Inspiring week in LA capped off by an exceptionally fun Korean wedding (a first for me). Unbelievable amounts of creativity in LA at the moment. Makes it difficult to narrow recommendations down to a top 5 list but here it is.
Still sketchy but so many interesting new things popping up especially as the Arts District expands. My recommendation is to hit up downtown on a Saturday or Sunday. And based on how much time you have in LA, you may want to devote two days to downtown.
Here are my must-dos:
- I took the Historic Downtown Tour offered every Saturday. This 2 ½ hour tour provides an overview of the historical and cultural landmarks of downtown LA including the Bradbury Building, the Library, One Bunker Hill, Grand Central Market.
- Not only was our guide super fun and well-informed, my fellow tour-takers were incredibly knowledgeable as well.
- Other tours offered by the Conservancy include Art Deco, Modern by Moonlight, Angelino Heights, Broadway Historic Theatres, Union Station.
- Book online ($15) and meet up at Pershing Square
- I plan to book one of these tours every time I visit LA
- This gorgeous hotel recently opened (original is in Miami).
- The hotel’s Exchange Restaurant is outstanding. My lunch was the tastiest meal I had while in LA.
- Make sure you also check out their Broken Shaker Rooftop Pool/Bar – very fun although not as fabulous as the Miami original
- Newest food stall to open is the Sari Sari Store, Filipino food from the owners of Republique.
- Make sure you try the buko pie – delish!
- Also worth checking out at the market, even if the line is long: Egg Slut
- This new museum opened this past weekend. The founder/director is Elsa Longhauser (formerly of the Santa Monica Museum of Art)
- The inaugural exhibition features work by late Mexican artist Martín Ramírez – and it is wonderful.
- Half of the gallery space is devoted to the gift store
- Worth checking out once but may not be on my roster every time I am in LA
- Right down the street from ICA LA, you’ll find a complex of 3 historic buildings covered in RETNA hieroglyphics.
- These former American Apparel factories are now being converted into a major creative hub featuring work spaces/lofts/mall complex.
- If you come on a Sunday you can also nosh your way through Smorgasburg LA (same group as in Brooklyn)
- During the week there are food trucks on site.
- Next time I am back in LA, this will be a top priority for further exploration
Read on below for more recommendations.
#2 MIRACLE MILE/WILSHIRE AREA
If you only have time for one gallery/museum, make this the one. Absolutely stellar
- This huge building (over 100,000 sq ft) was originally built as a Masonic Temple in 1961 (make sure you check out the library, contains many relics of its former life).
- The renovation to contemporary art space was led by wHY architects of Culver City (same group renovating/repurposing ROW DTLA).
- The current exhibition includes an extraordinary Jim Shaw show on the ground floor.
- And yes, the Marcianos are the Guess jeans guys.
- IMPORTANT: While it’s free, you do need to book your ticket online (you will not be admitted without).
- Only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Petersen Automotive Museum
- Several fantastic shows here at the moment. My favorites included the Chagall opera costumes (up thru Jan 7, 2018), Home thru October 15, 2017, Universal History of Infamy (thru Feb 19, 2018).
Craft & Folk Museum
- This was going to be my first visit to this small gem of a museum located near LACMA – but they were installing a new show.
- Persistence paid off, however, because I lingered long enough for Executive Director, Suzanne Isken to come by, pity me, and give me a very VIP pre-opening tour. Thank You.
- Their newly opened show focuses on issues related to the US-Mexican border and from what I saw definitely worth a visit. Up til Jan 7, 2018.
Always a fun place to check out cool stores (one of the few places in LA where retail seems to be booming, saw very few empty storefronts vs. the rest of LA). And, for me, the Venice Skatepark is a huge draw – spent 3 hours there!
I had my Uber drop me off at Abbot Kinney by Venice Blvd and then just wandered down towards the other end near Brooks Avenue.
Stores/Restaurants worth checking out:
- Shinola, Aesop (their testers are attached to a tree/post on the sidewalk!), Warby Parker, Happy Socks, Adidas, Huset (loved this Scandinavian home goods store), Strange Invisible Perfumes
- Shuhari Matcha Café, Salt & Straw Ice Cream (I had the bone marrow and smoked cherries!), Fala Bar (their No Fake Sh*t sign is hysterical), The Butcher’s Daughter, Blue Bottle Coffee, The Rooster Food Truck, Felix Trattoria (dinner only)
- A short walk off Abbot Kinney brings you to the hot spot of the moment – Gjusta. Great vibe but you have to be prepared for an hour plus wait. For dinner, likewise, it’s all about Felix. Impossible to get a reservation but they do accept some walk-ins.
#4 CULVER CITY/ HAYDEN TRACT
Have been to Culver City many times but never to this area. It’s LA’s epicenter of crazy architecture and design innovation – along with experimental food and retail.
- Went there to have lunch at the Destroyer which also happens to be right across the street from the Vespertine Building.
- While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating here, I am so glad the Destroyer was on my agenda because I doubt I would have discovered this neighborhood otherwise.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Have Uber drop you off at the corner of Hayden and National; walk down Hayden towards Vespertine.
- Along the way you’ll see several buildings by architect Eric Owen Moss who has been building here since 1986.
- This area is home to Apple video, Nike, Converse, Tennis Channel and lots of other creative/techie/millennial businesses
- Then head to Platform, a newish mall complex about a ten minute walk from Hayden Avenue. Very cool vibe and an interesting array of stores – some with NY/Brooklyn connections.
- When you get hungry, check out Hayden, Cannibal, Blue Bottle, Sweetgreen, Loqui, and Brooklyn’s Van Leeuwen.
- Culver City is also home to many top-notch contemporary galleries along La Cienega and Washington Blvd – my favorites include Susan Vielmetter, Blum & Poe and Cherry & Martin.
This is quite a trek from almost all parts of LA but worthwhile for the gardens, the art, and the historical buildings.
- I would highly recommend booking one of their private, docent-led tours. It’s pricey but I plan to do this the next time I visit.
FINAL NOTE OF CAUTION:
- In all the years I have been coming to LA (November 2016 being the last time I visited), I have never seen so many homeless and crazy people camped out/roaming all around LA.
- The day I arrived, a crazy dude shoplifting at the West Hollywood 7-Eleven attacked the good Samaritan who offered to pay for the stolen items: chopped the guy’s head wide open with an axe!! So be on your guard people!!