There is so much to see, do and experience in the SoCal cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Monica – the land of sun-kissed beaches, rows and rows of palm trees and Hollywood glitz and glamour!
Lights, camera, action! When you think of Los Angeles, you think of glitz, glamour and Hollywood! While LA certainly does have that element, there is so much more to experience in Los Angeles and its downtown core and picturesque, surrounding cities like Long Beach and Santa Monica.
Over the last decade or so, Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) has undergone a renaissance, transforming this traditional business district to a more exciting playground with innovative museums and art galleries; hip rooftop bars like The Rooftop at The Standard which boasts panoramic views of the city; trendy restaurants with cutting-edge chefs; and unique and inspiring nightlife venues like The Edison – a world class lounge and nightclub fusing architectural and historical artifacts with art deco style featuring celebrity DJs and classy burlesque shows reminiscent of old Hollywood glam.
The City of Angels
Known for its year-round Mediterranean climate, the vibrant city of Los Angeles was whispering my name and I couldn’t resist the call. It had been years since I visited the largest metropolis on the West Coast of North America and the City of Angels did not disappoint from start to finish of my travels.
Take a day to play tourist and visit some of LA’s best-known sights such as the following:
Hollywood Walk of Fame – walk along Hollywood Boulevard and check out the famous five-pointed brass stars embedded in the sidewalks and take pictures with your favourite musicians, actors, directors or fictional characters like Mickey Mouse.
The Dolby Theatre – take a guided tour of this live performance theatre that is not only a Hollywood landmark, but home to the annual Academy Awards/Oscars ceremony. The theatre also hosts large-scale Hollywood movie premieres rolling out the red carpet for its talented cast and crew.
TCL Chinese Theatre – formerly known as the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, this historic and cultural landmark is home to over 200 Hollywood celebrity handprints, footprints and autographs from Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland to Morgan Freeman, Robert Downey Jr. and Jackie Chan, who even imprinted his nose in the cement!
Madame Tussauds – located next to the TCL Chinese Theatre, you can visit this renowned wax museum and take selfies with people from all walks of life from pop stars and actors to royalty and more.
The Hollywood Roosevelt – known as LA’s most famous hotel, The Roosevelt has been a favourite amongst past and current stars since opening its doors in 1927. The hotel is rumoured to be haunted by a few ghosts, including Marilyn Monroe, who was a frequent main stay at the hotel. It’s the perfect place to drop by for a drink at its intimate cocktail lounge The Spare Room.
If you’re a sports enthusiast, you will want to visit the Staples Center to witness the Lakers, Clippers, Sparks or Kings play. Adjacent to the stadium is LA Live, an entertainment district with restaurants, retailers, theatres and a 54-storey hotel and condo tower. A highlight of LA Live is The Grammy Museum, which has four floors showcasing historical musical artifacts. Outside the museum, there are bronze disks embedded into the sidewalk honouring each year’s top winners – Record of the Year, Best New Artist, and so forth.
A surprise find in DTLA that soon became a favourite neighbourhood to explore, dine in and visit amongst its eclectic venues was Chinatown. Consisting of 24 blocks, Chinatown has also undergone a revival and is a historic and cultural district with festive red lanterns, speciality stores, art galleries, renowned restaurants, and beautifully designed buildings and statues including one of Bruce Lee. Two of our fave, no frills restaurants offering authentic, delicious food were Yang Chow, which has been visited by celebrities for decades, and Foo Chow, where the movie Rush Hour featuring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker was filmed.
Nature enthusiasts can hike Griffith Park to the top of Mount Hollywood, home of the iconic Griffith Observatory, which you may remember from La La Land and the Transformers movies. Admission to this space and science observatory is free, and afterwards, explore the exterior grounds boasting spectacular, unparalleled views of the Hollywood Sign, DTLA and the Pacific Ocean.
As DTLA continues to evolve and transform, the nightlife is fresh, exciting and legendary. Our favourite venue was The Edison, a world class lounge and nightclub, that transports you back to the 1920s. Housed in LA’s first private power plant, this hot spot is a sensory experience the minute you walk in from its architectural and mechanical artifacts and gorgeous art deco style to its bartenders and servers dressed in 1920s fashion.
The Edison is a stunning, multi-level venue that offers something for everyone. Adding to the excitement, the main entrance is located through an alleyway and it feels like you’re entering a speakeasy of days gone past. Once you’re in, descend down its three-storey staircase into the main part of the club where you can explore the diverse sections from intimate lounges to the main bar and dance floor. Or take a seat near its grandiose stage and watch the classy burlesque shows reminiscent of old Hollywood glam with giant feather fans and all.
The Edison also features celebrity DJs and on the night we visited, we were in for a real treat as DJ and Actor Shawn Wayans was spinning! We got a chance to meet him, and he was just as funny and down-to-earth as you would imagine.
Known for its heavenly, vintage cocktails, The Edison has a long list of delectable cocktails to sip on – my favourite was its namesake ‘The Edison,’ a mix of Woodford Reserve Edison Barrel Bourbon with pear cognac, honey and lemon. And make sure you visit on an empty stomach, there is a wide range of gourmet dishes to indulge in from ahi tuna tartar and artisanal flatbreads to truffle mac and cheese.
Located on the coast and home to the famous Queen Mary ship, Long Beach is a port city that is quintessentially California with white sandy beaches, bike- and pedestrian-friendly paths and rows and rows of palm trees. We spent the day biking around Shoreline Village and its picturesque waterfront boardwalk – a great place to dine with ocean views, catch some live entertainment or hop on the Ferris wheel as the sun starts to set for some Instagram-worthy pictures. Continue to explore Shoreline Village and its illustrious lighthouse at night when it’s all lit up so you can admire the truly beautiful views and take in the ambiance that is Long Beach. And if you’re interested, you can take a one-hour ferry ride from Long Beach to Catalina Island.
SantaMonica is simply a lovely destination – this beachfront city fringed by Palisades Park is home to 3rt Street Promenade, a pedestrian-friendly shopping, dining and entertainment complex that is fun to explore and its historic, 100-year-old pier that features Pacific Park (amusement park and games), an array of yummy food, musicians and artists and its iconic Ferris wheel that is a city landmark. The Santa Monica Pier is also home to an aquarium for close-up views of marine life native to the area; famous carousel built in 1939 with wooden horses and sleighs – “one of the few structures remaining from Santa Monica’s original pier” – and is a frequent pit stop for those who end their Route 66 trek at the pier – you can even get a Route 66 completion certificate.
Known for its year-round Mediterranean climate, California is a sought-after destination any season of the year and there is so much to see, do and experience in Southern California. My latest travels to Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Monica did not disappoint and was one for the books! I’m already looking forward to heading back to the land of sun-kissed beaches, rows and rows of palm trees and Hollywood glitz and glamour!
Photo Credit – Renu Singh-Joseph, istockphoto