A love letter to Los Angeles.
Tips and recommendations on things to do, food, drink, beaches and more.
I always knew I was going to like LA. But I didn’t realise how much I would feel at home.
The people are friendly, laid-back, polite. The city feels spacious and expansive, its Californian backdrop drop-dead gorgeous, its iconic highways a dream for people like me who love driving. Plus the weather – when you come from Ireland and you’ve been through Berlin winters, there’s a lot to be said for seasonless sunshine.
When you’re in LA it feels like you’re at the centre of the cultural world.
These were some of my favourite things to do in the greater Los Angeles area when I first arrived:
1. Visit Santa Monica pier.
There’s something so iconic, even spiritual, about the end of Route 66, which is Santa Monica pier. It’s the end of an epic journey; you’re surrounded by families and laughter and beautiful long beaches and sunshine and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Alright so the pier's not spiritual for everyone.
Regardless of whether you feel a personal connection to it, it is still a really nice sight to see. Definitely necessary to stroll down with friends or family and soak up the vacation atmosphere.
2. Speaking of, beach days in LA are what makes your lifestyle in this city so next level.
What other major cultural and economic, cosmopolitan centres are lined with gorgeous, archetype beaches?
My favourites are Santa Monica beach, Will Rogers if you want something quieter or one of the beautiful Malibu beaches if you have more time and want to make a full day of it.
3. Roll off Will Rogers and get a modern and hearty Irish-Angeleno American meal at Patrick’s Roadhouse.
Their banana cream pie changed my life.
(FYI this place has no liquor license. Only in Cali would an Irish roadhouse not serve alcohol.)
4. Venice Beach
People watch and be people watched as you stroll down Venice Beach. There’s great clothing stalls to get a cool momento here, as well as kitschy psychics – I hear The Original Venice Beach Psychic is an experience.
5. Basement Tavern and Bungalow, for drinks.
The former is a bit more divey, the latter fancier, but both are laid back.
6. Sip cocktails where old Hollywood did at Chez Jay
7. Watch turtle racing at Finn McCool’s
8. Beachy Cream ice-cream.
While you’re out west, stop by Wilshire and 12th for the best ice-cream of your life.
They make everything from scratch in the back, using mostly local and organic ingredients. They also make all the cookies for their legendary ice-cream sandwiches. It is fully divine. My favourite is a sundae with one scoop pistachio, one scoop vegan toasted coconut, topped with home-made hot fudge. You will die.
9. Wander through the Wysteria Lane-eque Santa Monica streets north of Wilshire and wish this was your life.
10. Enjoy a beautiful lunch at Huckleberry Café. They also have out of this world treats here…
11. Hike Runyon Canyon
12. Hike to the Hollywood sign.
There’s no official guide to how to do this because the area is largely residential and many residents don’t want to encourage more visitors. Just walk up the road in the rough direction and you’ll find other pilgrims and people to show you the way.
13. Get panoramic views of Los Angeles and basque in movie history at Griffith Observatory.
There’s plenty to see in the attraction itself too, definitely a nice family activity.
14. Go to a pool party in the valley
15. Get wild at a frat house in Westwood
16. Treat yourself at iconic Chateau Marmont
17. Unwind like a Richard’s sister at the Beverly Hills Hotel
18. Heading downtown, top of my list is LACMA – Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
I’m not hugely into museums but this is fab. It’s really more of an experience than a museum, from the instantly recognisable lanterns to the genuinely interesting exhibitions and architecture.
19. Grand Central Market
20. Take a free tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall
21. Watch a concert at Hollywood Bowl
22. LA River
23. Go to Dodger’s game at Dodger stadium.
I had never gone to a baseball game until I went to LA. I’m not a sports fan at all but this is very fun in a campy way. Plus you can get tickets to off-season friendlies for dirt-cheap.
24. WeHo bar hop.
End in the Abbey.
25. See a film at Hollywood Cemetery.
This legendary resting place is now home to tons of late Hollywood stars, including. On x nights in the summer you can go and watch old films on a projector. Bring a blanket, snacks and good company.
Super Cheap Car is brilliant for car rental. The value is so much better than the legacy rental companies, the staff are super friendly and flexible, and it’s one of the only places you can get a car if you’re under 25. They rent to drivers as young as 19 and charge don't charge anything extra once you're over 21.
San Francisco, San Diego, Mexico, Palm Springs, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon are just short once-in-a-lifetime road trips away…