My name is Erin and I’ve lived in Los Angeles for my entire life. Growing up in Los Angeles is a profoundly different experience than moving there as an adult. For instance, I can remember a time before Instagram dictated the city’s law and before the Kardashians declared themselves rulers of Calabasas. I grew up thinking so many parts of my childhood were normal; like the of palm tree-lined boulevard my parents took on the drive home from school and the rollerblading races up Venice Boardwalk. I remember telling my college roommate to open a tough jar with a yoga mat-like my parents taught me. These are the places I love and am grateful for.
Located on Second Street and Broadway just one block away from the famous Third Street Promenade, Copa D’Oro is the reason I drunkenly stumbled into Brookstone and fell asleep in a massage chair (do as I say, not as I do). The cocktails are absolutely delicious. My favorite is the Passion Pit, which if you like fruity cocktails, tastes like what I wish all drinks tasted like. They also make a mean Moscow Mule. They have great $5 happy hour drink deals from 5 to 8, except for Mondays which is happy hour all night.
Nestled in between Westward Beach and Paradise Cove, Point Dume is the BEST view in all of Los Angeles. While the cliff may seem intimidating from the base, it’s a quick 10 minute hike to the top. From there, you get a bird’s eye view of the Santa Monica Bay all the way to San Pedro. It’s one of those great lookouts that isn’t too popular-so you’re guaranteed to get a prime spot. If you’re the adventurous type, try scaling the rocky base of the cliff to access a secret beach named Pirate’s Cove-named as such because it used to be a hotspot for smuggling alcohol in during the Prohibition Era.
Sidenote: If this beach looks familiar to you it might be because it was the filming location to Hinder’s glorious Lips of an Angel music video. Also One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful. But most importantly Hinder.
Tip: Make sure to stop at Lily’s Café and Pastries on the way there for the BEST breakfast burritos ever. I’ve driven all the way up to Malibu during rush hour just for their burritos before (don’t judge me).
Melrose Trading Post
If there’s one place I recommend you shop in LA, it’s the Melrose Trading Post on Sundays. Coming up to their 20th anniversary in 2017, this flea market has a mix of cool independent designers, modernized vintage clothes, and unique repurposed furniture. You can get vintage Levis and 90s Monica Geller black slip dresses as well as cool antique brass mirrors. Located on Melrose and Fairfax, this flea market is how I successfully broke up the Ikea cluster in my apartment.
Tip: As with any flea market, bring cash.
A local favorite before it became popularized by the Jenners, Urth Caffe has an amazing tea selection and menu ranging from breakfast pizza to their healthily portioned signature Urth Salad. There’s also a decent chance you’ll see someone famous there at any time. If not someone famous, maybe someone who played a victim on CSI a few years ago. Urth Caffe is also one of the only restaurants open until midnight (unless you want to go to IHOP, in which case Godspeed).
If you go: get a tea boba. You won’t regret it. Even if you don’t have time to stop and eat: get any tea boba (aka bubble tea) to go. If you don’t like boba, get it without. You won’t regret it.
El Matador State Beach
A bit further up the Pacific Coast Highway is El Matador State Beach. If you’re staying closer to Santa Monica or Venice you may wonder why you should bother driving all the way to Malibu if there’s a beach right next to you. First off, the drive on the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most iconic and beautiful in the world. Secondly, beaches in Malibu are always worth the drive. The water here is a clear sparkling turquoise and most importantly the beaches are immaculate. El Matador State Beach has a collection of three small arches reminiscent of beaches in Cabo as a coy reminder that California used to be part of Mexico.
On your way back, be sure to stop at Malibu Seafood for some amazing (and affordable) fish and chips as well as fresh seafood. The outdoor seating overlooks the ocean so you can watch the waves break against the shore while you wait for your food.
Packed into an intersection of strip malls that have spilled over onto the streets are some of the best Japanese restaurants you could ask for. I couldn’t pick just one to recommend. Tsujita Noodle served ramen so popular they had to open a second one across the street called Tsujita Annex (which is better if you like fattier broths). SushiStop sells amazing rolls for $2.95 each so you can be a glutton without breaking the bank. This is just my short list of recommendations: if you walk into any restaurant in this intersection you’re bound to eat life-changing Asian food.
Bodega Wine Bar
Bodega is a laid-back and unintimidating wine bar in Santa Monica that isn’t too pretentious to a wine amateur like myself. I don’t need to know much about wine to know that $5 sangria and $4 beer during happy hour is basically fiscally irresponsible to pass up. It’s a loud and friendly atmosphere that’s conveniently located right next to Swingers’, a great Santa Monica 24hr diner that serves a mean quesadilla in a 1 am wine-fueled pinch.
Griffith Park Observatory
Unless you’re into celebrity stalking, don’t bother with Runyon Canyon. If you’re looking for a great view, hike around the Griffith Park Observatory. It’ll be a lot less crowded and the views are much better when they’re unobstructed by paparazzi trying to get a close up of Vanessa Hudgens. Plus, If you end up at the Observatory during an unusually clear day at sunset, you’ll see the view that makes L.A.’s City of Angels nickname incredibly fitting and poetic.