The Beaches

Los Angeles County's coastline stretches for 75 miles from, Malibu all the way down to Long Beach. Each beach along this expanse boasts a very different atmosphere.

Northernmost Malibu is more rugged with its high cliffs and ice-plant covered dunes. Beach houses are flanked by the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) on one side and the pristine Pacific on the other.

Heading south, explore many of the iconic beaches by bike on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (aka the Strand) for an easy flat ride from the Pacific Palisades down to Torrance State Beach. On the trail, make stops in Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo. Note that the trail takes you briefly away from the coastline to skirt the harbor at Marina del Rey.

Venice Beach is a must, holding steadfast to its gritty charm that is so different from its neighboring upscale Santa Monica Promenade. At Venice on a weekend, you’ll be hard-pressed to miss locals like the famous Harry Perry, a turban-wearing, roller-skating electric-guitar player who’s been serenading visitors for tips since the seventies. A 10-minute stroll from the boardwalk will take you to the Venice canals, a neighborhood that feels like a quaint Dutch town. For shopping and dining, head to stylish Abbot Kinney Blvd., plush with boutiques, galleries and noteworthy restaurants.

 

 

Where to Stay

Stay on Venice Beach: For great views of the beach, accessible to everything Venice, try Su Casa at Venice Beach.

Stay near Malibu: For a scenically booming natural home base ten minutes to the beaches of Malibu, stay at Topanga Canyon Inn Bed and Breakfast for sweeping views over the state park, and forty miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails.

Stay in Long Beach: Three blocks from the ocean, Beachrunners Inn is a restored Craftsman welcoming with backyard garden, fountains, and Jacuzzi.

 

 

 

 

 

Central Los Angeles

Central L.A. is where most first-time visitors come—and for good reason. Hollywood's Walk of Fame is a collection of 2,500 stars and counting. But don't bank on seeing stars in the flesh on your journey there (we've seen more celebs on the streets of Manhattan than in Hollywood). Your best bet for rubbing elbows with would-be talent is on Sunset Strip, where up-and-coming artists play in live music venues—think The Viper Room, The Roxy, and the Whisky a Go Go. Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive are fun for a glimpse of how the rich and famous live.

But lesser-known areas are where you'll experience the real L.A. vibe. One is Silver Lake, likened to Brooklyn's Williamsburg for the many tattooed, specs-wearing hipsters living there. There's a good balance between new boutiques and gastropubs, and the dive bars and shops that have always been there. Go for a picnic or walk around the perimeter of the reservoir. For dog lovers, note two excellent puppy parks there as well.

Echo Park is another off-the-beaten-path area. Take the Baxter Street Stairs for stunning views of the city and check out the Victorian architectures on Carroll Avenue, one of the oldest neighborhoods in L.A. Local tip: The best late-night tacos in L.A. come from the truck parked in the Vons parking lot at Alvarado and Montana. Nothing beats those tiny babies and their homemade salsas.

 

 

Where to Stay

Stay in the Fairfax District: Centrally located, Cinema Suites is a five-minute walk to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and 15 minutes on foot to the Grove for shopping and dining. Its free parking is a huge plus in this neighborhood.

Stay in Hancock Park: Buky House is a renovated Spanish-style home with charming décor, minutes from the heart of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. 

 

 

 

 

The Verdugos

Most new visitors to L.A. don't think to explore the eastern regions of the county, but the Valleys and the Verdugos have much to offer. Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is an excellent entry point to Los Angeles as well. It's much smaller and more manageable compared to big brother LAX if you're planning to visit the Valley and the Verdugos, as well as Central L.A.

Pasadena is home to the world renowned Tournament of Roses, the annual New Year's Day parade of floats covered in flowers, dating back to 1890. Old Town Pasadena is an excellent shopping and walking district. Don't be shy to wander down alley ways and side streets: hidden squares, restaurants and bars are located just off of the main drag, Colorado Blvd. Duck into McCormick Alley, Mills Place, or Miller Alley for example.

For a romantic way to spend the day, visit Huntington Library in San Marino, especially on a weekday when crowds are sparse. Get lost meandering 120 acres of pristine themed gardens including a fairytale Japanese garden complete with coy ponds and a magnificent bonsai collection.

In Glendale, you'll want to visit the Americana, a popular locals destination where a dancing fountain is timed to classic tunes. Children and kids at heart alike will enjoy an electric trolley that takes guests on a free spin around the property. The holidays bring a 100-foot Christmas tree to the grounds.

 

 

Where to Stay

Stay in the Arroyo Seco: The Arroyo Vista Inn is a classic Craftsman (typical of South Pasadena) tucked away in a secluded setting. 

Stay on Orange Grove: Located in Pasadena's famous Millionaire's Row, originally known as the Orange Grove Mansion District, The Bissell House is a restored 1887 Victorian home.

 

 

—by Marguerite Richards