What's hot in Los Angeles

“I love Los Angeles – it reinvents itself every two days,” Scottish comedian Billy Connolly once said. And it’s that energy, the restlessness, the refusal to rest on its laurels that makes Los Angeles such a seductive travel destination; one where being bored is never an option.

While first-time travellers to the City of Angels still focus on its classic attractions – Hollywood, the theme parks and perhaps its beaches – there is always something fresh to occupy repeat visitors, with an ever-evolving restaurant and bar scene, new museums and attractions and a recent focus on neighbourhoods, each with its own character and quirks.

To coin a cliché, there’s something for everyone in Los Angeles, whether it’s the glamour of Beverly Hills, the isolation of the Hills, the gay abandon of West Hollywood, clean-living in Santa Monica or the cultural mixology of Koreatown. Far from being a city without a heart (as it’s often accused of), Los Angeles is instead a city with many beating pulses. Take the time to explore, delve a little deeper, and you’ll start to appreciate that the City of Angels is not just a gateway, but a worthy destination in its own right. 

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Where to stay in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is famed for being a leader in the style stakes, and a stay at La Peer puts you in the heart of the “design district”. It was the first hotel to open in this West Hollywood neighbourhood known for its many interior and clothing outlets. The hotel’s design blends classic Art Deco and modern interiors by the award-winning Icelandic-born designer Gulla Jónsdóttir, who draws inspiration from the architecture in California in the 1920s and 1930s. The 105 warehouse-style rooms are design forward – think leather walls, white oak herringbone floors, art installations, and Juliette balconies with views over West Hollywood. The four-story property is spread over 8,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, perfectly positioned between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.

Downtown continues its renaissance, with hotels such as Ace, located in the original United Artists theatre on South Broadway, setting the bar for innovative adaptations of historic landmarks. Continuing that trend is Dazzler Clark, occupying a renovated 113-year-old, 11-storey building just north of Pershing Square. Part of a boutique Argentinian hotel group, this long-anticipated hotel is expected to open in April 2016, and will feature 347 guest rooms with Mod styling, a pool deck and multiple dining spaces.

West Coast’s first Dream Hotel, a brand known for its celebrity following, slick, hyper-modern 10-storey hotel is located in the heart of Hollywood on Selma and Cahuenga (alongside a revamped pedestrian plaza and entertainment hub) and will feature a rooftop pool, bar and lounge boasting city skyline views as well as a private entrance for VIP guests.

Arguably the quirkiest hotel on the LA scene is Mama Shelter, an intimate, budget-friendly 70-room property located in a 1930s building just off Sunset Strip. Eclectic in vibe and décor, it’s the hippest kid on the block, with copies of Keith Richard’s biography and LA-centric screenplays such as The Big Lebowski sitting alongside The Bible on bedside tables. A rooftop pool is currently under construction, destined to become a meeting place for Hollywood players and up-and-coming starlets.

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Where to eat in Los Angeles

I’m going out on a limb here with a bold statement: Los Angeles is the most exciting food city in America. Stiff competition, innovative chefs, access to fresh produce and multi-cultural influences have all somehow gelled to create a culinary boomtown, one where simple fare sourced from markets, food trucks and pop-ups are as valued as fine dining.

The list of mouth-watering, trend-setting restaurants is staggering: personal favourites include Church Key in West Hollywood, featuring a retro dim sum trolley service; hearty Italian at Bestia in the Arts District; the ‘rustic chic’ of Eveleigh on Sunset Boulevard; and Maude, Aussie chef Curtis Stone’s latest offering in Beverly Hills, recently voted Best Restaurant in Los Angeles by LA Weekly.

Epitomising the LA gastronomic dream is the latest celebrity chef, Roy Choi. Born in Korea but raised in the gangland of LA’s K-town, Choi forged his reputation in a food truck, doling out the unlikely fusion of Korean barbeque tacos. His $2 short rib tacos – homemade corn tortillas loaded with double- caramelised Korean barbecue, salsa roja, cilantro-onion-lime relish and a Napa Romaine slaw tossed in a chilli-soy vinaigrette – is now considered an LA classic, while Choi has been described as the “godfather of the food truck movement” and the “JayZ of the food world”.

Choi has since gone on to run several Los Angeles area restaurants and is the creative force behind the much-lauded Line Hotel in Koreatown. Choi’s latest offering is a fast-food chain called LocoL, with its first LA location on East 103rd Street in the gritty Watts neighbourhood. 

Fresh and affordable seems to be the new mantra in the LA food scene. In West Hollywood, Gracias Madre serves up innovative vegan Mexican dishes using locally-grown organic ingredients. Another food trend is poké, the Hawaiian version of ceviche featuring raw tuna seasoned with soy or sesame oil, and tossed with anything from sea salt to green onion, seaweeds or jalapeno. Santa Monica’s Sweetfin Poké specialises in ‘build your own’ bowls – quick, simple and raw; while several poké restaurants have sprung up in West Hollywood, including Poké Bar on Sunset Boulevard.

Where to drink in Los Angeles

For me, Los Angeles’ bar scene is all about two little words: happy hour. Angelenos love to grab a drink after work, and there’s no better way to wind down than with a cheap and cheerful cocktail or glass of wine, served with a platter of bar snacks in a lively, convivial atmosphere.

Oysters and draft beer are the biggest drawcards at K-Town’s EMC Seafood and Raw Bar; while Gracias Madre discounts drinks between 3pm and 6pm, with snacks complementing delicious mescal-based cocktails.

While the rooftop at EP & LP – another Aussie offering, this time from former Longrain chef Louis Tikaram – has fast become the place to watch the sunset, an experience enhanced by craft cocktails and Asian street food snacks and complimentary cassava chips.

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Where to play in Los Angeles

Los Angeles was once considered somewhat of a cultural desert, a superficial town that lacked the museums and galleries of its eastern rivals, New York, Chicago and Washington DC. In the past few decades, however, Los Angeles has turned that notion on its head, with some of the city’s most prominent, wealthiest citizens donating their private holdings to the public domain.

The expansive Getty Centre in Brentwood, for instance, houses the entire contents of the Paul J Getty Trust, an enviable collection of European masters, post-Renaissance sculpture and decorative arts, and contemporary paintings and photographs. Nearby on the UCLA campus, the Hammer Museum features the private collection of industrialist Armand Hammer and today serves as a showcase for emerging artists.

Los Angeles contemporary art museum The Broad is housed in a modern $140 million glass palace Downtown. This free museum is home to 2,000 works of art donated by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, with masterpieces by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein on rotational display. Located across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art and next door to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood was five years in the making with the highlight of this ‘experience’ the signature 3D-HD ride, ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’, which takes thrillseekers on a manic journey above Hogwarts Castle, dodging dragons and the Whomping Willow with the help of Quidditch-inspired 3D goggles.

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