[slogan]As iconic as it is laid back, SoCal lives up to its beachy hype with glowing sands, breezy rooftop bars, and decadent seafood. [/slogan]
It was love at first sight when I visited in May. Read on for my beginner’s guide to southern California.
Unmarked entrances, bartenders with handlebar mustaches, and turn of the century decor — if you see all of the above, my friend, you have arrived at a speakeasy. As hipster as it gets, I’m actually a fan, not a detractor, of this new-old establishment. The mother of all speakeasies has got to be The Edison in DTLA. Built in 1910, The Edison has retained many of the architectural details of its past life as a bonafide power plant. The sub-basement lounge feels like the set of “Modern Times” meets “The Prestige.” Ghoulish silent movies are projected on a handful of walls in the cavernous space which has several private rooms with leather chairs and bric-a-brac from a hundred years ago. The lighting is low and the vibe is chill. It’s simply impossible to feel uncool once you’ve arrived.
James Dean was here and that’s all I need to know. As the set of “Rebel Without a Cause,” the Griffith Observatory reeks of Hollywood charm, and yes, it’s the perfect place to see the Hollywood sign as well. Walking trails encircle the grounds below and the Observatory sits perched above L.A. in all its smoggy charm. It’s touristy without being a trap, especially for photographers.
Shopping in Burbank
Pinup Girl Clothing has its one and only brick and mortar store here, so if Bettie Page is your idol, you’ll be in circle skirt heaven at this Burbank boutique. In the midst of all the major studios is Magnolia, a walking street chock full of vintage shops. Its proximity to the studios means the shops are overflowing with production wardrobes of every kind, all the costume jewelry you could ever hope for, and set pieces you never knew you needed.
Drinks at The Ace
You may recognize the gothic architecture of The Ace from “Batman” (don’t ask me which one). The Upstairs Bar of this Art Deco hotel looks great day or night from the sunken pool to the neon lights of DTLA. Mingle with the beautiful people in this relaxed lounge while sipping a hipster cocktail.
I swore off red meat more than a decade ago, but all bets are off at In-n-Out Burger. For my maiden trip to L.A. I asked my tour guide and friend to feed me something quintessentially Los Angeles, and a half-hour later I was deep in my Animal Style fries and burger, wondering how the bun could be so fresh, the patty so expertly grilled, and the lettuce and tomato so crisp… at a fast food joint. In-n-Out is a throwback to early diner days with its small menu which is cooked to order. It may not be as fast as Micky Dee’s, but it’s far fresher.
Sunset & Seafood on San Clemente Pier
Mention San Clemente to anyone who’s been there and you’ll hear the same wistfulness about returning. I pictured SoCal as a hustling, bustling place, but not so in the towns that line the ocean between San Clemente and San Diego. Just alongside the beach is a running trail to knock the edge off that food guilt you’ll feel after devouring a hearty clam chowder on a chilly eve.
Cocktails at Sunset on Laguna Beach
La Casa del Camino is the perch in Laguna Beach to giggle with girlfriends and sip cocktails at sunset. The apps are crazy good and the vibe is casual. You may even see a whale in the near-distance.
Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove
Just north of San Diego is a natural cove home to wild sea lions. A protected marine preserve, the sea lions flourish here and are perfectly relaxed even when selfied by eager tourists. Grab a seat on the outdoor porch at Brockton Villa Restaurant across the street and enjoy a lobster roll or two.
What’s your favorite spot in SoCal?