Tell anyone you’re tripping to LA, and planning to stay in Hollywood, and you’ll be laughed out of town. The area’s developed a reputation of brash tackiness and overpriced bland restaurants, all topped off with a shiny layer of fake. As a recent VICE article put it: Hollywood sucks.
But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and a recent spate of hotel renovations, new restaurants and cool hideaway bars mean Hollywood isn’t all bad anymore.
What to do
Runyon Canyon is where people who want to be famous go to walk, and you’ll spend most of your time sidestepping wannabes posing for Instagram selfies. Ditch it and join the walkers who actually want to walk in Trekbek Open Space. A little known nearly three-mile hike with beautiful views and secluded trails.
A little known fact about LA is that in the 1920s it was connected by stairs, which linked the steep residential communities to schools, grocery stores and the like. Head to Beachwood Drive and follow this guide to discover a whole new side of the city of dreams.
Contrary to popular belief, LA does actually have a metro - and although it’s tricky to navigate, it’s clean and cheap to ride. Hop on at Hollywood/Vine and head Downtown to explore old Art Deco theatres, to Santa Monica for some fresh sea air, or to Pasadena for a taste of charming old Spanish architecture.
If a mummified clown, petrified limbs and old circus signs sound up your street then head to the California Institute of Abnormalarts, located in North Hollywood, and discover what “scaryoake” is…
And while you’re enjoying the weird vibes, you may as well check out the Wacko Soap Plant a shop epitomising everything off-beat in Hollywood, selling weird and wonderful books, animal skulls, Obamamints, sparkly unicorn floor mats, and according to one blog, even bacon air freshener.
Shopping with the locals. Of course, Beverly Hills and the Grove are great for shopping. But did you know every Sunday there’s a flea market at Melrose? Come rain or shine, 9 til 5, the high school on Melrose and Fairfax turns into a huge outdoor, secondhand shopping mecca, selling everything from clothing to old pictures.
It’d be a crime not to hit the movies while you’re in the very place where they’re made, but here’s a cinema with a difference. Cinespia Outdoor Cinema holds cemetory movie nights at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and you can bring all your own food and booze. It shows classic films such as Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Footloose. Just remember to bring the bankets.
Where to eat and drink
The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker (or BBCM for short) is the place to go for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and everything in between. The indoor-outdoor space has an exhaustive menu, serving vegan tofu bowls to shucked oyster sharers.
From the outside, Davey Wayne’s looks like a yard sale. But, once you’ve walked through a fridge to get in, you’ll be welcomed with retro furniture, and old school cocktails. And a load of locals.
If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, then head over to the Hollywood Farmers Market, where you can find more than 100 local vendors selling their produce every Saturday, everything from cheese and charcuterie to eggs and honey.
Doomie’s Home Cookin’ is a vegan restaurant that’s in one of those weird, nondescript strip malls. Don’t let the vegan label fool you though, they sell “buffalo wings” and “Big Macs” and a ton of other junk food, and they’re so off-grid they don’t even have a website (but you can find them on 1253 Vine Street).
A bar owned by a skate photographer is always going to be cool, so slip on your vans and head to Black on 6206 Santa Monica Blvd, which has a huge outdoor back space, and starts off nice and mellow with everyone staring at the big screens showing movies, but ends up, as all good bars do, pretty messy.
Where to stay
Hollywood is saturated by hotels, and it can be a bit of a headache choosing where to stay. The hotels with the rooftop parties may be cool to visit, but if you want to get a good night’s sleep they’re probably not your best choice.
Nestled on a leafy avenue, The Chamberlain is easy to miss. Which is all part of the charm. The hotel offers much needed tranquility from the hustle and bustle of Sunset Boulevard - which is just a few blocks away. It might be all the rage to stay in party hotels, but this is the place if you want to recover from the night before or put your feet up after a long day of stair climbing. Take a long drench in the huge walk-in shower in the marbled bathroom, wrap up in a robe, pour yourself a glass of wine and kick back on the spacious balcony. The rooms are designed in muted colour palettes in a nod to Hollywood’s stylish golden era. Head up to the rooftop for swanky evening drinks before hitting the town, or, if the evening so happens to have a chill, turn on the cozy fireplace and snuggle in for the night.
Also recently renovated, Le Montrose is an all-suite hotel, meaning it’s actually pretty difficult to muster the effort to leave your room, especially now the new all day menu has a focus on local ingredients. The Timbre Cafe also offers a “take and make” recipe kit for guests to prepare their own meals in their room.
Eclectic and quirky, the 133-suite hotel sports a secluded rooftop pool deck which has stunning views over the LA skyline, and is perfect for enjoying a morning mimosa or a sunset Aperol spritz. Or, if you’re feeling especially active, head to the what must be LA’s most scenic tennis court for a quick set. The rooms, a mixture of plush carpeting, leather sofas, minimalist kitchenette and industrial metals, was redesigned as a retreat for musicians and artists, so you’ll feel like a VIP - just without the hefty price tag to go with it. There’s even a black bowtie in case you’re invited to a last minute red carpet soiree.