Celebrity spotting, sunshine and shopping can sum up most people’s LA experience. And that can be a perfect break. But what if you’re seeking something different ? Perhaps this check-list can help.
Sunset Ranch is nestled in Griffith Park, a massive municipal park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, covering 4,310 acres. My Sunset Ranch guide Joanie stated that so few locals, let alone visitors, are even aware that the park, one of the largest in North America, even exists. I am not a very “horsey” person so it was with a hint of fear and trepidation I rode “Marilyn” along the dusty trail through the Hollywood Hills. The views were phenomenal as we trekked close to the edge. The Griffith Park Observatory where Rebel Without a Cause was filmed was pointed out while the original bat cave entrance used in the Adam West Batman television series was also noted. It seems celebrity seeps in, even when you’re not trying, on most LA adventures.
3400 N Beachwood Drive Los Angeles Prices for Sunset Ranch start at 40 dollars (US) for an hour
Marina Del Ray
I waltzed through the stunning foyer of the Ritz Carlton at the seaside resort of Marina Del Ray in Los Angeles County and headed for the outdoor restaurant Cast and Plow where I proceeded to scoff the most delicious salmon I have ever tasted. The hotel has hosted the likes of Zsa Zsa Gabor to Britney Spears (apparently she loves the pool). On yet another stunning sunny day, I admired the pretty boats in the largest man-made small craft harbour in the world (it has 19 marinas). I was reliably informed that para-sailing in Marina Del Ray is amazing. I can believe it.
Ritz Carlton 4375 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Ray
The kindly local that advised me that the hike to “behind the Hollywood” sign takes about 90 minutes round trip was sadly and emphatically wrong. It’s not his fault he didn’t factor in that I am incredibly unfit, and he wouldn’t have known that about 15 minutes into the walk ( which I suggest you do early morning, not in the heat of the day as I did) I would start to fall behind schedule. It’s not easy to find the beginning the hike and it can be tricky to stay on course but it is easily worth all the effort when you scale that final hill and perch yourself in front of those big iconic letters. There is a huge fence erected to prevent scaling the actual letters. Perhaps I didn’t look very “LA cool” but I completed the hike in about 2.5 hours and took home a brilliant sunburn as a souvenir. Hint: to find the entrance drive to the end of Canyon Drive in the Hills and park up. Start walking, it’s worth it.
Having visited Santa Monica and Venice Beach several times, and always appreciated the Ferris Wheel at the end of the Santa Monica Pier and ogled the muscle men working out on the beach, it was time to see more. Third Street Promenade is wonderful if you’re in search of Gap, Zara, Mac, American Apparel and so on, but I discovered the lovely Montana just a few minutes away. The shopping strip is a haven for inspired local designers, beauty salons, nail salons and blow-out (blow-dry) bars. Once I found Montana, an afternoon of pure pampering ensued, ending with a new slick hair-do and vibrant blue pedicure. I’d been LA–ified and I liked it.
There’s a law that’s carried on from the prohibition era that bans the making of wine in Los Angeles County. So some rather affluent businesspeople with fancy hobbies, in this instance, wine-making, grow their grapes in the fertile mountains of Malibu, send them to be made into wine in the Napa Valley, then have them returned to be sold and drunk in Malibu. I hung out at two such wineries. The first, Malibu Family Wines, had beautiful gardens, large picnic tables and wonderful knowledgeable staff. The tasting was enjoyable and sitting under the trees was pure relaxation. Another winery, The Cielo Estate, was quite quirky. It also had a lovely drop but a tiny courtyard and intimate retro-styled bar called Sip with references to rock bands of the ‘70’s.
Tours by Katherine Miller, Hidden Malibu Wine Country Tours firstname.lastname@example.org
I walked into The Brass Monkey primed for a night of old-school karaoke. The venue is a bit sticky carpet but has scores of framed, famous-people photos who have also enjoyed a behind-the-mic sing-a-long in the dingy confines of the underground bar. Just down the road is the exquisite Line Hotel. The design of this Wiltshire Boulevard hotel is uber-modern, couched in a welcome warmth. The building has been fully restored and the rooms are spacious. I did have a quiet giggle when I noted some of the knick-knacks (art) in the rooms were for sale, including a rock – a very plain, grey, every-day rock, with a price tag of 20 dollars. It’s so people don’t steal them. If you’re hunting the definitive Korean feast, seek out a spot at Pot, at The Line Hotel. The courses came rapid-fire from the kitchen which I did find overwhelming. The dishes were mind-blowing. So much flavour, so authentic, so good.
The Line Hotel, Koreatown 3515 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
There are countless places to hang out and be seen in LA. Poolside at The Ace, Downtown is a true scene, with inspired cocktails, beautiful people and gorgeous views from the roof-top. It was a joy to behold the hotel’s theatre which was the former United Artists’ Theatre with incredible chandeliers and artwork. I spotted painted depictions of Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin. A real old-Hollywood buzz melded with the now.The ACE Hotel 929 South Broadway, Los Angeles.
The city’s reputation for fine food is ever-expanding. Bestia is a huge Italian restaurant that is overflowing with those busting to taste the home-styled anti-pasti or the housemade pork sausage pasta with black truffles and grana padano. Even a simple pizza margherita was sublime. You can book but try calling ahead about a couple of months.
Bestia 2121 7th Place Los Angeles
If you find yourself in the vicinity of Santa Monica and you want a magnificent view. Well, it’s a bit of fun to go through to The Penthouse, the fine dining restaurant at The Huntley Hotel and check out the beach view from the Ladies toilet. I found it quite impressive. By the way, the locals may try to keep it hush-hush but the refined restaurant bar at the hotel has five dollar glasses of wine during Happy Hour.
The Huntley Hotel 1111 Second Street, Santa Monica
Donna Demaio visited Los Angeles as a guest of Qantas and Visit California