Take a look around and see which way the wind blows. A blue jean baby LA lady, you are enthralled by the ice cream pastel sunsets, ocean breeze, lights, camera and action of it all. You want to be seen, yet you want to be incognito. An area filled with hills, beaches and endless sidewalks, LA consists of cities and suburbs that are adjacent to each other. If you like to explore, pull up your (rental) car, sign your insurance and get ready to hit the road!
As someone who has lived in LA for four years, it is one of the best things I ever did in my early 20s and an experience I will always treasure. While I do not currently live there, writing this guide gave me all the feels of the places I missed the most and hopefully, make you feel the same when you go there, too.
You know that Lana del Rey song “13 Beaches”? Well, Lana definitely knew what was she singing about because there’s more to LA than just Santa Monica and Venice Beach. If heading to the beach is on your list, the best ones are situated slightly further.
If you want to go close to Venice, there’s Charlie Beach. Tucked away in Marina del Rey, Charlie Beach is popular among mums due to its clean environment and family-friendly crowd. It’s definitely safer than Santa Monica Beach, which has now become a camping site for the homeless, so tread at your own risk.
My personal preference for beaches are the ones in Malibu. While Malibu is quite a drive out, it’s a lovely beach town worth visiting as you have a ton of options to choose from. The beaches are really clean, and the water is clear. Besides the scenic view, there’s also a Nobu around the corner if you’re looking to treat yourself to a good meal.
If you want to be closer to town, Zuma Beach is where it’s at. Blessed with views of clear skies and clean ocean breeze, Zuma Beach is ideal for a nice beach outing with friends or family. If you like to surf, this is also a good place to hit the waves. The best perk besides all the wonderful attractions there is the abundance of parking and it’s a four minute drive to the stunning Point Dume.
Last but not least, you can drive down to Matador Beach. Compared to the rest of the beaches, the sand feels gentle and the rocks are a work of art. My advice? Bring a car along if you want to head out that far as the poor signal makes it impossible to score an Uber.
Charlie Beach is at Los Angeles, CA 90292
Malibu is at Malibu Road, CA 24056
Zuma Beach is at 30000 Pacific Coast Highway Malibu, CA 90265
Matador Beach is at 32350 E Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
LA has a bunch of farmer’s markets popping up every weekend. One of the best Farmer’s Markets is in Mar Vista. Located between Venice and Marina del Rey, Mar Vista is one of the more residential-type neighbourhoods where you can visit its iconic Farmer’s Market every Sunday. Not only do they have well-priced fresh fruits and veggies, they have food trucks that serve melt-in-your-mouth meals.
Their best food vendors are Crepes Dusigne, which is known for their Nutella crepes. There’s always a line for it and that’s one of the things my family and I are willing to wait in line for. Oh! Don’t sleep on Kai Kai Dumplings. Choose from grass-fed beef, organic pork or vegan freshly cooked dumplings. I swear by them whenever I’m craving for dumplings and personally I feel they taste like Din Tai Fung, but even healthier!
Mar Vista Farmer’s Market is at 12198 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90066
If you want to visit the Farmer’s Markets at a later time, the Melrose Farmer’s Market opens at 1pm, perfect for those who don’t want to wake up early on holiday. Just in front of the boutiques at Melrose Avenue, this farmer’s market is relatively smaller compared to Mar Vista. However, its selections are great if you wanna stop by for some quick Sunday brunch bites!
I always have the bagels from Yeastie Boys, a food truck that serves the BEST bagels. You can get all types from plain, gluten free, sesame, etc. It’s also a nice stop away from Alfred’s Tea and Coffee if you ever need a pick-me-up.
Last but not least, here’s the Cali Girl secret: stop by the farm stands. If you are taking a day trip up north, you’ll be driving past a lot of farms. Ideal for your snack stop, these roadside stands sell fruit by the bulk whether it’s cherries or avocados in gigantic bags. When I went on a family road trip, we stopped by one of these roadside farms and walked out with a giant bag of cherries for $1!
Melrose Farmer’s Market is at 8400 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069
The home base of the American music industry, LA has a lot to offer. Always a gig around the corner happening every week, there’s no shortage of entertainment. Though the big arenas like Crypto.com and Hollywood Bowl are great, the smaller clubs are where you can catch the local acts before they conquer the charts and festivals.
If you want to catch emerging musicians (who might have a following on Instagram and TikTok), The Roxy is where it’s at. While the venue is pretty small, many artistes enjoy playing there due to how intimate the space is. Its size also makes it really easy to meet people, and you won’t feel overwhelmed by the crowds catching a gig here. The biggest bonus out of all this is it’s within walking distance of more iconic bars and restaurants around the Sunset Strip, where you can catch your next show.
The Roxy Theatre is at 9009 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Perched at the edge of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, The Troubadour is an oldie but a goodie I swear by. More spacious than The Roxy, The Troubadour is two stories, allowing you a bird’s eye view of the performances you’re going to catch there. Frequented by artistes and musicians, The Troubadour is great for people watching, so you might spy on some familiar faces not just on stage, but in the crowd as well!
FYI, if you have a car, parking is easier to find as compared to the Sunset Strip. Though if you plan to drink, we’d still advise you to book an Uber instead.
The Troubadour is at 9081 N Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
For the true LA experience, go to The Hotel Cafe. It’s less mainstream compared to the clubs we mentioned, but music insiders love this spot as it has the best acoustics. A happy mix of comfortable spacing without being too huge, this venue in my opinion has been the best to catch gigs. I was able to see the artiste perform even though I was far away from the stage. Not a single technical glitch happened when I was there and the sound was crystal clear. Don’t just take it for me, tons of musicians — including Katy Perry and Adele — love this place.
The Hotel Cafe is at 1623 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
If you are incredibly hungry and you can’t sleep off the jet lag in the early morning, go to Canter’s Deli. You can’t say that you have had the full LA experience without you dining in at Canter’s. Open 24/7, this old school hotspot serves sandos, fries and bagels. Their tuna melt is ridiculously delicious and they’re well-known for their egg-based dishes as well. For the gluten intolerant, Canter’s has gluten-free bread and bagels. The best part? The bread is really fragrant due to the rosemary that’s hand-kneaded in there.
Canter’s Deli is at 417 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
You know how Eggslut is originally from LA? Well, you need to try its competitor Sqirl. Known as the hipster breakfast spot in Silver Lake, this cafe is known for their iconic ricotta toast and equally cult classic jam. Ditto with their rhubarb donuts. The line to get in there is at its peak for brunch, but it’s truly worth it.
720 N Virgil Ave #4, Los Angeles, CA 90029
If you are hungry and want to shop around Melrose later, Bravo Toast is a hidden gem that’s within a 10 minute walking distance. A cosy cafe with a small outdoor patio, it’s known for their avocado toast and matcha latte. Originally a pop-up, they established their restaurant in 2021. Though it’s relatively new, Bravo Toast checks off all the boxes for decent service, friendly crowd and great food and drinks. It’s also great for people watching as you will see plenty of stylish folks pulling up in Birkenstocks, Uggs and TikTok-approved fleece pullovers. I highly recommend having an avocado toast there before you try any other restaurant.
Bravo Toast is at 632 1/2 N Doheny Dr, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Should you be on the hunt for the perfect acai bowl, Backyard Bowls is a must MUST. Never too cold nor lukewarm, the acai base doesn’t leave you with brain freeze nor does it feel too runny. The fruits aren’t too sour and the granola isn’t too tough to chew on. Out of all the cafes where I tried acai bowls, this is a top winner.
Backyard Bowls is at 8303 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
LA has plenty of choices for Asian food, but in my experience, the Asian food in LA is either heavily fusion-leaning or watered down to suit Western taste buds. Finding good authentic Asian meals requires a day trip to the suburbs to get your fix.
You miss home? Look no further than Newport Seafood in San Gabriel. Renown for their lobster, it’s rich in pepper, garlic and umami. With family-sized portions, Newport Seafood is ideal for families and big gatherings and is packed with big groups of people whenever I go there.
Newport Seafood is at 518 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Bhanu’s Indian Cuisine and Market is also in the same hood as Newport Seafood. Despite it being a grocery store, you can also head there for your Indian food fix as there’s a dine-in restaurant there. It’s also listed as one of the essential Asian restaurants in San Gabriel Valley.
Bhanu’s Indian Cuisine and Market is at 7246 Rosemead Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775
Do you crave for ramen and udon? Go to Eboshi Ramen Bar. Located in Lomita, it’s a suburb that has a TON of authentic Japanese food. My parents and I used to go there to get our soba and udon fix when I used to live in Rancho Palos Verdes 10 years ago. Though we went to a similar restaurant (that is now closed), Eboshi is the closest thing you can get today. It’s a good pit stop before or after you head down to Terranea in Rancho Palos Verdes (more on that later!).
Eboshi Ramen Bar is at 2383 Lomita Blvd Ste 116, Lomita, CA 90717
I love flea market shopping, and LA was one of the first few cities where I started vintage shopping. Compared to boutiques, flea markets are more affordable and prices are more negotiable as opposed to shopping at a curated vintage store where the prices are set. Shall you be on the hunt for the best, I highly recommend starting off with Rose Bowl.
Set in the Rose Bowl Stadium, the flea market has an array of vendors from furniture to clothing. It’s ideal to kick off your Sunday mornings there as the good stuff usually disappears by the time afternoon rolls around. I have been there a few times and I’ve never walked out empty handed. Since there is no specific vendor I go to, my best advice is to keep an open mind without hunting for a specific item. Just let the energy and your instinct guide you on what you want to purchase. Throughout the years I went there, I bought a coat, plaid shirt and rosary necklaces. You will never know who you’ll see there as designers like Anine Bing also lurk there to find their next fashion inspo.
Rose Bowl Flea Market is at 1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103
If you must hunt for secondhand coffee table books and jeans, Melrose Trading Post is a good option, but apart from that, the merchandise is so-so. Should you be on the hunt for Y2K gems, Silver Lake Flea Market is TikTok’s new vintage holy grail shopping mecca. It’s less commercialised than Melrose Trading Post and you’ll have more items to select from whether it be dresses, accessories, shoes, etc. Both of them open on weekends, but Silver Lake Flea Market opens only on Saturdays and Sundays.
Melrose Trading Post is at 7850 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Silver Lake Flea Market is at 1925 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
After two years of masking up and working at home, your skin has lost its lustre. If you want to get the perfect glowing K-idol skin, you can get the red carpet treatment and it’s feasible to get it for less! While most beauty treatments are pricey, I have been fortunate to be able to find good treatments at a fraction of the VIP price!
One of the places I swear by is Le Jolie Medi Spa, where it has a small clinic with great nurses. I went there to get a Diamond Glow Dermalinfusion<, which uses microdermabrasion, peel and extraction. My facialist spent almost two hours treating my face. But it was worth it, because after the session, my face was glowing the entire day!
At $250 USD, the facial was still a splurge, but it was a relative steal as compared to Dr. Jason Diamond’s InstaFacial which willl set you back $4,oo0 USD (price was quoted to me via e-mail). Le Jolie Medi Spa is also good if you wanna stop by for vitamin infusions and fillers, where its Mini Lip Plump is the most affordable option at $299 USD.
Le Jolie Medi Spa is at 652 N Doheny Dr, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Should you be on the hunt for something more pocket-friendly, ARCONA is where it’s at. Starting from $50 USD for an LED therapy facial to $125 for a blemish-busting facial, their stellar services are worth the budget. No treatment there is over $250 as that’s their maximum for a Red Carpet Radiance treatment, where you can get lifting, brightening, firming and sculpting treatment. If you must go for their signature, it’s their Facial Contouring Treatment, which uses lymphatic drainage and acupressure to de-puff your face.
ARCONA is at 236 S. Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
If you must spend all day chillaxing, head down to Wi Spa with your friends. The go-to Korean spa for Angelenos, Wi Spa features an array of sauna rooms (from clay to salt), pools at three different temperatures and massage treatments. You must go there to get scrubbed down if you are dying to get an intense exfoliation. I also love how it’s got a variety of treatments and at a wallet-friendly price!
Wi Spa is at 2700 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057
No gym, no problem! While we associate LA with fancy gym chains, the best cost-free workout is the hidden stairs! Historically used for residents to access the city within walking distance (before cars), the stairs were the bridge between homes and public transportation when the city had a trolley system. There are plenty around the city, but there’s a few good ones to go to.
In Silver Lake, there’s the Mattachine Steps, which is near the Silver Lake Reservoir. Named after the Mattachine Society, an organisation for gay rights in LA, these stairs offer a view of Silver Lake, Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory. But if you want the whole workout, a blogger came up with her own route for you to explore the neighbouring steps in Silver Lake that’s all within walking distance.
The Mattachine Steps are at 2355 Cove Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90039
In Marina del Rey, the marina is a water sports paradise. Based on my experience, the water down there is easier to maneuver yourself around compared to the Pacific Ocean. Windiness is a factor there, but the wind and currents were managable. Pro SUP Shop has paddleboard and kayak rentals that are priced according to the time you rent whether it’s half an hour to an hour and a half.
Pro SUP Shop is at 4175 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
There is more to LA than taking day trips to Universal Studios and Disneyland. With a bunch of options around you, you can drive up north to Central, go to Catalina Island or go down south to the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Tucked away in the gentle suburbs, Rancho Palos Verdes is a two hour drive away from the city. When I used to live there, my family and I would drive down to Terranea Resort, which boasts great views of the Pacific Ocean. You can spend hours admiring the ocean and take as many photos as possible. Then, get the nachos and pretzel at Nelson’s, where you can see the same ocean view and get your food ‘gram game up. It’s always best to visit there in the late morning/early afternoon so that you can beat traffic before you go back to the city.
An hourlong trip via ferry, Catalina Island is ideal for the day. Hailed as one of the best sites for snorkeling and diving, the crystal clear waters make it top notch for you to see its rich wildlife. If diving is not your thing, you can also go golfing or a whale-spotting boat tour.
If you want to see a piece of real movie history, drive up Central and visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Built by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, this palatial castle was the inspiration for Citizen Kane> and was used in a Lady Gaga music video. You will feel transported to Italy with its tiled pools, tapestry-laden walls and array of Old Master paintings. Although it’s a three hour drive from LA, it’s one of the best day trips I took.
Hearst Castle is at 50 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
Mind you, not every Angeleno puts aside their Palm Springs vacay only for Coachella. If you visit LA in the colder seasons, the desert is a great weekend getaway as it’s still y warm during the day, even during these seasons. An hour and 40 minutes away from LA, Desert Hot Springs is where you can spend the weekend relaxing in the natural hot springs. My top pick is Two Bunch Palms, which is where my family and I stayed. Not only did we get to relax at the hot springs pool, we lazed about in the hammocks, and saw the stars.
If staying in isn’t your thing, drive to Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Just a 22 minute drive from Desert Hot Springs, this outlet stocks designer brands at a steep discount. From Sandro to Alexander McQueen, you’ll feel like there’s never a shortage of the good stuff there. Anytime I was there, I always walked out with a few bags as the deals were that good.
Two Bunch Palms is at 67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
Desert Hills Premium Outlets is at 48400 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA 92230
If you wish to sightsee, go to Salvation Mountain, Pioneertown and Joshua Tree. Salvation Mountain is an installation featuring a faux mountain with rainbow hues and Jesus-themed motifs. It’s one of my favorite sites to visit for its campiness and kitschy aesthetic. Shall you visit Pioneertown, this old school Western town looks like you came out of a movie set. Believe me, you wouldn’t wanna miss this out!
Salvation Mountain is at Beal Rd, Calipatria, CA 9223
Pioneertown is at 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown, CA 92268
Remember that mirrored house in Bling Empire season 3? It’s in Joshua Tree! While renting it is costly, you can stop by to visit it for the photos. Then, you can partake the beauty of the cacti and rocky landscape at the park. It’s truly a workout to make up for all these hours sitting in the car! Finish off your weekend with a nice evening out at Palm Desert or Palm Springs.
Joshua Tree is at 6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92252