In Los Angeles, the west side is the best

From Playa del Ray, Venice and Santa Monica to Malibu, when you visit LA why not the sunniest way?

All photos by Michael Levin

In Los Angeles, the west side is the best. The city’s beach section stretches along the coast from Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Venice, Santa Monica and the Pacific Palisades to Malibu. The cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood are also part of the Westside. Still, die-hard Westsiders boast that they never walk east of Lincoln Boulevard, a long shopping street that runs roughly parallel to the Pacific Ocean about half a mile from the beach. So when you visit LA why not do what the Westsiders do and stay on the sunny side of town with a few exceptions?

You should stay where you can see the Pacific from your hotel window, but still be able to walk or take a quick Uber to many of the Westsiders favorite destinations. the Fairmont Miramar, on Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, has sweeping views of the beach and, if you get high enough, the entire west side.

Santa Monica is home to many of the creators who make the entertainment and technology industries work. Home to Santa Monica’s creative community, the Miramar is a favorite with generations of visitors including JFK, Elvis, and the Beatles, with ocean views and easy beach access. Throughout December, the hotel will be the subject of a new series of celebratory Art Deco-inspired posters by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, available for purchase on-line to support local grassroots arts organizations.

The Miramar’s flagship restaurant, COWARD, has the outstanding variety and quality one would expect from a 5-star hotel restaurant. Equally important for our purposes, FIG offers the wonderful feeling of having chosen the right place to eat. You see yourself surrounded by young and attractive creatives, for whom the FIG is a mainstay, and you know that you are right in the middle of the action in the most creative city in the world.

You will be eating so well that you will naturally want to work off your meal. Do what Westsiders do: take the stairs. A short drive or Uber ride from the Miramar you will find the famous Santa Monica Stairs, two side-by-side external staircases where the fittest West Siders get their daily exercise. You can run them, run or if you are really fit there are two of you can take them at the same time. The best time of day to take the steps is just before sunrise, because then you can enjoy a fantastic view of the first rays of light in the Pacific.

If you’re feeling more of a full-body workout like pretty much everyone in LA, then head on over to it Gold’s Gym, the mothership of weightlifting. The hotel is located on 360 Hampton Drive in nearby Venice. You pay a daily fee, but think of this as the price of admission to a floor show like you’ve never seen in a gym. You will work out harder when you see all these tough bodies that make everything look so simple.

You are bound to be hungry after your workout, whether it’s outside on the stairs or inside at Gold’s, so the smart game is to cross over The fire station, at 213 Rose Avenue in Venice, a popular breakfast spot for bodybuilders. You can recharge yourself with healthy proteins like turkey sausage while enjoying the afterglow of your excellent workout. Or you can just come and gawk. You can’t go wrong either way.

You may be a little bit exhausted from all the exertion, so it’s time to get in Sea Shrine of the Self-Realization Fellowship in pacific palisades. This calming Buddhist-Christian natural space is free, quiet, and well worth a 45-minute walk. Reservations are required for visits Wednesday through Sunday, but you can attend the Sunday service without a seat reservation. Meditate your worries away!

Or you can continue towards Malibu am Serra retreat, a hilltop Franciscan retreat center open to the public on weekdays by reservation. Serra is high on a hill between mountains and the Pacific. Be sure to write in the guest book in the living room-like area. The Serra Retreat is off the beaten path, up a winding road through a super high-end gated community and unknown to many locals. The air is clean, the view is inspiring, and you will feel rejuvenated.

On the way back from Serra, stop for lunch in The Reel Inn, an old fashioned LA roadhouse with exceptionally fresh and delicious seafood. You share a table with some new friends. And when you’re done, look both ways before crossing the swift Pacific Coast Highway and you’ll find a set of stairs that leads you to a tiny, sandy beach that even most locals don’t know about.

If you’re more of a burger than a fish lover, cross Lincoln Boulevard (we won’t tell anyone) and grab a swivel chair The apple pan, a classic LA lunch and dinner spot that dates back to the 1940s. In fact, the menu at The Apple Pan hasn’t changed since films were made in black and white. You’ll feel like you’re in a time warp as you take a seat and let the staff cheer you on for burgers, fries, and coffee. And if you return to The Apple Pan in 25 years, chances are the staff are exactly the same.

If you’re still craving cardio after your Santa Monica Stairs experience or your morning at Gold’s, take the 10 freeway down Santa Monica Beachwhere you can find lots of public parking lots which are usually quite empty on weekdays, especially in the winter months. You can rent a bike at various locations along the beach or just take a run on the 42km paved bike / running path that takes you north to Malibu and south to Palos Verdes. Plenty of vitamin D and who doesn’t like going to the beach, right?

When evening comes, I suggest that you do the unthinkable and not just drive past Lincoln Boulevard, but drive all the way down the congested I-10 freeway Philippes, another classic LA eatery. Philippe’s also takes you back to the early 20th century – the place was founded back in 1908. On a rainy winter night, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Raymond Chandler novel. It’s a one of a kind dining experience, with the sawdust on the floor and the long, tall communal tables to enjoy your classic French dip roast beef sandwich. Come for the roast beef; stay for the cake.

And as long as you are that far away from the beach, round off your evening at the Magic lock, a veritable clubhouse for magicians, where you can find magic shows and table magic throughout the evening. You can also dine in the magical castle or just go for an after dinner drink and sleight of hand after wrapping up at Philippe’s.

You can always pay a visit at the end of the evening Shutters on the beach. Grab some comfy chairs in the spacious and attractive lobby and order the insidious and aptly named Death by Chocolate while you stare at your acquaintances and West Siders.

There you have it. A full day in LA where you clung to the shoreline for the most part, but not entirely, and acted appropriately cautiously. You can always do the touristy things – Grauman’s Chinese, Universal, or a day trip to Disneyland. But these off the beaten path adventures reserved only for locals will make your trip unique. And mostly stick to the sunnier side of Lincoln Boulevard.

Frequency: Weekly

View all newsletters

Comments are closed.