If you’re anything like (old) me, you will have only ever gone to Los Angeles begrudgingly after being told by some annoyingly-unhelpful Flight Centre person that there was no alternative flight path options to get to [insert dream holiday destination]. However, each time I’ve been to LA I have managed to progressively improve the experience, and now, I actually really enjoy it.
It started with hiring a red mustang convertible on my second trip – whilst a helicopter really is the ideal LA mode of transport, if your budget doesn’t permit, a snazzy car not only helps to get around, but also lets you cruise Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills like a local (rather than like a tourist dag on a Homes of the Stars tour).
By my third visit, I was ready to venture beyond Downtown and West Hollywood to nearby Californian delights such as Malibu and Santa Monica, throwing in a surf lesson and beach-side run. And I didn’t need any encouragement to explore all the chic LA bars and restaurants – lunch at The Ivy or Fig & Olive on Melrose, cocktails at Chateau Marmont. You get the idea.
But more recently, my fourth LA layover experience peaked with some friends showing me how the locals do it. Real LA is far more grungy than glam and the true gems are well-hidden off the beaten Hollywood path. Let me share 3 awesome LA experiences that Frommer’s won’t tell you about:
(1) Bottega Louie
700 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA.
Brunch is now a thing in LA. Finally! No country will ever do brunch quite like Australia, but Bottega Louie is pretty awesome. You can have your eggs accompanied by a Bellini or morning cocktail and – on your way out – admire the patisserie delights and grab a Violet Cassis or Earl Grey macaron for later. Its marble floors and attentive professional waiters make it a very Hollywood experience – and the awards list is pretty impressive. I can highly recommend the lobster hash or smoked salmon benedict!
(2) Highland Park Bowl
5621 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles CA
It’s all about the prohibition era influence in the US these days. I’ve been to countless speakeasies in NYC and Chicago but always assumed it was not as popular with the beachy Californians. Turns out I was wrong! A total hit with the locals, Highland Park Bowl takes it one step further to prohibition era bowling! You can hire a lane for $50-60 for 6 people, sip on gin and have a slice on the comfy couches. Not what I expected to find in LA but it was oh so cool.
(3) No Vacancy
1727 N Hudson Ave, Los Angeles CA
Hollywood is all about exclusivity and no LA experience is truly complete without being accepted through the door of the latest club – if you can find it. Hidden bars and clubs are on the rise and, if it wasn’t for the long line out the front of this Victorian-style house, you would never pick No Vacancy. If you’re not on the list, be dressed to impress and utilise your ‘exotic’ Australian accent to get through the door. I won’t ruin the surprise secret entrance for you, but once inside you’ll be in awe of the elegant Victorian touches – think dark mahogany floors, red velvet chairs, fireplaces. There’s also a beautiful garden courtyard, complete with its own bar and strung with fairy lights and… a tightrope. Here you’ll be entertained by tightrope walkers, burlesque dancers and live music while you sip on a craft cocktail and mingle with the best dressed in Hollywood. A must see in LA.
Hope this gives you some inspiration for your next LA stopover!