What's the first thing you think of when you hear Los Angeles? Hollywood! What's the second? Kardashians! No, worse: Traffic. Colleen Clark steers us clear of the jam, curating the perfect car-free weekend in LA.
Nothing can kill the buzz of your convertible cruise to the beach like a six lane freeway clogged with cars. But thanks to some impressive new transit initiatives - including the May 20th opening of the $1.5 Metro Expo extension line linking downtown to the beach - you can fly through a trip to the City of Angels without ever putting pedal to metal.
LA's downtown is experiencing a wild renaissance with once boarded-up 1930s theaters reopening as music venues, warehouses converted into design stores and art galleries and some of the most exciting new restaurants in the USA. Let this pedestrian-friendly 'hood and the hip Ace Hotel Downtown LA be your base for the weekend. Check in and get the lay of the land while sipping sundowners on the roof before taking it even higher at SkySpace, an overlook 1,000 feet up with a heart-pounding glass-bottom slide, which opens on June 25th. Then head to the new Broken Spanish to sip mezcal cocktails and sup on modern Mexican fare like mole sesame duck with persimmons and masa dumplings with potato and green garlic.
Grab a coffee or a green juice (you're in LA after all) and walk up to Grand Central Market for the city's best breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut. Eat your way through the inventive food stands before walking it off at The Broad, the city's new (and free!) contemporary art museum. A short walk makes you feel worlds away when you head to Little Tokyo, which has a tranquil Japanese garden, Hello Kitty stores and authentic noodle shops like Tsujita for ramen and Marugame Monzo for udon.
Walk back to the hotel to freshen up, then hop an Uber five minutes down the road to the Arts District to check out the galleries (like the impressive new Hauser Wirth & Schimmel), the boutiques (Poketo stocks serious cool local designers) and the street art. If beer is your thing, taste your way through both the Arts District and Angel City breweries. Be sure you've made reservations in advance for Bestia, a wildly inventive Italian restaurant in an old factory. We're still dreaming about their bone marrow gnochetti.
First time in LA? Then you'll want to hop on the Metro Red Line up to Hollywood to do the obligatory visit to the Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theater. Been there, done that? Get off the train at Hollywood and Western and then join the celebs and health nuts hiking through the woods and up to the peak of Griffith Observatory, which has stunning views of downtown and the Hollywood Sign. On your way down, stop for your morning coffee and a slice of vegan apple pie at Trails Café, a rustic wood cabin stand that looks like it belongs in Burlington, Vermont instead of a major metropolis.
Treat yourself to an Uber back to the hotel (it's super cheap here!) and get ready for a night out in Koreatown. Take the Metro over for Korean BBQ at Kang Ho Dong, where you cook your meat right at the table. Prefer to go lean? Book a table at Commissary, an innovative veggie-centric spot in a poolside greenhouse on top of The Line Hotel. Afterwards, head to the hotel's Breakroom 86. You'll enter through an old vending machine and find yourself in an 80s daydream of Atari game rooms, karaoke lounges and Pop Rocks cocktails. If you're looking for more of a chill party scene, book a table at The Walker Inn, an intimate 27-seat throwback-style lounge that offers an omakase-style cocktail-tasting experience.
Sail past all the freeway traffic taking the Metro Expo Line down its brand new $1.5 billion extension straight to Santa Monica. Grab an alfresco brunch at the romantic L'Ami Restaurant, then stroll the Pier - it's touristy but worth it. Next rent a bike to cycle along the beach path to Venice. Check out the skateboarders, body builders and street performers along the boardwalk. Then lock up your bike to shop the boutiques of Abbott Kinney. We love the surfer tees at Aviator Nation, limited edition sneaks at Waraku and the Japanese-inflected homegoods at Tortoise General Store. Grab a cold-pressed juice cocktail at the sunny Butcher's Daughter before checking out the picturesque canals that gave the neighborhood its name. For dinner, make reservations on the patio of Gjelina, the oh-so-Cali seasonal eatery known for its handmade pasta (buckwheat orecchiette with brisket Bolognese, anyone?) and creative veggie dishes (we love the Japanese sweet potatoes with jalapeno yogurt and scallions).