I find it’s always best to start with logistics – much like that Eddie Stobart fella or that peg leg who was always drawing maps for pirates. Once you get to LAX how are you going to travel around one of the biggest cities in the world?
Due to inescapable fact that I’m a massive chicken-shit, I decided not to hire a car while in LA. The fear of wrapping a Dodge Challenger around a lamppost and having to get my legs cut off didn’t seem too appealing, and my inherent ignorance of travel insurance would have made the situation much worse.
That’s not to say it’s a bad option – hiring a car in the US is surprisingly cheap, and LA is a city that has been built around the automobile. If you’re not too scared – it’s certainly the most viable option.
Another car-related option is to use Uber (or Lyft), which is cheap and reliable, and there seems to be an Uber driver on every single bloody corner of the city so you’re never waiting too long. The Uber drivers over there are much more impressive than over here – offering boiled sweets, AUX cables and little TV screens in the continual pursuit of that elusive 5 stars (and a tip).
Public transport in the city is best described as ‘adequate’, with a half-decent Metro system and a bus network that is very clean, safe and best of all – cheap. A one-way journey on each will cost you only $1.75, but as you’d expect with a city that’s about the size of Wales – it will take you ages.
Finally, for shorter trips you’ll notice that the city is awash with a myriad of Mobike-like bicycles and scooters, many just dumped on the side of the pavement, sorry – sidewalk, much like they were when they were in Manchester. Especially the scooters – they’re on every single bloody corner but are actually a quick and cheap way to get somewhere when you can’t be arsed walking.
In my three weeks (and my previous 4 visits) I’ve only ever managed to scratch the surface of LA – there’s just so much going on it can be a bit overwhelming. So I’ve split this up into areas – many of them very different from each other, but still possessing that underlying LA charm.
Home to Muscle Beach, the canals and a bunch of fucking weirdos, Venice Beach can take a bit of time to get used to, especially on the beach front, but there’s plenty to keep you entertained if you fancy a laugh and you don’t take any of those CD’s off them shit rappers.
The main beach strip is awash with all manner of food vendors, cafes and shops selling t-shirts with ganja leaves on them. Although you can easily grab yourself a perfectly decent slice of pizza or a corn dog at one of these places, you’ll have to get off the beach to find some of the better food and drink establishments.
One such place is the rather famous and impressive Eggslut, where you can have anything as long as it includes some runny yolk goodness. This place took the West Coast by storm a few years back and it’s still going strong, mainly due to the fact that the sandwiches are out of this world good. Expect to queue.
A short trek up W Washington Blvd you’ll come to the Firestone Walker Brewery. To say that American’s love craft ales is a bit of an understatement, they fucking love them. Pretty much every single offy will have more than 20 different types of craft booze, and Firestone Walker are pretty popular around these parts. This brewery offers the full package with a Brewery tour, obligatory gift shop and massive bar/restaurant on the side to get pissed.
Just further up the road from here was an absolute beaut of a hidden gem that I found – Morfia’s BBQ. Walking past you can’t fail to notice their humongous smoker outside, which is probably actually half the size of the restaurant itself. They serve up some of the best Texas BBQ I’ve ever had and the prices are very hard to beat.
I should also take this opportunity to recommend a visit to Abbot Kinney Blvd, a relatively new and ‘trendy’ area in these parts that’s full of Scandi shops, bars, restaurants and the odd shop that sells all those weird smelly bathroom things that people in Didsbury have. Soap, that’s it.
Feeling like a million miles away from a bustling metropolis, Hermosa is a lovely little beach community located just south down the coast from LAX. It’s got that perfect little ‘surfer town‘ appeal, where everyone has sand in their hair and know each other’s names.
The main stretch of Hermosa is Pier Avenue, a small pedestrianised street that’s packed with bars and restaurants – many of which serve up some huge dishes and cheap drinks to keep you smiling.
The Happy Hours here are some of the best you’ll find in the city, with American Junkie probably having the best – with $3 beers and wine every weekday. You can’t really go wrong with any of these places if you’re looking for a bit of a piss up, or just to get some fill and relax.
Food wise, one of Hermosa’s stand out venues is The Standing Room, a place that serves some very impressive burgers, sandwiches and larger dishes. The menu is really seasonal so it’s always changing and so if you get the chance, splurge your dollars on the Napoleon burger.
This pile of meat, crabs and cheese makes an Almost Famous burger look like a soggy Wimpey – it’s a HUGE creation that boasts a list of additions as long as Mr Tickle’s arms. You’ll find arugula, caramelized onion, bacon, fried egg, cheddar, smoked gouda, American cheese, braised short rib, truffle parmesan fries, Korean aioli and tomato jam on this bad boy (and it’s brilliant).
Hermosa is also the perfect base of operations for exploring the other beaches in LA, with a smooth bike lane running the full length of the coast all the way up to Santa Monica. It makes for a decent full day activity and will help you burn off the Napoleon burger that you ate last night. It shouldn’t cost you more than $15 to hire a bike for the day, if it does – tell ’em to do one.
On the journey up the Santa Monica there’s a few nice places to stop off. Manhattan Beach is similar to Hermosa complete with a cute pier, some great pubs and a thriving food scene. El Segundo is home to the Brewport Tap House which features more than 60 taps that they let you pour yourself.
And finally, one of my most favourite places in LA is the Dockweiler Picnic Area, a stretch of beach that is dotted with concrete fire pits. The pits can get pretty busy, especially if the weather is good, but if you manage to get one – then you’re in for a night of sunsets, booze, charred meats and the endless sight of planes coming in and out of LAX.
DTLA was once a major blemish on the tourism face of Los Angeles, featuring all manner of drunks, skanks and tramps that would much rather stab you in the nose for your traveller’s cheques than give you directions to the nearest Metro stop. That’s all changed though, and even though there are still a few dodgy areas – it’s much more accessible and interesting than it once was.
This is in part due to some serious investment into the burgeoning food and drink scene, as well as plenty of money that’s been injected into arts and culture in the area. Places like The Broad (FREE – just book online first) and the futuristic Walt Disney Concert Hall have given the centre a much-needed cultural boost but there’s also a fair few hidden gems knocking about if you know where to look.
Classic must-visit spots include The Last Bookstore, Pershing Square, the aforementioned Broad and the brand-new Arts District. I also highly suggest a visit to St Vincent’s Court, a small street in the Jewellery quarter that’s a tad rough but well worth a visit for some amazing Greek and Mediterranean delights. In other words – kebabs.
There’s many famous and well-known eating and drinking spots that you just HAVE to visit, including the Nickel Diner (who do amazing candied bacon doughnuts!), the Grand Central Market and probably the best French Dip sandwiches in the world at Cole’s.
If you’re a fan of sushi I should also recommend SUGARFISH on W 7th Street – it’s a very reasonably priced but absolutely mega restaurant – although you should be prepared to queue up.
You’ll also find a wealth of brilliant dive bars dotted all around the place, of which favourites include the Golden Gopher, Ham & Eggs and Hank’s Bar. For something a little bit more upmarket and classy – you can’t go wrong with sitting on the roof terrace of the Freehand Hotel opposite the Golden Gopher. The bar is the perfect place to sip a cocktail while the sun sets on the city.
There is of course around a million more things going on in the centre of LA, and there’s no way that I’d have time to list them here (never mind actually visiting them). My suggestion would be to just have a potter around; unlike the rest of the city – you can get about easily without the aid of a car or a scooter.
Right at the top of pretty much everyone’s list when it comes to LA, Hollywood is in fact a bit of a shit hole – or at least it was for a long time, with the likelihood of you getting mugged much higher than the likelihood of you getting discovered as ‘the next big thing’.
Much like Downtown though, there’s been a lot of investment in the area, and it’s definitely much better than it used to be. This, again is in part due to an impressive bar and restaurant scene.
Of course no trip to Hollywood would be complete without getting a few pictures near the famous sign, as well as a trip up to Griffith Observatory for the best views of the city. Trying to get close to the sign is a legitimate nightmare, with loads of winding paths and bad directions on the Hollywood Hills that don’t really create too much of a reward. Griffith Observatory is good though and well worth the strenuous walk.
Other attractions worth a visit include the Chinese Theatre, the Museum of Death and of course the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is pretty much just a load of brass stars dotted all around the pavements in the area.
A favourite boozer of mine in these parts is the Blue Palms Brewhouse. Located just down the road from the Hollywood and Vine Metro stop and home to a vast number of ale pumps and usually a fair share of ‘characters’.
They have a fantastic Happy Hour here on a Tuesday where you can get any pint of beer for only $5 from 5 – 10pm. I know that doesn’t sound very cheap right now but when you’re over there and you’re looking at $7 lagers everywhere – it’s a welcome change.
I’d also recommend a visit to the excellent Frolic Room, a dive bar with as much history as you could ever want, and once home to the yearly after Oscars piss-up. Further down the road you’ll also find the strange Scum & Villainy, a bar that has been decked out to look exactly like the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars, as well as plenty of great venues on Cahuenga Blvd.
Further south and on to Sunset Blvd as you head west further into North Hollywood you’ll be a silly sausage not to check out the legendary Chateau Marmont for a quick drink, as well as the Laugh Factory which is one of the city’s most impressive comedy clubs.
As I’ve said countless times throughout this article, I’ve only really been able to scratch the surface of Los Angeles – a city of its size and scope certainly needs multiple visits and even a couple of months’ to truly get down to it.