10 PLACES (ACTUALLY) WORTH SEEING IN L.A.
There are a lot of tourist attractions across Los Angeles, but if I’m being honest… a lot of them are not worth your time! Over the years, I have spent a lot of time down there and have come to learn my favourite things to do, see, and favourite places to be. So allow me to start off at the most northern point of Los Angeles County… Malibu.
Malibu is my all-time favourite place to be. It’s extremely expensive, so you probably don’t know many people who live down there. However, it’s in such close proximity to some much more affordable areas throughout the valley, which happens to be where we stay in LA. Malibu is just a quick drive over the canyon and we’re regularly spending our beach days there. The above photo is from a quiet little spot that we found, directly off the PCH. It also happens to be where Jim & I got engaged! The beach is very hard to miss, especially with house the resides right next to it. It’s on the way to Zuma beach, a great spot in Malibu if you prefer the vibe of a public state beach with lifeguards and the accessibility of bathrooms. I love this beach because it is usually very quiet, with a ton of sea shells if you’re into hunting for those!
When it comes to planning what we are going to do on our vacation, we always factor in the infamous Los Angeles traffic jams. When we do a beach day, we know to either head out early and leave before 4pm, or we make a full day out of it and explore all of the amazing spots Malibu has to offer. One of my favourite piers in LA is Malibu Pier. This pier has incredible little restaurants like "Malibu Farm”, an adorable little surf shop in collaboration with a beautiful hotel that I’m sure you’ve seen a blogger or two post about: The Surfrider.
The last shop on the pier is my all-time favourite. It features curated picks of brands local to Malibu and tons of trinkets that make adorable gifts for friends and family (or yourself!). If you’re feeling like something a little more casual, head over to Malibu Seafood! It’s right across from the beach, with picnic benches to enjoy a casual meal. My favourite is their fish & chips, but everything from this little shack is so fresh and delicious, you really can’t go wrong.
If you are looking to do some actual shopping, definitely hit up Malibu Country Mart. It is my favourite outdoor mall, with loads of shops and delicious little spots for breakfast and lunch. Because of this, I always like to come to this spot earlier in the day. I love Sunlife Organics for a breakfast smoothie or smoothie bowl (The Wolverine is my favourite) and for lunch, John’s Garden has amazing sandwiches and one of the best avocado toasts I have ever had! Plus there is such good shopping.
If Malibu has tricked you into thinking you are a celebrity that requires fancy, extremely over-priced raw fish directly next to the ocean (I’ve fallen under this spell once or twice) — then you really need to try Nobu. I know it’s ridiculous but it is worth the giant price tag. It’s a place that any sushi lover should get to try least once! I don’t have a specific recommendation for this spot as e v e r y t h i n g is amazing. You can’t go wrong. Jim and I went for the first time to celebrate our engagement and Mel Gibson was there! It’s a great spot for celebrity sightings. And the view…. I mean come on. 🍣🌟
2. The Valley
At the end of the day, The Valley is what truly feels like home to us. Jim always stayed there when he used to visit his best friend before we started dating, and once he brought me down to be introduced, I was welcomed like family. We have continued this tradition and always stay with our second family in Woodland Hills when we are there. It is about a two minute drive away from the very well-known Calabasas (Ever heard of the Kardashians?) and has some of our favourite spots to eat! It’s also on the other side of Topanga and Malibu canyon, two quick routes over to the ocean and features the Santa Monica Mountains that Jim & I shot our engagement photos at.
We usually spend our time in the Valley at the beginning and end of the day. Our favourite place to grab breakfast is at Leo and Lily, it’s moderately priced and delicious! Then, after our breakfast, I grab a vanilla bean macaron to go because they also make those in-house and you can not leave without having at least one! For a quick coffee and donut, Blinkies is an absolute staple. They know us there now and make us feel like real locals. It’s an adorable shop, was voted LA’s best donut spot, and is everything that Canada lacks. We need more classic coffee & donut shops!!!!
If you are in Calabasas, grab a coffee at 10 Speed Coffee, a branch of the restaurant Pedaler’s Fork. Their coffee is delicious and the vibe is very outdoorsy and cute. They have a great patio where you are just surrounded by trees and it’s very relaxing. Especially if you have some work to do for a couple hours! Next to this great coffee shop is one of my favourite home decor shop, opened by a great interior designer, Amber Interiors. It’s worth walking around and getting some inspiration for your own space when you are home. We have wonderful Turkish towels from her that was a gift from my aunt. Obsessed.
For dinner, The Village at Topanga is filled with amazing places to eat. If you just want something cheap and easy like Poke, Veggie Grill, or Pressed Juicery, this is the spot. It’s right next to Westfield Mall too if you still have the shopping itch. There is also a Joey Woodland Hills which is so cool because I have always known Joey’s as a Canadian restaurant and it’s made it’s way down there with us! Joey is always a delicious and safe bet. Calabasas is another area with a great outdoor shopping mall. Known as The Commons, this is the spot a lot of celebrity sightings happen.
For many, it is one of the closest areas to grab a coffee or go to the pharmacy. It has an adorable vintage-themed movie theatre and is filled with beautiful fountains with a very large amount of turtles. Which I just love. We are sushi lovers, so we also head to The Commons regularly for Sugarfish, the most comparable sushi to Nobu, at a fraction of the price. We ate there quite a few times during the duration of our wedding and honeymoon this year. I’m craving it just typing about it now… Also, please note that no matter where in LA I am talking about to eat, Pressed Juicery’s coconut freeze is my favourite dessert. So please, eat that after every meal if possible because there are tons of locations and it’s amazing. Dairy free too! Okay I’ll stop. 🍦
This one might seem obvious, but Venice is one of my favourite areas in LA. However, it took a while for me to feel that way. When I first went, I explored the entire boardwalk, because it’s all I knew! But now… I hate the boardwalk. It is worth visiting once, like for your first time or if you are showing a friend or family member. It also helps to see it once so that you can understand the stereotypes and why locals can’t stand it. Steps away from the boardwalk is everything that makes Venice great.
The neighbourhoods house some of my favourite architecture (and PLANTS), and Abbot Kinney is a long stretch of local shops and restaurants that should be explored from start to finish. My favourite shop is Stone Cold Fox but it isn’t hard to find yourself wanting to explore every second store you pass. While your down there, grab a coffee at The Butcher’s Daughter, even if it’s so that you can simply admire how perfectly it is decorated. Cafe Gratitude is my favourite restaurant in Venice, for any and all meals. It is completely vegan, but it’s amazing. You’d never know, so don’t worry if you’re with a stubborn meat-eating man. He WILL like it.
Next favourite spot in Venice: The Venice Canals. They are so cool and go for blocks. I didn’t even know they existed until our second trip down. I saw someone post them on Instagram and I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on! Plus, they are just a few minute walk from all the hustle and bustle of Venice so it’s an easy commute when you are exploring down there. Usually, Jim and I just find somewhere to park for a few hours at one end of where we want to be, and we walk and walk and walk. When you are somewhere so beautiful, with so much to do and see at every corner, it’s easy to walk as much as we do. We will start over near the boardwalk, head down towards Abbot Kinney and walk the shops, then turn around and walk back through the neighbourhoods and dream about having a perfect California bungalow with a giant birds of paradise inside our secluded little entrance… one day. I envy everyone that gets to live in Venice! Did you know it is the most expensive place to live in Los Angeles? Even over Beverly Hills!
4. Santa Monica
One great thing about the board walk is the amount of beach cruisers that are available to rent! Hop on one and ride along the beach for no more than five minutes, and you’ll end up in Santa Monica. I remember the first time I realized how easily you could walk along the beach in Venice and end up in Santa Monica. I knew they were close, but I never realized that they were that close! Like I said, Jim and I spend a lot of time just walking and wondering around. We like to figure things out on our own, explore everything that interests us, and learn new spots on our own. We could’ve very easily whipped out our Google Maps but instead we decided to just explore the beach and it was the easiest stroll ever between these two beach cities!
Santa Monica is a very touristy area, but I don’t mind one bit. It has a lot to offer locals and visitors. The Pier is filled with rides, games, restaurants, and great photo-ops! It is however, one of the busiest piers you could go to. So be prepared! The crowds get big, especially on weekends. Jim and I have always taken Photo Booth pictures when we are there, its become a small tradition for us. We’ve been to Bubba Gumps. Checked out the rides. Watched fisherman at the end of the pier. You know, just did the whole Santa Monica tourist gig.
But, up from the pier is some of the best outdoor shopping, restaurants, and hotels that LA has to offer. Let me start off with saying that the Santa Monica Promenade is definitely worth spending a day at. And while you’re there, hop over to the Huntley hotel for a rooftop view of the ocean and an extremely delicious brunch! Although too pricey for your average Joe to stay at, the Huntley hotel is beautiful and worth stopping at just to eat in their penthouse restaurant. I would always recommend it to new visitors in Santa Monica. The restaurant is affordable too, so no need to worry about a hole in your wallet.
Another area right around the corner (driving) from the Santa Monica pier, is the Pacific Palisades. Not only is this one of the many areas that stars live, but it also happens to have some of the nicest houses I have ever seen. The architecture is so unique and everything is smothered in greenery, it’s worth driving around just to sight-see. That’s what we did! When we were in LA last (this October, 2018), The shops at Pacific Palisades opened up and I was so happy that we were there right in time to check them out! They house one of my all-time favourite bakeries, Sweet Laurel. They are a gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar-free bakery that is as delicious as any other baked good you could find. We went for Jim’s birthday and literally ate cake for breakfast (like their napkins say).
Although it’s $10 for a slice of cake, it was great! Not one regret. If you have food restrictions, this is a great bakery for you. Or if you just don’t want to feel like crap after indulging. Not to mention the DECOR. Pink and floral everything… Get your cameras ready! 🌸 This outdoor shopping centre also has an Anine Bing, one of my favourite LA local designers, and The Little Market, something incredible that Lauren Conrad has been running for a few years. All the items in TLM are made by artisan women and the entire business model behind it is so positive and helpful for these woman that live in communities where they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to share their work. It’s another incredible place to shop whether you are picking up gifts or grabbing a butt load of things for yourself! We got some leather key rings and delicious smelling candles. I wish we could’ve fit more in our suitcase!
Where do I even begin with Hollywood… First off, I guess I will touch on what most of you picture when you hear that word: The Hollywood walk-of-fame. Yes, I think that you should go see Hollywood boulevard and really experience what it is like if it’s your first time in LA. Do a TMZ star tour, learn the history, stalk some celebrities! It definitely can be fun. But now that we’ve seen it, Jim and I don’t tend to go over there anymore.
There is a thriving nightlife over there and we’ve since been back at night. It was way less touristy and a lot of fun to see. It’s very much like “old” Hollywood over there, which I love. Once you have seen that side of Hollywood, move yourself over to West Hollywood. This is where you will be able to shop up and down Melrose avenue, which probably leads to the majority of shops that any girl will want to see. (Hello Glossier pop-up!!!) There are tons of cool artwork on walls to shoot photos in front of, and not just the “pink” wall at Paul Smith either! I love the Made in LA wall at Cisco Home and this floral one along Melrose Place. I mention this because you probably want to know if you’re following my blog and have seen me post in front of these spots.
I recommend grabbing yourself an iced lavender infused green tea from Alfred when you’re on Melrose because it’s not just cool on Instagram, it really is worth the hype. I also recommend going down to Hollywood on a Sunday so that you can shop at Melrose Trading Post! It’s a giant outdoor flea market in the parking lot of Fairfax High School and it’s definitely a must see for any vintage lover. There are a lot of street wear shops along Fairfax if that is of interest to you, and Fairfax can be found by walking further down Melrose. Along Fairfax is the pet shop that Jim & I adopted Chino from. It’s called Bark n’ Bitches and it’s my FAVOURITE. Why you may ask? Because the store is filled with dogs running around that you can play with!
On average, there is about 10 dogs up for adoption in this shop and it is so great getting to play with and see how they interact with you and each other. It gives such a clear sense of the connection and behaviour of a pup to potential adopters. I think what they are doing is so important and brilliant. If you continue past Fairfax you will find a lot of great consignment shops and eventually end up on La Brea, which is another strip of shops that you should see and explore. Basically, just walk around a ton, see all of these West Hollywood spots, eat good food, and shop! When you get hungry, eat at Gracias Madre. It’s owned by Cafe Gratitude and its completely vegan based Mexican food. I LOVE. It does'n’t hurt that they have such a nice patio. I also recommend Urth Cafe to someone looking for something more casual or a good pesto chicken sandwich.
The Grove is another close spot that you should definitely see! I like all of the outdoor shopping areas that people in LA get to go. I am jealous! I won’t go too into detail about the Grove because it is an easy google search and I’m sure enough of you have heard a thing or two about it. Once finished at the Grove, head up 3rd street and check out the shops and food spots it has to offer! Try Joan’s on 3rd for lunch and for dessert, you absolutely MUST get Fonuts. Literally the best gourmet donuts I have ever tried. Plus they’re only a couple blocks apart. If you’re just thirsty, Joe and the Juice is delicious and your smoothie might even match your pants, like mine!
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also known as LACMA, is a quick trip from all the hustle and bustle of the areas I have mentioned above. It is such a cool spot to check out, even if you don’t actually go into the museum. I have gone during the day and I have gone at night. Both were great but you really get to enjoy the incredible lamp post display when you go once the sun has set!
6. Beverly Hills
Not far of a drive from Melrose Avenue is Beverly Hills. I recommend exploring it if you haven’t been before, even if its just for the miles of palm trees along the perfectly groomed streets. I am not the biggest fan of Rodeo Drive, it’s basically just a spot completely dedicated to show-offs, but it is nice to walk around around and see because of it’s infamous shops. If you have a rental car, which I would recommend you do if visiting LA, drive around the Hollywood Hills and get a good look at everything it has have to offer. There’s also an Alfred Coffee there, and it's worth getting an oat milk latte at any time of the day!
7. Los Feliz
Los Feliz is one of the nicest areas that LA has to offer. The beautiful homes have so much character and greenery and reside along Griffith Park. If you are active and looking for some great hikes to beautiful views, then this is your spot. If you aren’t so active, definitely still drive up to Griffith Observatory to catch sunset. You simply cannot beat an LA skyline as the sun starts to go down. With views of the entire city, this is my favourite spot to go. It does however, get very busy during this time of day so go early and give yourself the time to find a parking spot and get up to explore the observatory inside too. It’s beautifully designed.
Prior to catching sunset at the observatory, if you are like me and enjoy a good thrift hunt, then you definitely need to check out Squaresville. It is one of the coolest and most legit vintage shops I have ever been in. With loads of vintage tops and bottoms lining the main floor, you can spend hours laughing at the graphic tees they bring in. Head up the stairs to look through racks and racks of dreamy 1950’s - 1990’s dresses, lingerie and shoes. This is the kind of vintage shop that you will guaranteed find a good outfit for an event, birthday, or date. Not to mention the costume options…
When you are in and around the Los Feliz area, you are also very close to places like Koreatown, which features some of the best fried chicken in the city and some very cool streetwear stores.
A neighbourhood not far off from Los Feliz is Silverlake. With a much more artsy environment, this area is completely unique. It is filled with cool coffee shops and places to explore. If you go there for one thing it HAS to be for By Chlöe, another incredible vegan place. I am obsessed with their Mac n’ Cheese topped with shiitake mushrooms as “bacon”. Jim and I tried to re-create it when we came home after our last trip down, and although quiet delicious, it’ll never compare to theirs. They also have the best beet ketchup I have ever tried and I drown the Mac n’ Cheese in it. Then, ordered on the side is yam fries also dipped in the beet ketchup. BEETS!
9. Downtown LA
Downtown LA is a place we don’t go down to as often as the rest, but still always fun to explore when we do. Yes, its a downtown so it is what it is. It’s filled with garbage and dirty birds and smells like pee, especially on a hot day, but the buildings are incredible and there are so many spots you have to explore and make it worth the trip! Go on a weekend, it’s like a ghost town. Therefor, super easy to navigate through and to park at! Jim and I went to a very cool rooftop spot with our friend one year to shoot photos near the infamous Jesus Saves sign and it was so cool! Again, that LA sunshine during golden hour is just something you can’t beat. I can’t exactly remember where we ended up, but it was a few story parkade that we followed steps up to the rooftop at. I don’t like heights so this was actually difficult for me to do hehe.
I wouldn’t recommend staying in DTLA the entire time, but you should definitely splurge and spend a night at The Ace Hotel. Even if it’s just for the bed alone… I swear that was the best sleep of my life. They have a lovely little cafe inside and a cool Photo Booth. The entire hotel is so beautiful and as well-known as it is for this reason! The rooftop bar is bumping and the outdoor pool (also on the roof) is AMAZING. I definitely snapped some photos around that patio.
Walking through downtown, Jim and I checked out the Jewelry District. I went into a few stores and stumbled upon one (I can’t remember what it’s called AH.) They had so much beautiful yellow gold for very affordable prices. I got two 14kt solid gold pendants for $60 total! Such a steal for solid gold. I will definitely go there every time we’re in LA now because gold is my go-to.
I also picked up a very pretty 14kt gold filled chain at the Santee Alley which is another great area to check out in the Fashion District. Everything there is very cheap. If you see anything designer, it isn’t actually designer. As long as you know that going into it, it’s a great place to see at least once! The Santee Alley goes for blocks and there are so many nooks that you have to be careful not to miss! Also get fruit with lime and tajin because you are missing out if you haven’t tried it!
10. The Beach Cities
The beach cities, also known as South Bay, are some of the cutest coastal areas to plan a day at. About as far apart as Venice and Santa Monica are, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach are all worth visiting. First of all, if you are a The OC lover, Redondo Beach Pier hosts the cafe that was used to film so many of the diner scenes in the show. You know, the place where they always go to eat pancakes? It’s so cool being able to see it because it’s still exactly the same. We sat down and had breakfast there, and although not actually in Orange County, I felt exactly like Marissa Cooper. 😛
Because you are at a much more southern point of LA, the water at these beach cities are so warm and welcoming. A lot of the time you can run right in, rather than warming yourself up by baking in the sun for a couple hours like you often have to do in Malibu. Jim and I did a small tour of all the piers in South Bay and took photos at the bottom of them all with the waves crashing around it. They’re some of the prettiest ones you can visit.
Moving from Redondo over to Hermosa Beach, one of my favourite spots to grab breakfast is at La Playita. It is right along the water, so your view is amazing. But it’s not just that setting them apart from anywhere else to go. They also bring you free chips and salsa to your table when you sit down which is my kinda place! I would definitely recommend finding a cute place like this to get some fuel before a day of laying in the sun and playing in the water.
Manhattan Beach is the last stop on my South Bay tour and worth seeing just as much as the first two. These beach cities are all very similar, but with them being so close to one another, you can’t go wrong! Explore them as you please and decide which one is your favourite.
To wrap this up, I want to give an honorary mention to In n’ Out. Because duh. And you can find one no matter where on my list you choose to explore or stay! I’m sure there are a million things that I am missing, but at least now this blog post is here for the many of you who ask me my recommendations when down in the city of angels. xx