It’s not impossible to pull off that culture/food/beach trifecta on your next trip to the city (without
flatlining in traffic)—it just takes NASA-like precision.
Every trip to L.A. tends to have a very specific purpose. There’s the work trip, where you wind up at the totally fine hotel you stayed at the last three times. Then there’s the visiting-friends trip, where you inevitably wind up missing half the stuff you actually want to do because your vacation version of L.A. is far from reality for most locals (“Go to the beach?! Never!”). Rarely do you get the opportunity to visit L.A. and actually experience L.A.
It doesn’t help that it’s a city with no hard-and-fast center—it’s more like constellation of suburbs that can take so long to a traverse you could practically get to the moon faster than you can go from Echo Park to Venice during rush hour (make that hours). But really? All you need is three full days, two hotels, and razor-sharp clarity on when to be on the freeways. We know because we did it. And we finally realized our beach fantasy, got that fix of old Hollywood glamour, and managed to hit all the new and great museums, restaurants, and stores in a single long weekend.
First Night: Silver Lake + Echo Park
You’ve Landed. Now What?
Pick a flight that arrives in time for dinner—after all, you’re in one of the most ambitious food cities in the country right now. Plus, after 7 p.m., the traffic on the 110 will be much lighter—it’ll take you 35 minutes to get from LAX to the Hotel Covell in Los Feliz, as opposed to an hour plus during the evening rush. Book your dinner reservation as soon as your flights are locked in (we had trouble getting into the still-hyped Charcoal in Venice). Lucky for us, we scored a great table at Zach Pollack’s Northern Italian spot, Alimento, on Silver Lake Boulevard. The always- changing menu is one of the best in town, and it’s on the way to the hotel. The dish to get is the tortellini in brodo, but all of the small plates are phenomenal and shareable, so order as many as your table can handle. Trust us, they’ll let you know when it’s time to stop. On our last visit, we were digging into the cracked farro salad when the valet appeared tableside, dangling our rental car key at the stroke of 11 p.m.
Side Note on The Hotel…
The newish Hotel Covell, on Hollywood Boulevard, is a solid home base for exploring the Eastside and Downtown LA. There are only five rooms (they call them “Chapters”), but they’re large and loftlike (300 to 800 square feet). Each is equipped with the things you’d expect at a Los Feliz property. Crosley record player? Check. Smeg fridge stocked with organic coconut water? Check and check. The lobby closes at 11 p.m., so if you’re arriving late, someone from the hotel will meet you at Bar Covell, the ground-floor wine bar (or they’ll leave your room key there). By the way, not only are there no bellhops, there’s no elevator, so be prepared to schlep your Rimowa up a flight of stairs. If that’s a deal breaker, consider staying at the Ace Hotel Downtown L.A. (and know that the much-anticipated Nomad will open in the Giannini Place Building, at Olive and 7th Street, in late 2017).
If Your ETA Is Late Morning
From LAX, take Lincoln toward Venice straight to Travis Lett’s Gjelina, especially if you’re staying on the Eastside. By the time you’ve finished your squash blossom pizza, traffic on the 10 will be lighter.
Road Rules to Live By
- Google Maps and Waze should always be consulted before you put the key in the ignition. The latter is not so much an app as a verb. It’s a way of life and—with the particular traffic challenges in L.A.—a lifesaver.
- Uber changed everything. Even if you rent a car, sometimes it’s easier (and cheaper) to take an Uber so you don’t have to deal with finding a spot on the street or paying for valet parking (and it’s definitely the way to go if you’re planning to throw a few back that night). Know that Lyft is a viable competitor, at least in the non-residential areas.
- If you rent, get a hybrid. In some places you can park for free or get priority parking. The Broad, for example, has spots for electric cars (and chargers) at street level in its garage.
- Memorize these time frames. Avoid driving across town during rush hour—7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., give or take half an hour. Although things start getting hairy around 3 p.m. and are often tough until 8 p.m. Just sayin’.