- Greater Los Angeles,
- North America,
- United States
Experience the best of Los Angeles with a vacation you won't forget. Ride shotgun in a Spirit cup style stock car driven by a professional instructor, or enjoy spectacular views and gourmet cuisine on one of LA's most magnificent dinner cruises. When you use your Visa Signature card, you get exclusive savings on experiences like these from Cloud 9 Living. Plus, always rest comfortably with best available rates at any Hilton Hotel.
Hilton Garden Inn LAX/El Segundo
See + Do
The Beach Boys weren't lying: this part of California is all about the sun, sand, and surf. Venice Beach, with its street performers, outdoor cafés, and pedestrian traffic, still has that quintessential Californian combination of liveliness and laid-backness. You can grab a bike at one of the many rental stands; there's a bike path that heads all the way south to Redondo Beach. Santa Monica has Surfrider Beach, one of the best breaks long the coast, and also a pier with an amusement park that's lots of fun for kids. Malibu is a bit on the impenetrable side (a wall of houses lines the beach), but just up the Pacific Coast Highway at Zuma Beach there's plenty of parking and lots of sand. Walk north, and you'll pass the celebrity-owned houses of Broad Beach. Drive a bit farther up the Pacific Coast Highway and you'll find Neptune's Net, the famed fish-shack with a parking lot full of motorcycles.
See + Do
Hollywood is the same sun-blasted mecca for celebrity worshippers it's always been, but trees now line the main drag, Hollywood Boulevard. At night, the club-crawlers come out to play, even though the A-list spots come and go at warp speed (see our Nightlife section for help). The Kodak Theatre hosts the Academy Awards and other splashy events, which means that several blocks of the Boulevard near Highland Avenue are perpetually closed off to traffic. There's still no great shopping (unless you're looking for T-shirts or platform sandals in men's sizes), but lots of hip restaurants and bars. Hollywood is filled with ornate Mediterranean and Art Deco buildings, all gradually getting face-lifts. Thai Town and Little Armenia occupy the eastern end, with great ethnic markets and restaurants, like the famed Palms Thai, where a Thai Elvis-imitator performs nightly.
The Hungry Cat, California
Los Angeles, California 90028
Tel: 323 462 2155
Revitalized Hollywood has its share of nightclubs, burger joints, and Thai restaurants. But until the Hungry Cat opened in 2004, the neighborhood lacked a casual yet seriously good seafood spot. This pet project of married chefs Suzanne Goin (Lucques, A.O.C.) and David Lentz (formerly Opaline) fills the void with small plates from the sea. With its industrial room, tiny open kitchen, and gutsy fare, it's quickly become a favorite with family brunchers, young couples, and off-duty chefs. You'll be tempted to order everything on the menu, from the oyster chowder to the halibut cheeks with morels and grits to the addictive lobster roll. Can you hear the sound of a metropolis purring?
Rose Bowl Flea Market, California
Pasadena, California 91103
Tel: 323 560 7469
On the second Sunday of each month, this market, with more than 2,000 exhibitors, draws antique- and collectible-hunters from all over the state—there's everything here from Art Deco furniture to Partridge Family lunchboxes. The market opens officially to the public at 9 am, but dealers pay extra to go as early as 6 am, and so can you.
See + Do
Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica has its famous pier, the Third Street Promenade (now mostly chain stores, but still with a kid-friendly amusement park), and the famed Wednesday Farmers' Market where local chefs shop for produce. Main Street and Montana Avenue have great shopping in small, upscale boutiques. If you're a surfer, Surfrider Beach is a must; if you're an art-hound don't miss Bergamot Station, a former trolley station taken over by art galleries. It's part of the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2525 Michigan Ave.; 310-586-6488; www.smmoa.org).
See + Do
Nobody walks in L.A., but they do hike. There are great trails along the Santa Monica Mountain bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the forested Angeles Crest. Or you can head uphill into Hollywood's Runyon Canyon, where somewhat disheveled celebrities can often be glimpsed walking their dogs off-leash. In Beverly Hills, there's Franklin Canyon. For information and maps of these and other trails, check out www.latrails.com/hike, or contact the Sierra Club (213-387-4287; www.angeles.sierraclub.org) for information about its organized walks.
Los Angeles, California 90036
Tel: 323 951 0039
Marrakesh meets MOCA at this sleek French-Moroccan treasure. The design of the place is a breath of fresh harissa in a neighborhood not exactly known for novelty; the entryway is blue-lit and the small dining room's walls are decorated with colorful, futuristic-mod patterns. The crowd is refreshingly diverse (young, old, hip, not), and the room pulses with the hum of happy feasters. Many start their meals with tangy preserved-lemon dip, olives, and bread, before moving on to tagines, grilled merguez sausages with grilled onions and caperberries, and dorado stuffed with peppers and leeks. You know you're in for a serious treat when the chef makes couscous from scratch.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
See + Do
Downtown Los Angeles, California
Downtown Los Angeles has been reputedly making a comeback for 25 years now, but the loft explosion over the past few years has made that notion seem truer than ever. There's lots of sightseeing to be done here, neighborhood landmarks include MOCA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, ornate former movie palaces on Broadway, and the kitschy Mexican tourist attraction known as Olvera Street. There's also Chinatown—which is becoming an avant-garde multiculti art destination—and Little Tokyo.