Los Angeles is one of the most dynamic travel destinations in the world. There are so many different versions of the city that it can be tough to figure out where to start when planning a trip. Art and cultural institutions are experiencing a renaissance, the food scene is lively and culturally diverse, the city’s luxury hotels are hubs of activity, and neighborhoods have truly distinct personalities. Depending on your preferences when it comes to your desired type of trip, this 5-day itinerary is built around two hotel options: the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills for those seeking luxurious Hollywood glamour, and the NoMad Hotel Los Angeles in Downtown LA for trendsetters and design aficionados.
In partnership with Afar.
After you check into your hotel, head downtown for a cocktail at the Broken Shaker rooftop bar at the Freehand hotel. Of all the neighborhoods in Los Angeles, none is hotter right now than downtown LA (or DTLA for short). Starting in the late 1990s, developers started to recognize the potential of the neighborhood’s vacant Art Deco-era buildings, and when the Staples Center and the LA Live complex opened, renovations and new construction took off.
Reinvestment into DTLA means the neighborhood has gained a number of worthy destinations in the last two decades. No. 1 on the list: The Broad contemporary arts museum which opened to much deserved fanfare in 2015. Inside, the museum houses notable pieces from the art collection of Eli Broad, the financier after whom the place is named. Outside, its honeycomb-like exterior provides a stark contrast to the smooth metallic lines of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall next door. Take an after-hours tour that hits all the highlights: you’ll see works by Barbara Kruger, Jasper Johns, and Jean-Michel Basquiat without quite so many people in the galleries with you.
End the day with dinner at AOC Wine Bar, a quintessential LA restaurant that has become popular among celebrities and locals alike. Here, Chef Suzanne Goin turns out market-driven small plates to accompany a wine list heavy on biodynamic and organic vintages. The space is a gorgeous evocation of indoor-outdoor California living with a Mediterranean twist. The result: A dining experience that never feels rushed and leaves guests perfectly sated.
Start your day with a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, then make your way west. Towering over the Brentwood neighborhood like a white castle on a hill, the Getty Center at the J. Paul Getty Museum is one of the most iconic art museums in the world. This larger of the two Getty facilities is home to Western art pieces ranging from the 1600s to the present. (A smaller facility in Malibu, the Getty Villa, displays art from Greece, Rome, and other great civilizations.) The Getty Center is vast and the facilities are extensive, so a guided private tour is the best way to see top pieces and experience VIP behind-the-scenes access.
After the tour, spend time wandering through the Central Garden designed by artist Robert Irwin. For dinner that night, venture down the hill to the Third Street Promenade where meals at Michael’s Santa Monica represent a different kind of art. This restaurant has quite a pedigree; in 1980, under the auspices of Chef Jonathan Waxman and colleagues, Michael’s helped to redefine California cuisine and firmly put Los Angeles on the culinary map. Executive Chef Miles Thompson continues that tradition today, offering his own spin on the menu with such seasonal dishes as pappardelle with rabbit legs and porcini; branzino with chickpea, hen of the woods mushrooms, and arugula; and ribeye with grilled asparagus, caramelized onion mustard, and veal jus.
If you’re heading back downtown to the Nomad, pop in for a nightcap at Apothéke, one of the city’s most exciting cocktail bars. If you’re returning to the Waldorf Astoria, head to the Rooftop by JG for a ginger margarita.
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without shopping. The city has some of the best boutiques and most vibrant shopping districts in the world. If you’re at the Waldorf Astoria, start the day in Beverly Hills, on the famous Rodeo Drive. Here you can flit in and out of such luxury boutiques as Bulgari, Fendi, La Perla, and Prada. If you’re at the Nomad, explore the Fashion District downtown, with retail options including Acne Studios, BNKR, Tanner Goods, Aesop, Heidi Merrick, and Mykita.
Eventually make your way over to Century City to check out the revivified Westfield Century City Mall. This destination recently re-opened after a two-year, $1-billion renovation. Under the new design and arrangements, the mall has VIP services with a concierge, as well as private suites were tired shoppers can relax. Another shopping destination you shouldn’t miss: The Platform, an open-air development next to the Metro Expo Line’s Culver City Station. Organizers of this project see themselves as a community of independent merchants, influential chefs, and creative organizations. Notable shops here are Poketo, Freda Salvador, and Magasin. The Platform also doubles as a business incubator, giving startups a place to grow and gain customers in the early stages of their journeys.
Refuel with a snack and coffee at Blue Bottle. Later that night, go for dinner at Vespertine, a Culver City dining experience like no other. Chef Jordan Kahn—who worked at the French Laundry and Per Se before going out on his own—has likened the restaurant to a spaceship for the way it transports people. The multi-course menu here is designed to delight every sense: dishes resemble sculptures; the interior design is deliberately sparse; and the music score piped in is original to the restaurant.
Today is about getting outside. Will Rogers State Park, the former ranch owned by the popular actor, is set on 359 acres in Pacific Palisades overlooking the ocean. It’s a perfect spot for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There’s an easy two-mile loop for walkers. And guided trail rides are available every day except Mondays. Arrive at the park early so you can stroll around before embarking on the 11 a.m. guided tour of Rogers’ Ranch House. The house has been restored to the way it looked when Rogers died in 1935, and if offers great insight into the life of one of early Hollywood’s most influential stars. If you’re there on a weekend during the summer, you’re likely to see a polo match in action.
Wrap up your day with a meal at Native in Santa Monica. This restaurant redefines farm-to-table, sourcing much of its produce and meat from purveyors in Southern California. Chef Nyesha Arrington, who gained fame on Top Chef, incorporates diverse flavors into her cooking too—her gochujang-glazed pork chop is a crowd favorite.
For the fifth and final day of your Los Angeles itinerary, it’s time to get serious about the museums you might have missed. This means starting the day in DTLA at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which specializes in art created since 1940. Private tours offer visitors an overview of collection highlights including originals from Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Joan Miró. What’s more, on the first Sunday of each month the museum hosts workshops that teach participants about particular pieces, then challenges them to create art in response to the works they’ve seen.
After a short lunch, head east to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. With more than 130,000 items in its permanent collection, LACMA is the largest art museum west of the Mississippi. It’s also home to what has become one of the most recognizable images of Los Angeles: Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” sculpture that comprises 200 light posts.
Conclude your Los Angeles trip with a meal at Spago, the Beverly Hills restaurant that effectively launched celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s culinary career in 1982. If your whole party is game, opt for the California tasting menu. The agnolotti, which changes with the season, is always sublime. Depending on the time of year, you’ll also get to try the spicy tuna tartare in a cone, one of Puck’s trademark dishes.
In partnership with Afar.