Plan a Low-key Trip to Los Angeles

You’ve seen the Hollywood Sign, walked the Santa Monica pier, spent a day at Universal Studios, and taken pictures with look-alikes outside the Chinese Theatre. Now, spend a day in Los Angeles the way Angelenos do: relaxing, eating, and shopping, out of the spotlight.


Up and At’em

In La La Land, it seems like almost everyone is fit and healthy. It’s easy to incorporate healthy exercise habits living with so much sunshine and beautiful weather 365 days a year.

Start the morning with a brisk jog and some stair climbing at Santa Monica stairs. Two sets of outdoor staircases, each about 8 stories high, make for a great workout that will put you in touch with nature and the locals. You’ll also have a beautiful view of the Palisades from the top.


Santa Monica Stairs

Head to the intersection at 4th and San Vicente and park on the street. Be sure to heed the parking signs so you don’t get a ticket, although, if you do, you’re one step closer to being a true Angeleno. Follow the other early risers to the top of the 4th street stairs, turn right once you’re at the bottom, head uphill a bit, and you’ll run straight into the second set of stairs. A couple rounds of this are sure to have you sweating and working up those feel-good endorphins in no time.

Not interested in breaking that much of a sweat? A morning walk through Palisades Park is just as satisfying. The park runs all along Ocean Avenue/Pacific Coast Highway, has plenty of cover from beautiful trees, and provides breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica beach. Metered parking is available all along Ocean Avenue. Park near Wilshire Blvd. and you can walk to 3rd Street Promenade after you’re done to check out street performers and peruse food vendors and retail shops.

Santa Monica Stairs, 699 Adelaide Dr., Santa Monica, CA 90402

Palisades Park, Ocean Ave. between Wilshire Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd.


Fuel Up

You left the stress at home and came to sunny southern California to relax. But being an Angeleno doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot on your plate: it just happens to be organic, non-GMO, maybe even gluten-free or vegan, and sprinkled with a whole lot of kale. If you want to try food that’s good for you, but is also delicious, the City of Angels is one of the best places to find some.

Cafe Gratitude in Venice specializes in plant-based menu items, many of which are raw, as well as vegan, that are so satisfying, even my carnivore friends come back for seconds. My favorites are ‘I am Hearty’, a raw italian pizza made with sundried tomato marinara and cashew ricotta, and ‘I am Fantastic’, a raw cashew crepe filled with fruit and berries, topped with coconut yogurt and pecans; it’s naturally sweet and so seemingly decadent, you’ll feel like you’re eating dessert for brunch. You may have noticed the menu item names are affirmations, too, so you can feel good about your food and feel good about yourself at the same time.

Cafe Gratitude Venice Beach

Café Gratitude (Venice), 512 Rose Ave., Venice, CA 90291; (424) 231-8000


Espresso Yourself

You’ve still got plenty of daylight ahead, so get some coffee or tea in you before it’s too late. Head back up the coast and drive down Sunset Boulevard, a windy street that will take you through some of the most expensive and beautiful areas in Tinseltown, including Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, past UCLA, Beverly Hills, and into West Hollywood. If there’s ever been an opportune time to talk about what you’d do if you won the lottery, this is it.

Once you get into WeHo, as it is colloquially named, just past the Viper Room, you’ll find Dialog Cafe on the right, a cute spot with huge sprawling windows and plenty of outdoor seating. It is located on a somewhat busy intersection so parking can be a bit difficult, but you’re getting used to this by now since it’s the norm in LA!

Also, if you haven’t been able to find a flat white or long black anywhere else in town, you will be happy to find them here. They have great food choices, as well, and the friendly staff there will be happy to help you make a selection.


Dialog Cafe

Dialog Café, 8766 Holloway Dr., West Hollywood, CA 90069; (310) 289-1630


Retail Therapy

What would a day in LA be without some trendy new additions to your wardrobe? If you want to get some real shopping done, head to Melrose Avenue where you’ll find plenty of options, both glam and edgy. No matter where you plan on going tonight, you’ll be able to find an outfit to match at one the dozens of stores located here.

Want a little more low-key shopping experience? A few blocks away, Robertson Boulevard is another option where you can take a nice stroll while also giving your wallet some exercise. Here, you’ll find Chanel, Nanette Lepore, and Tory Burch, as well as some of my favorites Alice + Olivia, Splendid, and Intermix.


Plan a Low-key Trip to L.A.


Melrose Ave. Shopping, Melrose Ave. between La Cienega Blvd. and La Brea Ave.

Robertson Blvd. Shopping, Robertson Blvd. between Third St. and Santa Monica Blvd.


Feeding Time

If you want to stay on this side of town, head to Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton’s restaurant, Osteria Mozza. Located on Melrose and Highland in West Hollywood,  Mozza features delicious Italian cuisine, as well as a mozzarella bar with different kinds of burrata and bufala mozzarella. Finish off your meal with one of their tempting olive oil cakes, hazelnut cakes, or gelatos.

Not feeling Italian? Cruise over to Brentwood and check out Tavern, which features a chic bar as well as a stunning glass atrium for a dining room. Tavern is a little more relaxed than the first option, with an atmosphere as breathtaking as the food options that doesn’t feel too dressed up. Reservations are recommended for both.


Osteria Mozza

Osteria Mozza, 6602 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038; (323) 297-0100

Tavern, 11648 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049; (310)806-6464


Let’s Get Drinks

Very eclectic and cool decor await at the Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS in Beverly Hills where you can try one of the many unique concoctions from the bar. Think caipirinha made with liquid nitrogen, dirty martini made with olive brine air, and magic mojito made and strained over cotton candy, all right at your table.

Prefer that beautiful view that started your day? Head to the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica. The Penthouse on the top floor has full panoramic views of Santa Monica and the ocean and features a live DJ on weekend nights (so be forewarned, it does get a little loud.) The drinks are as memorable as the view. Try the Aperol Smash, a light and refreshing drink, made with green grapes, organic mint, vodka, and Aperol liqueur.


Penthouse at Huntley Hotel

Photo by: Sarah Lorsch

The Bazaar by José Andrés, 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048; (310) 246-5555

The Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel, 1111 2nd St., Santa Monica, CA 90403; (310) 394-5454