To some, the sheer size of Los Angeles can be paralyzing, leaving one unsure of which direction to explore. That all changes with a little bit of insider knowledge and an understanding that what’s inside a city is just as important as its surroundings. Noel Hernandez, the Managing Director of AKA Beverly Hills, which provides luxury suites designed for those staying a week or longer, is an expert at making people feel at home. Here are four refined destinations, and one rustic adventure, where he sends his VIP clientele for an authentic SoCal experience.
Start your day at this charming French bakery packed with perfectly presented pastries and fresh bread that starts baking at 3 a.m. for the 6:30 a.m. opening bell. In addition to their famous chocolate eclairs, Noel recommends pairing the croissants, which he describes as “crispy, rich and flakey,” with freshly squeezed orange juice. For a heartier morning meal, his favorite is the fried egg and beef bacon sandwich. C’est delicieux!
143 S. Beverly Drive Beverly Hills, CA 90212 (310) 550 – 5510
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
In downtown Los Angeles, historic architecture mixes with the modern like Frank Gehry’s shimmering sail-inspired stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall. “This structure was the first to galvanize the downtown Los Angeles scene,” says Noel. “Frank Gehry’s design is truly a visual spectacle that makes for an amazing day of musical journey.” The curves in his design are stunning both inside and out so make sure to take a tour for the full experience. The Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and also hosts iconic artists of our time so check their calendar to see if an acoustically superb show fits into your schedule.
111 S Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012 (323) 850 – 2000
Crossroads takes the “hip” out of hippie when it comes to vegan dining by turning the typical crunchy health-food experience into something more chic. “This is vegan cuisine taken to the next level,” says Noel. “Chef/Owner Tal Ronnen has created an exquisite, innovative restaurant where the term ‘vegan glam’ has been coined. In full disclosure, I am not vegan, but the artichoke oysters with tomato béarnaise and kelp caviar changed my life! The restaurant is sexy and a great place for people watching.”
8284 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90046 (323) 782 – 9245
THE ROOFTOP LOUNGE IN LAGUNA BEACH
Escaping the city for the coastline is a must in Los Angeles and there’s no better place to watch the colors shift as the sun hits the horizon than The Rooftop Lounge in Laguna Beach. “The sunsets here will leave you speechless (think Hana in Maui)!” exclaims Noel. Make sure to get there early to find a great spot and enjoy Happy Hour prices on their famous fresh fruit mojitos and more. Noel also loves their Guava BBQ Meatballs which he praises as “the best meatball appetizer on the planet.”
La Casa Del Camino 1289 South Coast Hwy. Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (855) 990 – 0282
ESCONDIDO FALLS IN MALIBU
One of the best things about Los Angeles is it’s the easy access to the outdoors and with great weather year round, there is no excuse not to be active. While there are wonderful trails in the city like Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon, the real magic happens when you make the short drive just outside the city limits to spots like the glistening moss draped Escondido Falls. “I love to take a day away from the city and hike the Escondido Canyon Trail in Malibu,” says Noel. “The path is about four miles and takes around two hours. The trail passes gorgeous Malibu mansions then continues on to the three Escondido waterfalls. Parts of the trail require some scrambling, so hikers should wear proper shoes. However, the stunning views make it worth the effort.”
Escondido Canyon Trail, Winding Way at Pacific Coast Hwy. Malibu, CA 90265