Musso & Frank Grill
You get a real sense of Hollywood Boulevard here because it’s right in the middle of everything. I have a friend who turned me onto it a long time ago, and I’ve been going there for about 20 years. I love sitting at the bar and having a drink. There was a famous waiter there, Manny; he’s retired now, but he was always ready with a magic trick.
There’s a ton a great history, and some of the most amazing movies have been filmed there like The Terminator or Rebel Without a Cause. Plus, it’s one of the best views of the Hollywood sign, downtown L.A. and the L.A. basin, especially on a clear day. Not to mention some great hiking.
Speaking of hiking, this is my favorite place—Mt. Lee, or the hill behind the Hollywood sign. It’s the closest you can get, and you get an idea of how huge the letters are. I mean, looking at it from afar is one thing, but when you get up close, about 50 feet behind it, you can really see it all. And it’s such a great view.
L.A. Live is the crown jewel of downtown. It’s really revitalized the area. There are tons of shops, the Grammy Theatre, the Staples Center—it’s a great stop, but visitors don’t often think to drop by. A lot of people go to the beach or stay by famous landmarks, but I love to go down there—I go to almost every Clippers and Kings game. It’s also nice to relax and have a drink on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton, which is right next door, and take in a great view.
Grand Central Market
This is just a really cool mash-up of very authentic food—Asian food, Mexican food, Indian food—it’s nice to just walk around down there. There are little shops, a farmers’ market. It give you a sense of the cross-culture, the melting pot of what L.A. is. There’s a little bit of everything there.
The Drive From Ventura Freeway to the Beach Along Topanga Canyon
This drive is great. it gives you a feel of the essential California Canyon bohemia. When you pop out of the canyon, you’re on PCH, and it’s a beautiful view. Then if you take the PCH north, you run right along the beach and into Pepperdine University, which gives you a great view of the ocean.
Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel
This is right on Sunset Boulevard, and it was recently refurbished. It gives you this amazing Art Deco ‘20s feel; a comfortable, laid back, chic vibe. A lot of people really like the Chateau Marmont, but I think the Tower Bar is better—it’s less scene-y. There’s just as much cool cred at the Tower Bar.
If you want to flip the switch on your bar scene and go to a seedier Los Angeles landmark, this is the place. It’s not quite a strip club, but they have burlesque dancers. It’s where Courtney Love used to work years ago. I’ve always kind of flown under the radar in there. But it’s been there forever; it really is a Hollywood staple.
This is one of the greatest places to go with people who are visiting or even if you live here and have never been. Talk about a cross-section—you have these hugely expensive homes right next to a large homeless population. There’s really a bit of everything—shops, Muscle Beach, a bike path — and if you go north, you get to the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a great place to hang around.
Yamishiro Sky Room
It’s a restaurant now, but it has amazing gardens as well as a farmers’ market every Thursday. There are incredible views and a lot of history there. It was originally built as a residence; they have the whole backstory printed on their menus. It’s a really cool spot, really easy to get to, and the sushi’s really good.
Photographs courtesy (in order): (1) mussoandfrank.com, (2) facebook.com/GriffithObservatory,(3) flickr.com/sebi ryffel (4)lalive.com, (5) grandcentralmarket.com, (6) flickr.com/Doug Kerr, (7) sunsettowerhotel.com, (8) jumbos.com, (9) flickr.com/DM and (10) yamashirohollywood.com