LA 4 Ways - Airbnbmag
Los Angeles 4 Ways
Photographs by Bryan Derballa

BY MATT JAFFE AND ROBIN JONES

L.A. is a foodie heaven. A family town. An adventure destination. A quirky shopping paradise.

A surfer at ZJ Boarding House in Santa Monica
ZJ Boarding House, Main Street, Santa Monica
Board games at Landis' Labyrinth in Larchmont Village
Landis' Labyrinth in Larchmont Village

1. Shoppers

L.A. shopping is more than a brand-name splurge on Rodeo Drive. The city is also rich in quirkier (and more reasonably priced) under-the-radar neighborhood shopping districts–like these four local favorites. Each of them will surprise you with the unexpected, the unusual, the one-of-a-kind.

Main Street, Santa Monica

The celebrities who populate The Hollywood Reporter spend their money on ritzy Montana Avenue, while tourists flock to the Third Street Promenade. Don't follow them. Head to Main Street, two blocks from the beach and far from the beaten path. Where Montana can be fusty, Main Street is fun and modern, with stores that define the SoCal beachy-casual look—Free People, Bryn Walker—near to surfer-skater shops like ZJ Boarding House. With all that browsing, you'll need coffee—try Dogtown Coffee—or a scoop of salted caramel ice cream at Three Twins.

Fourth Street, Long Beach

The stretch of Fourth Street between Junipero and Cherry Avenues in Long Beach is known as Retro Row because some of the first businesses to set up shop in the neighborhood were vintage stores. Meow, a favorite of Hollywood costume designers, is packed with men's and women's clothing, and at Inretrospect, midcentury modern tables, couches,and lamps rest side by side with retro sunglasses, old typewriters, and a huge selection of vinyl. Recent additions stock more modern wares: Port, for one, specializes in classic high-quality tees, sweatshirts, and hats for men; Trebor/Nevets creates furniture displays worthy of a glossy magazine spread; and Moxie sells roller skates in every color of the rainbow.

Rockaway Records in Silver Lake
Rockaway Records in Silver Lake
Moxi Roller Skates in Long Beach
Moxi Roller Skates, Fourth Street, Long Beach

Larchmont Village, Central Los Angeles

A small-town Main Street surrounded by metro L.A., Larchmont feels like a throwback: Dentists' and attorneys' offices sit between cozy shops like Chevalier's Books, which has supplied the neighborhood with current best sellers and classics since 1940; Landis' Labyrinth, where locals pick up puzzles and games; and Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits and Cheese, which serves not only bottles of red and white but also gourmet sandwiches. The village isn't frozen in time, though. Malin + Goetz, a high-end apothecary from New York, moved in, as did coffeehouse Go Get Em Tiger, purveyor of some of the smoothest, tastiest cold brews in town.

Sunset Junction, Silver Lake

A big blue sign where Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards meet Sanborn Avenue welcomes you to one of L.A.'s most eclectic shopping districts. Record browsing doesn't get better: Rockaway Records and Vacation Vinyl are a few blocks from each other. The junction is also good for offbeat finds at places like Broome Street General Store, a coffeehouse–gift shop with an astonishing array of T-shirts, jewelry, and books.

Rock climbing in the Santa Monica Mountains

2. Adventurers

A-listers know: You'll never look good on the red carpet unless you regularly break a serious sweat. Luckily, L.A. has a secret: It's a phenomenal place for seekers of outdoor fun. Hike, bike, paddle, climb—excitement is waiting for you.

Pedal a Peak, San Gabriel Mountains

The San Gabriel Mountains rise to form a rugged wilderness on greater L.A.'s northern edge. The range is the domain of bold black bears, who venture down for dips in suburban swimming pools, as well as equally bold mountain bikers drawn to steep descents down ridgelines and through forested canyons. Shuttles, rentals, and guided tours into the San Gabriels are available through Mt. Wilson Mountain Bike Adventure. Their routes range from easy gravel roads, suitable for families, to the Chilao Epic—26 miles of riding with 11,000 feet of descents and just 3,000 feet of climbing.

Climb a Rock, Santa Monica Mountains

Long before indoor climbing gyms, rock climbers went outside and climbed real rocks. As youths, some of the world's most famous climbers, including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, honed their skills in the City of Angels. Want to follow their precipitous paths? Try a half-day climb, suitable for all skill levels, in Malibu Creek State Park with Rock N Rope Adventures. They also lead hike-and-climb treks up 1,713-foot Mount Crags.

Hiking near Malibu
Hiking near Malibu
Malibu Surfrider Beach
Malibu Surfrider Beach

Sky-High Hike, Topanga State Park

Welcome to the best views in L.A. While the crowds sprint up and down and glute to glute on the jam-packed Fourth Street Steps in Santa Monica, the nearby Parker Mesa Trail delivers its own workout—plus more scenery and less of a scene. Straight up from the ocean, at 1,525 feet, in Topanga State Park, Parker Mesa Overlook lets you gaze across Santa Monica Bay out to Catalina Island. From the end of Paseo Miramar Trailhead in Pacific Palisades, it's five miles round trip and a steady 1,200-foot climb to the overlook.

Surf University, Malibu

So you've seen Point Break—the original and the remake—a dozen times. Now live it. Malibu is a surf capital of the world, home to chairmen of the boards like legendary rebel Miki "Da Cat" Dora and Kelly Slater. Chris "Stingray" Stiegler knows a little something about Malibu's waves: He grew up at Point Dume and has coached the Malibu Sharks surf team. Stiegler or one of his pros at Malibu Surf Coach can teach beginners the basics and take advanced surfers out to waves they'd never find on their own. From his house, Stiegler has access via a private trail to the break at Point Dume, where he frequently conducts his lessons. "This is a sacred spot for us," he says. "It's perfect and uncrowded, and I'm excited, superstoked, to get people surfing."

The Apple Pan in West L.A.
Classic paper-wrapped burgers at The Apple Pan
Chiles Seco at the Grand Central Market
Chiles Secos in Grand Central Market

3. Foodies

You can spend a lot of money eating out in Los Angeles. But in its heart, L.A. is a taco town. A burger burg. And a place where transcendent food can be found in food trucks and strip malls. For a truly local experience, start here.

Pacific Seas, Broadway

No one loves a tiki bar more than Angelenos, and for many of them, Silver Lake's pantry-size you-can-never-be-sure-it's-open Tiki Ti is the tropic gold standard by which all other vendors of rum drinks must be judged. But even purists have embraced downtown's new Pacific Seas. Occupying the fourth floor of Clifton's Cafeteria—itself an L.A. classic brilliantly revived— Pacific Seas is a South Seas fantasia, like something out of a W. Somerset Maugham fever dream. Blowfish glow, tiki masks glower, and if you've been glowering yourself, you'll soon be glowing after a few sips of such tropical classics as the bar's Fog Cutters and Singapore Slings. And, yes, that is a vintage mahogany Chris-Craft runabout in the middle of the room.

The Apple Pan, Westside

Long before L.A. burgers went haute—wagyu beef, truffle-bacon jam—they were wrapped in wax paper and slapped down on the counter at The Apple Pan. The 26-stool spot on Pico Boulevard has been pleasing carnivores since 1947. Take that first bite of the Pan's hickory burger, its patty blanketed with cheddar cheese and riding high on a base of iceberg lettuce leaves, and you'll never pay 20 bucks for a burger again. 10801 W. Pico Blvd., 310-475-3585

Tsujita L.A. Artisan Noodles

Grand Central Market, Downtown

A cavernous L.A. classic celebrates its centennial this year. For decades a warren of produce vendors and taco stands, the Grand Central has evolved from its working-class roots into an upscale foodie destination. Some stalwarts remain: You can still pick up 10 varieties of moles at Chiles Secos. But breakfast- goers now queue up at Eggslut for the Fairfax (scrambled eggs and Sriracha mayo on brioche). At Wexler's Deli, chef Micah Wexler smokes his lox and sturgeon on site, proving his description of his cuisine as "old-school Jewish soul food" is no precious boast.

Tsujita L.A. Artisan Noodle, Sawtelle Boulevard

Less well-known than downtown's Little Tokyo, the west side's Sawtelle Boulevard has been a hub of Japanese life for 100 years. Now it's home to both historic businesses, like the Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery, and to new ones, like Giant Robot, a Japanese pop-culture emporium. But you're here for ramen, and Tsujita L.A. Artisan Noodle sets the standard. The first US restaurant of Tokyo noodle master Kenta Ikehata, Tsujita is celebrated for the luscious, slow-cooked—as in 60 hours—pork bone broth in its char siu tsukemen (topped with thick slices of barbecued pork). Both Tsujita and its new across-the-street annex are popular places: Try to arrive for lunch when it opens at 11, or show up for an early dinner around 5.

Dinosaur Hall in the Natural History Museum
Dinosaur Hall in the Natural History Museum
Horseback rides in Will Rogers State Park
Guided horseback rides in Will Rogers State Park

4. Families

L.A. is famous for its fictional broods, like the Pritchetts of Modern Family and the Johnson family of Black-ish. But real kids (and their parents) can have a blast here too, from saddling a horse to boarding Noah's Ark.

Exposition Park, Los Angeles

In the middle of the city, near the University of Southern California, 160-acre Exposition Park is one of L.A.'s best places to spend a day with the elementary school set. Start at the California Science Center to explore the retired space shuttle Endeavour; then walk over to the recently revamped Natural History Museum to view 20 complete dinosaur skeletons, including three T. rexes. Finish the afternoon admiring the park's Rose Garden, home to more than 200 rose varieties—yes, you'll probably like them more than your kids will, but that's okay.

Glitter and Grammys, Downtown

From a distance, it may look as if downtown L.A. consists solely of modern skyscrapers. Far from it: The city's historic core is packed with stunning examples of beaux arts and art deco architecture from the 1920s and '30s, including several shuttered but still resplendent movie palaces from the golden age of film. Architecture-loving grown-ups will marvel at the glittering facades of the Rialto, Million Dollar, and Orpheum theaters, all on Broadway between Third and Ninth Streets. As for the kids, tell them to be patient and then reward them with a visit to the entertainingly interactive Grammy Museum at L.A. Live, where they'll get a chance to mix their own music and get the inside musical scoop on the likes of Beyoncé.

Historic Orpheum Theater, Broadway

Will Rogers State Park, Pacific Palisades

Will Rogers was a famous actor and comedian who died in a plane crash in 1935. But these days, most Angelenos know only his namesake Will Rogers State Park. Locals love the hiking trails that lace the 180-acre park, and yes, you should make the two-mile trek to Inspiration Point for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. If you have horse-loving kids, don't miss the stables, roping arena, and polo ground, where the Will Rogers Polo Club plays every weekend from April to October. And if you have seriously horse-loving kids, reserve a saddle on one of the guided rides through Will's old ranch.

Skirball Cultural Center, Brentwood

Celebrating Jewish life and culture with art exhibits and concerts, the attractively sprawling Skirball has something for everyone. But it's especially good for kids. They get to clamber around an amazing floor-to-ceiling-tall Noah's Ark filled with engaging handcrafted animals from giraffes to lions to camels. All this and pizza or cheese blintzes at Zeidler's Café—what's not to like? (Note: It's a popular Ark—book ahead.)

Explore more destinations

Subscribe and get Airbnbmag delivered to your door for just $15.
Subscribe
Keep exploring...