Your Go-To Guide to L.A., Baby
Today’s cup of decaf is in L.A., baby.
Do you like visiting Los Angeles? I think it is a city people either love or hate. Or love to hate. I definitely had a mixed relationship with L.A. for a long time. Don’t get me wrong. I love me a big city. I might be an island girl, but I truly thrive in city life and like to visit cities as often as I can. I am an east coaster, so my first city love is New York, (sorry Boston) but I have lived in the Bay Area for almost 35 years, so I need to consider myself a Californian by now. It’s high time I identify with west coast cities as the hubs of my cultural universe. It’s just that I love New York so much, it has been difficult to embrace the traffic, smog, and expense of visiting L.A. When traveling in Southern Cal, I have always preferred Malibu and Laguna. I have felt like L.A. was just the stretch of sprawling concrete in between.
La La Land
My attitude, however, has recently, and significantly, changed. My daughter moved to L.A. and therefore I have spent more time there this year than I have in the past 35 years combined. I didn’t want to add any negativity to her excitement about living in La La Land. I tried very hard to curb my criticism of the ugly neighborhoods and the ugly architecture in them. Then we started to apartment hunt in some really cute spots, and… low and behold, I grew very attached to her lovely, mid-century, West Hollywood block. It feels safe, clean, and is central to a lot of what she wants and needs.
I have been able to discover and re-discover aspects of L.A. that can fulfill a vacationer’s top desires. In ways that New York gives me the energy of a 20-year-old and the heightened awareness and excitement I need to pound the pavement all day and stay up all night, LA offers me an eternal summer vibe. Oddly, for a giant bustling place, L.A. makes me feel relaxed and unencumbered.
No doubt, the traffic and parking in L.A. sucks, and public transportation is simply not the way to go. With the invention of Uber, however, I don’t feel obligated to get in the car if I don’t want to. And, because some genius has invented GPS, and I understand the geography a little better, it is less intimidating to venture out and about. You can say that being able to maneuver around L.A. is growing on me.
Things To Do
My daughter lives in a perfect neighborhood for accessing the tourist spots and the locals’ hangouts. So, if you are going to stay in an Airbnb or VRBO, I highly recommend the West Hollywood/Laurel Canyon area. Here are some of the easy, fun and free/inexpensive adventures we like to have in my new favorite city.
Runyon Canyon Park – 160 acres of hiking and views, in the Santa Monica Mountains, right there, in Hollywood! A simple walk through gorgeous neighborhoods off of Hollywood Blvd and you are in a beautiful hiking paradise. Plenty of trails with lots of incline if you are looking for real exercise. Stunning views of the whole city, and flora and fauna for days. The edges of some trails offer peeks at homes of the rich and famous, featuring both modern and midcentury architecture. You can even have a view of the iconic Hollywood sign. The Hollywood sign hike is fun too, but we have to drive to the trail head and hope for a parking spot, whereas, Runyon Canyon is within walking distance. Great people watching and very dog friendly.
The Getty Museum – A remarkable architectural design makes this one of my new favorite art museums. Also in the hills above western L.A., it offers views, views, and more views. I have only been twice, but look forward to many more visits.
The permanent collection is vast and really varied in style. I think most people will find galleries that they enjoy. There is a range of American and European favorites to keep you busy for a long time. What I like best, however, are all the outdoor spaces. The gardens and architecture embrace the sculptures and fountains. The design is so integrated with the environment that a primary feature of the museum is the structure itself, not simply the art within.
And…drumroll…IT IS FREE! You pay for parking ($15or $20) down below, take a free tram ride to the entrance and stay all day if you want. There are several café areas for indoor or outdoor relaxing.
Melrose Trading Post – A flea market hosted at the Fairfax High School campus every Sunday on the corner of Fairfax and Melrose. Great vendors, food, music, and outstanding L.A. people watching. Yes, stuff is a bit more expensive than your average flea market, but it is L.A., after all. You might have to struggle with parking a bit, but we were able to find a spot in the lot.
Venice Canals – Of course, you have to go to Venice Beach and walk on the boardwalk and see the performers and skate boarders. It is fun for a bit, but also funky and a little depressing to see so many young homeless people.
Just north of the main entrance to the board walk area, however, are the canals. Just like Venice, Italy, only the California version. No gondolas, just beautiful homes on the water with charming paths and bridges connecting them. Really quiet and pleasant and VERY different than the Boardwalk and Muscle Beach scene.
Personal Beverly Hills Drive – Drive along Sunset Blvd into BH and turn right into the neighborhoods. Give yourself a tour! No need for the open-air bus or the Map to the Stars. We took a tour once for kicks and got the “If you look through the trees, you will see the roof, next to the house, where Paul McCartney once slept.” I prefer the DIY version.
There are truly gorgeous homes and gardens to see. A lot of the mansions are, of course, gated and surrounded by walls of bushes, but it is quiet on many of the streets and an easy way to fantasize about living your best L.A. life in BH!
Food, Food, Food – So many great places to eat. I am just going to focus on breakfast. My daughter has found the best and budget friendly spots!
M Café, on Melrose, is the birthplace of the very first Cup of Decaf blog idea. Great for breakfast/brunch. All vegan, gluten free, and delicious. And PARKING in front!
The Butcher, Baker, and Cappuccino Maker, on Sunset, is a favorite spot with fancy cappuccinos and really delicious omelet skillets, potatoes, and more. You can sit outside and be part of the hip and trendy Sunset strip, sipping decaf or mimosas.
Scrumptious Café Bakery, on N Hayworth, is tiny and quaint and also has outdoor garden seating. You could miss it if you aren’t looking carefully. We drove by a bunch of times before we found it! All organic fare and really delicious.
Of course, I have found delicious decaf at all these places. I plan to continue my excursions to L.A. so I can add new adventures to my new found love for the town. What do you like to do in L.A. ? Tell us your favorite activities and restaurants!