It would be impossible to see the best of Los Angeles in a day, or even two, but let’s imagine the traffic wasn’t a complete nightmare and you could stroll between neighbourhoods without ever needing to call an uber. To experience life like an Angeleno, check out our guide to the top 10 Local things to do in LA, which will take you from Downtown all the way out to Malibu. Our locals have done all the hard work for you and shared their favourite things to eat, drink and do, so get ready to see that life in LaLa Land might not be exactly how you imagined it!
Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Photo credit: cinespia.org
Not as weird as it sounds, we promise. You might have heard of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the historic final resting place of Hollywood stars, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Although tourists flock here to wander the grounds and see the graves of their favourite actors, actresses, writers and directors, our locals have a different take. As the sun sets over Fairbanks Lawn, a field within the cemetery, Cinespia hosts outdoor film screenings. It’s BYOB, so bring a bottle, blankets and a the makings of your dream picnic and settle in for an evening watching an old school (or modern) classic under the stars. There’s even a DJ spinning music while you set up camp and after the movie finishes - yes, it’s very LA and yes, you’ll love it.
Photo credit: cinespia.org
Forget what you might have heard, and don’t skip a morning exploring the concrete jungle that is the Downtown neighbourhood - there’s a lot more going on than it’s given credit for. Start in The Last Bookstore, and after a few hours (trust us, you could spend the whole morning in there), head to Grand Central Market for a bite to eat. It might not actually be the last bookshop (yet) but we appreciate the irony, and it really is one of the most beautiful book and record stores in existence. They buy, sell and trade used and new books and vinyl, and are one of the largest independent bookstores in the world, which is no mean feat in the days of amazon. So maybe the name is less ironic than we thought. Once you’ve got lost in the labyrinth of books that are piled literally to the ceiling, it might be time for lunch at Grand Central, a community spirited indoor food emporium where you’ll find everything from groceries to vendors selling sit down street food.
Photo credit: californiabeaches.com
It’s highly likely that at some point, the urge to escape the city will be uncontrollable and you’ll just need to be at a beach right this second. We know the feeling. When this happens, our locals pick would be to avoid Santa Monica and head further afield to Malibu, specifically to El Matador Beach. Just off the Pacific Coast Highway are three little beaches hidden at the foot of the cliffs, and the most stunning of the three has got to be El Matador. This little bit of the coast is pretty wild and rugged, so you’ll find incredible rock formations and pumping surf as well as beautiful cacti and wildflowers growing on the cliffs. If you actually are trying to escape the crowds, just make sure you don’t make the trip at weekends during the summer months, since you’ll find the dirt path down to the beach just as packed as the freeway during rush hour.
Korean Barbecue and Karaoke
Photo credit: blog.snackfever.com
If this doesn’t sound like a good time, we don’t know what will. For an evening of great food, great times, although probably not so great singing, Koreatown is always a good call. Take your pick from the numerous Korean bbq restaurants, known as gogigui, and settle in to grill your own dinner at the table. A couple of the best are Soot Bull Jeep, where the grill is fired up by real charcoal which brings an authentic smoky flavour, and SSAM, where the veggie sides and kimchi are so good you could almost, for a split second, be forgiven for forgetting about the marinated and barbecued short rib. Once you’ve had your fill and a few ice cold beers, head off in search of a karaoke bar - you won’t have to go far - and treat everyone to a rendition of your favourite songs. We’re sure it will sound great.
Photo credit: laweekly.com
The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre puts on improv sketch, stand-up and comedy shows every night of the week, and every night of the week the place is packed out with locals. It’s an intimate theatre with only 92 seats, so the whole place has a welcoming community feel to it, and UCB also run an improv comedy school. Whether you’re lucky enough to catch one of LA’s rising comedy stars or something quirky and off the wall, you’re guaranteed a lot of laughs and from $10 a ticket it’s a steal!
Melrose Trading Post
Photo credit: melrosetradingpost.wordpress,com
Every Sunday at Fairfax High you’ll find Melrose Trading Post, a beloved local flea market. True to flea market form, you’ll find everything from vintage threads to antiques, arts and crafts to artisan made knick-knacks. Do like the locals who have made it part of their Sunday ritual, and browse the stalls while you listen to the live bands playing. And the best bit? The market is actually a social enterprise, so your small admission fee is given back to the community through grants to the school, with the aim to unit the local community through art and education.
High Rooftop Lounge
Photo credit: highvenice.com
No self respecting top 10 list would be complete without a rooftop bar, so here it is: the helpfully named High Rooftop Lounge, which is indeed high, on a rooftop, and a lounge. It’s also located in energetic and alternative Venice, the neighbourhood that all the other neighbourhood’s secretly want to be. With great views over the boardwalk and all the weird and wonderful that you find there, head here any time of day and settle in for some serious people watching while you sip a cocktail or two.
Photo credit: localemagazine.com
There’s no dining experience more LA than a food truck, particularly one that serves tacos - it would be rude, and actually quite difficult to avoid eating at one. We suggest you head straight to the best, and the best happens to be Guerrilla Tacos. Open every day except Tuesday, you’ll find them at locations all over LA serving up the freshest, most authentic and delicious tacos in the city. The menu changes weekly depending on the local and fresh produce available, so you could be tucking in to anything from roasted sweet potato tacos with almond chile and fried corn nuts or yellowtail poke tostada. We’ll see you there.
Known locally as Little Osaka or Japantown, Sawtelle Blvd is where those in the know (this now includes you) head for their fix of Japanese food. But you’d guessed that already. From some of the best sushi in the city at Kiriko to a quirky build-your-own shaved ice bowls at Blockheads, this is where you’ll find a delicious array of Japanese cuisine, from the traditional to innovative. But don’t be fooled - as a new wave of restaurants has started opening here and it’s no longer a strictly Japanese affair. From Filipino to Vietnamese, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding what to eat here, so do yourself a favour and come more than once.
Topanga State Park
Photo credit: rootsrated.com
Grab your yoga pants (we’re joking, it’s not actually obligatory despite what instagram might show you) and head out into the mountains. Although your first thought might be to hike the trails in Griffiths Park where you’ll get iconic views of the Hollywood sign, our locals’ choice is to skip this and head out to Topanga State Park instead. Even before you get there the views of the ocean as you drive down the Pacific Coast highway are incredible, and when you reach the Santa Monica Mountains, there’s even more stunning vistas to discover along tracks which weave through the canyons and cliffs. Locals head here to escape the city and actually hike rather than just take photos, but by no means is this beautiful area lacking in photo opportunities!