A quick Santa Monica visit allowed me to discover some great things about the Los Angeles area. Here are my 10 reasons to love Los Angeles (click on the words in pink to get to the websites):
1. ♥ Vegetarian Paradise: Erven
Even if you are not a vegetarian, I guarantee that you will adore this new place in Santa Monica as much as I do. The service is impeccable and the dishes are all so creative and more importantly, taste incredible. If you go for dinner, try the roasted carrots with coconut and crispy lentils and the sweet corn ravioli with pumpkin seed pesto. You won’t miss the meat.
2. ♥ Cool Neighbourhood: Venice Beach
Just like the original Venice, Venice Beach CA boasts gorgeous back canals, so make sure to walk around the Venice Canal Historic District. Then take a stroll along Abbot Kinney Boulevard and enjoy the street art (full of selfie opportunities), one-of-a-kind boutiques and restaurants that line both sides of the street. You can get your gourmet donut fix at Blue Star and your coffee or smoothie at The Butcher’s Daughter‘s take out booth.
3. ♥ Fun Shopping: Melrose Avenue
Melrose Avenue has long been the street in West Hollywood associated with shopping, and after a brief downturn coinciding with the economic troubles of 2008, it is still going strong. From well-priced options to designer luxury stores, you can find it all on Melrose. My daughter loved the Reformation store and I enjoyed window shopping all over! Peek around at the swanky shops behind the gates on Melrose Place and grab a coffee at Alfred Coffee. If you are in town on a Sunday, you may want to browse the year-round Melrose Trading Post flea market at Melrose and Fairfax. You are bound to find some goodies here among the crafts, vintage fashions and handcrafted artisan items.
4. ♥ Cultural Diversion: Museum of Tolerance
Don’t leave Beverly Hills without a dose of history at the The Museum of Tolerance. We visited for the Anne Frank Exhibit which was excellent and informative, and of course, heart-wrenching. Anne’s story comes to life in this interactive exhibit that should not be missed.
5. ♥ Television Lover’s Tour: Warner Bros. Studio Tour
This studio tour in Burbank takes you on the back lots and sound stages of many of the shows that you probably loved back in the day. The hospital setting in ER, Central Perk café in Friends, the house from Gilmore Girls and more can all be found here. When we visited, the actors from the Big Bang Theory were doing a read-through, so you never know who you may spot – maybe even Ellen. Check out TV Tickets to see a free taping of some of the sitcoms.
6. ♥ Hotel With Perks: Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica
The hotel is not on the most gorgeous street and it’s across from the local high school, but it is also just a few easy blocks from the beach, and close to everything you will want to see in Santa Monica. They charge a $25 US amenity fee on top of the room rate, but with it you get a series of great add-ons, including valet parking with in and out privileges (a hard to find perk in any LA hotel), local shuttle service within a two-mile radius of the hotel and free bicycle rentals. In addition to all that, the rooms are clean and updated and there is a small heated pool to enjoy, complete with LA-style pool cabanas.
7. ♥ Best Breakfast/Lunch/Brunch: Gjelina
Gjelina, how I love thee. Truth be told, this place is really too cool for me, yet I thoroughly enjoyed it’s Venice Beach charm. And the food…it is amazing. If you go for lunch, make sure to get any one of their delicious pizzas – we opted for the one with squash blossoms and burrata. A few things to note: parking can be tricky; they add 20% to your bill for an automatic tip; and, you cannot make reservations for breakfast, lunch or brunch….just dinner. Go there anyways!
8. ♥ Best Kids’ Diversion: Santa Monica Pier
If you have any kids in tow, this is where they can blow off steam for a couple of hours. It’s very old-fashioned, and fun. Arcade games and rides with the backdrop of the gorgeous beach. Even my jaded teenagers had a ball on the roller coaster.
9. ♥ Eclectic Dinner Plates: Tar & Roses
You will need a reservation for this popular spot in Santa Monica. The room was bustling but it managed to seem sane and the service was efficient. They do small and large plates of American seasonal food. The whole roasted branzino with meyer lemon risotto is a standout, and we loved their mix & match appetizers – especially the eggplant bruschetta.
10. ♥ Best Escape from LA: Malibu
Take a day away from Hollywood and DTLA sightseeing on your itinerary to escape to Zuma Beach, visit the iconic Malibu Pier with lunch at the Malibu Farm Restaurant, and perhaps some shopping at the Malibu Country Mart. As you can see, it’s easy to make a full day out of a visit to Malibu.
(Bonus #11 ♥ Urth Caffé in Santa Monica was a terrific find for breakfast. We sat outdoors on their back patio, newspapers in hand, and enjoyed a really filling breakfast complete with lattes and fresh OJ – all for around $15 a person.)
Images: Yummy Erven dish, courtesy of their Facebook page; Anne Frank exhibit entrance, courtesy of the Museum of Tolerance website; Front patio of the Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica, courtesy of their website; Gjelina pizza courtesy of Maddy Slatt; Tar & Roses chalkboard, courtesy of the their Facebook page.