Travel Guide: Los Angeles, California (Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu + Beverly Hills)
Length of Stay: 4 Nights
I just returned from a great long weekend in Los Angeles and am excited to share all the details of my trip! I headed out on Wednesday night to a shoot a project. Luckily, Matt’s law firm is based in L.A. so he was to come along and work in that office while I was occupied. After we both freed up from work, we decided to make a weekend of it to celebrate our 1 year Anniversary (where the heck did a year go?! If you want to see our wedding posts you can find them here + here). Although I’ve visited California a few times, I’ve actually never been to L.A. so was really excited for the trip!
Whenever we are on the West Coast, we typically always take a red-eye back on Sunday night (arriving early Monday morning) so we can maximize our time away. While this usually calls for a semi-painful Monday, only made possible by several pots of coffee, it is so nice to have all day Sunday and not cut our time short.
As a first timer to L.A., I have to say it was incredible and I am so excited to go back. I had so many memorable moments, but I think what took the cake is when we saw Jennifer Garner (and her daughter) while shooting and she went into a nearby ice cream shop and bought the entire production crew ice cream! Literally could not get over how sweet she is. We also had a second fun celebrity siting moments before heading to the airport when we brushed up against Kendall Jenner, Scott Disick and his son Mason while walking down a staircase in the Beverly Hills hotel. Overall, I would say this trip was one for the books!
Where we stayed:
Hotel Erwin – This hotel is nestled right in the heart of Venice (steps away from the famous “Venice” sign and overlooking the beach). Their rooftop bar (High Rooftop Lounge) is known all around Venice and crowds flock to watch the sunset from this roof. Matt and I got up there a bit later in the evening, but were pleasantly surprised with the later happy hour specials which went from 7:00pm – 9:30pm. They also have heat lamps and blankets available for when the sun goes down and it cools off a bit, which I found to be a nice touch. We stayed on the 6th floor, which we were told is the most recently renovated floor. It was a nice and simple room and had a huge balcony with ocean views, perfect for enjoying coffee in the morning (particularly since we were waking up so early due to jet-lag).
What to do:
Shopping – The shopping on Abbot Kinney was so good. Not only did they have so many great brands, but the shops themselves were so uniquely decorated. Although I enjoyed roaming in and out the shops, the only thing I ended up purchasing were some of the cutest chokers at Principessa, the cutest bohemian boutique I stumbled across. There’s also plenty to do in the way of activities too, the weather is so good here that it play host to a whole bunch of great things to do, from rollerblading to cycling, I even thought about taking up some beginner tennis lessons los angeles as I’d heard good things about it and would be something fun to do!
The Venice Canals – Make sure to check out the Venice canal walkways, they are gorgeous! The area was so peaceful and, although very different than the canals in Venice, Italy, the area did exude the same sort of tranquility. You probably only need 20 minutes to check out this area.
Where to eat:
Hands down, this trip brought some of the best meals we have ever had. Matt and I love trying new places and with some research and recommendations from you all we were not disappointed in the least bit! I found the food to be fresh, filled with flavor and a bit different from our go-to spots in NYC.
Gjelina – Oh my gosh, I cannot say enough about this gem! A really warm, rustic meets modern atmosphere located right on Abbott Kinney. We made reservations before coming out to California, which we heard was a must, so make sure to plan in advance! We started off with a delicious glass of Zinfandel from Croatia which brought instant memories back from that trip. To eat, we went with the mushroom toast (unreal!), meatballs, sunchokes and the gruyere and caramelized onion pizza. Everything was truly incredible.
Rose Cafe – This picture perfect, indoor/outdoor cafe is located on Rose Avenue. We came here for brunch and this place was packed. Matt and I started with the pumpkin hummus (topped with a pomegranate and pepita salsa) which came with warm naan bread. I am still thinking about how good this was. I took a picture and am hoping to recreate this dish for Thanksgiving, so will keep you all posted on how that goes! For our mains, Matt went with the breakfast sandwich (which had the thickest piece of bacons I’ve ever seen) and I had the zucchini noodle salad with pistachio aioli, parmesan and basil pesto.
Where we stayed:
Le Meridien – While it is a little bit of a walk from the main strip (the hotel does offer a shuttle to drop you off and Uber’s are also super affordable), we used our Starwood points and for us it made the most sense. Living in NYC we are used to walking everywhere, so the short walk didn’t bother us at all. Also the hotel had some nice amenities, including a pool area and free bikes for use.
What to do:
We spent the majority of our time walking around Santa Monica, taking in the beautiful scenery and view of the pier. The weather could not have been more perfect for a day of exploring.
Grab a drink at The Bungalow. It is the cutest spot to grab a drink, relax and watch the sunset. While we were there it was decked out in fall and Halloween decor which created an extra fun vibe. It had really neat nooks and crannies, fireplaces and indoor/outdoor space to unwind and relax. Plus the music was on point! They played amazing oldies. We intended to come for one drink, but couldn’t bring ourselves to leave!
Where to eat:
Rustic Canyon – We were impressed with the quality of food and unique preparation. The burrata was excellent, as was the pork tenderloin. However, our reservations weren’t until later in the night and jet-lag and the glass(es) of vino from the Bungalow were catching up with me, so I was frankly too tired to enjoy this place to fullest (#grandmastatus), but regardless it was still such a yummy meal.
While we didn’t stay anywhere in Malibu, we did spend a good portion of one of our days out there enjoying the beach, the views, and the Malibu lifestyle. It was a quick trip from our hotel in Santa Monica. Overall, we tried to plan the time we were in transit to avoid high traffic times and it worked out great. Although I have heard horror stories about L.A. traffic, we experienced very little of this and were able to maximize our time not on the road.
What to do:
Walk the Pier. There is a cute shop at the end of the pier, and the quick walk up and down offers a pretty view of the coastline.
Head across the bridge from the pier (you can walk or take an uber) to the Country Mart. There are tons of stores and it is fun getting to see the how shopping is so much different (and more beautiful) on the west coast with the sprawling outdoor malls.
Where to eat:
Malibu Farm Restaurant – So yummy, the cutest spot (especially for instagram) and the most beautiful view! I started with a fresh watermelon mimosa and Matt and I shared the lobster scrambled eggs and blackberry coconut french toast “pudding”…unreal!
Nobu – While we were told there was a wait list of 300 people just for that day, Matt and I opted to nevertheless grab a drink and sit outside. A total hotspot and quick walk from Malibu Farm, it is certainly a great place for people watching (oh and the view isn’t bad either)!
Where we stayed:
Hands down my favorite hotel of the trip, we stayed at the SLS right in the heart of Beverly Hills. Such fun and funky decor and the best rooftop pool.
What to do:
After a few days being on the go, we were excited to spend some time relaxing by the pool. Upon arriving, we headed up to the roof and ended up staying here through sunset. We had drinks (my go-to was a watermelon water with vodka and mint) and the best “pool food” I think I have ever had. The tuna cevichi was out of this world, the guacamole was made right at your lounge chair, and the octopus tacos were divine. Needless to say Matt and I were not going anywhere for a few hours!
Farmers Market – Tons of food vendors and small shops, just a fun experience walking through and checking everything out.
Shop around The Grove – A really pretty outdoor shopping area filled with shops to pop in and out of. Located right next to the Farmers Market so you can see both at the same time.
The Beverly Hills Hotel – I had heard so much and seen so many pictures of this hotel and knew I wanted to stop in and check it out. As I mentioned above, literally five minutes upon arriving we brushed shoulders with Kendall Jenner and Scott Disick. Pretty much made my trip!
Rodeo Drive – Such a beautiful strip of shops (most of which I could never afford, but a girl can dream). It was really pretty to walk around and take in this quintessential L.A. experience.
Chateau Marmont – A fun stop to grab a drink and experience this famous L.A. establishment. We came here right before heading back to our hotel to fly back to New York and it was a great way to cap off our trip.
Where to eat:
The Bazaar – I am actually quite speechless when it comes to the meal we had here. Located within our hotel, we could only get a very late dinner reservation and almost canceled and I am so happy that we didn’t. This tapas style restaurant, I can confidently say is one of the best meals I have ever had in my entire life. The waitstaff was extremely helpful with navigating the menu and we went with almost all of our waiter’s recommendations and were not disappointed by any of them. The art, flavor and love they put into each dish is unbelievable. Matt and I decided to sit at the chef’s table (there are three kitchens, and several stools surrounding each) and had so much fun watching them prepare different items. If you can only get to one restaurant while in L.A. try and make it this one! The best anniversary dinner ever!!
Joan’s on Third – A cute spot to grab coffee and breakfast. Matt and I both had the almond milk latte and it was perfect! Everything on the menu sounded yummy (we both went with a pretty standard meal, but they both were excellently prepared), it has a nice a and spacious outdoor seating section. Definitely recommend this if you are looking to enjoy a traditional West coast breakfast.
Gracias Madre – This plant based, Mexican restaurant was not only adorable inside, but so delicious. I personally love my veggies and plant based dishes, but I was nervous what Matt would think. To my (and I am sure his) surprise he really enjoyed his meal here and even said he has to give more vegetarian restaurants a try. Such yummy Mexican and homemade cocktails. The perfect meal to end out trip!