The Perfect Day in L.A.
For the perfect day in Los Angeles, follow the sun; start in the East and make your way West. The short hike to Griffith Observatory with panoramic views of the city is the perfect way to start your day. Continue the day by uncovering some of the city’s best coffee, juice, food and boutiques. Make sure you are West in time to get the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the ocean.
2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
Sitting near Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory has a vantage point that allows visitors great views of the HOLLYWOOD sign during the day, and even more fantastic views of the stars at night. The space has plenty of telescopes for stargazing, but it’s also a great informal setting for learning about the universe, thanks to a large exhibit space and a 290-seat planetarium that puts on rotating shows about topics ranging from the northern lights to water—and possibly alien life—on other planets. There is no entrance fee for the institution and just a small admission price for the planetarium itself.
1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291, USA
At the intersection of Hyperion and Sunset is the heart of Silver Lake, the source of the pulse; Intelligentsia Coffee. Fueling the neighborhood with crafted cups of caffeine, Intelligentsia has become the east side center of community and conversation. Their patio is the perfect place to catch up with a friend or to sit with a book and sip on a latte. Or, take your cup to-go and explore Sunset Junction and the surrounding blocks of boutique shops and restaurants.
1340 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is possibly the trendiest street in Los Angeles, where boho-chic beachgoers glide along the sidewalk like it’s a runway, with besties and beaux at their sides. Open up your wallet at boutiques like Scotch & Soda, with its quirky Dutch apparel; curators of international design, like the Scandinavian home decor of Huset; and collectors of local crafts like Burro, which boasts an eclectic array of accessories. You’ll need to take a break from treating yourself to treat yourself with some of the best vegan and organic food and drink in L.A.
512 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291, USA
“I am grateful” is just one of the ways you order lunch at Cafe Gratitude. “I am whole” is another; as is “I am glorious.” Every dish on the menu has a name like this, and whether you’re in the mood for gratitude (the community bowl with shredded kale, black beans, garlic tahini, and quinoa), wholeness (the macrobiotic bowl with braised butternut squash, adzuki beans, and sautéed greens), or glory (the blackened tempeh Caesar wrap), Cafe Gratitude guarantees your meal will be as much an experience in self-affirmation as a delicious jaunt into vegan fair. The Venice location is eclectic in patronage and airy in design, while the swanky Larchmont restaurant draws a more Hollywood cast of characters. Other locations include the Arts District, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, and a little further south in San Diego. For larger events, Cafe Gratitude can also be hired for catering services.
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Encyclopedic is one way to describe L.A.’s oldest art institution. Sprawling is another. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened in its current Miracle Mile location in 1965 and has not stopped growing, becoming the largest museum in the western United States. Its 135,000-piece collection spans 6,000 years of art. It also includes some of the museum world’s most photographed outdoor sculptures, such as Michael Heizer’s mind-boggling Levitated Mass and Chris Burden’s Urban Light. The museum hosts some 40 exhibits per year, plus a dynamic schedule of events, such as Tuesday film matinees and picnic-friendly Jazz at LACMA (held weekly on “summer” weekend nights—which in L.A. means April to November). While anyone can join free tours throughout the day, docents also lead customized experiences for a fee, which will take you through the galleries before or after hours to marvel at artists as wide-ranging as Henri Matisse, Ai Weiwei, Diego Rivera, and Catherine Opie. Kids are also catered to with a special gallery, Sunday activities, and a free membership, which includes entry for them plus an adult guest any day of the year. Pro tips: Plan to spend several hours at the museum, fueling up on wood-fired pizza midway through the day at Ray’s & Stark Bar. And if you’d like to experience the outdoor sculptures without the crowds, go early in the morning or on Wednesdays, when the museum is closed and gloriously quiet.
200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
The Santa Monica Pier embodies what Southern California is all about: fun in the sun. Popular with tourists and locals alike, this iconic boardwalk adjacent to the Pacific Ocean—filled with all the amusement rides, midway games, fried food, ice cream and cotton candy you can dream up—is a fantastic place to spend a nice day. My favorite attractions are the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and the world’s first solar-paneled Ferris wheel, which provides breathtaking beach and ocean views as you ride ‘round and ‘round. Be sure to dip your toes in the soft Santa Monica sand, too. Nearby, you’ll find the Third Street Promenade, a bustling entertainment district filled with wonderful eateries and shops.
Venice Fishing Pier, Venice, CA 90292, USA
The boardwalk and bike path from Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades to Torrance County Beach in Torrance is a stretch of activity some 20 miles long. Rent a bike, roller or in-line skates, or a Segway and cruise as much of the coastline as you please. The Venice Beach Boardwalk portion is packed with characters, shops, and vendors, and is perfect for picking up a souvenir. Marvel at the strip of contemporary beach houses, including the one designed by Frank Gehry, just north of the Venice Pier, and then stroll down the pier to watch surfers and enjoy the panoramic views.
1147 3rd St, Santa Monica, CA 90403, USA
Tucked away on Third Street since 1979, Michael’s is arguably the best-kept secret in Santa Monica—a Cheers-like stalwart for locals, who return to proprietor Michael McCarty’s inviting restaurant and bar regularly. It hasn’t hurt that star chefs Jonathan Waxman, Nancy Silverton, Sang Yoon, and Mark Peel have all done time in the kitchen. Artwork by John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Cy Twombly set the backdrop for equally creative, flavor-packed masterpieces by the current chef Miles Thompson. Modern California-sourced dishes change seasonally, but octopus is a must-order. (If you’re lucky, Thompson will be serving his confit version with burnt butter and Sichuan peppercorn marshmallow.) A relaxed, jungle-like garden patio invites late-night lingering over a drink from the creative cocktail menu; be sure to try the popular Road to Kyushu, a mix of Japanese whiskey, kumquats, cloves, and barrel-aged bitters. Pro tip: For early birds, Michael’s lounge has probably the best happy hour in L.A.: a $1.79 cocktail from 5:30 to 6 p.m. (to honor its opening year), plus the signature barbecue aioli–topped Smash Burger available in limited numbers until 7 p.m.