My mom and aunt were here for the past week and I was thrilled to have a chance to show them my Los Angeles. No, we didn’t step foot on the beach or attempt to see the Hollywood sign or pretend to shop on Rodeo Drive, but we got to see what I consider the real LA—the places that people like me really live and work. And—because it is indeed possible—we did arrive almost everywhere via bus, subway, sidewalks and stairs!
Get Some Perspective: My first recommended stop for any visitor to LA is a drink on the roof of The Standard downtown. Yes, it can be annoying (I usually refuse to go anywhere that requires a wristband) but if you gracefully slide up here around, say, 6pm, you’ll be treated to no hassle, live jazz, sunsets, and a perfect 360-degree “you-are-here” introduction to the twinkly, glass-towered city, plus the mountains and hillsides beyond. If there’s a better open-air, rooftop view of LA, I haven’t found it. If you want a more zoomed-out view, substitute with a trip to Griffith Observatory and pair the view with a hike. Update: Maybe better than the Standard, and far less sceney, is the delightful new bar The Perch.
Find Some Art: After your high-class cocktails you’ll need some culture. Sure, the Getty has a better view. MOCA has Art in the Streets. But neither museum has the exquisite urban spaces and great collections of LACMA, which is quickly becoming the best place to spend an arty afternoon. We toured the Tim Burton exhibit (recommended) and had lunch at Ray’s, the incredible new restaurant set amongst the Renzo red plaza. Plus the Craft and Folk Art Museum, with one of the best gift shops in the city, is right across the street. Sadly they close at 5pm, which was just moments after we arrived.
Watch Something Outside: We forget sometimes, with our endless-summer climate, that we have so many stellar outdoor venues. I was delighted when we bought tickets to see my friend Lenny’s film Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, that we’d be seeing the film under the stars at the John Anson Ford Theater. I always forget about the Ford, the smaller sister to the Hollywood Bowl, right across the freeway. Taking in a show outside should be one of the highlights of any trip to LA, whether it’s a Brazilian dance series at the Ford, or Hall & Oates at the Bowl (this weekend!) or Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Extra bonus: You get a chance to pack a picnic, including wine, allowing you to save a few bucks on dinner that night.
Go Home Again: I realized as we stepped onto this jaw-dropping patio on the Dwell on Design home tour that house tours are absolutely the best way to see Los Angeles. We’re famous for our residential architecture and L.A. residents are always so very generous to let the public inside. The Dwell tours are legendary, but there are plenty more throughout the year like the Bungalow Heaven Home Tour, the Venice Garden and Home Tours, the Hancock Park Homes Tour, and you can always tour famous homes like The Gamble House and the Neutra VDL House. I was especially delighted that many of the homes on the Dwell tour were on the Big Parade route (and yes, we did take some stairs!).
Eat a Fancy Brunch: After all that walking, one does tend to get hungry. Bottega Louie was the hands-down favorite for two out of two moms on our trip. Our first visit was on a Saturday morning, as downtown’s residents sleepily wandered into their morning ritual of bright orange mimosas and sunny hollandaise. Brunch is a key to LA life, and Bottega Louie is maybe the best place in the city to have it. We loved the gorgeous white-on-white space that echoes with laughter, the pastries lined up in the bakery like fine jewelry. The food is fantastic, the service is great, but even more than that, it’s almost always open—unlike so many other places—ensuring that you’ll be able to stop in here again for lunch or dinner. As we did. Another dinner tip: Chaya Downtown for its summer happy hour of $2 grilled-to-order yakitori skewers and $5 sushi rolls. Our dinner bill was $28.
See Hidden History: I knew when I bought tickets to the LA Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats that we’d get to see Sunset Boulevard in the beautified theater, but on Sunday night we got so much more than that. We joined a crowd of over 1000 people in singing “Happy Birthday” to the Palace Theater, which turned 100 when it reopened this week. Then we got a lecture about the history of the theater and downtown in 1911, plus before-and-after shots of the renovation, and then, a conversation with one of the film’s stars, Nancy Olson. You couldn’t have asked for more—it was the best way to experience LA’s past. The LA Conservancy does plenty of events, like their upcoming sunset walking tours, all to benefit a great organization. A must-do.
Hit the Civic Highlights: Finally, a downtown architecture tour is a must. We did a quick loop that hit Bunker Hill (the Central Library was closed, sadly), Disney Hall, the Music Center, and the Cathedral. But there are plenty more stops to be made: City Hall, Caltrans, the Biltmore, Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market, Angels Flight (when it reopens). And yes, although we may find it cheesy, you must make a stop at Olvera Street for a peek at LA’s birthplace. Past the rows of Mexican wrestling masks, there’s now a wonderful new cultural center, La Plaza, with the best LA history lesson you can get for $9. We ducked into La Golondrina, a restaurant that’s been operating since the ’20s in one of the city’s oldest buildings (1855!). Then we hopped across the street to Union Station (another must-see highlight) and took the Red Line back to our hotel.
Did they have a good time? Well, I’m sure the margaritas helped to put a smile on their faces, but just look at those happy moms!
More photos from our mom adventure here.