I recently spend 10 days soaking up inspiration in Los Angeles, California, with my husband Kirk, and I’d love to share what I found. Each item in this guide is something that we personally visited and loved. It’s not an exhaustive list, but rather, a collection of carefully researched and vetted places, with the focus being on design, art, and food.
Click through to see my travel guide to LA, organized by neighborhood/geography from East to West…
Kirk and I were looking forward to our visit to the Huntington, but we had no idea it would be so awe inspiring and breathtaking! Sadly, we only had a half a day to explore the grounds — I could have easily stayed until dark. (If you are there during lunch, bring a picnic. While we were there, the only food option was one sad little cafeteria.)
Located in the middle of now suburban San Marino, The Huntington contains a magnificent library, art museums, and botanical gardens. It was created by Henry and Arabella Huntington in the early 1900’s out of their wealth from the railroad industry. The grounds of the Huntington are enormous. The desert garden and the Huntington Art Gallery / former home of Henry and Arabella were my favorites from what we saw, although I loved everything.
Recommended to me by Red Cap Cards.
Traveling west, the next area we spent time in is Downtown Los Angeles. We were shocked to see how different it was from the last time we were there — just 4 years ago! Fantastic restaurants and shops have moved in, people of all kinds walk the streets, and there’s a hopeful energy in the air.
Alchemy Works – An impeccably curated shop that feels almost more like a museum. It specializes in a minimal, sophisticated version of that California modern bohemian look.
Poketo – A bright, cheerful post-modern inspired shop. Affordable gifts.
Apolis: The Common Gallery – Beautiful men’s clothing and accessories made in a socially responsible way. I love the way the aesthetic and mission of their brand is so clearly communicated by the design of their shop.
Kinokinuya – I have to visit this Japanese bookstore chain whenever I’m near one. The visuals of magazines and interiors books are so inspiring! I always walk away with a little gift for the kids, too.
The MOCA – Perfect for a rainy day, the MOCA has a strong permanent collection and line up of temporary exhibits. We were pleasantly surprised at how small and intimate it is — all too often art institutions feel overwhelmingly large.
Grand Central Market – A smorgasbord of affordable and varied places to eat, all housed under one roof. Our tacos were delicious and I wish I could have returned for a breakfast sandwich at Egg Slut.
Bestia – Kirk and I splurged on a dinner at this hotspot for our anniversary. Normally, it’s recommended that you make reservations a month or more in advance. We showed up around 6 and after 2 hours of waiting, we were seated at the bar. It was definitely worth the wait. We ordered the Cavatelli alla Norcina at our server’s recommendation. Ricotta dumplings, housemade pork sausage, black truffles, grana padano. Heaven.
Bottega Louie – This vast bakery and restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. Everything from the vaulted ceilings to the decor to the pale pink and gold packaging. We stopped by a couple of times for breakfast pastries from the take-out counter. I fell in love with the fruit and nut filled crusty roll (forgot the real name, sorry). I’ve heard the macarons are to die for, but I’m not a fan of macarons or very sweet things in general (party pooper, I know), so I can’t vouch for them myself.
We rented an apartment through AirBnb in this neighborhood, just a couple of blocks away from Sunset Boulevard. It was a great central location, packed with hip shops and places to eat.
Hemingway & Pickett – A fun and youthful assortment of hip gifts, cards, books, and more.
En Soie – Luxurious yet quirky fashion and gift items from this heritage Swiss company. I was especially tempted by the plaid scarves with embroidered patches.
Clare V – Gotta love the hip french meets West Coast vibe of this shop and brand.
Stark Waxing Studio – A well-chosen assortment of gifts and beauty items in the front, and I hear they’re the best place to get a wax in LA, too.
Dream Collective – High-end costume jewelry, locally made in Los Angeles.
Sweet William – A treasure trove of children’s clothes from independent designers.
Mollusk Surf Shop – A tasteful, vintage inspired surf brand and shop.
Reform School – Jewelry, vintage clothes, stationery, gifts, and more in this indie design institution.
Clementine Floral Works – The display of succulents out front drew us into this intimate flower shop.
Mohawk General Store – Racks and racks of beautiful clothing in a mostly monochromatic color scheme. Luxe candles and small gifts, too.
Lawson-Fenning – Gorgeous selection of furniture and other home goods with a warm, modern, yet classic feel.
OK – Jam packed with clever and perfect gifts for everyone on your list.
Lake Boutique – Fresh, modern, well-made clothing and gifts with European tendencies.
Broome Street General Store – Chock full of classic yet simple pieces — home, clothing, and more. This store has two locations down the street from one another. Be sure to check them both out.
Individual Medley – Modern California vibes from mainly local and handmade vendors.
Silverlake Cheese Shop – For all the cheese lovers out there, this is a must stop.
Pine & Crane – Deliciously fresh Taiwanese food. I’m still thinking about the stir fried pea shoots with garlic. So simple, so good.
Silverlake Ramen – The atmosphere is lacking, but the food is amazing. Pork belly, noodles, egg, etc… Yum.
Silverlake Farmer’s Market – Some of the best pupusas I’ve had in my life. (And I’ve had a lot!) We picked up some nice local produce and yogurt, too.
Moon Juice – This place was a great choice on a day when I felt like I needed to recover from all the food I’d been eating on the trip, ha!
Pazza Gelato – Perfect treat for a hot afternoon.
West Hollywood & Hollywood
This area is big and sprawling, with some very posh enclaves. I have a feeling we only saw a tiny peek of what it has to offer…
Nickey Kehoe – This place was paradise. Such a well curated assortment of mainly vintage furniture and home goods. I can see why they’re popular with the film studios for set decor.
Heath Ceramics – The Los Angeles outpost of this San Francisco institution has a gallery, shop, tile showroom, studio, and more. All in the iconic Heath Cermaics style.
Tenoversix – So many beautiful, unexpected pieces to be discovered in this fashion/lifestyle boutique.
Bookmarc – I had no idea that Marc Jacobs had a bookstore, did you?! Well, it’s full of an artsy, off the wall, interesting selection of books, DVDs, stationery, and more. Thumbs up.
Kelly Wearstler – Although I’m not really into Kelly Wearstler’s style, I do admire her innovative design and the brand she’s built. We took a peek inside out of curiosity, and in addition to her super luxe designs, she had a great assortment of art and design books at the front.
Santa Maria Novella – The original Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy was founded in 1221 by Dominican friars. They still make classic, high end perfume, soap, potpourri, and other toiletries using centuries old formulas and local ingredients at their factory in Italy.
A.P.C. – Such a sleek, yet warm shop design, and I’m dying to become the owner of a pair of their famous jeans.
Amoeba Records – We’ve been fans of Amoeba for over a decade. Nowhere else can you find such a huge collection of new and used records. On this trip, we walked away with Francoise Hardy (for us) and Taylor Swift (for our daughter, we swear).
The ArcLight – This is a movie theatre done right. Assigned seating, cushy chairs, great quality sound and screen, a strict no-distractions policy, and no commercials. Next time, we’d love to catch a showing at the historic Cinerama Dome, which is now a part of the ArcLight complex.
The Hotel Bel-Air – A friend of ours (Ken from Fugu Fugu Press) plays piano here Sunday – Wednesday nights, so we were excited to catch one of his sets. He played fantastically, the burger was delicious, and the atmosphere modern and decadent. And no, it’s not technically in West Hollywood or Hollywood, but close enough.
Joan’s on Third – The perfect lunch spot with fresh salads, sandwiches, pastries, and more in a bright and charming interior.
The west side of LA feels a bit more relaxed and at least 10 degrees cooler than the east side. A nice little break.
General Store – We’ve been fans of General Store since they first opened their doors in San Francisco back in 2009. This newer outpost is spacious and filled with their signature assortment of organic, modern, vintage, California/Japanese, blue, brown, and ivory aesthetic that has been widely admired (and copied).
Burro – A colorful, cheerful collection of clothing, gifts, stationery, and more in this inviting shop. (Also see Burro Kids next door.)
Urbanic Paper Boutique – Pretty paper confections everywhere in this filled to the brim store.
Huset – A fine collection of Scandinavian design — need I say more?
Chariots on Fire – This eclectic boutique feels more like an art gallery. Each item is beautifully made and chosen with care.
Tortoise General Store – I’ve been dying to go to Japan for years, and this shop gave me the closest taste that I’ve had. Don’t miss the courtyard and art gallery out back.
Bazar – A perfect choice for a vintage decor fix.
Steven Alan Annex – If ever there’s a Steven Alan shop in the viscinity, I am sure to visit. Love his designs and the other lines they carry for their simple, quality feel.
Milkmade – A subtle yet exciting selection of goods from makers all over the world.
A+R – Sleek, modern items for the home.
The Piece Collective – When we visited, they had a collection of clothing handmade by a father and son out of vintage Japanese denim. Amazing!
Hamilton Press Gallery – As someone who spent many years immersed in a fine art printshops during college and grad school, I am always excited to see fine art printmaking in action. Ed Hamilton teams up with artists such as Ed Ruscha to create exquisite limited edition lithographs in this studio & gallery.
De Soto Gallery – A rotating selection of contemporary artists exhibit here. I’d love to see the current show — In Position | Amy Elkins and Jona Frank.
The Venice Canals – A quiet place for a stroll and some real estate window shopping.
Gjelina Take Away – This place is incredible. They somehow made the kale salad I ate feel almost decadent. The little outdoor courtyard full of milk crates for seating is charming and made me a bit nostalgic for college, ha!
Los Angeles has so much to offer that even though we were there for 10 days and saw so much, I feel like we only scratched the surface. I’m already wondering when I can plan my next trip back!