Situated on the eastern edge of the San Fernando Valley and Griffith Park, and adjacent to hip Los Angeles neighborhoods including Atwater Village and Eagle Rock, Glendale is technically a suburb in “the Valley.” But with a growing business district and picturesque views of the surrounding mountains, Glendale and its downtown are worth exploring.
Glendale is perhaps most known for its Brand Boulevard, a famous stretch full of a variety of retailers. Here, there’s The Americana at Brand, a large outdoor shopping complex brought to the city by the same developer as L.A.’s famous The Grove. Like its Central L.A. cousin, it has a dancing fountain, a complimentary trolley, and loads of dining and drinking options, including Bacari GDL, a stylish wine bar and restaurant where the cicchetti—Italian-style tapas—is among the standouts. Oh, and you can also shop at about 80 retailers.
Outside of The Americana, Brand Boulevard is a bustling mini-mecca of cafés, shops, and culture, including the Museum of Neon Art. New Yorkers get MoMA and Glendale residents get MONA, a visually stimulating collection of some of the most famous L.A.-based neon signs—including that of an Old Hollywood staple, the Brown Derby Restaurant. Down the street, there’s a branch of one of greater Los Angeles’ favorite bakeries, Porto’s Bakery & Cafe—which offers delicious Cuban sandwiches and endless mouthwatering pastries (must-try menu items include the cheese rolls and potato balls).
Considering that Glendale is home to one of the country’s largest Armenian-American populations, there is no shortage of amazing Middle Eastern food here, from fine dining to pop-in bakeries. Right across from Porto’s is Carousel Restaurant, one of the top spots for authentic Armenian-Lebanese fare; there’s also belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. A couple of blocks over is another area favorite for Persian-Armenian kebabs, Raffi’s Place. For food with more of a stateside vibe, drop by Damon’s Steakhouse, which has been pairing steaks and tropical drinks since 1937; Fish King, a mainstay for seafood prepared with signature house-made marinades since 1948; and Rockbird, where the fried chicken sandwiches and sides are made with a nod to the founders’ Lebanese roots.
If shopping and art-gazing don’t work off all the delicious local eats, there are plenty of outdoor activity options. A Glendale gem, Deukmejian Wilderness Park, sits at the northern point of the city and offers more than 700 acres of wildflowers and trails—including the pretty easy loop on Dunsmore Canyon Trail, which offers sweeping views of the valley below. The nearby Verdugo Mountains
For a different kind of trek outdoors, there’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a beautiful cemetery nicknamed Glendale’s “Walk of Fame.” Forest Lawn is the final resting place of more Hollywood stars than any other cemetery—including Walt Disney, Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, and Sammy Davis Jr.—but keep in mind that the cemetery does not offer maps or directions (though there are occasional exhibits and events and a museum on the property). Even so, more than a million tourists a year stroll through the lush, rolling 300-acre property. Take note that many graves, including Jackson’s, are in closed-to-the-public locations, and to be respectful when visiting.
Along with a plethora of reliable national chain hotels in Glendale, there are a number of homey bed-and-breakfasts in the surrounding area. The Arroyo Vista Inn, housed in a 1910 Craftsman home, features a picture-perfect veranda and on-site dining, while the Bissell House Bed & Breakfast—yes, it’s the former home of the carpet sweeper magnate—offers daily afternoon dessert tea and a shared lounge and library within the 1887 Victorian manse.
While Glendale offers so much to see and do within its city limits, a major plus is its proximity to everything else Los Angeles has to offer, thanks to easy access to several major freeways. It’s about 10 miles from downtown L.A. and just minutes from Burbank and East L.A. hot spots. Other nearby L.A. destinations and attractions include the aforementioned Griffith Park as well as Griffith Observatory, Pasadena, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Silver Lake, and the Hollywood Sign. If this isn’t your first time to Los Angeles and you could use a few under-the-radar recommendations, check out Insider Tips from 3 Los Angeles Locals and So You Think You Know Los Angeles?
Get ready to Dream Big!