As part of a series of articles on California, Los Angeles is an obvious place to start (or finish depending on the direction of your trip). The ‘City of Angels’ has one of the most enviable food and art scenes in all of North America. There are so many choices it can be daunting for some travelers. Based on multiple trips to Los Angeles, I’ve tried to take the drama and blockbuster Hollywood budgets OUT, while keeping great food, drinks and art IN the itinerary. If you’re looking to fill a day or two in LA, the options below are a great starting point for hungry travelers who appreciate design.

Eating in Los Angeles

I’m a foodie and proud of it. I’m also budget conscious, and recognize that $400, 20 course tasting menus are not an everyday (or every year) occurrence. Thankfully, for each five star restaurant around Los Angeles, there are also countless other unique (and more affordable) dining experiences – IF you know where to look. I would classify all of the favorites below as 3/5 in terms of cost for a large city, and 5/5 for design and ambiance.

Santa Monica Seafood Eats:

Herringbone Santa Monica holds a very special place in my heart. I fell in love with their local fare, sustainable seafood sourcing and $1 Oyster Happy Hours while visiting the San Diego location a few years ago. You can bet I was keen to experience it again during this trip. The atmosphere is an eclectic mix of beach house chic, catering to a discerning millennial pallet. From 4-7pm west coast oysters are only $1 and several $8 cocktail and $6 wine features are on offer. In addition, memorable roast brussel sprout and ceviche tostada dishes are available in their lounge area. I recommend making reservations whenever possible – though happy hour in the lounge is only first come first serve. Herringbone’s location is a winner. At 1755 Ocean Avenue, it’s literally just steps from the famous Santa Monica Pier. You can easily walk the pier and even ride the famous ferris wheel before escaping the tourist hoard for a glass of rosé or craft beer at Herringbone.

The Patio Scene Of West Hollywood:

If you find yourself wandering the streets of West Hollywood mid-day, veer off at Sunset Blvd for Chateau Marmont. A famous historic hotel in its own right, the restaurant here includes a pinterest worthy garden patio. It features incredible people and celebrity watching opportunities, while still offering affordable charcuterie platters to nosh on. The most expensive bottle of wine on the menu is a 2010 La Tache, Grand Cru de la Romanee-Conti. It rings in at a staggering $7,000. Rest assured wine by the glass starts at a much more reasonable $14.

The charming stone walled patio at AOC Wine Bar is everything a traveler in search of romance could hope for. The spanish inspired tapas menu includes the best prosciutto wrapped dates of all time (get two orders, trust me). There is also a mouth watering rabbit pappardelle and spanish fried chicken. Be sure to save room for the pot de creme from the dessert menu. Daily 5-7pm happy hour offers $7 wine by the glass, $5 craft beers and $10 specialty cocktails. Wine by the bottle starts at $45 and gets into the $1000 range if you’re looking to really woo your travel partner. AOC is at 8700 West 3rd Street, phone 310 859 9859 or go online for reservations and be sure to request a table on the patio.

Yet another magical patio and active bar scene can be found hidden away at Laurel Hardware. Despite the look of the street signage, this is most definitely NOT a hardware store. Be sure to ask for a table in the back garden and you won’t be disappointed. Trees are wrapped in twinkly lights, ultra comfy club chairs dominate, and the sound of an expertly curated soundtrack mixes with good conversation. Menu highlights include lollipop sprouts, butternut squash tortellini and glazed pork ribs. OH MY GOD THOSE RIBS. SERIOUSLY. While the beef tartare was good, it wasn’t great, and I wish I had saved room for the duck fried rice or one of their many gourmet pizzas instead. When in doubt ask your server for menu suggestions. Trust me, they won’t steer you wrong. Cocktails start at $13/glass and in addition to being served with expertly designed garnishes, they pack a powerful punch. Happy hour is 6-7pm Sunday-Friday, and 3-6pm on Saturdays. Laurel Hardware is at 7984 Santa Monica Blvd, phone (323) 656-6070.

Despite my initial confusion for it being a possible strip club, Delilah is a true West Hollywood institution. A food, drink and entertainment destination. Thankfully (at least for me), no nude dancers. Decor inside is that of Hollywood’s 1920’s golden era. The expected large leather chairs and crystal chandeliers are along side unexpected menu items such as wings and veggie burgers. Delilah’s location is a stones throw from Laurel Hardware, at 7969 Santa Monica Blvd. Open Tuesday to Saturday, starting at 6:30pm, and 9:00pm on Sundays.

While not a patio per say, Rosaliné brings the outdoors inside with its airy decor and multitude of plants hanging from the massive sky light ceiling. The menu is a celebration of peruvian culture, with many family style dishes such as the chaufa paella with pancetta and la chang sausage or the pescado parrillero with grilled grilled branzino and black mint aji sauce, ideal for sharing. Situated at 8479 Melrose Ave, phone (323) 297-9500.

In search of vegetarian options? Look no further than Gracias Madre. This authentic Mexican restaurant goes even further, featuring entirely locally sourced, organic, vegan ingredients. Once you get past the fact that you can’t order pork carnitas from the menu, guests quickly fall in love with the tastes and story behind the restaurant. Veteran chef Chandra Gilbert invites travelers with the restaurant’s unofficial slogan, “Welcome to a seat at love’s table. Un lugar en la mesa del amor.” Gracias Madre is at 8905 Melrose Ave, phone (323) 978-2170. Open 11am-11pm daily, and at 10am on Saturdays. Weekday happy hour 3-6pm, weekend brunch 10am-3pm.

A memorable brunch is something that deserves it’s own stand alone article. The weekend brunch at Ivory on Sunset (formerly Herringbone LA), within the Mondrian Los Angeles hotel even more so. For sweeping views of the city on one side and an active pool scene on the other, paying $16 for a delicious french toast meal becomes a bargain. The hotel and restaurant are located at 8440 Sunset Blvd, phone (323) 848-6000.

Drinking In LA

I admit, several of my dining recommendations above also include a strong focus on drinks and happy hour highlights. I make no apologies for enjoying a good tippling. If you’re even more focused on drinks than I am, there are plenty of additional ‘drinking in LA’ options to consider. The following are all located in the core of downtown Los Angeles:

With two floors of scenic persian inspired patios literally perched atop the Pershing Square Building in the downtown core, Perch LA is perfect for sunset views and cocktails. The 15th floor restaurant with wrap around balcony, features over 25 wines by the glass and a notable cognac selection. The 16th floor 360 degree rooftop patio is a 21+ bar only. Happy hour runs weekdays 4-6pm. Included are $5 beers, $6 house wines and $7 cocktails such as Hemingway on the Beach, a more adult, gin based version of Sex on the Beach that you won’t be too embarrassed to order. Perch LA is located a 448 South Hill Street, phone (213) 802-1770 or make reservations through OpenTable.

Just a few blocks away is RedBird. In addition to locally sourced American cuisine, Bar Director Tobin Shea’s Silk Road Cocktail Collection is pure magic. According to Shea, it features 18 cocktails “concocted with herbs, spices and liqueurs inspired by the stories and flavors along the trade route between China and the capital of the Roman Empire”. Guests who order from this menu receive stamps in a specialty passport. With $15 price tags, and names like Venetian Spritz, Good Morning Vietnam, and Chai Milk Punch, it’s easy for travelers to get carried away in the pursuit of more passport stamps. RedBird is inside the former rectory building of Vibiana at 114 East Second Street, phone (213) 788-1191.

If you’re a traveler who is excited by the idea of speakeasies, The Edison is for you. As Architectural Digest explains, this “industrial-chic club was carved out of the century-old machinery of downtown’s first private power plant”. The sizeable underground space is thoughtfully divided into multiple rooms, each with different focuses including massive black and white movie screens, aerialists, burlesque dancers, and of course DJs. Insider tip, it may be worth calling (213) 613-0000 to reserve a table (requires minimum $25/pp spend Wed-Thurs and $50/pp on weekends) in order to bypass the line. The Edison is at 108 West 2nd St, with the entrance tucked away off Harlem Place Alley.

Art in Los Angeles

Broadly speaking, the art and music scene in Los Angeles is a gold mine. Savvy travelers looking to avoid the crowds will skip the likes of Universal Studios Hollywood and spend the day at one of LA’s many art galleries or museums.

LACMA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is an impressive complex situated between the downtown core and West Hollywood neighbourhoods. Approaching along Wilshire Blvd. visitors are met with Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation. It screams ‘instagram worthy’ from both near and far. Exactly 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps comprise this iconic work. It is just one of several public art installations throughout the grounds that guests can literally walk through.

As of November 2017, special exhibits include Found In Translation: Design in California and Mexico 1915-1985, and A Universal History of Infamy featuring works of 16 US Latino and Latin American artists exploring Latin American culture’s diaspora in the United States. Given today’s ever evolving geopolitical climate, the exhibit On The Move: A Century Of Crossing Borders provides particularly interesting insights into how physical and ideological borders shape people’s experience with the world around them. If classic European art is more your style, don’t worry, the LACMA is overflowing with famous works to ogle. From Picasso’s Weeping Woman with Handkerchief, to several volumes of Henri Matisse’s manuscripts, you’ll have your fill.

Take note, several floors and buildings are undergoing closures as a massive renovation project gets underway. The fully renovated LACMA isn’t expected to be complete until 2025 – that’s right, 2025. It’s best to plan ahead and ensure the exhibit you’re most interested in is still on display during your visit to Los Angeles.

LACMA is open 11am – 5pm Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, extended until 8pm on Fridays, and 10am – 7pm on weekends. Take note, it’s closed Wednesday. Adult admission is $15 which includes access to several thematic docent guided tours multiple times per day. Capable of filling an entire afternoon, your admission fee is certainly travel dollars well spent!

The Broad

The Broad opened it’s doors in 2015 and has welcomed more than 1.6 million visitors to experience it’s contemporary art collection ever since. Founded and funded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the 120,000 square foot space houses over 2,000 pieces. Not too shabby.

To date, perhaps the most well known exhibit at The Broad has been Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors. Guests who nab tickets to Infinity Mirrors are invited to experience a kaleidoscopic world of mirrors, lights and dots in intimate group sizes. You’ll soon discover, repetitive dots are the trademark of the artist. The only catch is that entrance is not part of general admission, and in addition to setting travelers back an extra $25/pp. Demand for the exhibit is so high that advance tickets are already fully sold out. Day of standby tickets are possible until the exhibit packs up for it’s north american tour after January 1, 2018. Fear not, while Infinity Mirrors may be out of each, multiple works by the artist remain on display at The Broad.

Relative to other galleries in Los Angeles, the down side of the Broad (which offers free admission!), is actually the ticketing process. Tickets releases occur on a first come first serve basis at the start of each month, for the following month. They often ‘sell out’ within minutes. So it’s wise to plan ahead. Visiting Los Angeles for only 2 days, we opted to skip the Broad on this trip, instead of take the gamble spending our precious time hanging out in same-day standby lines. To their credit, The Broad’s social media team are active on twitter with updates on line and ticket status. The museum is open 11:00am – 5:00pm Tuesday through Wednesday, and extended to 8:00pm Thursday and Friday. Saturday runs 10:00am to 8:0pm, and Sundays 10:00am to 6:00pm. Closed Mondays.

The Getty Center

Outside of the Los Angeles downtown core, perched atop the hills between Bel Air and Bentwood sits The Getty Center. One of the world’s largest art organizations is free to visit (though parking will set you back $15). Both The larger Getty Center and the Getty Villa in the Pacific Palisades offer art, architecture and gardens from true masters. The Getty Villa houses pieces spanning from the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire. Conversely, the Getty Center spans cultures and mediums of a more modern era, from medieval times to today.

At the Center, visitors can take their pick from five main pavilions. Highlights include temporary exhibits such as Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy In The Ancient Americas (on until January 28, 2018) which explores the cultural, artistic and economic history of ancient gold routes in South and Central America. There are also classic European masters like Rembrandt (a whole room dedicated to this Dutch artist and his cohort). Iconic pieces are found throughout the grounds including Van Gogh’s Irises. Despite having to wade through the hoard to camera happy tourists for Irises, it’s worth it.

The grounds of The Getty are perhaps just impressive as the works on the inside. The 110 acre campus took over 10 years to complete. Architect Richard Meier collaborated with artist Robert Irwin to integrate a 134,000 square foot garden on site. The full experience of the ‘Central Garden’ entails walking alongside a geometrically styled stream which flows into a shallow pool with a floating maze of azaleas. With bright pink flowering trees overhead, and brilliant hilltop views, you may forget you’re actually in Los Angeles. No matter what your age, travelers will get a kick out of watching a group of local mallard ducks perpetually navigate their way through the maze, on occasion cheating with a brief flight from one side of the maze to the other.

The Getty Center is open 10am – 5:30pm Tuesday through Friday and Sunday. Hours are extended to 9pm Saturdays and the venue is closed Mondays.