There are two sides to Los Angeles. The Flash! Bam! Glam! Hollywood life that rules our social media feeds via whatever those starting with a "K" are doing in their polished marble mansions; actors walking red carpets and who they have hanging off their Equinox/Crunch-shaped deltoids; and then there's Hedi Slimane's LA, Jim Morrison's LA - that of dive bars, gritty-pretty West Coast design, art, rock 'n' roll, honey-hued sunsets, models, creatives and wicked eats. Lately, it seems that even LA itself is bored with that former idea of Hollywood, because more and more, those plastic-fantastic tourist traps and all-that-glitters inclinations of hot air are fast being blown away by a culture with artistic drive and substance.
In the past year, art and fashion's obsession with all things West Coast hit a new level of ice cold peak-cool. While it counts last year's Louis Vuitton Resort 2016 collection held deep in the desert and Saint Laurent's A/W '16 men's show at the Hollywood Palladium, that's not it. The Downtown Arts District has never been richer (or busier), with a bunch of super-galleries opening up and putting the city on the contemporary culture map (more on those below) - yep, newsflash! LA is the new contemporary art global heavyweight. So? All the more reason to book a trip now.
Sure, you can do LA how it's always done - stay at The Mondrian, catch a movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre, get the chopped salad at La Scala, there's nothing wrong with that. But if your jam is more car park art parties and cocktails in dark places, read on, because here's how to do LA like an in-the-know local in 2016.
THE NEW ART SCENE
From LACMA to MOCA, The J. Paul Getty Museum and The Getty Villa, through to the bad-ass Petersen Automotive Museum and the architectural beauties that litter the city and its surrounds, LA, despite its reputation of being artless and overshadowed by NYC, has actually always had a pretty good contemporary flex. However, never has the city enjoyed an influx as powerful as the one we've seen recently. In the last two years alone, close to one hundred galleries, artist-run spaces and art-related franchises have popped up in the dusty desert metropolis, particularly in the Downtown Arts District, which has also seen a rise in turbo-cool cafes, eateries and stores. Add these galleries to your culture black book:
You know that Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrored Room installation that has been dominating your Instagram feed for some time? That's here (until September). Located near the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), expect a pop heavy collection of Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koons. The Broad's first special exhibition, the first LA-held survey of the work of Cindy Sherman, will open in June.
221 S Grand Avenue, thebroad.org
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel
Having only opened in March, this mega gallery is the West Coast iteration of top-tier fine art gallery Hauser & Wirth, which has outposts in Zurich, London, Somerset and New York, with another NYC gallery soon-to-open. A big deal for the city? You bet. With a fantastic scope of bold, contemporary art, this space is a new must-see on the list of LA venues. The current exhibition, Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947 - 2016 (until September 4), is an example of why.
901 E 3rd Street, hauserwirthschimmel.com
Arguably one of the hottest young galleries in DTLA, Night Gallery is a total scene. Perhaps that's got something to do with the underground art it's at the forefront of championing: the legendary parties that go on, during openings, in the car park surrounding the hidden venue or the subversive artists who hang out at the shows and whose work hangs on the walls. Whatever it is, you'll want to say you were there.
2276 E 16th Street, nightgallery.ca
REDCAT (631 W 2nd Street, redcat.org)
The Box (805 Traction Avenue, theboxla.com)
TASCHEN Gallery (8070 Beverly Boulevard, taschen.com)
MAMA Gallery (1242 Palmetto Street, mama.gallery)
FARAGO (224 W 8th Street, farago.xyz)
Forget Hollywood blockbusters, sign up to a cult classic double feature at the New Beverly Cinema (7165 Beverly Boulevard, thenewbev.com), which is owned by Quentin Tarantino and shows strictly 35mm and 16mm films. The theatre itself dates back to the 1920s and is beautiful.
Unlike much of the greater US, good coffee is a reality in LA, probably due to the huge influx of Australian expats. Sydneysiders will find a familiar drop at Paramount Coffee Project (456 N Fairfax Avenue, pcpfx.com), the LA outpost of the Surry Hills coffee house. If you're hitting Melrose, I recommend getting your fix over at the original outpost of Alfred, which is open until 7pm, seven days a week(!) (8428 Melrose Place, 8509 Melrose Avenue, with stores in Silver Lake and Brentwood, alfredcoffee.com) and then there's always-reliable Intelligentsia (try the cold drip) in Silver Lake (3922 W Sunset Boulevard, intelligentsiacoffee.com), Venice (1331 Abbot Kinney Boulevard) and Pasadena (55 E Colorado Boulevard).
One thing to be said about LA's drinking scene is that it's not lacking in rooftop cocktail options, giving one countless opportunities to take in the rosy hues of the Cali skies. One of the best and newest in town is the rooftop of E.P. & L.P. (603 N La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, eplosangeles.com). Owned by Aussies David Combes and Grant Smillie, and boasting eats by former Longrain head chef, Louis Tikaram, expect a fire pit and a view that stretches over the Hollywood Hills.
If dark and underground is more your thing, head to hidden speakeasy, The Walker Inn located behind a secret door in Koreatown's The Normandie Club (3612 W 6th Street, thewalkerinnla.com), which has a rotating conceptual menu based around craft and classic cocktails. A trip to LA wouldn't be the same without ending a big night with a sidecar nightcap at the Chateau Marmont's Bar Marmont on Sunset (8171 W Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, chateaumarmont.com). It's a cliché but fun for the people-watching and Olsen Twin-channelling factor.
Breakfast & Brunch
If you want to avoid the dreaded LA traffic, either eat breaky local, or save yourself for brunch - LA does the late-morning meal very well for this reason. For a locals-only, It-café breakfast hit, visit the achingly cool Silver Lake café Sqirl (720 Virgil Avenue #4, sqirlla.com) because it doesn't get much better than this; or, wait a couple of hours and head to food critic-favourite and newly relocated Salt's Cure in West Hollywood (1155 N Highland Avenue, saltscure.com), which serves up a locally sourced, paleo-friendly menu of all things flesh and blood - they do a great dinner menu too. Alternatively, if you're down near the water in Santa Monica, keep an eye out for The Rooster (theroosterla.com) breakfast and brunch-specialised food truck, which serves up delicious burritos, sambos and burgers at first light to be eaten on the beach.
If you've got the cash, Robert De Niro co-owned sushi joint, Nobu Malibu (22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, noburestaurants.com/malibu) has the combination of a killer menu and a delicious view, making it an epic day date or lunch splurge destination. If not, try some of the mouth-watering French-Mexican fare at hotspot Trois Familia in Silver Lake (3510 Sunset Boulevard, troisfamilia.com). It's open until 3pm and I highly suggest getting in early to avoid the line (though, it's worth it). Finally, when in LA, one must do the dinky, but scene-y health destination Urth Caffé in West Hollywood - their coffee sucks, but their organic teas, breaky bowls and signature salads are incredible and I have seen James Franco AND Drake while dining there (urthcaffe.com).
Los Angeles vaunts some pretty glamorous dinner spots, most of which are famous already and you probably don't need me to point them out. Though, if you're going to do one of them, try the turbo-chic West Hollywood diner/lounge, The Nice Guy (401 N La Cienega Boulevard, theniceguyla.com). It's an incredible reservations-only Italian spot frequented by all of the tabloid mag cover stars, including Kimye, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Justin Bieber, Kate Hudson, Gigi Hadid and squad, Courtney Love, Orlando Bloom and pretty much anyone who's anyone. If cool-as-f**k is your LA M.O (and it should be) hit up arcade game bar Button Mash in hip Echo Park (1391 W Sunset Boulevard, buttonmashla.com) where you can down some awesome Asian-American chow, a craft beer and hit the pinball machines.
As for the city's best burger? Don't waste your time at In-N-Out, LA's first Shake Shack opened earlier this year (8520 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, shakeshack.com) and it's arguably on par with legendary Umami Burger, which has outlets around the city too (umamiburger.com). But then again, if you've overdone it and are just jonesing for a mega healthy salad, taco and cocktail, the newly opened Venice leg of Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop (1239 Abbot Kinney, greenleafchopshop.com) does mouth-watering things with greens.
Why: Although Echo Park and Silver Lake have had a lot of noise made around the It-scene of bars, clubs, restaurants and stores, Downtown LA is still one of the hottest places to stay. It's bustling with art, culture, food and bars and it's only a 15-minute drive to both those places anyway.
Where: Ace Hotel (929 S Broadway, acehotel.com/losangeles). Cool as hell, has an incredible rooftop bar and pool, excellent coffee and even has a theatre showing film screenings and performances.
Why: Head west to where the palm trees and pink skies seem to go on for days. This beachside suburb is kitsch, cute and actually makes you feel like you're on holiday. There's plenty of shopping, sun, cocktails to be had and then there's the guilty pleasure of the Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Park.
Where: Palihouse (1001 3rd Street, Santa Monica, palihousesantamonica.com). This lush boutique hotel is set in a beautiful palm-lined street away from the noise. Borrow a bike and take it down to the pier.
Why: From the Sunset Strip to the super glam designer districts meeting at Melrose Avenue, Beverly Boulevard and Robertson, West Hollywood is still one of the most convenient and bubbling-over pockets of LA.
Where: Smack bang on Sunset, The Standard (8300 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, standardhotels.com) offers a hugely plush pool (which never seems to be lacking in good-looking people hanging around it), fantastically cool rooms and often hosts parties featuring live music and DJs. There's a reason this hotel is so iconic - and it's not just because the beds and coffee are on point (and they are).
Why: Located almost directly between Downtown, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Silver Lake, Koreatown is one of the never-thought-of, but always fun places to stay. It's bursting with bars, eateries and clubs ready to be discovered, many of which are open 24-hours.
Where: Modernists will love The Line Hotel (3515 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, thelinehotel.com), for its attention-to-detail design. The bar, rooftop pool and plush greenhouse restaurant are everything you want in a luxury hotel. And just underneath is Break Room 86, a hidden '80s-themed nightclub with a surprise.
WHERE TO PARTY
What's your poison? Funk, soul food, kitsch, house parties and all things 70s? Earmark Good Times at Davey Wayne's in Hollywood (1611 N El Centro Avenue, goodtimesatdaveywaynes.com). What about live indie music with a bill akin to a Laneway Festival lineup? Check out who's playing at the Echo/Echoplex on Sunset (1822 Sunset Boulevard, theecho.com).
As for one of the hottest late-night venues in LA, Silver Lake bar Tenants of The Trees (2808 Hyperion Avenue, tenantsofthetrees.com) serves up great drinks, is never not filled with beautiful people, and often hosts surprise performances. Did I mention it's designed to feel like you're inside a Polish art film? Yeah.
For those actively inclined, you've come to the right city - there's plenty here to offset the damage you probably did at that new Shake Shack. Consider taking in the views of Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park Trails or the epic Escondido Canyon, which ends with a lush moss-covered waterfall to enjoy. If the desert sun ain't your thing, work out like a local and pick up a ClassPass (classpass.com) because, seriously, nobody does gym memberships anymore in LA. That is, unless, they're signing up to the brand new Equinox gym in Hollywood set to open later in the year (equinox.com).
Sure, you could hit up Melrose Avenue where you'll find everything from A.P.C. to Marni and NARS, or you might go to Rodeo Drive and peruse Agent Provocateur, Céline, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and stop by the Beverly Hills Hotel for a Bellini...
But let's be honest, the best shopping in LA happens on the weekends, when every cold weather expat is selling their furs at one of the many flea markets in the city. My picks? Rose Bowl (1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, second Sunday of the month), Long Beach Antique market (Long Beach Veterans Stadium, 4901 E Conant Street, Long Beach, third Sunday of the month) or the smaller (and less overwhelming) market of them all, Melrose Trading Post (Fairfax High School, 7850 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, every Sunday).
ADD TO HIT LIST
Saint Laurent (326 N Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, ysl.com)
The Last Bookstore (453 S Spring Street, Los Angeles, lastbookstorela.com)
Amoeba Music (6400 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, amoeba.com)
Nasty Gal (8115 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, nastygal.com)
Reformation (8253 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, thereformation.com)
Kiki De Montparnasse (8481 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, kikidm.com)
Supreme (439 N Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, supremenewyork.com)
Blinkbar (7314 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, theblinkbar.com)
Resurrection Vintage (8006 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, resurrectionvintage.com)