Los Angeles is known for its endless summer, beautiful beaches [and even more beautiful beach bodies], fancy restaurants and glamorous lifestyle. It’s the center of the entertainment industry and the place you go hoping to spot your favorite celebrity. Probably one of the most coveted travel spots, Los Angeles has a ton to offer visitors and residents.
The first time Casey took me to LA was 5 or 6 years ago on a surprise birthday trip and to visit with one of my close friends, Ashley. We stayed in the West Hollywood area and tried to jam in every touristy and trendy spot we could in the four days. Look, we were babies!:
The primary purpose of our most recent trip was to attend Ashley’s breathtakingly gorgeous wedding at the Hummingbird Nest Ranch. Remember her bachelorette party weekend to Costa Rica earlier this year? Anyway, if you watch Vanderpump Rules, this is the place where Scheana and Mike Shay got hitched. The venue was incredible. Ashley was stunning. It was such a beautiful evening!
Harley came with us to Cali. We had a sitter watch her while we were at the wedding. Luckily, my friend set me up with her friend’s regular nanny, so I didn’t have to stress about leaving her with a complete stranger. Traveling with a toddler on a very long flight and adjusting to a three hour time difference can be a bit intimidating to say the least…and then to do it all over again coming home is even more terrifying! So with that being said, Casey and I thought it would be best to stay longer than just the wedding weekend. We spent an entire week there, splitting our time between Marina Del Rey and then down the road in Santa Monica. Other than Harley’s academy award worthy meltdown on Rodeo Drive the very last day, she happened to be amazing the entire trip and was such a champ! Taking a break from work and preschool to spend quality time together was exactly what we needed.
We truly had such an incredible vacation, so I wanted to share some of the highlights with you guys, along with other recommendations.
WHERE TO STAY:
Marina Beach Bungalow
It was a 1 bedroom bungalow with a full kitchen. We never ended up meeting the owner, Thomasina but she was extremely responsive and pleasant to deal with via phone and text messaging. She had a Pack ‘n Play that we kept next to our bed for Harley to sleep in.
The location really was perfect! We were in walking distance to the Marina del Rey Beach, Venice Beach, restaurants, Starbucks, and Abbot Kinney.
The Huntley Hotel
After four nights in the bungalow, we moved 10 minutes down the road to The Huntley, which was the designated hotel for all of the out of town guests attending the wedding. It’s very clean and modern with super friendly staff. Also located right near the beach, so a great location in Santa Monica for sure. Most of the hotels located on/near Santa Monica beach are rated 4 and 5 Stars, so naturally are very expensive. The Huntley’s average price is $475 a night [we paid less because we were part of the wedding block], plus $39 a night for parking [if you have a rental car], and $5 for each glass of milk that your child is begging for! 😉
Casey and I are all about staying in fancy shmancy hotels, but when we do, we usually use our timeshare points or some other type of reward points. When traveling with Harley we care more about having space and a separate area for us to hang out in while she’s down for the night. It’s almost impossible to get her to go to sleep in the hotel crib when we’re literally feet away from her. The first night she just stared at me, like “Mom, I can totally see you! Get me out of here!” Spending more money on a suite just wasn’t an option.
Having the extra space and full kitchen in the bungalow was so clutch that we kind of wish we would have stayed there the entire time. Perhaps we would have felt differently if we were traveling sans child. The Huntley Hotel is a beautiful and lovely place, so I don’t have anything bad to say about it. I think the price reflects the location more than anything else.
If you are looking for a more upscale hotel, I’d recommend checking out the Viceroy.
WHERE TO EAT:
This list is long, but there are SO MANY great spots to go to!
Sauce – breakfast
Sunny Spot – fun brunch spot
Zinque – breakfast, lunch, & dinner
Gjelina – SO good! All the veggies are amazing!
Gjusta [same owners as Gjelina] – it won best new restaurant in America for 2015!
Kreation – acai bowls, fresh juice – good healthy spot
Superba Food and Bread – breakfast, brunch, lunch, & dinner
Cafe Gratitude – Vegan
Salt Air – get the lobster roll!
Hotel Erwin – small snacks. Great spot to watch the sunset.
Poke Poke – on Venice beach. Best poke in LA!
Marina Del Rey
Scopa – dinner
Beach 26 – brunch
The Ritz – lunch
Mendicino Farms – quick lunch/dinner
Sugarfish [in Marina and Santa Monica] – best sushi
Simmzy’s – breakfast/brunch right by beach
Bin 73 – Harley crushed the ceviche here! Cute tapas place right near the pier.
The Cow’s End – breakfast, coffee, smoothies, salads. Also right near the pier.
Joans on Third – a gourmet market – good for any meal
Melisse – fancy French dinner
Brick + Mortar
Huckleberry – breakfast, lunch
The Penthouse – located in The Huntley Hotel. Fun place to get drinks too!
Mastros Ocean Club – best steak!
Geoffrey’s – a MUST GO-TO for brunch or lunch
Paradise Cove – casual private beach place where you can eat/drink from the restaurant on the sand
The Malibu Cafe – food is good [not great], but the venue is GORGEOUS!!! Has life size chess and corn hole. Harley and our friend’s son, Luke had so much fun running around!
Manhattan Beach Post
Uncle Bills Pancakes
Fishing with Dynamite – amazing seafood/rawbar
Beverly Hills & West Hollywood
Son of Gun
Urth Cafe – breakfast & brunch
Toast – breakfast & brunch
Blu Jam – breakfast & brunch
Jon and Vinny’s
E.P. & L.P. Rooftop
Republique – amazing brunch!
Petty Cash – fun Mexican
Gracias Madres – Vegan and SO GOOD! Loved the jalapeño margarita!
Pizza Mozza – must go to!
The Griddle – Over the top pancakes. Might have a really long line.
WHAT TO DO!
Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice – cutest little shops and restaurants. Stop at Intelligentsia Coffee for a little caffeinated pick me up!
Montana Ave, Santa Monica
Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica – can be “touristy” but is so cute! We loved walking around here and watching street performers. Of course we had to stop in Zara and a few stores. It’s a very lively place!
Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
Marina del Rey Beach is quiet, but peaceful. We loved watching the surfers!
Venice Beach is not my favorite. It’s filled with beach bums [literally], and a ton of touristy shops. Harley and I took long walks along the boardwalk and I didn’t mind walking through Venice Beach, but it’s not really the best spot for small children. It’s crowded, the music is super loud, and there are homeless people left and right. I didn’t feel unsafe or anything like that. Everyone seemed harmless. There was definitely good people watching!
Santa Monica Pier – carnival
The Pacific Coast Highway [PCH] was such an amazing drive! It runs from north to south along the Pacific coastline. We didn’t drive the entire thing [pretty sure you can be on it for 5 hours in one direction], but had the chance to drive it on our way to Malibu.
Hollywood Walk of Fame – if it’s your first time in LA, it’s something cool to do at least once!
Hope you enjoyed my Los Angeles Travel Guide! Would love to hear about your favorite places to go to!