How To Spend 48 Splurgy Hours In LA
It's the last weekend of your holiday. Treat yourself.
Approach with caution.
That may just be the best advice for a first time visitor to the City of Angels. If you don’t do it right, your trip could be a whirlwind of cheesy theme parks, crappy souvenirs and, potentially, a costumed weirdo outside Mann’s Chinese Theatre roping you in to attending a taping of The Price Is Right. Done right Los Angeles is an astonishingly great place to have fun. You just need to know where to go.
It goes without saying that LA is well spread out. The positive aspect of this is that the city is split into distinctive, highly divergent neighborhoods. The negative? It takes ages to get anywhere during the day.
And the variance in geography and vibe from one side of the city to the other can be massive. You’re never going to comfortably take in all of these neighborhoods in just a couple of days, but if you want to cover a solid amount of ground, rent a car. At the very least set yourself up with an Uber account.
Speaking of geography – first things first, avoid anywhere east of Downtown. If you want to be near the water, try Santa Monica. To emulate the feeling of a US college town, try Westwood – located close to UCLA’s campus. Indie-rock enthusiasts will want to be in or around Echo Park or Silver Lake. And for some old-fashioned (but pricey) hedonism you may want to take on West Hollywood.
Once a genuinely frightening cesspool after hours, Downtown is now a place you’re going to want to spend a decent portion of your LA weekend. And right now it is after dark that this cluster of cool bars, hotels and clubs comes into its own.
If you like sport, there is no more definitive LA experience than taking in an NBA basketball game at the Staples Center. Sure, the Lakers suck these days, but they still sell out every game. Their roommates the Clippers, once the paupers of this town are now also a hot ticket, too. Shell out for good seats or have a few drinks up in the nosebleeds. In summer (from April through September) a visit to watch the baseball at Dodger Stadium is just as much fun.
There are two salubrious spots to stay downtown: The Ace or The Standard. Both offer awesome rooftop pools/bars with sublime city views and elaborate cocktail lists. Our choice though is The Ace. Opened less than 12 months ago, its rooms range from elegantly minimalist to flat-out awesome. If you can, splurge on a suite for its ornate kitchenette, ridiculously party-friendly outside private terrace and in-room turntables and guitars.
Warning: if you’re with a crew, you may not leave the premises for the evening.
But if you’re in the mood, dress up and hit The Edison, based in a century-old building that once housed LA’s first private power station and is now home to one of its most interesting bars. Similarly the impeccably designed but-completely-not-garish bar The Association is another decedent room to wile away a night drinking in Downtown LA.
At the other end of the spectrum, the awesomely seedy Bar 107 is maybe the best dive bar in Los Angeles. The red leather booths let you know trouble is possibly ahead during a night here.
To wash off the hangover in the morning, you can head to Downtown LA’s outpost for justifiably hyped San Fran coffee roaster Blue Bottle or the similarly great Portland-bred Stumptown. In fact Downtown is awash with great coffee roasters – another is the micro-roasting outlet House of Colab. You’ll need the energy for the night ahead.
While Downtown, also visit The Last Bookstore, which is one of the most relaxing music and book retail spaces in the country. Part colossal bookstore part expansive record store, it occupies a cavernous former bank and is an absolute must visit.
But if that sounds boring, around the corner is Buzz Wine Beer Shop which sells more than 800 different types of beer and has a “tasting bar” that is really just a place to sit in a civilised manner and drink the booze you’ve just bought from next door.
Midnight breakfast in Korea Town
Close enough to Downtown (maybe about 20 minutes in an Uber at the right time of the day) is the newly revitalised Korea Town. By far the best place to stay here is The Line Hotel.
Also relatively new, The Line is already a solid fixture. Its impressive, minimalist rooms – think floor-to-ceiling windows, grey polished concrete floors – possess some great views of both the city and the Hollywood Hills. According to the hotel, the area is home to the highest concentration of bars and restaurants in the entire city. We believe it. The hotel’s signature restaurant Pot is a cracker – and home to some superb Modern Korean BBQ. The bar is a Korean kitsch classic.
The Line is also a good base to get to Silver Lake and Echo Park. Once there, we recommend an evening at Mohawk Bend, a uniquely LA mixture of raucous and refined that specialises in local booze and food. The playlist usually bounces between local acts such as Silversun Pickups and Local Natives. A cluster of brilliant rock clubs are within ample stumbling distance if you are eager to take your night next level. Which you surely are.
For a late night breakfast in LA (which is a thing, as most bars close at 2am) hit up Brite Spot Diner in Echo Park, probably the greatest old-school diner in the LA metro area. You’re gonna want either the eggs or the lamb burger, which is a classic. And coffee. Lots of coffee.
A taste of Old Hollywood
If indie rock (or hipster nonchalance) is not your thing, West Hollywood is maybe your next best bet.
The best hotel in Los Angeles for a taste of Old School Hollywood is The Sunset Tower. It’s worth the splurge for the magnificent service, the awe-inspiring views and the A-list frequented bar and restaurant. Yes, this is the bar that hosts the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party. But don’t hold that against it.
And while, OK, you’re likely to see Jennifer Aniston or George Clooney breaking bread with their friends and associates downstairs, that’s not even the main reason to visit. Come for the refined opulence, delicious foods and attentive, personalised service. As for the bar out the back above the pool? There’s almost no better view of the city on a clear night than the extraordinary vista offered up here. The $15 beers are worth every sip.
Just up the road, you can head to the refined (but not too refined) bar The Eveleigh for a nightcap or four of posh, delicious small batch booze. Almost as impressive digs can be found at The Sunset Marquis Hotel, located a little further west on a quiet side street off Sunset Boulevard. A virtual play den for celebrities and Hollywood elite, its most decadent accommodation is the two floor 3200 sq feet townhouse villas boasting three (!) fireplaces and a dining room for 10. Because, well, why not? The more moderate suites are not to be sneezed at. Most enjoy relaxing pool or city views. All have ridiculously comfortable three-seater couches.
While not as lavish, there is still plenty to like about The Hotel Roosevelt. The pool is a stunner and home to some of the best people watching in Hollywood. While the location on grubby Hollywood Boulevard is not great, there is usually enough hedonism unfolding within the property itself that you should be well occupied. The rooms themselves manage to be both sleek and comfortable.
With all of this decadence, you may want to round out your LA experience with something simple: a visit to one of the city’s classic pubs.
If that’s the case, The Village Idiot is your spot. Located on Melrose Avenue south of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, it is simply a great, unpretentious but still relatively eminent spot to enjoy a jar. And if you’re looking for some sustenance, the Sunday night roast is pretty special.