LA, Los Angeles, the City of Angles also known as my winter escape the past few years. When you live in the midwest and experience the never ending season of winter you have to make plans to find some sun, maybe a beach and drive around with the windows rolled all the way down in February. This year Nathan and I decided to center our trip around the every changing neighborhood of DTLA or Downtown LA. For years the downtown was mostly abandoned and for lack of a better term a ghost town with no reason to visit. But in recent years the downtown has been experiencing a revival of its beautiful Art Deco architecture, a slew of amazing restaurants, food halls, bars, shopping and galleries with a diverse vibe of its own. There are a couple of other neighborhoods we love to visits and I’ve also included some of those with our favorite places to eat, drink and shop.
- I would recommend nailing down dinner reservations a couple weeks in advance to ensure you get a table at your desired time slot.
- A car is a must in LA. The city is very spread out so unless you want to pay a lot of money to Uber I would suggest renting a car.
- Speaking of travel you can believe what they say about traffic! It sucks. The good news is if you are traveling with at least one other person in your vehicle you can use the very handy carpool lane which does help save on time.
- If you are traveling in the winter months the weather will be cooler in the mornings and evenings and ranging from 60-70’s in the heat of the day. Bring layers.
The Freehand Los Angeles is so vibey! Located Downtown the iconic interior designers Roman & Williams have transformed the space with Arts & Crafts and 1960’s inspired decor throughout with lots of plants to give it a cozy California cool vibe. The prices and rooms range from shared to suites. The hotel has two bars one in lobby and the other on the rooftop and both are a great place to get a fantastic cocktail or glass of natural wine. Also check out the coffee window at Cafe Integral for your morning cup of joe.
Eat + Drink:
With a couple of locations in LA the cafe and roastery located in The Arts District DTLA is there first location in the area.
This is the spot for the best matcha drink, treats and soft serve! They have locations in two great areas: Venice and West Hollywood
This was a little gem of a speak easy with great tunes, cocktails and natural wines in The Arts District DTLA. $$-$$$
Both these bars are located in The Freehand and they are both great. $$-$$$
Tucked away in Chinatown this cocktail lounge boasts great design and drinks with a beautiful patio. $$$
I’ve been following the taco truck for years and they recently opened a great brick and mortal space in DTLA. The food here is solid! The tuna tostada and sweet potato tacos are a must order. $-$$
Located in The Row in DTLA, the darling from San Francisco has opened in LA and its a fantastic place to get breakfast, lunch, coffee, pastries, bread, foodie gifts and wine. They also have a coffee window serving buffalo milk soft serve that will blow your mind. $$-$$$
After watching the Netflix series Final Table where Chef Timothy Hollingsworth won the competition I’ve been wanting to eat at Otium. The food was excellent and ranged from New American with Italian and Japanese influences. Located next door to The Broad in DTLA. $$$
If you get one reservation make it at Bavel in The Arts District of DTLA. It was the highlight of the trip for us so much that I dreamt we went back for lunch the next day. Middle Eastern flavors where every dish was equally mouth watering. The hummus with duck sausage is not to be missed! $$$
Located in Echo Park Honey Hi is a place I have returned to when visiting LA. It’s the cutest spot to get a great breakfast, lunch or brunch. The entire menu is gluten free and dairy free and their Buckwheat Sourdough Bread is to die for. The lamb shakshuka and breakfast sandwich are a couple of favs. $$
Located in The Freehand Hotel The Exchange is open for lunch and dinner. We went for lunch and its a much smaller menu so I would suggest this spot for dinner. The food is LA meets Israel and the flavors were fresh. $$-$$$
We stumbled upon this awesome spot when shopping at The Row in DTLA and I’m so glad we did. Since Nathan has celiac he never gets the opportunity to have fried chicken. So when we saw the sign reading Gluten Free Japanese Fried Chicken we were so pumped. This chicken was so good you’d never know its GF! $-$$
A natural wine bar disguised as a Thai restaurant is there tag line! With three locations in LA we went to Sahm in Venice and it was a blast. If you are into natural wines you’ll want to drink the entire menu and if you love authentic Thai food your tastebuds will be exploding with heat and fish sauce! I love love love this spot. $$-$$$
Maybe it’s because we can’t get it in the midwest yet but Salt + Straw Ice Cream is so good! This Portland Oregon original has a couple locations in LA including The Arts District and Venice. If you can’t eat dairy they make killer diary free vegan ice creams that rival the real deal. $-$$
Located in the uber hip neighborhood of Silverlake, Botanica is a wonderful veg forward, natural wine loving, good time having place to eat for Breakfast, lunch or dinner. Be sure to check out the market selections and bring home some of the caraway date granola. $$-$$$
This place. To say you’ll want to eat all the things is an understatement. This Venice bakery does everything so well from its extensive pastries, house cured fish, frittatas and pizza get there early for breakfast so you can grab a seat on the back patio and eat your heart out! Stop in the store next door to take home some beautiful pottery and linens. $$-$$$
Before Gjusta Bakery opened there was Gjelina. From the design to the uber local and seasonal California menu this restaurant is not to be missed. From the whole roasted chicken and fish to the extensive veggie menu you can’t go wrong. $$$
A laid back French bistro and bar Cafe Stella has all the vibes and great place for a romantic dinner or just drinks on the super cozy patio. $$$
A downtown institution since 1917 Grand Central is the place to get a taste of LA. From Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and German this place has something for everyone. I usually hop around and get a taco at one place and some dumplings at another and finish with an ice cream sandwich at Mitchell’s. $-$$
Shops / Galleries
LA is blessed with great shopping and galleries of all sizes. This is just a couple of spots that we loved.
This newly reimagined destination in DTLA is not to be missed. With over 65 unique and thoughtful retail shops and restaurants you can literally spend all day here. This is not your average shopping mall. All the retail has been curated from the LA area or very small lesser none brands. From a wonderful perfumery Scent Bar to Dandelion Chocolate, and stationary heaven Poketo there is something for everyone.
Secure your free tickets online before your trip to skip the line and enjoy this 2,000 piece contemporary art collection.
Drive up the winding hill and take the tram up to the museum grounds with stunning views all around. From the architecture, to the gardens and the museum itself you will want to schedule 2-4 hours here.