I'll be honest. I haven't always been the biggest fan of Los Angeles. Despite dozens of trips to LA, I hardly spent any time in the city itself. To me, LA was a sprawling network of congested highways connecting hundreds of Chinese supermarkets. You land at LAX, grind through rush hour traffic and ultimately make your way out to Monterey Park, Arcadia or Covina. While I enjoy visiting family and devouring authentic Chinese food, my past experiences have obviously given me a skewed perspective of LA.
Thankfully, I got a chance to experience a very different side of Los Angeles when I visited this past September for my cousin's wedding. Our hotel and the wedding itself were both in downtown LA -- a neighborhood I once only associated with post-apocalyptic scenes from the Terminator. From the revitalized Arts District to the undeniably trendy Silver Lake, today's Los Angeles brings together the best of both worlds. It combines that "east coast cool" (once only associated with New York) with the laid-back vibe and perfect weather you can only get on the west coast.
I had 2 short days to spend in Los Angeles, so I barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. Below are just a few of my favorite places I hit up during the visit!
*All photos taken from my iPhone 6 Plus. Didn't bring my Sony a6000 for this trip, unfortunately
Downtown Arts District
What was once little more than some abandoned warehouses in downtown LA has become one of city's coolest new neighborhoods. We started our first morning in town with a coffee at Blacktop Coffee followed by a bit of retail therapy at the adjacent Alchemy Works and nearby design shop, Poketo. The neighborhood is compact and surprisingly walkable. Don't be surprised to run into a few ice cream trucks while walking around.
For the duration of the weekend, we stayed at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown. The hotel itself isn't particularly fancy, but the building is apparently an architectural landmark. Its postmodern design and wacky layout has been the subject of multiple academic analyses and documentaries.
Silver Lake & Echo Park
We spent Saturday afternoon in the eclectic Silver Lake neighborhood. The main strip running through the area is Sunset Boulevard, which is chock full of awesome cafes, restaurants and boutiques. My favorite shop was Mohawk General Store, which includes separates mens and womens boutiques down the street from one another. Make sure to also stop for a break and escape the heat at Intelligentsia Coffee.
On Sunday, I met up with goods friends and fellow ex-New Yorkers, Allison and CJ, for brunch at Sqirl. Thanks to the awesome team behind Dallas favorite Set & Co. for the recommendation! This buzzy spot in East Hollywood serves up some delicious, fresh fare. I ordered the crispy rice salad with fried egg and sausage. Healthy but filling!
We followed up brunch with a stroll down to Echo Park. This charming neighborhood park is perfect for sunbathing and people watching. It also boasts an awesome view of the LA skyline towering behind the lake and water fountain.
Traffic in LA can be suffocating. Thankfully, there are plenty of places where you can temporarily escape the urban sprawl. Just north of Hollywood is Griffith Park (including the famous Griffith Observatory) and Runyon Canyon Park. Both are great places to go on a hike and catch unobstructed views of Los Angeles. However, they can also be pretty sceney (particularly Runyon Canyon). Stay away if you're afraid of celebrities with dogs, sweaty models and perfect six pack abs. After your challenging hike, head down to Go Get Em Tiger on Larchmont Boulevard for some coffee and sandwiches.
We capped off the weekend with an afternoon in Venice. When you arrive, you start to really understand why so many people love living in Los Angeles. I found out that Google's LA offices are actually in Venice. The thought of living next to the beach, hopelessly attempting to surf, and biking to the office is pretty alluring. If surfing isn't your thing, there's plenty to see and do along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Grab some coffee at Blue Bottle and slowly make your way down the seemingly endless row of hip boutiques. If you can't tell, I'm a big fan of the coffee + shopping combination.