“Nobody Walks In L.A.”
– Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons
it took only 30+ years, but we do walk and bike in L.A. Thanks to the recently completed Expo Line, you can now travel from the beach (Santa Monica) to DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) in 51 minutes all the while watching the standstill traffic, well, standstill.
An Open Letter to Visitors to Los Angeles from a Local,
Welcome. Los Angeles is a great city, but please, PLEASE, don’t get on the freeway. We, Angelenos are at our wit’s end with the traffic and, really, you don’t need to experience the deep-seated frustration we experience daily with traffic. There’s a better way, a new way and I’m here to guide you through it.
If you’re here for a long weekend and want to experience some of the best LA has to offer you should see a “typical” beach town and our “booming” downtown. Two very diverse experiences and truly mirroring the diversity of Los Angeles as a whole.
Before continuing please download the following apps:
- Uber– so, there are times you do need a ride. LAX will eventually have a metro line directly to it, but currently it does not (what the heck are those city planners thinking?). Uber has recently been granted access to pick up /drop off at LAX- use the service. It’s efficient and not too pricey.
Waze– crowd sourcing traffic app. Can help you (whether on foot, bike or car) navigate the fastest way to your desired destination.
- Metro Mobile– you’ll find out when your train is going to arrive and reserve bikes in DTLA.
- Breeze Bike Share– grab the bike for the day or hourly- can you feel the warm ocean breezes already?
Whichever end you start from, if you are coming from LAX the fastest (avoid coming in from 8-10am and 3-6pm) way (and probably the cheapest) is Uber. Just do it.
Lodging in Santa Monica
The closer you are to the beach, the more expensive. These three hotels are close to the metro (Casa Del Mar is the farthest and would require a .25 mile uphill for .10 mile walk to the metro station) and are in the heart of Santa Monica.
Casa Del Mar– 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, CA 90405
The most beautiful hotel in Santa Monica. Built in 1926, as a private beach club, the building has had a number of lives. It has housed the US Navy in World War II and been a Wellness Center. The building underwent a 50 million dollar restoration in 1997 and is, an oceanfront gem. If you want romance, the bar at sunset is the place to go. (Rooms 425.00 and up a night. Check the website as there are some great specials)
Shore Hotel– 1515 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Shore Hotel is one of the newest hotels in Santa Monica. A very modern hotel on Ocean Avenue and across from the Santa Monica Pier. Great location for shopping and beach going. Ocean Avenue can become very congested rather than ocean breezes, exhaust fumes may be what you smell on a sunny day. (Rooms 350.00 and up a night sometimes cheaper to book directly with this hotel)
The Wyndham Hotel– 120 Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
This hotel is closest to the metro and has recently been updated. While not modern or old this hotel is perfect for a anyone wanting a comfortable hotel that is centrally located. Let’s face it you’re going to be too busy exploring to spend much time in your room (Rooms 287.00 and up a night)
Things To Do:
Lots of things to do in Santa Monica and you’re not going to be able to do all of them so I’ve rated the the activities by level of exertion.
Beach Bum: (go South of the pier: less crowds, wider beach, & cleaner water)
Do it…. You know you want to…. Put on your flip flops and bathing suit and make your way to the beach. For lunch, hit The Santa Monica Pier’s The Albright ( 310-396-9683) and play some games in the old time fun park Palisades Park or take in the view from the ferris wheel. The hippodrome which houses the gorgeous 1920‘s carousel on the pier was built in 1916 and is the oldest building on the pier- definitely worth a spin!
Shopping: (3rd Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place)
Start at 3rd Street and Wilshire and make your way down. Lots of places to shop and some great places to eat- Bar Pinxto (109 Santa Monica Boulevard 310-458-2012) for pinxtos/tapas being a great “local” choice and they have great gin and tonics. As well, on the third floor of the Santa Monica Place is Gourmandise Cooking School which offers daily cooking classes of all types- you can check their class schedule online. Movie theaters abound in Santa Monica, but you have too much to do to go to the movies right?
Bike Tour: (rental bikes stands are all over Santa Monica and Venice and have as of July 2016 been installed in DTLA)
If you’re feeling energetic there is no better or cheaper way than to rent a Breeze Bike. These are bright green bikes at stands throughout Santa Monica and Venice. Once you download the app and pick your payment plan (6.00 per hour) you can ride your Breeze bike and catch the bike path from Santa Monica to Venice. Remember, you do NOT have to leave the bike at Breeze bike stand, but, if you don’t, you will be charged and extra $2.00. Heading South on the bike path, you will hit Venice Beach within 3 miles on an flat path. After your eyes pop back in (Venice has a lot to look at, smell and experience) your head, pedal over to Dudley Market (9 Dudley Street 424-744- 8066 for breakfast/lunch). Hit the artichoke omlette with grilled goat cheese sandwich to reward yourself (pictured below). After you’ve eaten you can return to your bike or walk around Venice watching performers juggle chainsaws, have your palms read or watch amazing skate boarding. After you’ve had your fill you can either ride your bike back or grab an uber for a short return home.
*Family Tip: you can rent multiple bikes on one account, but you must be at the bikes to do so. Simply enter the bike code into your app and you will be allowed to rent as many as necessary. Be sure to check the app to make sure there are enough bikes (the map will indicate how many bikes are at each stand) for the brood before going to the stand.
Herringbone-1755 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Great space, great food, great bar. What more than you need? You will be happy here for either lunch or dinner. The seafood is fresh and local as are the ingredients. They have a great happy hour aptly named “oyster hour” with 1.00 oysters. Meat eaters worry not the restaurant is not just a seafood joint and boasts some wonderful meat courses. Their brunch features a bottomless mimosa and rose option that might make touring the rest of the city difficult. The restaurant is placed in a newly built mixed-use residential complex. A two bedroom, 900 sqf condo is currently on the market for 1.3 million. Welcome to Santa Monica. When walking back to the promenade make sure to visit the beautiful and new Tongva Park built at the mouth of the metro.
Chez Jay -1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
This restaurant/bar built in 1959 is one of the oldest in Santa Monica. The restaurant now has a great outdoor patio looking out onto beautiful Tongva Park. The food is hearty American fare (hamburgers, steak, salads) and the drinks are strong. This bar is considered a “dive bar” but if you’re trying to rub elbows with hollywood- you will more than likely get lucky in your star sighting here. Locals love the weekend brunch and often flock here- so get there early.
If you aren’t tired or are a serious night owl there are many bars in Santa Monica. If you want to hear live music head over to Rusty’s Surf Ranch (310-393-PIER). The venue also owns The Albright so if you are hungry you can eat there and catch the show after your meal. The rides at Pacific Park (on the Pier) also stay open during Friday and Saturday in the Summer from 9am- 12am and the ferris wheel is beautiful at all times of the day.
How to Ride the Expo Line (download the metro mobile app)
So once you’ve checked out and had an early brunch, grab your bags and head over to the Santa Monica Station at Colorado Avenue and 4th Street. Your ride should take 46 minutes (but may take 51 minutes as we Angelenos are still getting used to all the pesky metro crossing stops) and traverses atop Los Angeles (until the last 1.5 mile or so). The expo line runs from 4:30am- 2:00 am and has a maximum speed of 55 mph (although the line rarely reaches it’s maximum speed). You will be required to purchase a TAP card at the station and the ride will cost you $1.25 to be paid at the time of purchase of the card. Once you purchase the card, you will enter the station and board a car (there is typically one waiting).
Settle in and enjoy the ride as you travel through Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, Culver City, Midtown and finally Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). If you are staying at either the Marriot/ Ritz Carlton at LA Live, you can expect a 9 minute flat walk or the Luxe City Center Hotel a 6 minute walk, you will be exiting the Expo Line at the Pico Station (2460 S Flower St, Los Angeles 90007 ) or if you are staying at Checkers Hotel you will exit at the end of the Expo Line at 7th St/Metro Center (660 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles 90017) for a flat 8 minute walk from either of these stations it is very easy to navigate to your hotel (once above ground) using a navigation app on your smart phone (you could also ask someone for directions, but that is hardly done anymore). If you really don’t want to walk, Uber is a great choice to get around DTLA.
Both the Marriott/Ritz Carlton and The Luxe City Center Hotel are located at one end of Grand Avenue, DTLA’s main thoroughfare and the street you will be walking today. So you could check in and begin the tour easily. Checkers Hotel will place you close to Midway on the “Grand Tour.”
Lodging in DTLA
The JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton at LA Live- 900 West Olympic Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90015/ (888) 236-2427
The Marriott at LA Live inhabits the first 27th floors of a ultra-modern downtown skyscraper located at the Staples Center. The rooms are standard Marriott fare which mean they are comfortable and clean. The Marriott Lobby is always bustling. If you want a more luxurious experience, you can reserve a room at the Ritz Carlton which inhabits the top floors of the the Marriott (floors 27- 52). The Ritz is the Ritz. Excellent customer service and beautifully appointed rooms and some stunning views. Do NOT eat at LA Live’s chain restaurants or Marriott’s restaurants for a walk of .5 mile you could have some of the greatest food Los Angeles has to offer. You don’t need to blow your calorie count for food you can get, well, anywhere. Marriott rooms run 269.00 and up a night and the Ritz runs 469.00 a night.
The Luxe is a block away from the Marriott/Ritz. Another great option for a DTLA stay as the rooms are modern and well appointed. The customer service is excellent and the concierge is very knowledgeable about DTLA. The outdoor terrace with fire pit and private cabanas is a nice place to unwind after a long day of walking. Rooms start at 215.00
Hilton Checkers Los Angeles: 535 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071/ (213) 624-0000
Built in 1927, Checkers is a reminder to all who enter the hotel that Los Angeles does have history. The hotel originally named “The Mayflower” is built on a lot that is only 60ft wide and 160 feet deep. With beautiful original Spanish facade is complete with gargoyles and bas-relief sculptures of the Mayflower and Santa Maria on either side of the entrance. The hotel has 188 rooms (down from 348) after the Hilton renovated in the 1980’s even with this decrease the standard room is comparatively small. Rooms start at 259.00 but with Hilton Honors can come down by 10 percent.
Things to Do
Los Angeles has been building. We Angelenos have lived without a downtown for long enough. Our decentralized city is a mass of urban sprawl and disconnected communities. Thankfully, DTLA is seeking to change that with a city renewal project. At the heart of this project is the Grand Corridor which stretches 1.6 miles along Grand Avenue, Los Angeles is placing entertainment and culture at the fore hoping to attract natives and tourists to this central destination. You could spend 5 days easily on Grand Avenue alone so for your sanity and enjoyment only pick three destinations per day. Lunch must be at Grand Central Market (more on that later). Also if you don’t enjoy walking up short steep hills (only one) take an Uber to beautiful Disney Hall and begin your walk (all downhill and flat) down Grand Ave.
Disney Hall/Redcat– 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
You can easily check online for a schedule. If you have time to catch a performance at Disney Hall, you will not be disappointed. Built by Frank Gehry in 2003 to the tune of 274 million dollars, the hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Conductor Gustavo “The Dude” Dudamel, the beloved, eternally youthful, Venezuelan whose hair keeps tempo with the music. If you can’t make a concert, then try and get there for the free hour long tour that runs from 12:00-1:15 on select days. The Redcat operates out of the bottom floor and is an avant-garde theater which is edgy and hard to understand much of the time (or hard for me to understand).
The Broad– 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Is Los Angeles’s newest museum, a contemporary art museum. The museum houses on LA’s most philanthropic families, The Broad’s art collection, and is stunning. Tickets should be purchased in advance. The museum is cool. Super cool. Cool in a way that all of the museum attendants are dressed casually and wear smiles. They WANT to talk about the collection- so ask them about it. Tip: Get tickets first thing for the light room, ask the docents about the amazing artist and then be prepared to be blown away. Open from 1o am- 6pm, you should make it if you can.
MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art- 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Okay…. So, she WAS the shining star of the contemporary art scene in Los Angeles until The Broad… But just because she’s a little long in the tooth doesn’t mean you shouldn’t delve into this fantastic collection. Full disclosure, last time I was here with my kid’s school, the docent was rude. Full disclosure a bit deeper, a bunch of fifth grade kids with dyslexia who were fidgety and filled with non-standard questions can make anyone rude. The staff are a bit obnoxious, however, you can enjoy the amazing art without engaging them. Open from 11am- 6pm.
Grand Central Market– LUNCH: 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013
A mere .2 miles away from MOCA is the Grand Central Market with some amazing choices for lunch. From Egg Slut to Horse Thief BBQ, a visitor has endless options for eats. Built in 1917, Grand Central Market was a place where Angelenos could buy their produce. Built by John Parkinson (who built City Hall and Union Station to name a few), The Homer Laughlin Building was LA’s first fireproofed, steel reinforced building. You won’t be disappointed with the food or the people watching.
Tip: The Bradbury Building is across the street from The Grand Central Market and the lobby is gorgeous. You don’t have time for a tour, but read about the building’s history, here.
The Richard J. Riordan Central Library -630 W. 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071
Built in 1926, the library is an example of Art Deco gorgeousness. Again, Los Angeles has a brief history compared to the many of the other cities in the United States so I jump on any chance to have a taste of that history. Please just go to the ROTUNDA to be blown away by a room that is truly a piece of art. You could spend hours here learning about Los Angeles from many different aspects- you will see a beautiful building, an amazing interior (also don’t miss the Children’s Library) that blends the modern and the historic beautifully and you will see a library that is not just for education but is a safe place for many of Los Angeles disenfranchised. Luckily, the library proves to be a haven for all. Hours vary but the library is always open by 10:000am except on Sundays when it opens at 1:00 pm. Best to take advantage of the Free docent tours by calling (213) 228-7168 or send an e-mail to email@example.com for more information.
L.A. Live– 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015
Staples, The Grammy Museum, ESPN Zone, and Lucky Strikes bowling are just a few of the things you can do at LA Live. If you are with kids this place is your bribe for going to The Broad and The Central Library. You can bowl, you can catch a sporting event, see a movie, or go to a concert. Completed in 2007, LA Live has helped to centralize and ground downtown. They also have an app so that you can easily plan to attend a concert or sporting event. Again, please do NOT EAT HERE- there are far better examples of the LA food scene than these chain restaurants.
The Original Pantry (aka to locals as: The Pantry)- 877 S Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90017
No joke the best “diner” breakfast in Los Angeles. Opened in 1924, the diner claims to have been open every day since 1950 (when it moved to make room for the freeway) and not without a customer. Prepare yourself, there will be a line. The Pantry is currently owned by our beloved former mayor, Richard “Dick” Riordan (notice the full name of The Central Library) who often sits in the back booth to enjoy his breakfast and conversation. Order the pancakes, you won’t be disappointed or able to finish them. Ample portions and great comfort food. Open 24 hours all day, every day.
Bottega Louie– 700 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA
For me, Bottega Louie brings about memories of NYC. It’s fancier than most of California. The restaurant is highly stylized and beautifully decorated which really isn’t in keeping with the laid back vibe of Los Angeles. That said, I LOVE this restaurant. I love it’s beautiful bakery and delicious macaroons (I don’t even like macaroons, honestly). I love the Sunday Brunch (farmer’s market breakfast is a must) and weekday lunch. While I’ve never had dinner, I have walked by on my way to Q Sushi (see below) and the place is always hopping.
Q Sushi– 521 W. 7th Street Los Angeles, CA 90014
Do NOT take kids here. Do NOT go here if you are time or cash limited. Do NOT go here if you want to order from a menu because it’s all omikase (more specifically Edomae) preparation meaning “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Sit at be bar and watch Chef Hiro (white glasses, soft spoken, lovely) and Chef Ruiz (no glasses, very friendly, lovely) work their magic. This is the height of sushi in Los Angeles and shouldn’t be missed by any sushi lover. Don’t believe me? Read Jonathan Gold’s review of this amazing restaurant. Open for lunch, noon to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner, 6-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Are We Done Yet?
Yes, I know you’re tired. Yes, I know it was ambitious, but you did it. In 48 hours, you CAN explore L.A. and come to understand a bit of it’s history, culture and food scene from two very different perspectives without ever being caught in our traffic. Go home, take a nap, and come back soon (without a car).
DTLA has just instituted it’s own bike share program https://bikeshare.metro.net/ . DO NOT BRING A SANTA MONICA BIKE TO DOWNTOWN OR A DOWNTOWN BIKE TO SANTA MONICA as they are two independent and unrelated bike share programs. In full disclosure, I have not ridden in DTLA and think I will give the commuters a bit more time to get used to sharing the road before venturing into DTLA on two wheels but it’s an exciting development nonetheless.