Since moving to Los Angeles almost 8 years ago, I’ve lived on the West Side (Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, and Malibu,) Central L.A. (K-Town), and now I live in Downtown Los Angeles. Living in all these vastly different neighborhoods has allowed me the opportunity to explore their hidden gems. I thought long and hard about what my favorite spots are, and to be honest, they change quite frequently. But that’s the fascinating thing about this city. There’s constantly a new bar popping up or a new store to explore and they’ll quickly become a favorite until a new place is discovered. I created a list of the current places I keep returning to. Whether it’s a date night, drinks with friends or a hotel I recommend to my family and friends—these are the places that keep me coming back and that I suggest visiting if you haven’t already.
For even more recommendations, check out My Guide to LA, Part 2: Where to Dine, Sightsee, Workout, and Get Pampered
Budget Friendly and Hostels
Freehand Los Angeles (DTLA) $75 and up: The Freehand is part hotel and part hostel. If you’re searching for a budget friendly place (with all the perks), and don’t mind sharing a room with a stranger, you can choose to stay in a “shared” room. They also regular rooms and suites available for the more typical stay. The hotel has four restaurants and bars with Broken Shaker being my favorite. It’s situated on the rooftop along with the amazing pool that offers panoramic views of Downtown Los Angeles.
Seaview Hotel (Santa Monica) $88: This art deco hotel is a half block from the coast and adjacent to The Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade. There are only 17 rooms which gives this trendy California vibe hotel a more intimate atmosphere. After a long day you can head to the sun deck to view the sunset. There’s also free parking on a first come, first serve basis.
Channel Road Inn (Santa Monica) $225: This charming bed-and-breakfast in Santa Monica is a few steps from the beach and it‘s the ideal choice for a weekend escape. Many of the rooms have fireplaces and hot tubs, and a view of the ocean. There’s a complimentary breakfast and afternoon wine and hor d’oeuvres.
The M Malibu (Malibu) $187: If you’re looking for a no frills hotel, but one that’s close to the beach, The M Malibu is a great option. It’s on PCH so you’re directly across the street from the ocean and a 5-minute walk to Carbon Beach. There’s a pool, the rooms are spacious, and some of them have balconies.
Palihouse (West Hollywood) $235: I first became introduced to the Palihouse when Billy and my friend were DJing there on Friday nights. Located in the heart of West Hollywood and a few steps away from the Sunset Strip, there’s so much to do and see in this area. The hotel has a rooftop “Sunset Cocktail Lounge”, a library, an intimate bar and a restaurant that occasionally has live music.
The Ace Hotel (DTLA) $159: You may have seen the brightly lit sign “Jesus Saves” which sits atop The Ace Hotel in the Broadway Theater District. The boutique hotel has a rooftop pool with stunning views of Downtown Los Angeles, a restaurant, three bars, and a renovated theater where you can catch performers like Billy Idol, Craig Ferguson, and Rise Against.
Luxury and High-End Hotels
Shutters on the Beach (Santa Monica) $598: If you’re looking to splurge, this is the place to do it. With breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and The Santa Monica Pier, this beside resort redefines luxury. There’s a spa, a pool that sits on the beach, and three restaurants (head to Coast for brunch, and 1 Pico for dinner and cocktails).
The Georgian Hotel (Santa Monica) $287: When I moved to LA this was the first hotel I stayed at while I was looking for an apartment. I love the history (it’s said to be haunted). One of my favorite things to do was wake up early and order room service (either Oats and Grains Brûlée or the Ocean View Continental) from the Veranda Restaurant and then head across the street to the beach.
The Beverly Hills Hotel (Beverly Hills) $595: Another splurge-worthy place to stay is the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel close to Rodeo Drive and other LA landmarks. Aside from the spectacular rooms, there’s The Polo Lounge, and The Cabana Cafe which is on my list of favorite places to dine. There’s also an upscale spa, yoga, and one of the chillest pools in Los Angeles.
Hotel Figueroa (DTLA) $275: If you’re looking for a boutique hotel in the heart of DTLA this is a great option. A few steps from the Staples Center and L.A. Live, the renovated Hotel Figueroa has five restaurants including the Veranda where you can dine poolside.
No Vacancy (Hollywood): The entrance into this speakeasy is quite unpredictable (I won’t ruin it for you), but it’s not like any other bar or club in Hollywood. Once you’re inside the Victorian house, there are three floors and multiple rooms with DJs spinning vinyl. Outside is a huge courtyard that features live shows with tightrope walkers, jazz music, and burlesque dancers.
The Sunset Strip (WeHo): Catching a show at Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy, or The Viper Room is always a fun time, especially when you reflect on the rich history behind these haunts. I’m a huge fan of The Doors, Guns n Roses, and Mötley Crüe, so I love going to the venues they once played (and partied) at. I was able to hangout in the dressing rooms at Whisky a Go Go and it was an amazing experience! If you’re a fan of rock n roll, and you’re seeking a very laid back vibe, interesting looking people, strong drinks, and delicious pizza--then head to The Rainbow Bar and Grill.
Avalon (Hollywood): I started going to Avalon with Billy on the weekends to catch DJ sets. If you like electronic music and want a fun place to dance and drink this is a great spot to do it at. Set in an historic building (The Ramones played their last show here) with unique architecture, there are several DJs, dance floors, and bar areas, so you can move around and listen to the variety of EDM music.
The Continental Club (DTLA): You come in through a back alley, go down dimly lit stairs and arrive at a speakeasy style club. Each night they have a specific selection of music from underground jazz, old school classics and top 40s, Latin style dance, to music from 1985 to 2010.
The Varnish (DTLA): Playing homage to old and new The Varnish gets it right. Located in the back of Cole’s, they serve up some of the best classic cocktails in LA. On Wednesdays and Sundays this dark and mysterious bar has live jazz.
Perch (DTLA): If you’re looking for a view with your drink, Perch should be on the top of your list. It’s actually a restaurant, but upstairs on the 16th floor is the famous French inspired rooftop bistro. I love bringing out-of-towners here for cocktails so they can get the actual “feel” of the DTLA skyline.
The Bungalow (Santa Monica): The atmosphere of this place is like a house party at the beach. It reminds me of American Pie 2 where the cast attempts to have the best summer party ever; which brings me back to my teenage years. There are fire pits, an outside patio with twinkling lights, and a game room. It’s across the street from the beach making it the ideal location.
Bar Jackalope (DTLA): I had been to Seven Grand multiple times and didn’t realize this tiny speakeasy existed. Once you arrive, there’s a secret door inside the bar with a doorbell. A bartender will answer and lead you into this dimly lit space and show you your table. Choose between the 120 Scotch and Japanese whiskies (some that are exceptionally rare). The mood is chill with jazz music playing in the background. Be sure to make a reservation because there are only a few tables.
Hidden Treasures Vintage (Topanga Canyon): If you’re looking to be transported back to the 1960s, head to Topanga Canyon. Known for its bohemian vibe, over the years it has attracted artists, musicians, and filmmakers. As you stroll the streets, be sure to stop in Hidden Treasures (you can’t miss it—it looks like a gingerbread house). The shop is a favorite among Kate Moss, Lenny Kravitz, and fashion stylists. They buy and sell carefully selected pieces dating back from the Victorian era up to the 1980s. They also have a huge selection of antiques, festival wear, and costumes.
Melrose District (Melrose): From second-hand shops like Wasteland and Decades, to favorites among LA locals like Fred Segal, Reformation, and Revolve you can easily spend a day browsing all the unique boutiques and still won’t have enough time to see them all. They range from punk, to trendy, to high-end, so there’s something for everyone.
(Check out Where to Thrift Shop in LA: The Melrose / Fairfax Edition for more places to explore.)
Melrose Trading Post (Melrose): Another must see in the Melrose area is the weekend flea market held every Sunday from 9am-5pm (rain or shine). Merchants sell their unique crafts, vintage clothing, antiques, and jewelry. This is where I discovered one of my favorite jewelry designers, VidaKush. There’s also live music, and tons of food options.
The Beverly Center (Beverly Hills/WeHo): My favorite place to go when it’s raining and I want to shop. This mall is situated on the edges of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and features over 100 stores.
The Last Bookstore (DTLA): Another rainy day favorite is heading to The Last Bookstore and spending a day checking out the new and old books, and a huge array of records. Located in a former bank vault, the design is unique, and it’s turned into a favorite place for Instagrammable photos.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard (Venice): I love waking up extra early and heading to Venice. I’ll start by shopping on Abbot Kinney (Satine 1508, Aesop, Burro, Fiorentini + Baker, Mystic Journey Bookstore, Principessa, and Alexis Bittar). Then I’ll head to Gjelina for brunch. I’ll do more shopping and stop a Salt & Straw for some amazing ice cream (try the Smoked Sea Salt & Chocolate Crack). I’ll then make a point of walking through the Venice Canals and end the day by watching the sunset a few steps away on the Venice Boardwalk.
Malibu Country Mart (Malibu): When I first moved to Southern California, I didn’t live far from the Malibu Country Mart (aka Cross Creek). I would spend a lot of days walking around this outside mall shopping at my favorite stores: Madison, Planet Blue, Wildfox, and Malibu Shaman.
House of Intuition (Echo Park): When I‘m in the mood for some spiritual healing, this is the place I’ll go. This cute little shop in Echo Park (there are a few other locations throughout LA and NYC) carries an abundance of metaphysical and homeopathic products. From essential oils and incense, crystals and stones, candles and jewelry. They also offer workshops in mediumship, animal communication, full moon ceremonies, and more.
Third Street Promenade (Santa Monica): This upscale outdoor shopping mall has a variety of stores—from large retailers to small independent boutiques. Every Wednesday and Saturday there’s a must-visit farmers’ market between 2nd and 4th street that features fresh organic produce. The Promenade is close to the ocean, The Pier, and there are a ton of restaurants, and bars to choose from; this makes it the ideal place to spend a summer night.
The Fashion District (DTLA): When I was working in fashion PR I was introduced to the sample sales that happen in The Gerry Building and The Cooper Design Space. On the last Friday of each month certain showrooms open their doors to the public and sell overstocked and last season pieces for up to 90% off! You can follow the Chicmi calendar to see what sample sales are coming up.