The Perfect Weekend in L.A.

Three days in Los Angeles is hardly enough time to see this sprawling city. Spend time by the water, exploring Venice and Santa Monica, and don’t miss a hike in the hills, or the fantastic museums. And farm markets. And coffee shops. And the shopping areas, from Fairfax to Rodeo Drive. Are you sure you only have a weekend?

Los Angeles, CA 90068, USA
A two-day walk that you can join or leave almost anywhere along the route, the Big Parade is a community stroll that starts at the Angel’s Flight Stairway in downtown Los Angeles and ends at the iconic Hollywood sign. Along the way, revelations include a secret dirt road between Silver Lake and Echo Park, the Music Box Stairs (site of a Laurel and Hardy film), and other quirky landmarks. Big Parade IV takes place May 19-20. —Aimee Bender
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.
700 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017, USA
My deep love for macarons is no surprise to anyone that knows me, so it’s no wonder that after trying perhaps the finest ever in Paris, I’d look for a temporary fix in Los Angeles. This quest led to the discovery of Bottega Louie, one of my favorite restaurants in LA now. Nestled on the chaotic corner of Grand Avenue and 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles, Bottega Louie really knows how to enchant, intrigue, and satisfy the palate. Serving mostly Italian fare, it’s one of the best brunch places in L.A. (try the lemon ricotta pancakes) and certainly the best macaron bakery in the area. My absolute favorite is the salted caramel. Nothing beats people-watching on a breezy weekend afternoon with a platter of macarons and champagne!
6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
The Farmers Market, next to the Grove shopping center, is a historic L.A. landmark dating to 1934. What was once 12 farmers’ fresh produce trucks is now a maze of specialty shops, fruit stands, bakeries, butcheries, permanent eateries, and bars. The atmosphere is always lively, making this the perfect meeting point to grab a quick bite, to kill time before a movie, or to take a break from a brand-name retail spree at the Grove. Make sure to check the Grove’s calendar of events for live music, celebrity book signings, and the lighting of the famous 100-foot Christmas tree.
8350 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA
The bustling Joan’s on Third gourmet marketplace is a staple of the Los Angeles lunch scene. It is a revolving door of characters for which L.A. is known: celebrities, aspiring actresses, power moms, and entertainment industry executives. However, it also appeals to those simply with good taste, such as the 70-year-old man who has been lunching with his wife every day since Joan’s opened 14 years ago. While it can feel a bit chaotic with the buzz of the crowd and unintuitive layout, it is a place to experience Los Angeles at its finest and will be hard not to find yourself becoming a regular. Front and center upon entering is their artisan cheese bar, which makes for a perfect pit stop on the way to a dinner party. To the left is their New York deli-style salad and sandwich bar, which includes popular items like the Chinese chicken salad, apricot glazed ham & Brie sandwich, and short rib sandwich with melted Jack cheese, onion, and arugula. To the right are the sweets and snacks with a gelato bar and displays of their delicious pastries including the Nutella-filled ‘pop tart.’ You can order to-go or take your number, find a table and let the people-and-dog watching extravaganza unfold before your eyes. Hit the original on 3rd Street in West Hollywood or the newer outpost in Studio City.
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.
4129001902, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293, USA
Biking the boardwalk is the best way to experience the beaches and coastline of L.A. Rent a bike in the middle at Dockweiler Beach and either go the 10 miles north through Marina Del Rey, Venice, and the Santa Monica Pier (or keep going to Malibu) or go three to six miles south to the more relaxed local life of Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo Beaches. Whichever way you choose, make sure you have the stamina to bike back.
Venice Canals, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Before L.A. became a concrete network of high-speed freeways, gondoliers used to glide through a series of manmade canals that were built in 1905 to recreate Venice, Italy in Southern California. The remaining two miles of waterways are a peaceful escape from the beach, boardwalk, and bar chaos. Duck into this haven between Venice and Washington Boulevards for a charming stroll accented with quaint arched pedestrian bridges, colorful canoes, playful ducks, and lush foliage. The architectural mix of houses lining the canals is like art on a gallery wall and will leave you daydreaming.
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.
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.
408 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA
There is a first for everything and prior to dining at Bäco Mercat, I had never had spaghetti squash. Having tried it elsewhere since, I never want to have it anywhere else again. While spaghetti squash may not currently be on their rotating menu, there is no place you’d rather eat any of the seasonal ingredients that chef Josef Centeno decides to magically transform. The fresh veggie plates are great for sharing—and while their signature flatbread-meets-taco sandwich “bäcos” aren’t as easy to split, ordering a variety and trading bites is a great way to sample their diverse flavors. They put just as much care into their cocktails and their homemade vinegar-based sodas. Their savory tomato-basil soda was another tastebud “first” during my visit, and will certainly not be my last—especially because you can buy select flavors bottled to go.
3455 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034, USA
You’ll want to block off at least three hours of your day for a meal at n/naka, Los Angeles’s temple to the elaborate, multi-course traditional Japanese feast known as kaiseki. Chef-owner Niki Nakayama—one of the world’s few female kaiseki masters and a James Beard semifinalist—has created an intimate, authentically Japanese space for up to 26 guests to savor one of two 13-course tasting menus. In a serene setting of minimalist, hand-built furniture, the Japanese American chef serves up a parade of vibrantly colored, elaborately plated dishes, each made with hyper-local ingredients. A typical menu begins with a modern take on sashimi and then proceeds through a series of innovative vegetarian, fish, meat, and dessert courses. One stop-you-in-your-tracks favorite: the Shiizakana (which translates to “not bound by tradition, chef’s choice”), in which spaghettini is twirled with abalone, pickled cod roe, and Burgundy truffles. At the end of the meal, chef Nakayama and sous chef Carole Iida-Nakayama emerge from the kitchen to greet each diner. Pro tip: Plan ahead. A two- to three-month waiting list means you need to be flexible with early or late dinner times.
317 Broadway
Downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market has been operating in one capacity or another since 1917. Its past lives have seen it housing fish dealers, butchers, Jewish delis, flower shops, and an egg vendor. Nowadays, the market is a lunch and dinner hot spot nestled among skyscrapers full of white-collar workers. Inside, neon signs showcase the names of more than three dozen vendors. Highlights include the restaurant Eggslut, known for its creative approaches to the classic breakfast sandwich and other lunchtime edibles; Sticky Rice, serving Thai comfort food; and China Cafe, which locals just refer to as “the wonton soup place.”
3927 Van Buren Pl, Culver City, CA 90232, USA
The fourth hotel from continually growing LA-based chain Palisociety, this 49-room boutique property celebrates its 1920s-era roots with a design that maintains original Art Deco details. Its location in Culver City also brings attention to a sleepy, untouristed enclave stepped in cinematic history. Rooms mix wood paneling with jewel tones, plaid, and comfy floral chairs, and some have French doors that open onto the hotel’s inner courtyard. Classic and contemporary art is carefully selected and intentionally placed, while retro details like rotary dial phones on the desks complete the Golden Age ambience. Amenities include oversized robes, a mini bar stocked with local snacks, and in-room tablets featuring curated neighborhood guides, room service, and more.
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