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February 24, 2022
Los Angeles is one of those places that feels like a second (or third or fourth) home to me. I first visited when I was 17, then again at 19 and 20. A few years later in 2014, my sister moved there and lived in the valley for 5 years. During those five years, I visited countless times. Then one of my best friends moved there so each visit lasted longer and longer. But after my sister left LA and covid hit shortly after, I stopped my frequent visits and before I knew it, it had been over 3 years since my last visit. So when my bestie invited Ryan and me on a couples trip, I thought it would be a fun opportunity to go to LA again–and see it through the eyes of three first-time visitors. I’ve never done a proper Los Angeles travel guide since there’s honestly just SO MUCH to do and so many different ways to experience the city. So instead, I’ll share my top favorites for the perfect day in LA!
Los Angeles Travel Guide
What to Know
Covid Precautions & Safety
I was absolutely shocked about how lax they are in LA about covid restrictions. Masks are “required” but many people don’t follow that rule and we never saw anyone being asked to put a mask on inside anywhere. You are supposed to show your vaccine card to dine inside, but we only had two restaurants ask us for ours.
Flying into LAX is the most accessible, but another option is to fly into Burbank. If it’s not too much more expensive, dealing with the chaos at LAX is worth avoiding when possible! The airport has been under construction for as long as I can remember and it is not organized at all!
We relied on Lyft for our trip and I was shocked to find that we had to wait an average of 10-20 minutes for a ride every time we called one. This was absolutely not my experience at all when I was going there frequently pre-covid. But honestly, anything is better than having to drive in LA. The traffic is a nightmare when you have to take the freeway and parking is either impossible or extremely expensive, so I would highly advise against renting a car in general. However, there is one exception. My friends really wanted to drive through certain neighborhoods and see things like filming locations from Insecure. In this case, I think renting a car is the best way to go about it as opposed to doing a cheesy paid tour. Renting a car allows you to go at your own pace and see where the day takes you. They ended up all the way out in Malibu, so they got to see a lot!
What to Pack
I think it’s pretty obvious that LA is a laid-back, slow pace place. So the attire there is pretty casual, but very stylish. It’s a jean-and-a-cute-top kind of place. I wore flats for the most part with comfortable mixed with trendy pieces for a nice California cool balance.
As far as the climate goes, LA might not be as warm as you think. The heat is dry there, so it doesn’t feel as hot as it does in the south, which is what I’m used to. In fact, it was warmer in Atlanta during our visit than it was in LA. It got as low as the high 40s at night and up to about 70 in the daytime. As I’m writing this post, it’s 50 degrees in LA and 75 here in Atlanta. All that is to say, check the weather before you go. A warm vacation is not always guaranteed year-round in Los Angeles!
Where to Stay
Unfortunately, there is a big homeless population in LA and it continues to grow. So there are now many places to avoid for safety, with the main one being downtown LA. I have heard the same about Venice, but we actually didn’t spend too much time there so I didn’t see for myself. Because of this, we opted to stay on the cusp of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. If you’re going for more luxurious and beautiful, Beverly Hills is for you. But if you want more walkability with younger, hip vibes, then West Hollywood is a great bet. Our hotel, Montrose Beverly Hills, had the best of both. It’s situated in a residential area, which gave us access to walk through a stunningly gorgeous neighborhood, but also to the lively West Hollywood scene including The Abbey and Pump. In fact, we actually saw some of the cast from Vanderpump Rules on our first day!
The hotel itself really could use some updates, especially in the rooms, but the decor was fun and the rooftop pool and lounge was great. There’s also a restaurant and hangout area downstairs and a convenience store in the lobby, so you really have everything you need on site or within walking distance. The rooms are spacious and actually have fireplaces in them, which we took advantage of.
I’m not sure if I would stay at Montrose Beverly Hills again, but it was a well-priced option for what we needed and the location was great for our itinerary.
Where to Eat & Drink
Going out to eat is one of my top favorite things to do in any city and after being to LA so many times, I have a few favorites.
Gjelina is a restaurant that I visit every time I’m in LA. I literally dream about their food in between visits. My absolute favorite is the raclette pizza with caramelized onions. It’s honestly phenomenal, along with everything else on the menu. Unfortunately, we kind of had a “miss” visit. None of the appetizers were very tasty and Ryan’s spaghetti was undercooked. But the pizzas were just as amazing as I remembered. Definitely worth a visit! Just be sure to make a reservation or you can always get takeout from GTA. Gjelina is located on the famous Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice.
Elephante comes close to beating Gjelina as my new favorite restaurant. It is definitely the prettiest view of the sunset I’ve experienced in Santa Monica and I will be back! The key is to make a reservation in the sunset room about an hour before sunset to experience the gorgeous views. It’s almost a rooftop, so all the clutter from the streets is hidden, with direct views of the beach and palm trees. The decor is impeccable so that was a big plus for me. Our group got drinks and a pizza and everything was divine. It’s also known for the whipped eggplant dip served with a big puffed-up pita. Unfortunately we weren’t hungry enough to order this, but that just gives me another reason to go back!
The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker
This adorable breakfast spot is yummy and conveniently located on Sunset in West Hollywood. They are known for their color-burst cappuccinos that seriously look amazing. I didn’t order one since I had already had my coffee (plus they were $15, haha!). The food is yummy and the decor is right up my alley. I suggest making a reservation though. We had to wait for almost an hour on a Tuesday mid-morning!
Another fun perk to this place is that it’s across the street from The Oppenheim Group office, which is the brokerage featured on the Netflix show Selling Sunset. It looked completely dark when we were there, so I’m not sure if the people from the show actually work there or not.
This is a great alternative to the famous In-n-Out burger shop. I first heard about it from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills a few years ago but had never been. I don’t eat meat, so it’s a great option since they have lots of vegetarian meals. Everyone in our group thought it was delicious!
What to Do
There are so many different things to do in LA! It’s so hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of my favorites.
The view from Griffith Observatory is absolutely stunning, spanning the entire LA area. And at sunset? Breathtaking. However, the crowds almost make it not worth it in my opinion. My recommendation would be to get there fairly early (3ish hours before sunset) and go into the observatory itself which is really fun. It’s also free, but make sure to check the hours because when we were there it was only open on the weekend. It’s like a space/science center with fun facts and different features and hands-on experiences. Then when you’re done, claim your spot outside to view the sunset. Bring a blanket and a charcuterie and you’re all set for a magical evening!
Late Night Comedy Show
I absolutely love going to comedy shows when I’m in LA. You never know when there will be a surprise guest like Dave Chapelle! Celebrities will test out their comedy shows at the local clubs so you kind of get an industry insider experience. I’ve always gone to The Comedy Store since it’s easier to get into last minute, but we got tickets to The Laugh Factory ahead of time and it was hilarious! They’re known for the Chocolate Sundaes show, so that’s what we chose. Definitely recommend!
Explore Santa Monica
I really love the Santa Monica area. It’s a beach, so you have the water, but it also offers a lot of the great things about LA, like amazing restaurants and shops. Since the Venice boardwalk isn’t the cleanest right now, I would recommend opting for a stroll through the neighboring Santa Monica instead. There are places to rent bikes if you’d like, or walking is always great as well. Visiting the Santa Monica pier is a fun tourist spot, especially for kids. Back in the day, I used to love going to Bungalow on Sundays. It’s a bar/restaurant that has the feel of a house and yard. It’s so great for Sunday Funday!
Walk of Fame
Yes, it’s basically the Times Square of LA, but there’s no denying it’s a staple in LA tourism. Get dropped off at the Chinese Theatre and stroll the streets of Hollywood. I always like finding Britney Spears’ star, but there are tons along the sidewalk. Ryan and I stopped by on our last day for about 10 minutes. It’s a quick and easy thing to do if you’re in the Hollywood area!
This visit to LA was different than my past visits, but that made it all the more special. It was so fun to explore and share my favorite spots with people who had never been before. In fact, I’ve already planned another visit in September! Can’t wait to visit the west coast again soon.
What are your top recommendations for LA?
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.