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Ever wondered where the best bars for sundowners are in LA, which beach is top choice for a Sunday afternoon surf and sunbathe, or the must-do hikes on a trip to La-La Land? Well you’re in luck. We catch up with LA resident Lauren Kaye to get the rundown on what the locals like to do in California’s biggest city.
The SoCal city of Los Angeles is synonymous with endless sunshine, impressive sunsets, beach days followed by uber cool dinner dates, celebrity spotting and trend-setting, not to mention being the home of one of the busiest airports in the world and a complicated web of freeways that confuse even resident Angelenos. It’s one busy, popular city, that’s for sure. ‘Sunny, friendly, insane; that’s how I’d sum up LA!’ laughs Brit Lauren Kaye, who moved to the SoCal city in 2017.
Hailing from London, Lauren and her husband Mike first dreamt of moving to LA after a trip there in 2011. ‘We did a road trip around Southern California just before we got married, and fell in love with it here,’ says Lauren. ‘The endless sunshine, warm weather, friendly people, the beaches... it was exactly the lifestyle we wanted, but at that time could only dream of.’
So in July 2017, when Lauren was offered the chance to transfer to the LA office with her job, she jumped at the opportunity, taking Mike and their dog Stevie Beagle with her. ‘We’re incredibly lucky that we were able to make our dream a reality,’ says Lauren. ‘Every day I wake up and can’t quite believe we’re living the life we dreamed of!’
So what is it that makes LA such a great place, for residents and tourists alike? ‘Life here is just as you’d imagine from television – there’s the glitzy side, the beachy side, the hipster side… it all exists in perfect harmony. There’s nowhere quite like it,’ says Lauren.
Lauren loves packing the car with supplies and heading out for a hike or a beach day with her husband Mike and their dog Stevie Beagle
This sprawling metropolis is the second most populated city in the US. And with neighbourhoods ranging from the super glitzy to the tourist-dense, eclectic to the uber cool, not to mention 75 miles of coastline, it can be hard to know where to start when you land at LAX. So take it from a local, and you’ll get the best out of the city on your trip there.
‘My favourite thing to do in LA is pack the car with an ice-box of supplies, the dog and my husband, and drive up to Malibu. We’ll kick off the day with a hike in the hills (Zuma Canyon and Topanga Canyon are our favourites), then hit Leo Carillo beach in the afternoon,’ says Lauren.
‘Leo Carillo is great. It’s completely different from the beaches in Venice and Santa Monica. For starters, it’s a state park beach. It’s small, set in a cove, and allows you to feel miles away from the city. It’s dog-friendly too (which LA is not known for), so Stevie gets to come and enjoy it with us! There are restrooms and water, but nothing else, so make sure you bring supplies (hit Vintage Grocers in Malibu on the way), plus an umbrella if you want some shelter. Oh, and of course – your surfboard!’ explains Lauren. ‘It’s California, after all.’
‘LA is a car city, that’s for sure. But once you get out the city and the traffic, there are some really nice drives. Our favourite is the one that takes you up to Leo Carillo beach – the view on the way there, as well as on the way back, is absolutely spectacular.
‘But if you’re sticking with the city’s main beaches, there’s plenty to choose from, too. The beach south of Venice Pier is a lot quieter than other beaches,’ advises Lauren. ‘That’s where we go to watch the sunset.’
‘Like many Angelenos, we love heading out of the city at the weekend, doing a hike and then cooling off by the ocean in the afternoon.’
When it comes to what to do on the weekend, take a leaf out of Lauren’s book and do as the locals do.
‘Like many Angelenos, we love heading out of the city at the weekend, doing a hike and then cooling off by the ocean in the afternoon. The evenings are about BBQs with friends or heading out for drinks and dinner somewhere in Venice or Santa Monica,’ says Lauren.
‘There’s no better way to start off a Sunday in LA than with brunch. We usually meet friends somewhere in Venice, like Rose Café or Superba Food + Bread, then relax in the afternoon by a pool or at the beach. Don’t miss heading down to Venice Pier to watch the sunset with a bottle of wine, it’s a quintessential LA experience!’
But a trip to LA isn’t just about beaching, brunching, wining and dining. It’s also about getting out of the city and into the surrounding nature. The hills around the city provide a perfect aerial view back over the glistening skyscrapers of La-La Land.
‘On a clear day, head straight for Griffith Observatory,’ says Lauren. ‘This iconic LA hike is great for everyone – it’s not too difficult, and the views back over the city and of the iconic Hollywood sign are pinch-me-perfect. ‘When you get to the top, make sure you walk around the observatory itself before exploring inside, it’s worth it. Afterwards, head to Joan’s on Third for lunch.’
As California’s biggest city, there’s something for everyone in LA. After designer boutiques? Head to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Want unbeatable sunsets, people-watching galore and miles of white sand? Santa Monica is for you. Hungry for the best Mexican in town? Make a beeline for Silver Lake. Want to get up close and personal with the stars? Don’t miss Hollywood.
‘For my pick of the best neighbourhood in LA, I’d say Venice – but then I am biased as we live there!’, says Lauren. ‘There are some amazing places all around the city, but people tend to stick to their neighbourhoods to avoid having to drive everywhere.’
The best thing about so much diversity in areas is that the options for wining and dining are endless. Whether you’re a fine-dining foodie aficionado or prefer value for money, you’ll find something that suits your tastes and needs.
‘Every neighbourhood has a different vibe. Some of our favourites are Gjelina on Abbott Kinney in Venice for dinner (a Venice institution, and some of the best food around), Rose Café for brunch, lunch or dinner, and Jon & Vinny’s and Laurel Hardware in West Hollywood,’ says Lauren.
‘But we also love Venice Beach Wines on Rose Avenue for its happy hour and bar food. It’s a tiny, cosy place, completely unpretentious and one of our favourites’, says Lauren.
‘Same goes for Clutch on Lincoln Boulevard, which is a good brunch or dinner choice. Malibu Farm Café at the end of the pier in Malibu is great for lunch, and if you don’t mind splashing some serious cash, don’t miss Nobu in West Hollywood.’
As the day draws to a close, it’s all about the epic sunsets over the Pacific. ‘I’d always say that the best way to experience the beautiful LA sunsets is at the beach, taking some snacks and a bottle of wine and feeling the sand between your toes,’ says Lauren. ‘But when it comes to sunset views with an atmosphere, you can’t beat Hotel Erwin in Venice. Get a table at the rooftop bar, and order the guacamole and chips to snack on while you drink rosé and watch the sun go down…’
‘Hire a bike and cycle along the boardwalk between Venice and Santa Monica (and beyond, if you have the energy!) for a true LA experience,’ says Lauren. Even Stevie Beagle agrees!
Whether it’s your first or fifth time to LA, you’re here on holiday or on business, Lauren has some handy tips for those wanting to get the most out of their LA trip.
‘Hire a bike and cycle along the boardwalk between Venice and Santa Monica (and beyond, if you have the energy!) for a true LA experience. Do as the locals do and catch a Rams NFL game if they are playing at home, or a Lakers or Clippers basketball game. Even if you don’t understand the rules, they are a lot of fun! And the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is well worth a visit. If you’re in LA in the summer, go see a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.’
If you’re new to the city, Lauren has some words of advice: ‘Think about what you like to do, whether it’s going to the beach, hiking, going to restaurants or museums, and plan your trip around that. Don’t underestimate how much time it takes to get everywhere in LA, and plan to stay near to where you want to spend most of your time.’
If you have a bit longer and want to explore more of what makes SoCal such a popular place to live and visit, the options are endless.
‘We love heading down to Hermosa Beach in the South Bay, taking a walk along the boardwalk, and then stopping for a beer and nachos on the strand,’ says Lauren.
‘Another great place is Palm Springs – think boutique hotels and amazing bars and restaurants in the desert. For some small town charm, head to picturesque Ojai, which is just north of LA and borders the Los Padres National Forest. Orange County has some incredible beaches, while Ocean Beach, which is further south near San Diego, is great for surfing. On the list for us to explore is Santa Catalina Island. There’s always something new to experience or a new place to explore in SoCal!’
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