Los Angeles is an incredibly iconic city known all around the world. Many people dream of the day they get to visit such a place, and a lot of those people probably never will. I have lived within two hours of LA my entire life and have never ventured into what this great city has to offer. Why? It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. And need I mention the traffic? These may all be poor excuses but I have realized that they are very common reasons why many people I know (and I am sure many people I don’t know) avoid LA. So I took it upon myself to create this guide to eliminate your hesitations and mine, so that we can get to exploring!
Our tour guide for this city is the very talented Kourtney Jackson. She is an art director and photographer who has lived and worked in LA for almost four years. Kourtney is a dear friend of mine and the perfect person to find places off the beaten path. She also gave me tons of other recommendations we didn’t get to visit on our trip. Her first local tip is on how to avoid the infamous LA traffic: Plan on leaving after the a.m. traffic in late morning and returning home after rush hour. Just make it a part of the trip instead of trying to fight it!
That is what I did and I hardly hit any traffic! Dreams do come true! When I arrived our first stop was, of course, for coffee.
– COFFEE –
A sweet little walk-up window with french classics and great coffee. Dinette only offers outdoor seating, allowing you to experience the hustle and bustle of LA life. They have a great menu full of yummy snacks and filling meals. Kourtney and I got the almond butter honey toast with bee pollen and it was the perfect mid-day snack! If you need something more to hold you over until dinner there are tasty omelets, sandwiches and more!
Along the same street there are TONS of options for coffee shops! If you are looking for a place to sit inside and camp out for a bit, the well know Blue Bottle might be right for you. Looking for a new book to read while you enjoy your afternoon brew? Visit Stories Books & Cafe. Hungry for a more substantial meal along with your coffee? Head over to Fix Coffee!
– THINGS TO DO –
If you happen to take your little adventure on a Friday, grab your coffee to-go and wander around the farmers market. We listened to the cutest couple serenade one another as we looked over the delicious looking fruits and veggies!
Driving in LA can be a pain but if you are strategic you can keep it to a minimum. For this part of your day find a spot and walk everywhere else! Don’t go through the hassle of finding new parking for each location. All the coffee shops we mentioned, the farmers market, and our next location (Echo Park) are all walking distance from one other. Local Tip: set an alarm on your phone for when your metered parking is up. And make sure to give yourself extra time to walk back to your car. Parking tickets in LA are no joke and can cost up to $70.
The park has recently been renovated and has something for everyone! You can wander along the path taking in the view of the downtown skyline, grab a blanket and read on the lawn, feed the cute ducks with a loaf from the farmers market, or rent a paddle boat and cruise around on the water! Kourtney and I strolled and talked as the sun began to set, and even met a man who is on the counsel for Echo Park! He showed us old photos and told us all about its history. Echo park supposedly got its name from the men who worked the land in the area. The sound of their machines and tools would bounce off of the surrounding hills and echo back to them. Instead of continuing to call it section four it got the nick name echo park!
If you are feeling like going on an actual hike, Elysian Park might be a fun option for you!
-DINNER BREAK –
We took a break from exploring to have some dinner; another strategic move. Local tip: have an early dinner to beat the rush. Unless you plan around these rush times, long lines and huge waits for food/drinks should be an expectation. Especially on the weekends. We got to the Pine & Crane around 5ish and didn’t have to wait to order and sit down! Not even thirty minutes later there was a line out the door!
Looking for a drink after dinner? Head to one of Kourtney’s favorites: Bar Stella!
-Things To Do…Cont’d –
Instead of heading home and getting stuck in traffic with the rest of the world, keep the adventure going!
It is a second hand book store in Atwater Village, who’s hand picked books take an emphasis on literature, film, and the arts. There are so many treasures on every shelf! Kourtney and I could have spent hours ogling their art & photography section.
Atwater Village is a sweet little nook in LA with so many cool spots and something for everyone. Coffee and treats? Proof Bakery. Window Shopping? Individual Medley. More food? Viet Noodle. Cocktails and drinks? Bon Vivant Market & Cafe.
To wrap up the day, we headed to the Norton Simon Museum, a favorite of ours. This museum is known for having one of the most remarkable private art collections… ever. Is has an astonishing amount of European art, Renaissance to the 20th century, and South and South-East Asian art spanning over 2,000 years. This place is magical. I had my first real encounter with a Van Gough my sophomore year of college and I will never forget that moment. Before this point, I was though his work was good but didn’t really understand all the hype. However, standing inches from the painting I was overwhelmed by the striking use of color and brush work. It literally took my breath away.
This time around, we gleefully meandered the halls just before the museum was about to close. After the day was over, I floated home, feeling inspired and without a spot of traffic in sight. This adventure left me full of anticipation for my next city guide: San Clemente.
I hope this guide gives you a fun day of adventure and exploration, and helps you to love where you live. May it satisfy your appetite for travel until you can finally go on that big trip you’ve been saving for. Go and live abundantly!
If you are coming to the area on vacation or for a special day I would love to photograph your adventure! Let’s chat if you are interested!