Destination: California: Los Angeles
It’s never been an easy task to keep abreast of Los Angeles’ news. Not because the laid-back, West Coast city is constantly pushing to reinvent itself like, say, New York, but because of LA’s sheer mass, which gobbles up totally different neighborhoods and districts into one overwhelming cityscape.
Still, a trend emerged during my most recent trip in November 2012: a push to the beach. Sure, there are newish hot spots in downtown LA, like popular bar The Varnish, restaurant Bäco Mercat and food emporium Umamicatessen (852 S. Broadway; 213-413-8626) (of the masterminds behind cult favorite Umami Burger). West Hollywood, too, is as fun to explore as ever, with shopping along West 3rd Street and the Farmer’s Market (Plummer Park, N Vista and Fountain Ave.; 323-848-6502) by the Grove, as well as restaurants like Ink, Ink Sack and Gusto that are keeping local foodies happy.
But much of the action centers around shoreside Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu and spills into the Pacific Palisades. Venice, in particular, is in a development frenzy, prompting a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter to ponder: Is LA’s coolest neighborhood overheating? (read the article here). Some longtime favorites, including Jin Patisserie, have been priced out of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which now boasts better shopping than Melrose or Rodeo, according to some locals, especially if you’re looking for the type of one-off designs and styles that figure in such trendy neighborhoods as New York’s Nolita and Paris’ Marais. For example, in Venice, West 3rd Street indie fashion fave Satine (8134 West 3rd St.; 323-655-2142) opened an outpost in summer 2012.
Acclaimed Gjelina put Venice on the map as a culinary destination; now the area boasts The Tasting Kitchen, known for its amazing brunch and soon-to-open Barnyard, helmed by Napa chef Jeremy Fox. Nearby Rose Avenue has established itself as an Abbot Kinney alternative with a foodie trio that’s been garnering buzz: Veracruz-inspired Oscar’s Cerveteca, the second outpost of acclaimed vegan temple Café Gratitude, and La Superba, (533 Rose Ave., Venice; 310-399-6400) helmed by chef Jason Neroni, of Osteria La Buca fame. The latter has already received a lot of positive press (though some Gjelina loyalists are saying it’s trying too hard). And, of course, no trip to Venice Beach would be complete without a mint- or blood-orange-infused concoction at Lemonade.
Between walking along expansive Venice Beach, shopping Abbot Kinney and a having a great meal, this part of LA makes for a fun afternoon. If you stay longer, head to The Bungalow at the Fairmont Miramar, which has become quite a scene-stealing hot spot, or have a drink at new darling Shore Bar. Further up the shore, Nobu Malibu has reopened in a gorgeous location right on the sand, a great place for sunset cocktails and an ultra-fresh sushi dinner. Francophiles should not miss Maison Giraud, in the Pacific Palisades, run by chef Alain Giraud in a homey setting with his wife, Catherine who heads the stylish adjacent boutique called Lavender Blue (no one loves to combine eating and shopping the way LA does).
All these openings are surely banking on the successful completion of phase two of the Expo Line, a light-rail train that will link Downtown LA with Santa Monica, culminating at the Santa Monica Pier when completed in 2015.
The one thing the area lacks is a wealth of great hotels; Shutters on the Beach is as fabulous as ever, but for LA’s most exclusive accommodations, you have to head back into the posh neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Bel Air. The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Bel-Air now both belong to the UK-based Dorchester Group (part of the portfolio are also the Meurice and Plaza Athénée in Paris). Both hotels have undergone renovation projects: the Bel-Air was shuttered for two years; the Beverly Hills Hotel underwent a more subtle overhaul which left favorite details like the Coffee Shop and the palm-covered wallpaper largely untouched. The Peninsula Beverly Hills also finished an update on all of its rooms in summer 2012, and the combination of its central location, glorious rooftop pool and spot-on service make it a top contender for the city’s best hotel.
Especially the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Peninsula make great bases for fanning out and exploring LA’s heart: Beverly Hills and Brentwood; West Hollywood with its cool, young vibe and walkable streets; and the Hollywood Hills with their famously named, scenic drives, like Laurel Canyon and Mulholland.
Because part of the eternal pleasure of an LA visit is the sense of possibility. I have friends who would not let a single one of their visitors depart without a hike at Topango or a day trip to Joshua Tree; others whose must lists include drinks at Chateau Marmont and dinner at Sushi Park (a hole in the wall that draws celebs like Charlize Theron and Diane Kruger); and still others who love to show their guests the back-roads of Venice with their tiny alleys that hold the most stunning contemporary-cool houses.
In short, there’s no standard, three-day itinerary in Los Angeles—the City of Angels offers something for everyone, from shopaholics and style hounds to families and outdoor enthusiasts. Contact our Bookings Team for advice on what hotel best fits your needs.
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