Back in November, Ryan and I took a quick vacation down to LA to visit his folks for American Thanksgiving. Of course, even though we only had four days to explore, I came prepared with a list the length of my arm detailing all I wanted to see, do and eat while I was in town. Shortly upon landing, however, it was immediately clear to me that “exploring LA” to the extent I’d anticipated would take a good 30 hours of driving and give-or-take two weeks on the road.
Of course, we just did not have the time to fit everything in. What with Thanksgiving itself – a holiday only casually celebrated back home – taking up the majority of our Thursday, we had to get creative (and efficient).
If you too happen to visit LA for a short period of time – either as a pit stop on a road trip or for a weekend family event – our condensed one-day guide can help you meet some of your travel goals along the way. All you’ll need is a car, good gas mileage or the Uber app, and you’ll be on your way to the City of Angels!
First Stop: Fuel Up
We were staying a good hour out from downtown LA in Ryan’s lovely childhood neighbourhood, so we knew a round-trip through this massive city would take at least 3 hours non-stop. To be quite honest, I couldn’t even tell you where “downtown” is located or what it really entails. During our time in LA, Ryan drove us to Pasadena, Universal City, Malibu, and probably a couple other neighbourhoods that my *small city* brain still can’t fathom being so bloody far away from each other.
Regardless, if you only have a day to see the sights, I would recommend stopping in at the nearest deli for some authentic Jewish eats. We made the stop at Izzy’s Deli in Santa Monica on the recommendation of Ryan’s Baltimore-bred dad, and were very pleased indeed. I would definitely recommend the pick of lox, onions and eggs with a side of bagel & shmear, apple sauce and potato pancakes.
Not only did this meal keep me going for the rest of the day, but the old-world Hollywood diner aesthetic was a pleasant change from the usual restaurants I frequent back home.
After breakfast, I’d suggest grabbing some java at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (reminiscent of a Blenz in Vancouver) before making the trip to Griffith Park.
Second Stop: Take a Hike
It seemed like the first thing people would recommend when visiting LA (locals or past visitors alike) was Griffith Park. One of the largest urban parks in North America, Griffith is touted as the go-to hiking spot in the city for its over 4300 acres of land and *relatively* quick access to/from the city centre.
Although we were travelling in late November, it just happened to be a toasty 35 degrees Celsius outside. Not used to this type of heat and humidity, I made the dumb decision to wear long yoga pants and bring my heavy DSLR camera. The good news? I was able to snap some pretty spiffy (if not sweaty) photos.
Though not at all what I would classify as a “hike” (being a mountain snob from the Pacific Northwest), the views were truly stunning, and I could simply not get over how BIG Los Angeles really is. The top of Griffith Park felt as if I was in the belly of the beast, with the Century City skyscrapers poking through the horizon like teeth, swallowed up by the specked leopard-print range of San Gabriel Valley.
10/10 worth the sweat.
Third Stop: A California Classic
Ryan really really loves In-N-Out. Having spent his formative years in Southern California, I can kind of understand… but being there in the flesh just confirmed how much of a religion In-N-Out is to many locals.
My first In-N-Out burger was had in a suburban mall close to Ryan’s home near Westlake – and what used to be his old haunt as a hungry pre-teen. I can’t in good conscience claim that it was the best burger I’ve ever had, but sitting outside on a warm evening with a thick milkshake and animal-style fries in hand… that burger was speaking to me on another level.
For a truly authentic In-N-Out experience, load up your tray with ketchup, as many napkins as you can grab, and pick a spot behind a group of rowdy teenagers for some complementary entertainment with your meal.
Fourth Stop: A Day at the Rodeo
Finding a walkable space in LA was tough. Thankfully, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills offered at least a 2-mile stretch of sidewalk where we didn’t look completely out of place walking around.
No, wait. That’s a lie.
Needless to say, although we were wearing dirty sneakers and shorts in lieu of Cartier and Louboutin, Rodeo Drive was a prime people-watching spot in one of LA’s most prolific neighbourhoods. Bustling with tourists and locals with more wealth than I can count, the streets were colourful, holographic (how?) and shiny – everything you could ask for in a shopping city centre. And ooh baby, if you’ve got some extra cash lying around, you’ll love this street even more!
Although we were too intimidated to wander into the Gucci store (or Versace, or Prada), we did do our share of window-shopping. After all, it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?
Fifth Stop: Sips & Nibs
End your day on a well-rounded… mellow… ultra-hip note when you check out The Local Pheasant. This trendy restaurant has two locations – one in Sherman Oaks and one in Woodland Hills, though we snagged a table in the former to celebrate Ryan’s birthday with his family.
Here, the atmosphere was warm and sultry – a place where late-night friend gatherings intermingled with impressive Tinder dates. Just be aware – keep your eyes peeled for this place, as it’s SO HIP, it doesn’t have a sign outside.
If you too would like the feeling of entering a PI office to dine by candlelight, I would highly recommend.
Oh, and the Crispy Pork Belly (pickled watermelon and tamarind sauce) paired with a local craft brown ale is well worth the restaurant’s abundance of moustaches.
There you have my quick 1-day guide to LA! If you have any other suggestions or questions, please drop us a line – not only will we both be visiting Los Angeles again, but we’re always open to experiencing the very best a city has to offer!