Los Angeles Essentials

Discover the best places to do whatever it is you want to do in Los Angeles.

GET COFFEE

Intelligentsia, 3922 West Sunset Blvd.
Order a macchiato. Grab a table in the outdoor dining room, and enjoy the parade of bearded, pierced hipsters; stylish couples; and skateboarders who roam the shopping strip called Sunset Junction. Go early because tables can be hard to come by even during the middle of the week. Before you hunt for street parking, check to see if there’s a space in the lot behind the store.

MUNCH ON MOUTHWATERING COOKIES

Some Crust Bakery, 119 Yale Ave.
Decades of the students who graduated from this town’s prestigious Claremont Colleges not only leave with a valuable degree, but also with a lifelong love for the made-from-scratch cookies and pastries at Some Crust. Nothing goes better with a dense yet moist mocha cookie than an iced latte, delivering several hours of renewed energy and relief from the inland heat.

Shopping Essentials: Best Places to ...

CHECK OUT A FUNKY LOCAL BUSINESS

It’s a Wrap, 3315 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Want a deal and a piece of Hollywood you can wear? It’s a Wrap sells clothing that has been worn by the actors and extras on TV shows and movies. There’s a new location on the Westside but head to the mother ship in Burbank for the biggest selection.

St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, 210 North Avenue 21, Lincoln Heights
This sprawling secondhand store packed with donated clothes and furniture is a popular stop for vintage store owners looking to stock their own stores. So, cut out the middleman and stop by. They even deliver.

Wacko/La Luz de Jesus Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd.
No one really needs a $200 bust of Beethoven in red vinyl or a $3 wind-up lobster. But then you wouldn’t expect practical gifts at a place called Wacko, the city’s leading purveyor of all things kitsch. In the back of the store, behind shelves stocked with Tiki mugs, Last Supper lunchboxes and underground art books, the Luz de Jesus Gallery has helped launch the career of many outsider artists. The opening night crowds are even more colorful than the merchandise.

SUPPORT AN ENDANGERED BRICK-AND-MORTAR RETAILER

Amoeba Records, 6400 Sunset Blvd.
Enter the cavern of Amoeba Records, and you will be assaulted by the sound of not only music but of customers flipping through thousands of new and used CD and DVD cases. That music, by the way, may not be recorded. The store is a popular spot for free live shows from new and established artists.

Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd.
It seems that nearly every few months brings news of another independent bookstore closing its doors, unable to compete with online rivals. Yet Vroman’s, founded in 1894, has not only survived but it has grown, winning the loyalty of readers with a huge selection (more than 80,000 titles in three locations) and frequent readings for adults and kids. Bargain-book hunters make Vroman’s the first stop on their day-after-Christmas shopping spree when the store marks down many holiday books and other items by 50 percent.

Outdoor Essentials: Best Places to ...

ENJOY NATURE

Hike Topanga Canyon, 20829 Entrada Road
It’s hard to believe that you are still within the Los Angeles city limits when you wander the more than 30 miles of trails that wind their way through oak-studded hills and the untouched grasslands of Topanga State Park. Hit the Musch Ranch Trail loop beginning in late February for a dazzling display of native wildflowers.

Santa Monica-Marina Del Rey bike path
The most difficult thing about riding the eight miles of the beachside bike trail between Santa Monica and Marina del Rey is to stay focused. Stunning coastal views, the antics on the Venice Boardwalk and the eye-catching Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier are going to vie for your attention. So, keep your eyes on the path and start your ride early.

RELAX AT THE BEACH

Malibu Lagoon State Beach, 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu
The gentle arc of Malibu Lagoon State Beach will not disappoint those in search of sun and surf. But there is much more to this spot than just a sandy beach (you can find miles of them around here). On the western edge of the park, Malibu Creek tumbles out of the mountains, creating a lush wetland and lagoon popular with bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. The more urban and somewhat more crowded eastern end of the beach includes the famed Malibu Pier and nearby shops and restaurants along Pacific Coast Highway.

But it's in the middle section of beach where visitors will be surprised to run across a colorful piece of Malibu history: the Adamson House. And we mean colorful. The well-preserved, 1929 Spanish-Colonial-style mansion overlooking the sand and surf includes entire walls and floors clad in legendary Malibu tile, which was once produced by the family that owned this estate and much of the nearby coastline. Even when the house is closed for public tours, you can sit on the grounds, take in the view and sample what life was like here for the lucky few to call Malibu home.

SEE GREAT VIEWS OF THE CITY

110 & 105 Freeway Interchange
The street lights of the Los Angeles Basin shoot out in all directions below and the skyline of downtown Los Angeles glows in the distance. But you are not on top of a hill or a rotating restaurant bar. You are in a car speeding in one of the elevated traffic lanes that converge at the interchange of the 110 and 105 freeways. The best view is the carpool lane from the eastbound 105 as it banks and descends into the northbound lanes of the 110 freeway. It's like a plane ride without having to pay for a ticket.

Hollywood & Highland Center, 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
The rooftop terraces of the giant Hollywood & Highland Center mall in the heart of Hollywood offer sweeping views of the Los Angeles Basin, the Hollywood Hills and all the hoopla and activities of Hollywood Boulevard below. The best part is you don’t have to go on a long hike. All you have to climb is an escalator.

WATCH THE SUNSET

Palisades Park, Pacific Palisades
High on the bluffs towering over Will Rogers State Beach, you can watch the sun slide into the Pacific framed by the beaches and mountains of Malibu to the north and the city lights of Santa Monica to the south. But unlike the better-known Palisades Park in Santa Monica, this fringe of green space at the edge of the Los Angeles neighborhood of Pacific Palisades is free of crowds and commotion. It's a bit remote, but all you have to do is just drive or walk several blocks south from Pacific Palisades' tiny downtown on Sunset Boulevard until you reach Villa de las Olas. Then just pick a quiet spot and enjoy the view.

TAKE FIDO

Verdugo Mountain Park, 1621 La Canada Blvd.
Leave the crowded city dog parks behind and head for the hills. In this case, the trails of Verdugo Mountain Park above Glendale and Burbank are only a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles but offer you and your pet much more breathing room. The trails are easy to get to but make sure to take water and a hat because there are few trees along the way.

GET AWAY FOR A WEEKEND

Ojai
Ringed with mountains that glow pink at sunset, it's no surprise that the Ojai Valley doubled as the setting for the legendary city of Shangri-La in the 1939 movie Lost Horizon. Ojai, located in Ventura County about 90 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles, has changed much since that movie classic was shot here, with many of the fruit orchards giving way to estates and housing tracts.

But Ojai, which comes from the Chumash Indian word "A'hwai," or "moon," has remained a charming small town, whose picturesque setting has drawn a year-round community of artists, New Age spiritualists and weekend visitors from Los Angeles. A small and walkable downtown is centered on oak-shaded Libbey Park, home of the annual Ojai Music Festival, and a covered arcade of shops and restaurants. Small hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts are spread around the town and surrounding valley. The nine-mile Ojai Valley Trail provides a great way to explore the area on bike or on foot. But make sure to save some time to admire the "pink moment" at sunset, when the hills glow with light and memories of Shangri-La.

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