A Complete Guide to Summer in L.A
Whether you’ve lived there your whole life, or just have a summer internship, here is a list of cool things to do in LA that are off the beaten path or actually worth the hype. This list is organized roughly by location from West to East.
Bay Cities: A super highly rated Italian Deli. You can tell it’s good because of the line wrapped around the corner. Order “The Godmother” online (or a different sandwich I guess) and skip the wait.
Santa Monica Beach: I find LA beaches crowded and dirty and therefore don’t go, so this recommendation and instruction comes directly from my friend Laureen Akram: if you are opting for the classic Santa Monica, make sure to make a left at the exit of the 10 freeway NEVER MAKE A RIGHT OR YOU’LL BE IN TOURIST-OVERPRICED-VILLE. Hang out on Main street between Pacific street and Rose Ave, the parking is cheap and steps from the sand and there are no gross tourists, plus the food is better.
Hollywood and Vine
Hollywood and Vine is essentially the Times Square of Los Angeles. To give some context, these are the sorts of things at this iconic intersection; the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Kodak theater, Madame Tussauds, The Magic Castle, Ripley’s believe it or not, and countless tchotchke peddlers and Marylin Monroe impersonators. The experiences I can recommend are the Chinese Theater, The Museum of Death, Musso and Frank’s, and the Frolic Room.
The Museum of Death: A quintessentially instagrammable LA thing, with displays on major serial killers, cultural practices around death, and a good many body parts.
Musso and Frank’s: An old school steakhouse complete with tall red booths, uniformed servers, and plenty of martinis to go around. You are likely to have a celebrity sighting, but even if you don’t recognize them, you are surrounded by Hollywood professionals in “the industry.”
The Frolic Room: This bar started out as a speakeasy and has been the site of an actual murder as well as a filming site for several Hollywood ones. This bar feels authentic, sleazy, but still classy. You can’t miss the giant art deco neon sign out front, so stop in for a few.
Chinese Theater: I think that seeing a movie at the Chinese Theater is absolutely worth it. The theater is beautiful, and they even have costumes on display, including Scarlett O’Hara’s curtain dress from Gone with the Wind!
Melrose Ave: Another instagrammable hot spot in the city. Check out Glossier and the Real Real’s brick and mortar stores and then snap a pic in front of the Fred Segal ivy wall before drooling over designer clothing with insane price tags. Also home to the pink wall and a set of those angel wings amongst other intsa-worthy backdrops. Further east of Fred Segal you start to run into more reasonably priced stores and the Melrose Trading Post (aka flea market) which occurs every Sunday at Fairfax High School.
Tiki-Ti: Step into this tiny tropical bar and step back in time. This bar boasts 94 tiki drinks, many of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Tiki-Ti was started over 50 years ago by one of the mixologists at the forefront of the tropical drink craze of the 60’s and is now carried on by his family.
The Ford Theaters: Owned and operated by LA County, this is one of the oldest music venues still in use in LA. In the summers they have an impressive list of artists and events that is worth checking out.
The Mint: This music venue has been around since the 50’s and has played host to artists such as Earth, Wind, and Fire, Ray Charles, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. They feature many interesting up and coming artists throughout the summer almost every day.
Magnolia Blvd: One of my go-to places to shop. Magnolia Blvd has a stretch of about four blocks filled with antique and vintage stores nicknamed Antique Row. I particularly recommend Playclothes vintage, which is a favorite of costume designers and A-listers, but is still fairly priced. They manage to fill a massive 4,500 sq ft space to the brim with clothing, accessories, décor, and furniture from the 1920s-1990s. Also on Magnolia is It’s A Wrap!, a second hand clothing store entirely stocked with cast-off costumes from movie and tv sets in the city. The stuff worth buying tends to be high priced. After you’ve shopped till you’re ready to drop, crawl into Romancing the Bean for coffee, a sandwich, and a homemade pop tart.
Sqirl: The trendy café that invented avocado toast.
Sunset Junction: Sunset junction is an iconic piece of LA. The intersection is marked by the Sunset Junction Coffee Shop Sign, which is permanently closed. The flagship Intelligentsia Coffee Shop is just a few doors down to satisfy your trendy coffee fix. Find cafés, cute little shops, an army surplus retailer, and a few good vintage stores. The army surplus store is worth a stop. It stocks uniforms and gear from around the world. Another of my favorite vintage stores, Ragg Mopp is a few doors down.
Langer’s and Phillippe’s: Two delis in the downtown area. Langer’s is a Jewish deli, while Phillippe’s does french dip. Both are institutions
The Last Bookstore: A must for book lovers in LA. The largest used book and record store in California, and one of the largest independent bookstores in the world.
Grand Central Market: A compilation of amazing food vendors. Stop in for lunch and sample the amazing ethnic food and more classically LA offerings (think avocado toast and gourmet pb&j ). EggSlut is good but overrated.
The Broad: I hate modern art, therefore I hate the Broad, but if I get past my prejudice I can recommend it as an excellent museum for those interested in modern art. Home to two of Yayoi Kusama’s famous mirror rooms. Free general admission is a plus for university students.
Donut Friend: This donut shop offers lots of classic and delicious options as well as some more interesting flavors. It’s entirely vegan and you can also have them customize your donut with toppings like an ice cream store. A favorite of Highland Park and all of LA.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market: my favorite place to shop, also one of the best places for celebrity sightings. Held at the Rose Bowl on the second Sunday of the month, the flea market takes over almost the whole parking lot and is absolutely the best antique and vintage shopping in the area. Plus, it's great people watching. There's always a grown man in a pink tutu milling about, and an old dude in a mini train he rolls around in all afternoon. Doors open at 9, but you can get in earlier for a slightly higher admission fee. Bring water and a snack to avoid extortionary prices and heat stroke.
Roma Market : One of my favorite places on the list. Roma is a legit Italian deli run by an old man named Ross who hangs out at the meat counter in the back, making sandwiches all day. It's also an excellent source of cheap Italian wine. For lunch ask for 'a sandwich' and you will be given a small pink package of goodness (3 meats, 1 cheese, olive oil, fresh bread). For Vegetarians he will make a different, almost equally good sandwich with cheese, olive oil, and artichoke hearts. Consume said sandwich with your favorite flavor of San Pellegrino and experience the simplest of Pasadena pleasures
Hot Box Vintage: This is my little South Pasadena secret. The store is hidden behind a row of unassuming buildings. You must follow the chalk sign that points you down an alley way, through a parking lot, and in a small doorway to find one of my favorite vintage stops in LA. The clothes are well-curated and shockingly well-priced for LA vintage. They sell men’s and women’s clothing, jewelry, accessories, and some home décor ranging from 1940-1990 with some contemporary pieces thrown in.
Huntington Gardens and Collection: Go for the library, stay for the gardens. The Huntington Library Collection is among the most impressive in the world. They only display a fraction of the manuscripts, scientific drawings, and hand pressed books they have in storage, but it is absolutely worth it to go see what they display. Thousands of books, photographs, and prints documenting the history of Britain, California, the Pacific Rim, Science and Medicine, and Hispanic culture. Stumble out of the Library in a dizzy stupor to recover in their botanical gardens featuring 16 themed areas, several of which have been filming locations for movies and tv.
Day Trips and Stand-alones
Beaches: Some good beaches that are a little further from LA include Marina del Ray, Newport, and Huntington. Malibu and Venice are overrated.
Griffith Park and Observatory: Griffith Park and Observatory is a destination for gorgeous city views, hikes, and for learning a little bit about space while looking into one of the observatory’s giant telescopes. It’s just as beautiful as it was in La La Land. Rather than trying to deal with parking (it’s a nightmare) spend the extra few bucks and take an Uber.
The Hollywood Bowl: The Hollywood Bowl hosts some truly incredible concerts and events throughout the year, but they pull out the big guns in the summer. I saw my first concert here and I will never forget it. You can get bench seating, or if you want to ball out a bit, splurge on a private box near the stage. Either way, bring some sandwiches, a bottle of wine, and a few friends and enjoy a concert or even a movie here.
Museum Row: Located on Miracle Mile (not to be confused with Chicago’s Magnificent Mile), Museum Row is home to the L.A. County Museum of Art, The LaBrea Tar Pits, Craft and Folk Art Museum, and Petersen’s Auto Museum. Each of these (but particularly the Tar Pits) is completely unique to Los Angeles. The Tar Pits are a field trip destination for every elementary school in the vicinity but they are equally worth the trip for adults.
Catalina Island: I have gone to Catalina Island for summer camp since I was 10 years old. Unfortunately, the gem that is Toyon Bay is not accessible to day-trippers to the island. Instead, take a 30 min ferry ride from Long Beach to Avalon. Full disclosure- Avalon is a tourist trap. Rather than hanging out there, rent a motor boat and cruise around the west side of the island to snorkel, swim, and take in the gorgeous views. Catalina has incredible snorkeling. The bright orange California state fish, the Garibaldi, is in ample supply as are sting rays and small sharks (don’t worry they’re harmless as long as you don’t bother them). If you’re lucky you might catch a pod of dolphins or run into a sea lion. You can also take some great hiking trails to see the local flora and fauna which include bison that were left on the island after a cowboy movie used it as a filming location. This is a good day for those into the outdoors.
The last tips I have are food-specific. Have tacos! I don’t have a specific taco place to go to, but a great resource is the LA Times 101 Restaurants We Love list. Check the list for some more of the best restaurants, dives, cafés, and food trucks in the city. Speaking of food trucks, explore the food truck scene! The Grilled Cheese Truck is a personal favorite while Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ is the most famous. Google LA food trucks to find a map of locations and lists of the highest rated ones.
I hope you fall in love with LA as much as I have. This city is so amazing and terrible and fascinating. Each neighborhood has its own things to do and local hangouts, so enjoy exploring!
Feature image via.