with colorful mismatching chairs and tablecloths. Later in the evening, a bar stool is the place to be, watching the action and joining in when singalong-ready funk and disco tunes start playing. The overgrown garden that tops the circa 1924 Commercial Exchange building makes for a magical setting, softening the cityscape beyond. Atmosphere aside, the cocktails are what bring people here; masterminds Gabs Orta and Elad Zvi—who first started Broken Shaker as a pop-up in Miami—are known worldwide for their creative approach. It’s tempting to order drinks based on their clever names alone—not the worst idea—but be sure to try the O-Fish-Ally Open, with such radical flavors as miso and absinthe and topped with a nest of nori.
When it opened in 2015, this museum drew headlines for its extensive contemporary art collection and Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed building, which resembles a futuristic honeycomb. Then a single exhibition catapulted it into fame: artist Yayoi Kusama’s installation of thousands of twinkling LED lights called Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. (The artist’s follow-up, Longing for Eternity, opened in 2017.) There’s plenty to be dazzled by in this museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. Hundreds of skylights illuminate the column-free third floor’s permanent galleries—featuring the Broads’ considerable collection of pieces by Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, Jasper Johns, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Insiders know to visit on weekdays for the most relaxed experience or around major holidays and occasions such as Halloween and International Women’s Day for engaging and sometimes provocative tours. Pro tip: Though general admission tickets are free, it’s wise to book tickets online ahead when they’re released on the first of each month for the following month, especially if you’re taking a date or going with a group (the same goes for Kusama’s rooms). At least two weeks out, request a before- or after-hours guided group tour of one hour, not including the Infinity Mirrored Room. And make sure to also book reservations at Otium, the trendsetting restaurant by Chef Timothy Hollingsworth located next to the Broad.
A good cocktail can cure almost anything that ails you—at least that’s the philosophy at Apothéke, the West Coast outpost of the award-winning New York City bar. In keeping with the playful apothecary theme, barmen don white lab coats and serve drinks that are categorized on the menu as stimulants, pain killers, stress relievers, and aphrodisiacs. If you feel a headache coming on, the prescription may be the Catcher in the Rye, made with rye whiskey and chamomile bitters. After a day of battling traffic, try the Dizzying Intellect, a bright combination of gin, jicama, cumin- and caraway-flavored Kümmel, and lime, topped with spruce beer bitters. Ingredients are all house-made, -muddled, or -infused, from charcoal-infused vodka to tequila tinted green from the addition of spirulina and eucalyptus. Decor plays into the old-fashioned apothecary theme. Everything centers around the glowing and generous pink marble bar, both inside and out, and the deck offers intimate nooks with Biedermeier wicker sofas. A D.J. spins a sultry, sophisticated selection nightly, keeping the mood relaxed. Pro tip: Make reservations ahead for weekends. Don’t miss the gratis “amuse” shot, made daily to prime, or cleanse, your palate.
In partnership with Afar.
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, hotels, bars, 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. Among the many accommodations is Shade Manhattan Beach, a sustainability-minded luxury hotel with a rooftop pool that plants a tree for every guest who forgoes housekeeping during their stay.
Insider tips: Check the Downtown Manhattan Beach events calendar for upcoming farmers markets, live music, and events. If you’re visiting by car, you can look up parking lots in advance; there are also over 300 metered spots around the city.
CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of world soccer’s most successful and dynamic players of recent times, known for his big personality and spectacular goal scoring. After winning 13 league titles in four countries for some of the most high-profile teams on the planet, the six-foot-five striker joined the LA Galaxy for two seasons, from March of 2018 to November of 2019.
From the moment he scored that brilliant goal minutes into his Galaxy debut, Ibrahimovic made an indelible impression on Major League Soccer fans, and remains beloved in his homeland, Sweden, where he was named that country’s second greatest athlete of all time in 2014. The famously outspoken Malmö native has more than five million followers on Twitter and nearly 40 million on Instagram.
Here he answers some questions about what he loves most about living in Southern California.
Where do you live? Beverly Hills.
Why there? I choose to live there because I am familiar with the place and the area and I like it. It is less stressful, it is beautiful, I have everything I need. It is a good area.
Who or what is your greatest California love? The weather, of course. We are not complaining about the weather, never. It is not just that the weather is good, but it gives you the opportunity to do whatever you want with the day. That is a kind of freedom. California is also easygoing, there is no stress.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? People overseas maybe think everything is like television. But the people are great. Sometimes I take myself to Venice Beach, where I feel more normal. It is a different kind of mix.
What is the stereotype that holds most true? That everybody has an opportunity to become what they want. Here everybody has a chance. You just have to work hard, believe in what you do, believe in yourself and of course have the right people around you. With the right mentality you can reach far. There is opportunity here, you just have to go out and grab it.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? I like to focus on my family. I have two beautiful boys and I want to raise them to have good experiences and understand how to be strong, good people. I see many characters who put themselves before their family. That’s not me.
Time for a road trip, where you are going? Not one place. I love to move around. I explore, but wherever I go, I am myself. I want to see new things. When you move to a new city and a new country, everything is new so it adds something to your life. There are special places and special people here.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I have my wife at home who cooks very well so I am a little bit spoiled. But I promised her that when we moved to California we would go out to eat more. I love international meals and California has everything. Close to where we live there is a lot of choices so we are lucky.
How do you define California style? I find the rhythm very smooth. The day is going and you are not even looking at your watch to see what the time is, so the day just goes by itself and you just flow with it.
Best California song? I am not sure. I listen to what I am feeling to see what fits my mood.
How would your California dream day unfold? I relax, I see my family happy. I see my dog happy, the sun is shining, no clouds in the sky. I am sitting by the pool drinking my coffee, eating my dessert—because I am dependent on sugar because I need adrenaline. That’s the day, it goes, just flow with it. Carpe diem, take the day like it comes.
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.
California Questionnaire: Zoey Deutch
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.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? The Madonna Inn! Or Big Sur. Or Joshua Tree National Park. It’s too hard to choose one. I love California.
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?
The Best Boutiques in Los Angeles
Since launching her handbags and accessories line in 2008, accessories designer Clare Vivier has mastered the delicate combination of Parisian chic, American prep, and California cool. While her brand has spread to seven boutiques across California and New York, her flagship shop in Silverlake may best personify her brand. Two walls of windows let the California sun stream in each morning and afternoon, and shadowboxes designed by local architect Barbara Bestor hold the goods that lure passersby along Sunset Boulevard. Technicolor best sellers such as the La Tropezienne, Simple Tote, and coveted Foldover Clutches may sit on copies of the most recent Paris Review or Louis Vuitton City Guides, which are also for sale. Everything in the well-rounded space has a connection to France, Los Angeles, or Vivier herself. The shop stocks jewelry by her friends Annie Costello Brown and Grace Lee, for example, along with French Veja sneakers and candles from West Hollywood’s iconic Chateau Marmont. Pro tip: Head here for a last-minute gift—clutches and other leather items can be monogrammed on the spot.
A sense of discovery pervades at this innovative, open-air retail development in Culver City, which opened in 2016. Six buildings house first-to-market concept shops, pop-ups, and creative company headquarters. The place is constantly evolving, with a stylish lineup of businesses stepping in temporarily (St. Frank housewares, Charlotte Stone shoes) or permanently (Bird Brooklyn's first West Coast outpost, Magasin men’s boutique, design shop Poketo). Be sure to hit some Southern California favorites, including The Edit by Freda Salvador and Janessa Leone, for shoes and hats, and Reservoir L.A. for an impeccable edit of local fashion brands. You’ll also find great iced coffee at Blue Bottle, acai bowls at São Acai, and tacos at the unmissable Loqui. Studded with cacti and succulents, as well as hanging chairs, the outdoor areas encourage leisurely shopping breaks. Keep an eye on the Platform’s schedule of events for outdoor concerts, film screenings, and food festivals. Pro tip: Put aside 35 minutes for an Aesop Express Facial at the cult Aussie beauty shop—it’s one of only four of the brand’s shops worldwide that offers them.
This highly curated yet laid-back Echo Park art gallery and shop is where the desert meets the sea, and independent LA and international artists are celebrated for their unique individuality. Near Dodger Stadium, this shop is the second California outpost from Oakland jewelry designer Lauren Wolf. Here, in the sun-soaked showroom, techniques and materials vary, but one common theme marries every object: They’re all handcrafted. A natural and organic aesthetic pervades, and the stock includes decorative objects, custom jewelry, art, and ceramics. Vintage Moroccan kilim rugs top exposed concrete floors, and large cacti are scattered about. The soundtrack: old, rare cuts; high-school marching band covers of contemporary hits, and DJ mixes by Chances with Wolves. Wolf’s eponymous line (she’s best known for one-of-a-kind engagement rings) leads the gallery-wide charge on sustainability: diamonds are certified conflict-free, and metals are recycled. The sales staff is as creative as its artisans, and personalized, no-pressure service is a signature (no appointment needed). Pro tip: Keep an eye on the shop's Instagram feed for lively art openings every two months, and frequent trunk shows. When seeking a distinctive gift, visit Esqueleto first: Its wonders include 10,000-year-old megalodon teeth from a South Carolina riverbed. It doesn’t get cooler than this.
The name Fred Segal—and especially the logo—encapsulates L.A. style. Since the early 1960s, it’s been where Angelenos shop for their denim-heavy wardrobes and, in more recent history, where such trendsetting SoCal brands as Juicy Couture, J Brand, and True Religion got their start. These classics and many others line the walls of the iconic Melrose shop, but the 2017 opening of a 13,000-square-foot retail space on Sunset Boulevard started a new chapter. Along with its core seasonal collections, the shop holds 10 brand-specific shops-within-shops, along with pop-ups that change from day to day. The result is a space that feels like a high-fashion bazaar. Channel your inner treasure hunter and dig in for a long while—you’ll be rewarded with finds from AMO Denim, Seeker, Hartel, Levi’s, Marie Veronique, CAP Beauty, and Dita Eyewear. The whole selection is carefully curated to give shoppers something unique, whether it’s a vintage Comme des Garçons piece or an entire collection straight from Libertine’s runway. Must-do: Grab a coffee at Fred Segal Café by Tartine (which is so appealing for lunch that it causes an uptick in shoppers around noon each day) and snap a photo in the living room swing, with the entirety of downtown as your backdrop.
This shop took over one of Los Angeles’s most iconic buildings when it opened in 2012—the art deco–styled former headquarters of business magnate Howard Hughes. But Just One Eye’s pioneering founder, Paola Russo, has managed to put her own original stamp on the space. The luxury concept store is arranged like a gallery, showcasing rare and one-of-a-kind editions of clothing, jewelry, vintage furniture, and contemporary works by such artists as Takashi Murakami. Finds range from crocodile backpacks designed in collaboration with the Row and artist Damien Hirst to a survival kit created with input from the Navy Seals. Over the years, Just One Eye has grown and evolved with shops-in-shops. Installations may feature gowns by Alexandre Vauthier—French haute couture designs sold since the store’s beginning—or Daniela Villegas’s playful jewelry inspired by nature. Somehow both intimate and grand, the eclectic boutique is decidedly gallery-like, but approachable, too. Knowledgeable staff act almost as docents, guiding customers one-on-one and offering them coffee. Insiders’ tip: Valet parking is complimentary, helping to assuage any guilt over splurging on that Gucci bag.
In Partnership with Afar.
Spotlight: The Getty Center
California Questionnaire: Julie Chen
Given the fact that Julie Chen was formerly a host on 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 settled in as host and moderator of The Talk, CBS' Daytime Emmy Award–winning talk show, for eight years before departing in 2018. 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!)
Who or what is your greatest California love? The Hollywood Bowl. And Malibu—seeing dolphins never gets old!
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.
California Questionnaire: Giovani dos Santos
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.
California Questionnaire: Kerri Walsh Jennings
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!
Spotlight: Griffith Park
California Questionnaire: Mario Lopez
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 trendy restaurants, cultural attractions, budget-friendly shopping, and major-league sports. Easily accessible by Metro and perhaps one of the most pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles, DTLA is being transformed by a multitude of cultural offerings such as regular art walks and street festivals, as well as innovative businesses that include indoor/outdoor markets, hip boutiques, and pop-ups. An influx of new residents has helped energize the area, and Downtown L.A.’s re-emergence is also being driven 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 food exploration at the reinvented Grand Central Market, originally opened in 1917, which has a bevy of artisanal food purveyors selling of-the-moment items (Belcampo grass-fed beef burgers, build-your-own ice-cream sandwiches at McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream) next to longtime vendors, like Wexler’s Deli.
Across the street, the legendary funicular Angels Flight offers riders a chance to travel up and down the hillside in old-school train cars named Sinai and Olivet—updated versions of the 1901 originals. The narrow-gauge, funicular railway became a familiar sight in classic noir films, like 1952’s The Turning Point, M (1951), and Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and later in 2016’s award-winning La La Land when the couple played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone ride up after eating across the street at Grand Central Market. You can ride the furnicular for $1 one way.
There are plenty of places to experience the health-centered food scene in L.A. as well. Zinc Cafe & Market, which accommodates anyone with dietary restrictions, offers seating inside their window-filled dining room or in the sunny courtyard. Grab a craft cocktail at Zinc’s latest addition, Bar Mateo, housed in a 1914 barn that sits inside an olive grove. Round out your dining excursion at Little Damage, a soft-serve ice-cream spot offering black (charcoal) ice cream and unique flavors such as Unicorn Tears or Fresas Con Crema (don’t miss the photo booth!).
The Arts District of DTLA is thriving, with museums, galleries, and cultural attractions galore (explore an interactive map here). Don’t miss The Broad, the honeycomb-facade museum that houses 2,000 pieces of modern art by artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Recently relocated from Santa Monica, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles features colorful and provocative exhibits, often from lesser-known but truly inspired international artists. Regular events offer one-of-a-kind opportunities to learn about the history of famous painted signs you can spot in L.A. Stroll the Arts District Co-Op, a warehouse-turned-small-business emporium with vendors selling handmade jewelry, screen-printed T-shirts, vintage denim, and drag queen-inspired looks straight from RuPaul’s runway, or browse the crazy cool wall displays and a labyrinth of books at The Last Bookstore.
Events, nightlife, and live music give DTLA an energetic vibe. Crowds flock to the sports and entertainment combo of Staples Center and Microsoft Theater L.A. LIVE, where you can also see music artifacts (Elvis’s sheet music, Michael Jackson’s glove) at the Grammy Museum. And Grand Avenue, true to its name, is the city’s cultural hub, thanks to the Los Angeles Philharmonic performances at the spectacular Walt Disney Concert Hall and the sandstone-clad Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
There’s no shortage of places to stay in the area, too, including classic properties and trendy boutique hotels created inside transformed vintage buildings. The ornate 1927 United Artists building is now home to the stylish Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles; while The Standard, Downtown LA was originally the headquarters of Superior Oil.
Want to see DTLA (and the surrounding areas) from above? Head up 1,000 feet to OUE Skyspace at the top of the U.S. Bank Tower. Soak up the panoramic views of the city from the observation terrace or try plunging down the outdoor all-glass, see-through Skyslide. There’s also a digital interactive area with a topography wall of L.A.—a cool way to learn about the city’s landmarks and history.
Tinseltown, where starlets are discovered on every street corner (or at least we like to think they are), and the tinted windows of that stretch...
California Questionnaire: Damon and Jo
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.
Great L.A. Food Trucks
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.
Spotlight: Santa Monica
California Questionnaire: Kristen Bell
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.
Whether you bang your head to rock and roll, groove out to classic jazz, or crank up the hip-hop in your car, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science’s ...
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.
Dining in Los Angeles
A mecca of all things celebrity, it’s no surprise that Los Angeles attracts chefs who want to make a big splash. Household names like Rick Bayless, Nancy Silverton, and Wolfgang Puck—whose legendary Spago in Beverly Hills still attracts A-listers—offer amazing, creative dishes, often in equally spectacular settings. Newer to the scene, Michelin-starred upstarts like Jordan Khan’s Vespertine and Dave Beran’s Dialogue deliver unique experiences alongside delicious food.
Market-driven menus, focusing on California’s über-fresh ingredients, are the norm at places like Santa Monica’s Cassia eatery, a lively spot offering a fresh take on Vietnamese cuisine, and ultra-fancy Patina, the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s star restaurant, where chef Joachim Splichal creates gastronomic showstoppers. If you venture a little off the beaten path, in neighborhoods like Beverly Grove, you can find excellent eats—like cicchetti, or Italian-style tapas—minus the scene at places like Bacari West Third.
For all the innovative dining experiences, it’s the city’s international nature that just may be its biggest selling point. There are countless places to get authentic, reasonably priced meals from around the globe. Try such down-home Indonesian dishes as batagor (fried tofu) or otak otak (banana leaves with grilled coconut fish paste) at Simpang Asia in the Palms section of the city. Order the green corn tamales, a local favorite, at El Cholo, an L.A. tradition since 1923. Dig into perfect ramen at Tsujita in Little Tokyo, or drop in at Silver Lake’s Night + Market Song for some of their famous sweet-and-salty party wings.
L.A.’s well-known driving culture permeates the culinary scene as well, with a number of popular food trucks stationed around town. At Guerrilla Tacos, former fine-dining chef Wes Avila experiments with unexpected fillings like oxtail, sweet potato, and octopus. Let’s Be Frank (hot dogs), Coolhaus (ice cream sandwiches), and The Grilled Cheese Truck (you guessed it), serve up gourmet twists on everyone’s favorite comfort foods. Both Kogi BBQ and Jogasaki Sushi Burrito Truck mix Asian flavors with Mexican classics to create Instagram-worthy bites like kimchi quesadillas and spicy tuna burritos wrapped up in soy paper. Check the eateries’ websites or Twitter handles before visiting as they are often on the move.
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L.A.’s Rooftop Retreats
The sun sliding below the western horizon, a blanket of city lights spread out at your feet, the Hollywood Sign glowing from its hillside perch—these are memorable sights from any vantage point, but there’s nothing quite like taking them in from a rooftop in the middle of Los Angeles. One of the best things about L.A. is the weather, and sunny days offer an extra bonus: warm evenings and nights. So relaxing outside, perhaps on cushy banquettes around a swimming pool glowing with cool blue light—well, it doesn’t get much sexier than that.
For a sultry, see-and-be-seen experience, head to E.P & L.P. This West Hollywood spot is part swanky Asian restaurant (E.P) and part rooftop club (L.P.). Rub shoulders with the stars as you sip a spiked boba tea and gaze out at the glimmering Hollywood Hills. Those preferring a lower profile should retreat to the nearby Rooftop at the Palihouse. Lush greenery, stylish chairs, and chic lanterns complement 360-degree views and hibiscus cocktails. For a brush with the super exclusive, book a room at WeHo’s Petit Ermitage. Open only to hotel guests, the rooftop is pure magic with its saltwater pool, seasonal cocktails, and a butterfly garden so legit it’s recognized as a sanctuary by the National Wildlife Federation.
Another excellent option is The Roof on Wilshire, above 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 in the Downtown neighborhood is Upstairs Bar at the Ace Hotel, with tropical drinks and views of the towering San Gabriel Mountains. A new addition to DTLA, The Rooftop at The Nomad serves tiki cocktails and inspired ice-cream sandwiches on the terracotta deck, which is dotted with lemon trees. Just a few blocks away is the literal pinnacle of the city’s nightlife: Spire 73, which sits atop the Intercontinental Hotel and is the highest outdoor bar in the Western Hemisphere. 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 LA. Or head to The Fonda Theatre, where rooftop guests can watch a live feed of the night’s performance.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
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.
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