We are each entitled to our own opinion. Here’s mine: This city is like a wild beast. It’s like a tiger, a lion, or a bear. For those that know how to tame it, the wild beast becomes their best friend, kind of like Jungle Book. I saw many people that seemed at home & relaxed in this mega-urban-jungletropolis of LA. For those that cannot find their way to tame it, they get eaten up & swallowed whole! I am guessing from the looks of it that most people probably fall into the later category. The question is, are they getting slowly consumed, or rapidly devoured…and, whether they know it or not. I witnessed the highest levels of extreme materialism, ego & shallowness I’ve possibly ever encountered. I heard from many people about the parties they went to where people only talk to you if you’re a producer or musician. Its all about networking baby! Couple that with daily high anxiety ridden tense driving situations where EVERYBODY is constantly stuck in the bad habit of driving way too fast, 20-30mph over the speed limit. Everyday I drove past recent car wrecks, fender benders, & looked around seeing scowling faces eager to honk their horns at the drop of a dime. For these two reasons: the people & the traffic, LA does not make my top 100 choices of places to inhabit too long. I literally had culture shock coming straight from Maui where the community of people are known for their Aloha…& drive with Aloha too! That means we very seldom honk (its considered rude in Hawaiian island culture), let other cars go in front of us at stops, honor their turn signals by letting cars change lanes (imagine that!), and most of all perhaps…honoring pedestrians rights to cross the street! LA, really does not seem so pedestrian friendly, say as they Bay Area with its Bart metro, or NYC with its amazing subway system. You really do need a car in LA, where as my favorite cities tend to be places you don’t. Think about it. That alone really changes a community. You really get more interactions, and a tighter knit community when people walk, talk, ride metro’s together. LA does have one, but its anything but connecting all the neighborhoods & districts at the moment. Ok, ok. I’ll admit it, I have a love-hate thing for big cities, & it’s mostly hate after this week in LA. Hate, perhaps, is too strong of a word. I began to dislike LA for showing me her positive attributes last November & luring me into her Cali charm: Venice Beach, Abbot Kinney district, Griffith Park, Topanga Canyon & other magic places allured me into the idea of moving to LA & leaving my precious Maui island lifestyle. My stuff is now in storage & after about 1 year travels in South America working on this blog, I most likely will call Bay Area my new home instead. My conclusion: There is an amazing & epic music scene thriving in this mad city, with literally 100’s of live music venues, thousands of talented bands, & every night of the week you have 20+ choices of good music shows! The restaurant choices as well are off the charts, with a ton of vegetarian/vegan options, international food, and always a heath food store deli nearby. This cannot be taken for granted as I’ve traveled many places around the US & the Globe that just do not have many food choices. LA is a foodie & music lovers paradise for sure! That said, after much thought…I decided overall I am more of a San Francisco or NYC kind of guy . Nevertheless, below are some of my favorite things about The City of Fallen Angels (ok, I need to stop being so harsh on LA now)!
:: Music Scene ::
El Rey Theatre – The El Rey Theatre is an original art deco theater in the heart of the Miracle Mile, one of Los Angeles’ preserved art deco districts. The El Rey was built in 1936 and designed by Clifford Balch. After over 50 years as a first run movie house, the El Rey was converted into a live music venue in 1994. A registered Historic-Cultural Monument, the El Rey has sweeping staircases, an art deco lobby, VIP balcony lounge and a grand ballroom equipped with a full stage. The El Rey is a general admission, standing room venue, unless stated otherwise in specific show details. I saw the new NYC band Lewis Del Mar here in June 2017 & had the time of my life! http://www.theelrey.com/events
Griffith Observatory – Greek Theatre is a 5,870-seat music venue located at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California. It was built in 1929, opening on September 29 of that year. The Greek Theatre is owned by the city of Los Angeles, and is operated by SMG. My friend invited to me see Elvis Costello there live. Not my favorite music exactly, but the venue is stellar! World class actually!
Ecstatic Dance LA: This event takes place every Sunday for those inclined to dance at a non-bar event, meaning a drug & alcohol free environment safe for all-ages. Ecstatic Dance is an event that is now orchestrated in over 300+ cities worldwide. See www.EcstaticDance.org for a full list of events. This Los Angeles event steadily gets 100+ ‘ecstatic’ dancers turning out weekly for a tribal celebration. Usualy the format begins with a little yoga to loosen those dancing muscles! Aferwards the DJ slowly brings up the tempo over the course of the next hour, then bringing it back down gradually to end with some live world & meditation music, aka sound healing. https://www.ecstaticdancela.com/
:: Places worth checking out ::
Venice Beach: This place is world famous for its group of artists, musicians, musclemen, & total characters that hang out here for decades giving it its unique blend of charisma. Couple that with its natural beach beauty of never ending sand & the sea & you have the best of both worlds indeed! Good restaurants, 100’s of souvenir shops, street musicians & artist vendors galore & you have one of LA’s must-see places to check out on your visit. I recommend renting a bike & bicycling the boardwalk bikeway from Venice to Santa Monica (about 30-45 minutes roundtrip). This is sunny California at its best, on a good day!
Abbot Kinney district: Abbot Kinney street & neighborhood is comprised of many hip cafes, shops, restaurants, a bars that give it a real cozy Cali vibe where fashion meets the beach culture. Great assortment of shops that will keep even this “non-shopper” busy looking around. I heard a legend that there is a rooftop bar at Hotel Erwin, but I did not get a chance to check it out. That’s because I was too busy checking out these!
:: Rooftop Bars of LA ::
What is it that they say about smog? Oh yeah, beautiful sunsets. Make L.A.’s haze work for you at these cocktail bars and beachside spots, where the views rightfully rival the booze. From Downtown‘s bars with a view to seaside cabanas in Malibu and Venice, here are the city’s top (literally) rooftop bars.
Mama Shelter: The bright space is splattered with multicolored sofas and chairs where you can lounge while waiting for shawarma to arrive; the Mediterranean-inspired menu also serves falafel, salmon skewers and a few hummus options. Cocktails also pay tribute to the Mediterranean, with drinks like the Za’atar Margarita and Mediterranean Mule. On warm nights, you can dance under the stars while DJs spin an eclectic mix of music, or take in a classic movie on their outdoor screen. There’s also a fusbol table, a yoga studio and sweeping views of Hollywood.
Standard Downtown: Even if you don’t hop in the pool, you can still plunge into the fun on one of the bright red waterbed pods scattered across the roof at the Downtown outpost of Andre Balaz’s hip hotel. Take the elevator up to the top, where mod furnishings give a slightly space-age vibe—the perfect backdrop for a crowd ranging from folks waiting for next year’s Burning Man to hotel guests checking out the scene. Weekend afternoons call for cocktail lounging—try the sweet and sour Hennessy Lemonade—but beware the $20 cover after 7pm, which doesn’t deter the lines that can stretch out into the parking lot. Website
Upstairs: Look good—but not like you’re trying too hard—when visiting Upstairs, a Moroccan oasis perched atop the trendy Ace Hotel. The elevator next to L.A. Chapter is your key to getting inside (or rather, outside) the buzzing, open-air roof deck, swathed in an exotic canopy and scattered with hip Downtowners clutching plastic cups. Perfect for an after-work schmooze or a reunion with old friends, you’ll find two bars to order a drink from (be warned: weekends bring the requisite long lines). Try the Lefty Lucy, a surprisingly easy-to-drink concoction made with chile liqueur, peach liqueur, ginger, lime and yellow chartreuse. LA’s favorite Monday night weekly dance party, MOM (Motown On Mondays), is known to do some fun music events here, as well as other DJ collectives & bands. https://www.acehotel.com/calendar/losangeles
Perch LA: This rooftop bistro is one of the prettiest in town with its patterned tile floors, dead-on view of the Central Library and potted trees full of twinkly lights. Downtown locals, plus a few hundred of their closest friends, sit on velour bar stools and plush sofas inside the eclectic boudoir-themed bar or fireside on the outdoor patio. From any seat, you’ll want to sample the wide selection of Kirs that go beyond Crème de Cassis—try a tasty, blackberry-flavored Crème de Mure—and other French by-the-glass pours. The after-work crowd drops in for happy hour, dubbed Apéritif Hour, weekdays from 4 to 6pm, while late-night partygoers can enjoy a live DJ on Tuesdays from 9pm-2am. http://perchla.com/calendar.html
Sky Bar: The rooftop bar that started it all, the Mondrian’s Skybar still retains its secret Sunset Strip entryway, complete with dress-to-impress entry and nightlife cred—this is one of the rare poolside bars where people really do jump in after a night of cocktails. The all-ages crowd ranges from wide-eyed ingénues to aging Robert Evans types, but no matter where you fall on the spectrum, the Mexican-style oasis of flowering walls and gorgeous nooks will win you over, especially with a mojito in hand.
To book a room at the Mondrian Hotel, click here.
:: Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants ::
List of over 125 Vegetarian & Vegan LA Restaurants! https://www.happycow.net/north_america/usa/california/los_angeles/
When it was announced that Café Gratitude was bringing vegan Mexican food to West Hollywood in the form of Gracias Madre, there may or may not have been a considerable amount of eye rolling, but some skeptics are probably believers now. The absence of traditional cheese also means an abundance of cashew “cheese” or cream, served over nachos, tacos, enchiladas, flautas and almost everything else on the menu. Fortunately, the next best thing is sometimes just as good. The quesadillas de calabaza are topped—but, thankfully, not drowned—in the faux dairy, and we fully enjoyed the sweet butternut squash and salty caramelized onions tucked inside the tortillas. The food here is a necessary reminder that vegan doesn’t have to mean void of flavor.
Café Gratitude is the first Los Angeles outpost of a chain that claims seven Bay Area locations. And true to its flower-child roots, the items on its menu are given self-affirming names. Among them are I Am Thriving (butternut squash chipotle soup), I Am Elated (enchiladas), I Am Transformed (corn tacos) and I Am Extraordinary (“BLT” sandwich).
After several weeks of dining at Café Gratitude, one might find oneself Vibrant, Grounded, Whole, Loved, Magical, Precious and Cozy, but never Hung Over, Angry, Jealous, Hurt or Sorry. In fact, the restaurant is so uniformly bright and cheery that it borders on pathological. Think Disneyland gone vegan, sans the heartland tourists wearing fanny packs.
Which neighborhoods to stay?
Los Angeles has many options. Santa Monica, Venice Beach & Abbot Kinney if you want to be near the beach action, Topanga Canyon if you prefer to be surrounded by lush hills of Nature (its about 15minute drive from Santa Monica on most days depending on traffic). Explore AirBnB & check out the flats, views, artsy fartsy studios & find one you desire.
Book your AirBnB there & receive $40 free credit (see my blog on how to do this by creating a new account with alternate email):
Click here to become an AirBnB host:
Venice Beach cozy pad right on the boardwalk & beachfront?
Santa Monica pad near the pier?
Abbot Kinney rooftop suite?
Yes, yes & YES!