The allure of Tinseltown doesn’t just beckon to the would-be actors among us—love it or hate it, this city has some kind of strange pull on us all. Hanging around all the beautiful people is just an added bonus. If you find yourself in the California playground that is Los Angeles, steer clear of the tourist traps and venture out like a local to experience all that’s really cool about the city … and not just what the reality shows tell you.
For breakfast, Blue Jam Cafe’s Crunchy French Toast—eggy brioche rolled in Corn Flakes, grilled and topped with fruit—is a must. Or, grab a breakfast burrito from Corner Cottage and start your day off in classic Angelino style. When lunchtime rolls around, Mercado is a fine option, as is the popular noodle house Daikokuya. If it’s a piled-high pastrami sandwich you crave, head to Canter’s Deli—offering great deli options with a side of LA rock history (Slash used to work here). For dinner, make a reservation at the hip new Italian restaurant Bestia, or if you’re feeling really fancy, try and get your name on a guest list for one of LA’s super-secret supper clubs.
And finally, go to In-N-Out Burger—you know you want to, and it’s totally worth it. Just don’t forget to order that Double-Double Animal Style (lettuce, tomato and mustard-cooked beef patties, pickle and extra spread with grilled onions).
Venice Beach is a great place to stroll around, and nearby Abbot Kinney is lined with chic local shops and restaurants. While in Venice, we highly recommend you stop by N’iceCream, recently ranked by Travel + Leisure as one of the best places to get dessert in the entire world.
Highland Park is another great off-the-beaten-path area worth the trek. Flanked by Figueroa Street to the east and York Boulevard to the north, walking down either will satisfy your shopping needs, as both are well-equipped with expertly curated boutiques featuring local designers, vintage warehouses, record stores, book stores and more. Bonus: This neighborhood is also known for having some of the best tacos and jugo joints in the city.
From dive bars to glitzy clubs to craft cocktail lounges, the city is so huge that you should have no problem finding your nighttime niche. In West Hollywood, The 3 Clubs, Pour Vous and Bootsy Bellows are all great places to get your drink on if you’re looking for that smoky, vintage vibe. For a slightly more casual scene, go to Silver Lake and hit up Cha Cha Lounge or Red Lion Tavern.
This is California after all, so try and spend at least some of your time here soaking up the perpetually sunny skies. A hike up Runyon Canyon Park offers some incredible city views, and the odds of spotting a celebrity are pretty high. If it’s the weekend, check out one of the city’s many flea markets. Melrose Trading Post is one of our faves, but you could also try your luck at the Rose Bowl. At night, head to the Echo (or its sister venue, Echoplex) to catch one of the many quality up-and-coming bands coming through the area.
Jennifer Sanchez is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.