Melanie Waldman, writer/editor extraordinaire of Travels With Two, deftly inspires workaholic couples to use their limited vacation time to travel. While she’s often traveling for work, she always looks forward to returning to her home in Los Angeles, a sprawling, vibrant city full of opportunities for exploration. Below, she’s shared her top spots and tips for having a fun, rewarding trip to the City of Angels. (Good for travelers and locals alike!)
While I’m often traveling for work and play, I always look forward to returning home and exploring my own city. I’ve lived in L.A. since 1993, and while I’ve seen it change a great deal, there’s a lot that has managed to stay historically intact. You’ll find friendly people from all over the world, hikes, coastline, mountains, amazing food and culture that ranges from high…to Kardashian.
1. Relax at LAX. While it’s neither lovely nor particularly easy to get around, L.A.’s biggest airport keeps threatening to be renovated; a cutting-edge design was announced back in 2008 and some construction is finally underway. For now, though, if you find yourself stuck in the airport on a long layover, you can escape to the pay-to-use reLAX Lounge on the second floor at Terminal 3. Here you can hang out in comfort from 8am to midnight, have a snack, connect to a hotspot and watch the runway action ’til it’s time for your next flight.
2. Discover the city’s art. Los Angeles is full of artists and art collectors, attracting some of the world’s most prestigious art fairs and exhibitions. Gallery districts are found all over town, from Downtown to Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station, over to Culver City and more; these three areas offer L.A.’s best examples of “lowbrow” or pop surrealism, a graffiti-and-cartoon-inspired genre that originated here.
3. Seek out the flip side of entertainment. To avoid herds of tourists, skip the TV show tapings and movie studio tours in favor of cheering on Mexican wrestlers and striptease artists at the Mayan Theatre’s Lucha VaVoom. Get swept up in the excitement of all-female roller derby at The Doll Factory, beneath a disco ball shaped like a skate. Or join in one of the city’s epic team treasure hunts and learn your way around L.A. while simultaneously having the time of your life. For a chance to meet some of the city’s most unique artists, check out the bi-annual open house at The Brewery, a sprawling collection of artists’ studios housed in a former beer brewery. Or, to simply see what’s on display when you plan to be in town, check out the events calendar at Art Scene.
4. Explore the city’s Asian neighborhoods. Several of L.A.’s most vibrant communities were founded by Asian immigrants. The compact kitsch of Chinatown makes it fun and easy to visit on foot, and you can find excellent teas, unique souvenirs and dim sum here. Nearby in Downtown, Little Tokyo features a Japanese American National Museum and a self-guided walking tour, but both here and along the Westside’s Sawtelle Boulevard you can find excellent sushi, udon noodles, handmade mochi and shops selling ceramics, tiny erasers and lots more.
Just beyond Hollywood, Thai Town has several blocks’ worth of inexpensive, often cash-only eateries like Sanamluang, where you can find translucent koo chai kuih dumplings. Farther east amidst the concrete sprawl of Koreatown, poke through glassy shopping centers, sing your heart out at karaoke, or relax in a pool of mugwort tea at a bathhouse spa.
5. Go wine tasting in the Malibu hills. Head north out of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway for about seven miles and stop into Rosenthal’s tasting room for a flight with a view of the ocean. If you’re still okay to drive, continue north for a couple more miles, take a right on Kanan-Dume, and wind your way past the rocky hills, wildflowers, mansions and the grapevines of L.A.’s local wine country. Stop into the Cornell Tasting Room to get an overview of local producers, then visit Malibu Family Wines and Sip Malibu, both of which have lovely patios. Next door to Cornell, have a late lunch or early dinner of barbecue at The Old Place, and go for a stroll through the park across the road. It’s a great little afternoon away, just about an hour from the city.