Welcome to the city of creatives and makers.
Los Angeles is big. Really big. Like, unless you’ve been here for yourself, you probably wouldn’t believe how enormously big it actually is. Where other city guides—those for DC, NYC, Baltimore, and St. Louis—managed to capture the heart of the city in a single day, LA is going to take us two.
But the city isn’t just big—it’s packed with a unique energy. It has a spiritual quality that has attracted some of the biggest dreamers, artists, makers, icons and creatives dating back to the 1700s. With access to surf breaks and scenic hikes, museums and live events, and a food scene that scales from $2 taco trucks to luxe 12-course meals, the City of Angels offers more than a little something to just about everyone.
So let’s dive into Day 1—Welcome to West LA.
7:00am—Zuma Canyon Trailhead (Malibu)
Start with a warm-up hike to take in some early morning views. There are many places to hike in LA but, at 2.8 miles, the Zuma Canyon offers great views without taking up a full day. If you have extra energy to burn (or if you’re a more experienced hiker), continue up the untamed canyon for 2 additional miles. But don’t get overzealous—next you’ll be slaying the breaks in Malibu.
9:00am—Dume Cove (Malibu)
Malibu is one of the best surfing spots on the West Coast. The only problem? Some of the best waves break in front of private homes, and the residents make it quite hard for the public to reach the beach. Luckily we’ve found a creative solution. For a nominal fee ($45/hour if you purchase a package for 4 classes), you can use the Malibu surf coach facilities on the top of a cliff with private access to the Dume Cove. Problem solved.
11:30am—Reel Inn (Malibu)
Time to replenish with some fresh seafood. Not too far from Dume Cove, there’s a little shack called Reel Inn. Here you’ll find a wide variety of authentic seafood options, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them—though we recommend the clam chowder. This place is (rightfully) popular. During the weekends and holidays it can get busy, but the kitchen works fast and waits aren’t usually too long.
12:59pm—Villa De Leon (Pacific Palisades)
Right before heading into the Getty Villa, on the edge of a cliff, you’ll see the Villa De Leon. It is the most misidentified building in LA. The massive mansion is often mistaken for the Getty Villa. While it is beautiful and an icon in its own right (not to mention the setting for Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” video), the Villa De Leon is not the museum we’re heading to. With that cleared up, let’s check out some art.
1:00pm—Getty Villa (Pacific Palisades)
The Getty Villa is filled with paintings, sculptures, decorative art, outdoor sculptures, photographs, manuscripts, and more. The permanent collection includes 7,000 years of ancient art, from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire, shown in 23 galleries. There are over 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, and 1,200 of these works are on display at all times. Going through the beautiful estate will give you the feeling that you’re traveling back in time.
3:30pm—Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine (Pacific Palisades)
Spirituality is a key characteristic out here. There’s no better place to wind down and reflect than the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple. This sanctuary rests on 10 acres of land and offers the most serene ambiance in all of LA. Its gardens and natural spring-fed lake are home to a variety of plants, flowers, and animals—including swans, ducks, koi, and more.
5:00pm—Ocean Avenue & Santa Monica Pier (Santa Monica)
With head clear and body rejuvenated, take a walk along the famous Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Keep your eyes open for stunning art deco buildings and mid-century influences all around. At the pier, you can continue your stroll on the boardwalk. Swings, rings, and strings are popular elements at the Santa Monica Pier. There are always tons of contortionists pulling off impossible poses, while sport ninjas swing from mega rings and walk the tight ropes on the beach.
6:00pm—Abbott Kinney (Venice)
Venice is the most eclectic part of LA. With former residents like Jim Morrison, plus Dogtown and Z-Boys, this part of town has been filled with creative spirits for decades. But it has more to offer than relics of the past—some of the biggest names in tech are located here, too. The old Chiat/Day Binoculars Building built by Frank Gehry is now a Google campus, and Snapchat and Autodesk have also opened offices in the area.
Just past Google, you’ll find Abbot Kinney—one of the best parts of Venice. This one-mile stretch is one of the few places in town with real foot traffic. Shop, socialize, eat, or grab a drink and watch flocks of eccentric tastemakers and individuals whiz by in their cool stride.
In addition to a generous spread of food and drink options (Gjelina, Salt Air, Lemonade, and Wabi-Sabi Sushi Kreation Kafe are among our favorites), Abbot Kinney is a shopper’s dream. Vintage shops and upscale boutiques line the streets, with national brands like Cuyana, Warby Parker, Jack Spade, and Steven Alan mixed in with independent shops—a few of the many standouts include Heist, Guild, Huset, and Urbanic.
7:30pm - High Rooftop Lounge @ Venice Beach Boardwalk (Venice)
After all the hiking, surfing, sightseeing, art gazing, spiritual reflection, and walking, it's time to kick back. Head here to watch the sun dip into the ocean while you grab a bite to eat. The High Rooftop Lounge has a 360-degree full panoramic view that stretches as far as the eye can see.
9:00pm - Zinqué Blvd (Venice)
Extend the night a little with a drink (or two) at Zinque. This little French restaurant/bar has some great small apéritifs, wine, and light liquor cocktails. The ambiance is zen, with green leafy tendrils encasing a beautiful outdoor patio.
Still have energy left? You’re going to need it. Day 2 is coming soon—check back for our next hitlist of LA musts.