The Inside Out Guide To Los Angeles

los angeles city guide
Credit: Miguel Romero

A dizzying, diverse array of amazing dining options;  nearly perpetually sunny, pleasant, dry yet warm temps perfect for outdoor excursions like hiking, biking, and taking a dip in the pool or Pacific; world-class museums, music venues, and shopping—Los Angeles has all that and more, meaning you’ll barely scratch the surface of everything this SoCal city has to offer in a single weekend, let alone a week. All the more reason to plan another trip once you’ve explored just some of the excellent options in the City of Angels. As any Angeleno will tell you, this place is actually a seriously sprawling patchwork of multiple cities (literally: beyond yet nestled right next to the technical confines of Los Angeles proper, many neighborhoods, like Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Culver City are actually their own cities). Locals are just as likely to gripe about the constant traffic here, which makes the geographical spread even harder to tackle thoroughly in just one trip. But thanks to plentiful, often cheap Lyfts and Ubers at the ready (and even cheaper Lines and Pools), as well as the recently opened Expo line of the Metro train system which stretches all the way east to west from Downtown to Santa Monica, not to mention the multitude of app-enabled scooters strewn all over town—you can cover plenty of ground, regardless of which ‘hoods you opt to focus on. Ahead, just a sampling of the standout wonders worth venturing to while in L.A, with a couple San Diego picks in the mix too, should a lengthier SoCal adventure be in the cards.

Where to Get Tattooed in Los Angeles

Shamrock Social Club: This popular WeHo spot’s founder, Mark Mahoney, has inked some very impressive celebrity clientele in over four decades of business, including Adele, Rihanna, Johnny Depp, David Beckham, Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, and Cate Blanchett. Shamrock hasn’t only had prominent customers; the Sunset Strip tattoo institution is also the former training grounds for major ink stars like Dr. Woo. Specialities include single-needle, fine-line black and grey designs (like those blanketing Beckham’s chiselled body), and punk-inspired motifs. 9026 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood

View this post on Instagram

Butterfly tattoo by @annatat_md ⚜️

A post shared by The Warren Tattoo (@thewarrentattoo) on

The Warren Tattoo: This WeHo spot from owner Zoey Tayor is the antithesis of the standard-issue tattoo studio ambience. It’s got a chic, bright, clean feel to the space, with large paintings and gilt-framed mirrors lining the walls. There are private rooms for each appointment. In addition to Taylor’s deft work, artist Clarens Monroy specializes in hyper-detailed, delicate cartography-centric pieces, while Anna Cojocari’s work includes mesmerizing pixilated designs, and very vibrant, saturated full-color creations. 8776 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood

SD Tattoo: If you’re looking to get inked in San Diego, SD Tattoo is the sunny beachfront city’s go-to spot, frequently tapped as the top studio in town. They welcome ink vets and first-timers alike, and take walk-ins, and can ace a diverse range of styles and themes, with impressive ultra-detailed realism ink, be it of Darth Vader, an elephant, or a Nightmare Before Christmas-themed tattoo. 3780 Hancock St, Ste. E, Point Loma, San Diego

Where to Stay in L.A.

The LINE Los Angeles: This exceedingly hip hotel in Koreatown was conceived by the savvy hospitality brains behind the Ace and Nomad hotels (with additional outposts of The Line in Austin and D.C.), and it shows. Many of the minimalist industrial chic rooms feature incredible, sweeping views of the city, and rates start at $184 per night. The location is very central by L.A. standards: ‘hoods like Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Hollywood, and Echo Park relatively close by,  West Hollywood and Mid-City/Hancock Park/Wilshire are close nearby, as well as a Metro stop on the corner to quickly get downtown, and it’s near the 10 for driving to the west side. There’s no shortage of great dining options in the area, particularly for Korean BBQ fans, but the on-site offerings are stellar, too: choose from Openaire restaurant, with creative shareable dishes from Michelin-starred chef Josiah Citrin served in a bright, lush greenhouse space (which formerly housed Commissary), Lobby Bar for cool cocktails by Happy Hour Agency, local coffee favorite Alfred for a caffeine fix and snacks, and ‘80s-inspired Break Room 86 to let loose with some karaoke and dancing. The on-site boutique, Poketo, is worth a peek, too. 3515 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown

The Nomad: This elegant, luxurious addition to Downtown Los Angeles is an offshoot of NYC’s popular Nomad hotel (in the NoMad area, natch), housed in a classy-looking, columned 1920s bank building. Inside, expect lots of velvet, sumptuous furnishings, and classy vibes, courtesy of interior designer Jacques Garcia, who also tricked out the NYC original. Despite its urban surroundings, escape to the rooftop deck, complete with a funky tiki head-esque sculpture,  breezy, curtained cabanas, and stylish teal lounge chairs that nearly match the pool’s serene hue. Despite the glamour factor, rooms start at a surprisingly reasonable $265 per night. The culinary offerings just might outshine the accommodations here, thanks to the hotel’s restaurant, Giannini, and bar, Bar Amadeo, featuring the kitchen wizardry of chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara, the team behind NYC’s Eleven Madison Park and Nomad restaurant. 649 S. Olive St., Downtown

Hotel Covell: Finding a place to stay in the hip east side ‘hood of Los Feliz (that isn’t a slightly sketchy motel in nearby Hollywood) is tricky. Look no further than Hotel Covell, located above Bar Covell: the intimate boutique dwellings are owned by the bar’s founder, Dustin Lancaster, and feature nine tastefully and diversely decked out rooms that start at $315 per night. All of the spacious digs come with record players, clawfoot bathtubs, and a very cool upgrade on the standard minibar: cute Smeg refrigerators filled with snacks and sips from local spots. Lots of chic design touches can be found in each unique room, with soothing white furnishings in many, striking geometric patterned flooring in some, funky rugs, and other stylish decor touches, including vintage trunks and vibrant print throw pillows. There’s also a serene, partially shaded roof deck for unwinding. 4626 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz

Farmer’s Daughter: Despite its central location in one of Los Angeles’s few truly walkable ‘hoods, Farmer’s Daughter is kitted out with cozy, country chic decor, like patterned denim duvets, gingham pillows, lots of succulents, outdoor picnic tables with sweet tea to sip, a daily whiskey tasting hour, and a mellow pool patio perfect for unwinding. Modern touches include Bluetooth speakers and C.O. Bigelow toiletries in each room, with rates starting at $214 per night. Besides its rustic touches and sweet green-thumbed mascot (a woman with pigtails, holding a watering can), the boutique hotel’s name is a nod to the Farmer’s Market, one of the best nearby attractions that’s filled with a slew of food stalls and speciality stores, located right across Fairfax Ave. Other great spots worth checking out on foot: LACMA, one of the city’s finest art institutions, as well as the La Brea Tar Pits, the Peterson Automotive Museum, Melrose Trading Post (a weekly flea market held on Fairfax High School’s grounds each Sunday), the slew of indie boutiques that line 3rd St. west of Fairfax, and The Grove mall. It’s also walking distance to a variety of great dining options, like Animal, Canter’s, Jon & Vinny’s, and Jaffa. 115 S Fairfax Ave., West Hollywood

What to Do in Los Angeles

Runyon Canyon: If you’ll be situated on the east side or more centrally, Runyon Canyon in West Hollywood is your ideal hiking haunt. Easily accessible and not too challenging a trek, the highest point of Runyon affords a break from all that uphill climbing, thanks to a plateau that rewards with incredible city views, from the Hollywood Hills’ posh abodes to downtown Hollywood to the ultimate mid-hike selfie opp: the Hollywood sign. It’s a popular spot for morning or midday workouts (this is Los Angeles, after all, so typical 9-to-5s aren’t all that typical here), dog walks, and friend dates for breaking a light sweat while catching up, so there are bound to be lots of other folks hoofing it with you, making it less of a peaceful, introspective escape, but it’s a popular pick for good reason. Enter on Runyon Canyon Rd. east of N. Vista St.; another entrance is located at 2000 N. Fuller Ave., West Hollywood

Venice Canal Historic District: A quirky, almost Disney-like must on L.A.’s southwestern stretches is the Venice Canals, 12 acres of positively bucolic canals built in 1905, built by Venice’s founder, Abbot Kinney, to resemble (you guessed it) a miniature version of Venice, Italy. They’re lined with lush landscaping, charming homes in an eclectic array of architectural styles, small boats docked outside a number of the abodes, with adorable footbridges to traverse across the sprawling web of canals.  During the holiday season, the ‘hood gets serious about festive decor, with all sorts of light displays on houses and on many of the area’s footbridges, plus seasonal props both classic (think Santa or reindeer-themed fare) and quirky, like a fleet of plastic flamingos hanging in someone’s front yard. While you’re in the area, be sure to grab a bite for lunch from divine all-day bakery and eatery Gjusta (a slice of whatever daily pizzas they’ve got on offer is a must), and stroll along Abbot Kinney Blvd. for a bit of retail therapy at a range of hip boutiques, or at least to window shop and soak up the area’s posher, hipster side. Enter on S. Venice Blvd. and Dell Ave, walk south 2 short blocks to access the Canals, Venice  

Griffith Observatory: For magical views as well as a visit to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, head to one of the city’s iconic structures, a stately white building with a striking black dome atop. Getting there can involve a moderate hike, if you want to get those endorphins pumping in the process: a gently graded 2.5-mile path, accessible from Los Feliz Blvd., winds up at Griffith Observatory. (You can alternately drive a portion of the way up to minimize the on-foot journey.) The scenic schlep to the top culminates in pretty epic views of the Downtown L.A. skyline, as well as sweeping vistas of the rest of the City of Angels. It’s free to access the grounds, including the Observatory itself as well as the use of its telescopes, for optimal stargazing after sunset. The grounds are open until 10 p.m. daily except for Mondays, when the Observatory is closed. Note that the Observatory will be closed from April 22 to May 6 for improvement work. 2800 E Observatory Rd., Los Feliz

Where to Get Inspired in L.A.

The Broad: This contemporary art museum, named for philanthropist Eli Broad, inhabits a strikingly designed, waffle-like structure by architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which cost $140 million to build. Its futuristic space houses works by talents like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, and Cy Twombly, as well as two of Yayoi Kasuma’s trippy Infinity Mirror rooms you’ve seen multiple times in your Instagram feed, plus rotating special exhibits. Since its opening in September 2015, The Broad has been the hottest ticket in the city’s art scene. It’s also a free ticket: you just need to plot your visit accordingly, by booking advance, timed tickets up to a month and a half or so in advance. Admission is also available for day-of walk-ins via standby tickets, though waits can be hours long; luckily, you can keep tabs via the frequently updated @TheBroadStandby Twitter account, for real-time updates on wait times. While admission to Kusama’s Infinity Mirror rooms is free as well, but you’ll have to sign up for a 45-second viewing slot to see each room via an iPad kiosk once you enter the museum, with a text sent 10 minutes before your slot so you can explore the rest of The Broad in the meantime; try to reserve a morning or early afternoon ticket reservation to the museum for the best shot at getting a glimpse at the ultra-popular installations. 221 S. Grand Ave., Downtown

The Getty Villa: The Getty Villa, an elegant 64-acre museum and impeccably manicured grounds to stroll along, is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Opened in 1974, its origins trace back to 1954, when Getty, a 20th-century oil tycoon, opened a gallery next to his Pacific Palisades home. When he ran out of room in the gallery space, Getty upgraded with the Getty Villa, located right by the OG gallery—the Villa’s lavish design was inspired by the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, with details from other ancient structures woven into the design. Inside its opulent walls, The Getty Villa is filled with artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria; the institution’s collection is comprised of a whooping 44,000 items from 6,500 BC to 400 AD, approximately 1,400 of which are on view. Admission to the Getty Villa is free, but you’ll need to snag timed tickets before visiting via phone or the museum’s website. The Getty Center, with much more modern pieces to peruse, is in nearby Brentwood if you’re up for a full day of art immersion on the west side; the two institutions are starkly different in their designs and also the collections they house. While you’re in the area, drop by the quirky, gorgeous Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, also in Pacific Palisades: a peaceful 10-acre property with a pretty, sunlight-filled meditation chapel, a windmill, beautiful gardens with fragrant flowers, sloping hills, set around a large lake peppered with swans, ducks, turtles, koi fish, and other wildlife. 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Pacific Palisades

What to Eat and Drink in Los Angeles

Kismet: For standout, creative, very Cali takes on Mediterranean fare, Kismet is an absolute must-visit. The James Beard Award-nominated spot from co-chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson is delicious any time of day or night, but the daytime menu served until 5 p.m. daily, is a particular standout. The slew of ultra-flavorful, healthy-ish dishes, like Kuku, a Persian-style frittata, lamb and freekeh polenta, sesame walnut granola, and an addictive flaky bread (get it with a soft-boiled egg, labneh, a thin tomato sauce, and spices), are a major upgrade to that humdrum Benedict or pancakes stack. At dinnertime, don’t miss the jeweled crispy rice, a sizzling cake of saffron-yellow grain fried to a crunch. There’s also a falafel-focused spinoff, Kismet Falafel, inside Downtown’s historic, bustling Grand Central Market, as well another offshoot in the works, Kismet Rotisserie. 4648 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz

Trois Familia: From beloved Los Angeles restaurateurs Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo, Trois Familia, nestled inconspicuously in a Silver Lake strip mall, melds French and Mexican fare, to delicious effect. (The former is a celebrated local French chef, while the latter duo are the namesakes of Jon & Vinny’s as well the forces behind Animal, Son of a Gun, and Kismet; the trio’s other tasty collaborations are Trois Mec and Petit Trois.) While the menu at Trois Familia is uniformly delectable, brunch is a wise move here, with interesting creations like a beet tartare tostada with cornichon, lime, and avocado crema; a bacon & onion quiche; and a particularly decadent, high-low concoction, a French-inflected breakfast burrito, caramelized onions, American cheese, jambon de Paris, and truffle salt. 3510 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake

Sqirl: Don’t be deterred by the prospect of long lines at Jessica Koslow’s cult adored daytime-only spot, incongruously located on a nondescript stretch on the southern fringes of Silver Lake—the queue moves quickly, and if you can pop by around 9 a.m. on a weekday, there’s usually little to no wait time. (Weekends at prime late-morning brunch hours can be a completely different story, however.) Don’t miss the Sorrel Pesto Rice, a tangy, colorful bowl composed of Kokuho Rose brown rice, sorrel pesto, preserved Meyer lemon, a splash of lacto-fermented hot sauce, watermelon radish slices, French sheep feta, and a poached egg. And, yes, that much-Instagrammed ricotta toast, on a thick (yet surprisingly airy) hunk of buttery brioche, slathered with Sqirl’s housemade jam from a constantly rotating selection of novel concoctions, like peach sumac, rhubarb kumquat, and seascape strawberry with rose geranium. Better yet: opt for a colorful trifecta of all three of the day’s jams to sample them all. 720 N Virgil Ave. #4, Silver Lake

Marugame Udon & Tempura: Opened in 2017, this affordable cafeteria-style noodle joint (you’ll get a filling feast for around $10 here, easily)  is located in the heart of L.A.’s west side stretch of Japanese restaurants and supermarkets on Sawtelle. First up, select your noodle portion size and broth choice before sliding your tray around the lengthy counter to top your own bowl with freshly fried tempura morsels priced by the piece, like shrimp, chicken, zucchini, sweet potato, and more. There’s also a selection of onigiri and other apps or supplements to nosh on alongside your big bowl of noodles. After paying, head over to a salad bar-esque self-serve area that’s stocked with all sorts of fun options to DIY accessorize your udon: tempura flakes for extra crunch, plus thinly sliced scallions, cilantro, ginger paste, a squirt of assorted sauces, and a dash of togarashi (a crimson-hued spice blend with moderate heat). 2029 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle

Lucha Libre: If you’re making a SoCal road trip out of that L.A. visit by venturing further south to San Diego, devouring a California burrito (one, at minimum) is an absolute must. Stuffed with carne asada, a copious amount of cheese, guac, salsa…and the defining ingredient, french fries in lieu of rice. A variety of beloved local joints have equally fervent fan bases that will insist their go-to is the unequivocal best version of the gloriously decadent creation, but really, you can’t go wrong at most of the area’s top California burrito-dispensing spots. But a particularly fun pick with a unique twist on the local delicacy is Lucha Libre, a delightfully kitschy Mexican wrestling-themed taqueria that’s been featured on Man v. Food. Don’t miss their Surfin’ California burrito, which adds shrimp to the mix for a handheld, surf and turf masterpiece; there’s also chipotle mayo and sliced avocado instead of guac, plus lime-marinated carne asada, fresh, house-made fries, pico de gallo, and cheese. Drive up to picturesque La Jolla and Cardiff-by-the-Sea for a beach stroll (or, more realistically, flop on the sand) to work off that serious burrito-induced coma. There are also locations of Lucha Libre in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, as well as Carlsbad. 1810 W. Washington St., Mission Hills, San Diego

Related: More City Guides from Inside Out

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *