I have been to LA countless times with work and to visit friends (one of my bridesmaids lives in San Diego) and realised I have never actually done a city guide. Bearing in mind I am usually there for 2-3 nights at a time and often just crash on my bed exhausted after a day's work, here are my must-dos:
Where To Stay:
When I'm in LA, I don't drive so I always stay somewhere on Sunset Boulevard - you can walk to bars, shops and a Starbucks and it always helps with your orientation. You feel like you're in 'proper' LA with all the live music venues and bars. I like West Hollywood, and if I'm feeling flush (and only staying a few nights) my favourite is The London Hotel - the price includes coffee and breakfast (always helps).
However, last time I stayed at The Andaz and it is perfectly situated and really good value - plus free coffee in the mornings!
What To Eat
A great Mexican restaurant in Silverlake, always guaranteed to be bustling. I love it when you order guacamole in LA it always has huge, fresh chunks of avocado and the bowl is always brimming, as opposed to our English servings...
This is my favourite place in LA. You can walk to it easily from The London Hotel (perhaps this is why I stay there!) as it's on Sunset Boulevard. Just walking in transports you to an 'American Graffiti' era - take some quarters for the Jukeboxes and order a classic Melburger - perfect. A meal for 2 with all the sides won't set you back more than $30, either.
Where To People Watch
Melrose is pretty cool, or Santa Monica Boulevard has loads of cafes
to sit outside on a weekend.
Where To Shop
There isn't really a main High Street in LA, just little pockets of shops. I generally head to Century City (basically a Westfield) or The Grove - both of these shopping malls have J Crew (Century city has the added bonus of Madewell). Or the Beverly Centre (walkable from Sunset Boulevard) has Bloomingdale's and just opposite are my favourites Old Navy and Target (stop in Baja Fresh for delicious frugal lunch, as well!).
What To Do
Santa Monica - although I wouldn't recommend going on any of the rides, the unmistakeable pier with its amusements is iconic. The beach is sprawling, and you can rent bikes from here and cycle all the way to Venice Beach (the whole trail is about 8.5miles) - make sure you pick up a Hot Dog Stick on your way through (they're actually delicious)...
|Shooting on Santa Monica pier with Red Magazine a few years ago...|
|Cycling the trail|
|The Georgian Hotel|
|Santa Monica Beach|
If you like music, go to Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard - it's like stepping into a real life Empire Records.
|Picture from LA Weekly|
While you're in this area, Umami burger is nearby and possibly the best I've ever tasted (Liberty Ross recommended it to me, whilst I was on a Red cover shoot, so it's celebrity endorsed!) and is worth a visit (if you're not burger'd out).
|The 'Umami' burger|
Mount Hollywood Trail
Get out of the hustle and bustle of the city by doing this trail, and stop by Griffith Park. It's a little gruelling (make sure you wear trainers and NOT leather shorts, like me) but worth it for the fresh air and amazing views over Los Angeles.
|With my husband - halfway through the trail!|
**FRUGAL TIP: In California, if you drink soft drinks it is pretty much always free refills. So when a waitress grabs your drink and says 'Do you want another?' - just say yes!