After spending some time in Northern California earlier this summer (check out my 5 day ESP guide here) I was excited to return to the Golden State and experience a little SoCal life. We spent an extended Labor Day weekend in LA and had the best time. I put together an Eat+Stay+Play guide so you can see what we were able to see and do in a short trip. At the end of the post is a free downloadable PDF with all the links and info for quick access. Don’t forget to pin to your travel board, too.
Today was mostly a travel day flying from San Antonio to Hollywood Burbank Airport (Bob Hope Airport). It’s so much smaller than LAX and you actually deplane on the tarmac, which I liked for nostalgia sake. We spent some time taking care of a few work commitments before heading to our hotel, The Beverly Hilton. It’s modern and elegant with that old Hollywood glamour that you just can’t help but be drawn to. The hotel opened in 1955 and has seen its share of Hollywood A-listers from Marilyn Monroe to Steven Spielberg and even President Obama. It’s where they have the Golden Globes among other red carpet events. The view from our room was quintessential LA. Those palm tree dotted hills never get old.
Dinner was at Laurel Hardware in West Hollywood. The restaurant is formerly a hardware store, hence the namesake. They have even retained the original signage. When you arrive you might think you’re in the wrong place. Even our Uber driver asked, “Are you sure this is it?” But don’t let the mysterious exterior lead you astray. This place has some seriously good food. Come hungry as the dishes are meant to be shared. I highly recommend the glazed pork ribs, roasted shishito peppers, and the lollipop sprouts salad. The atmosphere is laid back. They don’t take themselves too seriously (their brunch cocktails are all named after lines from the movie Mean Girls). If you’re looking for a fun vibe and delicious food, Laurel Hardware is it.
After filling our bellies it was time to find some of that LA nightlife you always hear about. And we definitely found it. Through a connection, we managed to spend the next few hours with a local friend at a reservations only lounge called The Nice Guy. It’s upscale and the epitome of swanky, with an atmosphere of being out with your fellow mafia buddies, all of which is entirely intentional. The cocktails are done impeccably well but we also enjoyed bucket after bucket of iced down rosé, because well, that’s what you do. There’s even a free photo booth at the back if you want evidence of your risky business. But that’s the only photography allowed in the place. Save your selfies for later because The Nice Guy doesn’t allow photos.
As late evening transitioned into early morning, we continued to our friend’s home in the hills. He just completed a rather large renovation and the views of downtown Los Angeles were spectacular.
The next morning came a little early. I was pretty excited to have my new sunnies from Diff Eyewear with me. The mirrored lenses really do a great job of reflecting that bright California sun. We started with breakfast overlooking The Beverly Hilton pool. I really loved the vintage feel of the pool with all the palm trees and black and white awnings. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too warm to sit outside.
After breakfast we started our sight-seeing tour. LA was experiencing a pretty intense heat wave, so I wasn’t too keen on getting out of the car and getting sweaty. I guess LA was already rubbing off on me. Ha! I really wanted to spend time strolling down Rodeo Drive, but if we had done that I would have been drenched. So, from the car we pretty much saw what we came to see – Rodeo Drive, The Viper Room, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Griffith Observatory.
We did drive up to the Griffith Observatory, but you should really try to get there early. Parking is single file down the hill and we would have had quite the trek up to the top. If the weather had been cooler or we had dressed in athletic clothes, it would have been no problem. I guess our La La Land moment will have to wait until next time. But the reason a lot of people go to the observatory is not only the views of Los Angeles but the chance to take a great photo in front of the Hollywood sign.
There are other locations to get a great view and photo of those iconic white letters. We went to the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook Above the Hollywood Bowl, otherwise also known as the Mulholland Drive Scenic Overlook. It was much less crowded and the views are pretty great.
Lunch was at FarmShop in the Brentwood Country Mart. First, you must go to Brentwood Country Mart and just visit the shops. They have small boutiques, restaurants, and even a Christian Louboutin. I love discovering independent bookstores when we travel and perusing Diesel, A Book Store was a great find. Now on to FarmShop! We chose to eat in but you can also pick up food to-go or select from the numerous fresh cheeses, meats, and wines. It’s the perfect farm-to-table experience. We loved the chicken salad and Farmstrong Rosé.
After lunch we drove to Venice Beach, Marina Del Rey, and the Santa Monica Pier. There’s plenty of public parking and the ocean breezes really helped with the heat. We strolled along Venice and enjoyed what is truly a feast for the eyes. There are interesting things going on all around you.
We made a pitstop at The Albright on the Santa Monica Pier and had a dozen oysters with ice cold beer.
We ended the day with a walk and some shopping along the 3rd Street Promenade. It reminds me of some of the European shopping districts we’ve been to. It’s touristy and there are a lot of street performers, but you can easily check it off the list. Dinner was at Hillstone, where the atmosphere was buzzing and the steaks were excellent. I’m pretty sure we crashed after that.
After a leisurely morning of coffee and breakfast, we went to Malibu for a scenic drive and lunch at Nobu. There are plenty of places to stop and snap some photos or just admire the beach and impressive waterfront estates.
Nobu did not disappoint. You absolutely have to make reservations, and the earliest they take them is one month out. But it’s worth getting that reserved table. We were seated at a couple of couches right along the ocean. The Pacific was relatively calm with the occasional crashing wave. It was fun to watch all the people and dogs walking along the surf below.
We started with a bottle of rosé and then ordered dishes one at a time. Everything is phenomenal. It was challenging not to rip into the crispy okra with garlic ponzu and spicy tuna rolls as fast as humanly possible. The king crab tempura and chicken and waffles were also amazing.
We opted for an easy night in as there was a lot of college football to watch and we really just wanted to relax after two pretty full days. We picked up some charcuterie and wine and enjoyed a cozy and simple evening.
We spent the day exploring Old Town Pasadena. It is a pretty cute little town center with lots of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. We found The Pie Hole pretty quickly and grabbed a couple of coffees and a slice of pie. That’s totally a breakfast food, by the way.
Our day ended at The Rose Bowl to watch a game of college football that shall not be discussed further. But it was really neat to see the bowl in person. There isn’t a bad seat in the entire stadium and you’re surrounded by mountains. For a night game, it’s just beautiful.
Los Angeles is a city to be explored. We just scratched the surface. But if you’ve never been and can only get away for a couple of days, you can definitely see quite a bit. I know we will be back.
What are some of your favorite spots in LA?
Click here to download my free PDF of links and resources from the post. It’s a fast and easy way to access everything.
As always, thank you so much for reading!
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